Just an hour outside of the city from St. Pancras, Brighton is to London what Coney Island is to New York: a gaudy, flamboyant and necessary seaside escape to urban life. Once the home to the Prince Regent, who threw massive bashes for England’s partying elite at the Oriental-inspired Royal Pavilion, the city still rides on a rich artistic life, and also a thriving gay population, as it holds the highest number of gay people outside of London.
The city champions its Brighton pier, established in 1899 and offering typical carnival fried fare and shooting-cans arcade games, while the other, older West Pier was sadly burnt down in 1975. Physically, the town consists of mostly two-story Georgian townhouses and cobbly, sand-free beaches best enjoyed with fish and chips to watch seagulls spiraling into the setting sun.
A popular destination for Uni kids on break, the area holds some 400 pubs, live gig venues and multiple nightclubs; it’s enough to keep denizens entertained for weeks at a time. While staid institutions like the five-star Grand Hotel are serviceable, more enjoyable are the number of B&Bs and the boutique designer hotels—Nineteen and Drakes are top notch—brimming with locals and colorful stories. DJ Fat Boy Slim and the famed Banksy call Brighton home, as does the annual Brighton Fringe Festival, which has evolved into the second largest in the world and has seen the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh perform.
Consumers will be happy too: winding lanes showcase an eclectic range of shops from high-end boutiques to markets selling the likes of vintage cameras and Beatles lunchboxes. A large graffiti following enjoys the city’s extensive range of skateboarding spots.