Britain: 48 hours in Brighton

You need a break - and a short-cut - to the soul of a city. Each week, `The Independent' provides a prescription for the perfect weekend break. This week, Brighton, where Harriet O'Brien spends 48 hours

Why go now?

The weather may be overcast, but the glamour of this appealing seaside town more than makes up for it. Britain's first resort seems to bear a permanently glazed grin, as though a municipal-sized, mood-enhancing narcotic has recently been swallowed.

Beam down

Connex SouthCentral whisks you from Victoria station in London to Brighton in a record-breaking 49 minutes. A weekend return costs pounds 18.

You can also catch a train direct to Brighton from Birmingham, Bedford, Bristol - and dozens of places that don't begin with B. Call 0345 484950 for times.

Get your bearings

Brighton station is currently under wraps: the scaffolding that conceals its glorious Victorian ironwork will be in place for the next three years, giving the station an atmosphere of a bomb shelter.

First impressions may be a little subdued therefore, but the station does, at least, provide an easy geography lesson. Go straight ahead, down the gentle slope to the sea. To your left are Brighton's extraordinary palace, the Indian-dressed Pavilion, and the Lanes, the town's old centre; to the right is the main shopping area. The Tourist Information Office (not altogether helpful the day I was there) is a short walk away at Bartholomew Square between the Lanes and Brighton beach. Here you can pick up a map of central Brighton for pounds 1 and a leaflet of walks for another 75p.

Check in

The Grand (01273 321188) on Kings Road, looking down on the seafront and across to the West Pier, still holds the reputation of being Brighton's biggest and best hotel, complete with swimming-pool, sauna and multi-gym. Prices for weekend breaks here (minimum two nights) are pounds 75 for bed and breakfast per person per night, for a room without a sea view, to pounds 95 for a room with a view - and pounds 125 for added luxury.

If you would prefer a more personal ambience in the same area, try the Dove Hotel (01273 779222) at 18 Regency Square, owned and run by the Kalinke family. Rooms facing the back are pounds 45 per person per night; seawards you pay pounds 10 more. Prices are for en-suite facilities and also include a welcoming drink when you arrive.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of options for backpackers - for a cheap sleep with a sense of history make for the Traveller's Rest (01273 747551) at 20 Middle Street in the Lanes. You pay pounds 9 to stay in a dormitory (or pounds 12.50 per person for a small room) in the house where William Friese, the inventor of cinematography, carried out his experiments.

Take a hike

In fact, not so much of a vigorous stroll as a gentle amble, as you wander through the Lanes - the medieval heart of Brighton - guided by your walking leaflet. This maze of alleyways once housed fisherfolk; now the area has been turned over to twee shops and theme cafes, yet the character of the quarter has somehow survived.

Lunch on the run

Fish and chips, of course. For a good selection, head for the seafront. Tony's Plaice, on the corner of Middle Street, is not being idle when it boasts that it has "probably the best fish and chips in town". Cod and chips here costs pounds 3.

Cultural afternoon

Make for the Royal Pavilion, that astonishing palace sitting just inland from the seafront, right next to the A23. John Nash imported ideas from India, laced them with themes from China and created an elaborate Oriental residence. The amazing twirls of the roof preside over an architectural compendium ranging from imitation Islam via ersatz Egyptian to counterfeit Chinese.

The sum of all the parts makes an extraordinary monument to aristocratic arrogance. Open daily, 10am-5pm, adults pounds 4.10, concessions pounds 3, children pounds 2.50, family ticket (two adults, four children) pounds 10.70.

Meanwhile, Brighton Museum, just north of the Pavilion, is everything a municipal museum should be. It houses an eclectic range of local bequests and other exhibits, from a Dali sofa modelled on Mae West's lips (circa 1936) to a re-creation of old Brighton, complete with entire shopfronts. Open 10am-5pm Saturdays, and weekdays except Wednesday, 2-5pm Sunday. Admission free.

Window shopping

They're all here. The most interesting stores are in North Laine, east of the station, where retro and vintage clothing outlets rub shoulders with hardware stores and funeral directors.

An aperitif

The King and Queen (01273 607207) at 13 Marlborough Place is a large, jolly folly of a pub built on the site of an 18th-century farmhouse whose timber-beam styling it copies. As you order your drink at the bar, admire the decor - the place is hung about with mock armour, model sailing ships and more.

Demure dinner

From Californian to Cuban, the theme restaurant flourishes in Brighton. One place where the ambience has not been imported is English's Oyster Bar (01273 327980) in East Street, three fishermen's cottages knocked into a narrow restaurant. The walls are heavy with scarlet velvet, and the interior is so cramped that diners are obliged to be seated side by side. Main courses include the likes of monkfish baked in garlic for pounds 12.95.

Sunday morning: go to church

An astonishing brick barn of a church, St Bartholomew's at Ann Street, on the edge of the city centre, was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "an unforgettable experience". And few could disagree.

Its sheer scale is staggering, and its decor, though sparse, is striking. High Mass here, with full works - swinging incense, elaborate music - is glorious. Open 10am till dusk. Solemn high Mass is at 11am on Sundays, evensong and benediction at 3.30pm.

Bracing brunch

Food for Thought in Kensington Gardens, North Laine, serves home-made breakfast all day. English Breakfast (bacon, egg, sausage etc) costs pounds 2.50, as does the vegetarian version (egg, beans, tomato).

The icing on the cake

Of course, no trip to Brighton would be complete without a breezy stroll along the Palace Pier - still in one piece, unlike its forlorn West counterpart. With its Brighton rock stalls, palmists and funfair, Palace Pier is kitsch, noisy, and fun - everything a British beach resort should be.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect