What to do on a day trip to Brighton from London

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton

If you’re looking for a day trip from London that has it all, look no further than Brighton.

With its beachfront location on the south coast of England, its vibrant city centre and its abundance of sights and activities, Brighton is the perfect place to spend a day. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do on a day out here.

And with its close proximity to capital (it’s just over 50 miles away in East Sussex), it’s an ideal choice and one of the best day trips you can take.

Read on to learn about the best things to do on a day trip to Brighton from London and the sights you should put on your Brighton day trip itinerary.

I’ve also included information on how to get to Brighton, how best to get around Brighton, and where to stay if you’re able to stay for longer than a day.

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How to get to Brighton

There are several ways to get to Brighton from central London. 

You can catch direct trains from both London Victoria station and London Blackfriars. Note, however, that the Victoria train journey is slightly shorter at just over an hour.

If you book in advance, and don’t travel at peak times, then train tickets can be reasonably priced for your day out. Brighton train station is just a short walk from the city’s main attractions.

National Express coaches also run to the city. These are a cheaper option than taking the train but take longer, at around two and a half hours. The bus will drop you along the seafront. Going by car also takes about two hours.

If you’re visiting Brighton from abroad as part of a more extended trip to the UK, you can get from Gatwick Airport by train. This is a short journey of just over half an hour.

You can also book day tours to Brighton from London. This might be the best way to combine a trip to the city with seeing other local attractions if this is something that interests you.

This trip includes a visit to main sights in Brighton with the South Downs National Park and the chance to see the nearby white cliffs.

Getting around Brighton

Brighton isn’t a huge metropolis, so it’s easy to get around. Brighton station is located centrally, only a 10 to 15-minute walk from the city centre and seafront, but note that it is at the top of a steep hill.

Walking between the sights is also really easy; most are just short walks away from each other.

However, if you have limited time, the easiest way to see the sights is to book a hop-on/ hop-off bus tour. This will help you make the most of your time in Brighton if you only have a day – and avoid those steep hills!

You can book the hop-on/ hop-off bus here.

You can also book other tours that will take you around the main attractions with a tour guide who will give you information about the history of the local area.

This bike tour takes you around the main sights in a small group in two and a half hours.

And this walking tour takes you through some of the main streets of Brighton, stopping off for four food tastings along the way.

Top things to do on a day trip to Brighton from London 

Visit the beautiful and very unique Royal Pavilion

One of the top things on anyone’s list of what to do on a day trip to Brighton is a visit to the Royal Pavilion. It is a beautiful and unique building just minutes from the seafront.

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton - this is a must on a day trip to Brighton from London
The Royal Pavilion in Brighton

The pavilion was built in the 18th century as a royal seaside retreat (a “pleasure palace”) for King George IV when he was Prince Regent. It is now a popular tourist attraction.

The pavilion is known for its extravagant and exotic architecture, which features Indian and Chinese influences. It is striking from the outside, with magnificent domes and minarets.

The interior of the building is also lavish in style, with lots of grand and ornately decorated rooms and elaborately designed furniture.

It’s worth taking a look at, even if you don’t have the time to go inside. But if you do enter, you’ll get a fascinating insight into this stunning place, with the opportunity to look around some spectacular rooms and beautiful galleries.

If you’re visiting Brighton, the Royal Pavilion is probably the top sight to put on your list.

The pavilion with some of its surrounding garden

And if you do visit and have a bit of extra time, pop into the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, which is situated in the garden here. The museum has exhibitions on local history, art, design, and archaeology.

You can book entry to the Royal Pavilion here.

Explore the Brighton seafront

Being a seaside town, Brighton’s seafront is obviously one of its most popular attractions. The promenade stretches for over two miles, and there are two Blue Flag beaches here.

Brighton Beach with a ferris wheel by the sand
Brighton beach

It’s a perfect place to take a relaxing walk during your free time. You can walk along the front and to Hove, which is next door to Brighton, and see the colourful Hove beach huts here. On a sunny day, you might even want to take a dip in the sea and do a spot of sunbathing on the sand.

There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars along the seafront, so you can stop for a bite to eat or a drink while enjoying the view.

Or, in keeping with the tradition of a visit to the British seaside, grab some fish and chips or an ice cream and find a nice spot on the beach to chill out.

Have fun on the Brighton Palace Pier

The Brighton Palace Pier is also worth visiting on a day trip to Brighton. It was built at the end of the 19th-century, and is a great spot to have some fun.

Brighton pier by the sand
Brighton pier

There are many fantastic fairground rides and activities, such as the Turbo Coaster roller coaster ride, a Helter Skelter, dodgems, waltzers, trampolines, and a carousel. There’s also some old fashioned arcade games for those who want to relive their childhood. It’s definitely a place to put on the list if you’re visiting with kids.

Various events take place on Brighton pier, so check out the website to see what’s on when you’re visiting. There are also lots of restaurants and bars, so you can pause for a snack in between rides.

