Having lived less than a mile from the famed Santa Monica Pier for more than five years, it’s not often we get excited about similar seaside carnivals in other locales. That being said, there’s something quite special about the historical amusement park that stretches out beyond Brighton’s coastline. Of course, the funland that exists today, some 1,772 feet in length, is not the original structure to exist in the location. That honor goes to the Old Chain Pier, which from 1823 to 1889 attracted sailors and their passengers en route from France’s northern. After numerous storms battered the original structure to a pulp, over £27,000 were poured into the construction of a new brand pier that would eclipse the original in terms of scope and appeal. (That was a lot of doughnut batter back in those days!) The new tourist destination, inaugurated on May 20th in 1899, was lit with over 3,000 bulbs of light and featured numerous updates to parlor games, concessions stands and souvenir kiosks.
In the many decades since, Brighton’s shoreline jewel has attracted millions upon millions of summer beach goers, and even the eye of movie and television producers. Films and TV shows such as The End of the Affair, Quadrophenia and Doctor Who have all included Brighton's Pier as part of their backdrop.
While our 2006 Boxing Day visit proved bitterly cold, your Set of Drifters still managed to eke out a boatload of fun, thanks in part to a delicious bag of fried doughnuts, an impromptu photo shoot at the famed Brighton Pier cut-outs, and a few tries at the Orgasmatron! (The what did you say?) Have no fear. Brighton’s Pier is fun for the whole family, and offers kids rides (Carousel, Cup & Saucer, Haunted Horror Hotel Ghost Train, et al.), as well as more thrilling rides for the grown-ups. We were a bit taken aback by “The Booster,” a gargantuan device that, according to Brighton Pier’s website, “takes the biscuit” in terms of best view in town! The ride, imported from Italy, jettisons adrenaline-seekers 40 feet in the air - directly over the water! (Set of Drifters tip: You may just be able to see the Isle of Wight from here!) Expect additional thrills at the Turbo Coaster, a new addendum with two drops and a loop-de-loop.
What is perhaps the best part about Brighton Pier? It’s free to enter, though individual attractions come at separate costs. While the frivolity on display is available daily throughout the year (except Christmas), expect varied hours of operation from the different restaurants and/ or attractions. Most are open Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM until roughly 6:00 PM, and from 10:00 Am until 8:00 or 9:00 PM on the Saturdays and Sundays. Check out Brighton Pier’s “Events” page on their website to find out where and when you can catch all the Olympics magic this summer, and don’t forget to stop by Moo Moo’s Milkshake bar!
Brighton Pier - Madeira Drive, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex BN2 1TW, (011) 44 01273-609361
Royal Pavilion Museums and Library
Aside perhaps from its bevy of candy-colored houses, Brighton’s most striking first impression for new visitors is often the majestic Royal Pavilion. Built in stages over a span of 36 years, the Indo-Saracenic-style edifice offers some of the most extraordinary chinoiserie interiors and exteriors this side of Kathmandu.
Originally nothing more than a farming property, the modest structures on the land were first embellished way back in 1787 when George, Prince of Wales, moved to Brighton on the advice of his doctor. (The physician assured our once and future King that the seaside weather would improve his gout.) Over the next twenty years, George employed a number of different architects to transform his retreat into a palace! Though he favored William Porden to build the ornate Indian-style buildings that housed his 60-horse stables, it is John Nash’s 1815 redesign that remains mostly in evidence today.
Standing in stark contrast to strident Regency architecture on all sides, the Royal Pavilion is a must-see for those hopping down to Brighton, even if only for the day. In fact, it may just be the kind of place you’ll want to visit twice! During the day, audio tours can guide through the labyrinth of splendorous interiors, including George IV’s personal banquet room, royal bedrooms, library and music hall. (Word is Rossini performed Italian operas here in the 1800s.) A bevy of handsome paintings and other historical artifacts make this worthwhile a visit, though if you are short on time, why not just stroll the gardens outside, and be sure to return at nightfall, when the opulence of the exterior is lit the most gorgeous amber hues!
From October to March, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion is open from 10:00 AM until 5:15 PM with last tickets sold at 4:30 PM. In the warmer months (April to September), slightly longer hours keep tours going from 9:30 AM until 5:45 PM. Admission is £10.00 (about $15.50 USD) for adults and £5.70 (about $9 USD) for children. Keep in mind, family discounts are available for those with at least two adults and one child in their party.
Royal Pavilion Museums and Library - 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton,
East Sussex BN1 1EE, (011) 44 03000-290900,
Set of Drifters tip: Make sure to stop by the nearby Colonnade Bar for a drink (or two). This swanky historic watering hole is sumptuously decorated with Georgian interiors, and plays host to lunching locals, and theater-goers alike. “Willie,” the handsome animatronic statue in the front window, is supposedly over 120 years old, and yet still quite the charmer!
Colonnade Bar - 10 New Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1UF, (011)
Ink_d Gallery and Studio
A must-stop for anyone visiting Brighton is the charming conglomeration of narrow streets called “The Lanes” (see “goodies”). This is where you’ll find a bevy of charming boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. One such gallery that we happened upon during our most recent visit to Brighton in February 2012 was called Ink_d, and we could not get enough of it!
Highlighting contemporary painters, illustrators and sculptors - all with somewhat of a hard edge - Ink_d has been showcasing affordable artwork in solo and group shows for number years. Rumor on the street is that the gallery used to be a tattoo shop (hence the name), though when we visited, it rocked the visionary industrial-institution-themed light-bulb sculptures of Andy Doig. Sadly, none of his pieces would fit in our suitcase!
Though we were not around long enough to attend, we hear Ink_d’s artist openings are a hoot. It would behoove you to check out their website for a current calendar of events. The Ink_d Gallery and Studio is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM and on Sundays from 12:00 PM until 4:00 PM. Set of Drifters tip: Don’t forget to head upstairs to the smaller “studio” for cheaper deals (£5-15), including limited edition screen prints, art cards and pottery.
Ink_d Gallery and Studio - 96 North Road, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex BN1 1YE, (011) 44 01273-645299