Or just grab a deckchair, relax, and look out across the sea…

People sitting in deckchairs relaxing on Brighton pier
Chilling out on Brighton pier

See the city from above on the British Airways i360

The British Airways i360 is a Brighton tourist attraction that is a great place to head to if you want to see the city the coastline from up high.

It involves travelling vertically upwards in a glass pod to a height of 450 feet, from where you get stunning views down the coast and out across the English Channel, Brighton beach, and the city centre.

It’s definitely something to consider when deciding what to do on a day trip to Brighton.

And for an added extra special touch, you can sip cocktails and sparkling wine at the top in the Nyetimber Bar. This bills itself as the ‘South Coast’s highest bar’ and serves a range of locally sourced drinks.

You can book tickets for a ride on the British Airways i360 here.

Ride Volk’s electric railway

For a unique experience, hop onto the electric railway that runs along Brighton seafront. Named after its inventor, this is the world’s oldest electric railway in operation having opened in the late 19th century.

It travels along a 1 mile route from a station near the pier and the city’s new Visitor Centre to another one near the marina. You can also get off at another stop (Halfway Station) where you can learn more about how the train carriages are maintained.

If this interests you, make sure you time your day trip: the electric railway is only open between certain months and will open again in 2023 at Easter. 

Visit the Brighton Sea Life Centre and marvel at the marine life on display

The Brighton Sea Life Centre allows you to see and learn about marine life. It’s also one to put on your list if your day trip to Brighton includes children.

The centre has over 5,000 creatures, which includes everything from sharks to jellyfish to seahorses. Having been open for around 150 years, the website states it is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the world.

As well as wandering through the aquarium, you can book extra experiences when you visit. You can sit in a glass-bottomed boat while sharks and turtles swim below or you can board the boat at turtle feeding time.

Get tickets to the Brighton Sea Life centre here.

Browse the quirky shops in the Lanes and North Laine 

The Lanes is a historic section of Brighton town centre and a must-visit for a day trip here. The area is full of old narrow streets and has some of the oldest buildings in the city.

It is crammed with characterful independent shops, and is a really unique area to shop in. You can find everything from clothes and jewellery stores, to souvenir and antique shops. You can also grab some food in between browsing in the shops: there are a number of restaurants and pubs, quaint tea rooms, and food stalls to choose from here.

For a drink in an historic old building, there’s the 16th-century Cricketers Arms, Brighton’s oldest pub. The pub is also famous for its mention in Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock.

As well as the Lanes, there is the North Laine area. This is near to the Royal Pavilion and Queens Road, and is another place to head to if you want to wander around a bustling vibrant area and pop into some quirky shops and cafes.

On certain days, the streets are pedestrianised and there are stalls in the streets and street performers. It also has its own micro-brewery. There’s a lovely atmosphere here.

Visit the Brighton Toy and Model Museum 

The Brighton Toy and Model Museum showcases a variety of toys and models. It is situated in Victorian cellars under the train station, so if you’re day-tripping by train and have enough time, you could pop in here as soon as you arrive in the city.

The museum has exhibits on everything from cars, trains and aeroplanes, to toys and puppets, Lego, Meccano, and arcade machines. 

In all, there are 60 different displays to explore.

Where to stay in Brighton

You may just be going on a day trip to Brighton from London. But as an alternative, you could always stay overnight. 

If you decide to do this, there is no shortage of places to stay. I have mentioned a few below, all of which get good reviews on TripAdvisor, but you can explore more here.

  • Jury’s Inn Brighton is opposite the train station and is a good value for money option. It is also only a 10-minute walk from the Royal Pavilion. It has a bar and restaurant and newly refurbished rooms.
  • The Brighton Harbour Hotel and Spa is situated right on the seafront and near the pier. There are some sea view rooms for those who fancy waking up to a view across the water. There is a bar and restaurant, and a spa and gym.
  • A Room With A View gets 5-star ratings on TripAdvisor. You stay in a Georgian building opposite the beach, a few minutes’ walk from Brighton’s main attractions. All of the deluxe king-size rooms have panoramic views.
  • The Grand Brighton offers a luxurious stay in an iconic Victorian building. There are grand interiors and sea view rooms, plus an onsite restaurant. Stop by for pre-dinner drinks and cocktails in the gorgeous bar.

A day trip to Brighton from London

I hope you have a great day in Brighton. I think it’s one of the best places to go for a day out: a seaside city with a mix of historic sights to see, the beach and sea, and the collection of quirky shops to browse in. If you do get the chance to go, enjoy.

Other ideas for UK day trips and short breaks

I hope this has given you some helpful information to help you plan what to do on a day trip to Brighton from London.

For other ideas for UK day trips and short breaks, check out some of my other posts:

I also have a range of other posts on short breaks in Europe on my website – click here for more information.

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