One Day in Brighton Itinerary: A Day Trip from London

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If you’re planning a Brighton itinerary, we don’t blame you! Whether you’ll be spending one day in Brighton or making a longer trip there, the city has so much to offer.

The quirky seaside city of Brighton is exceptionally popular among tourists from both the UK and abroad. Featuring beautiful Victorian and Georgian architecture, a striking beach, great food, and excellent nightlife, it’s not much of a surprise that Londoners, in particular, visit the city in droves during the summer. 

In this article, we’ll be outlining the practicalities of visiting the city, as well as some of the different tourist sites that you can check out there. 

How Many Days in Brighton?

Brighton is easily one of the UK’s most unique and interesting cities, so it’s perhaps no surprise that hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the country visit every summer.

While Brighton’s reputation certainly precedes itself and there’s plenty to do and see in the historic seaside resort, it’s actually fairly small, with the Brighton and Hove area having a population just shy of 300,000. 

What’s more, central Brighton is a remarkably compact area. Many of the main tourist sites are within easy walking distance of one another, and those that aren’t can be reached fairly quickly using the local public bus network, with most routes operating frequently and reasonably late into the night. 

Anyway, you might be wondering how many days to spend in Brighton if you’re currently planning a day trip to the seaside city. Ultimately, the answer to this depends on what you want to get out of your time there. 

For instance, if you’re mostly aiming to visit Brighton’s main tourist destinations, you can do so pretty comfortably in a single day. However, you might end up feeling a bit rushed if you do so, especially if you’ll be heading there for the day from London

Consider the fact that only spending one day in a new place isn’t generally the best way to get a feel for it, so to speak.

So, if you’re the kind of traveller who likes to really immerse themselves in their destination and familiarise themselves with some of the more authentic, local highlights of a particular city, then you might want to aim to spend two or even three days in Brighton, instead of simply making a day trip to Brighton from London. 

Not only will this ensure that you have ample time to visit all of the city’s major landmarks, but it also affords you the opportunity to make a day trip to one of East Sussex’s stunning nature areas, like Devil’s Dyke or the Seven Sisters.

Alternatively, you can visit Lewes, a quaint and very historic town just north of the city if you want to spend a weekend in Brighton, which is home to a picturesque ruined castle and the former residence of Anne of Cleves, who was Henry VIII’s fourth wife.  

Brighton Beach in the UK
Brighton Beach in the UK

Getting To and Around Brighton 

Brighton is pretty much due south of London and, whether you’re planning on driving or travelling via public transit, is just a short journey away.

Direct train services operate to Brighton from and via London; the Gatwick Express from London Victoria is the fastest, generally taking a little under an hour to reach Brighton Station.

Alternatively, local Southern and Thameslink services are available, stopping at stations including Clapham Junction, London Bridge, and London Blackfriars along the way; while not quite as fast as the Gatwick Express, tickets for these services do tend to be somewhat cheaper. You can view train schedules here.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly way to get to Brighton from London, then a number of coach services also operate between the two cities, generally departing from the Victoria Coach Terminal and arriving at Pool Valley in Brighton, a coach terminus which is just behind the seafront.

Note that this journey is usually substantially longer, taking around 3 hours or so, and, unless you book well in advance, the amount you’ll save on travelling to Brighton via bus instead of the train is typically pretty minimal. You can view bus schedules here.

Or, if you have a car, then you might like to drive to Brighton; this journey usually takes between 60-90 minutes, depending on where in London you’re departing from. The drive itself is fairly straightforward. You can view car rental options here.

You can also take an organised Brighton day trip from London such as this full-day tour that spends time in Brighton as well as the Seven Sisters.

The city of Brighton is served by a fairly comprehensive network of bus routes, most of which run fairly frequent departures. If you’re planning on staying in central Brighton, then you might find that you can get away with walking everywhere; the train station is only 10 minutes or so from the beach, as well as a number of the city’s other, most prominent tourist attractions. 

With that being said, only a handful of the local buses run past midnight, so do keep this in mind if you’re planning on staying in Brighton overnight, or well outside the city centre. And, it is worth noting that the seaside city is notoriously hilly; so, if you have particular accessibility requirements, then getting from place to place on foot might be a challenge. 

Both Uber and the local taxi services make for viable alternatives to using public transport. Brighton might be small, but don’t be fooled; Uber prices in the city are significantly higher than they are for London, likely owing to the fact that the cost of living in Brighton is almost on par with that of the British capital and Uber journeys are generally far shorter.

Expect Uber journeys in Brighton to cost as much as ones that are twice as long in London would. 

The Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion

1 Day in Brighton Itinerary 

If you’ll be seeing Brighton in one day, then there are a number of sites you’ll want to prioritise checking out. Below, you’ll find a list of the attractions that we recommend visiting during your day trip to Brighton. You can also choose to explore with a guide such as on this bike tour or this walking tour.

The Royal Pavilion

If you’re seeing Brighton in one day, then paying a visit to the city’s Royal Pavilion is pretty much essential. Built as a royal residence in the 1780s to the decorative tastes of King George IV, the complex is inspired heavily by Asian art and aesthetics, making for a pretty remarkable, and, frankly, bonkers interior (believe us; seeing is believing here). 

What’s more, the Brighton Pavilion is surrounded by some lovely gardens, which make for a fantastic place for a picnic in the warmer weather.

Upstairs in the building is a small museum, too, so you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the history of Brighton itself, in addition to taking in the regal atmosphere of the palace. This is really one of the best things to do in Brighton and you can buy tickets here.

Brighton Beach 

No Brighton day trip from London would be complete without a trip to the city’s iconic shingle beach (at least not in the summer!). In fact, without its beach, Brighton would be a very different place today; the city was first developed as sea swimming and salt water exposure more generally were both seen as ways of bolstering one’s physical and mental health. 

Prior to this, Brighton was little more than a fishing village; the Old Steine, which you’ll find just beyond the Brighton Pier, was actually used by fishermen to dry their nets at this time. However, wealthy Londoners heard about the fair weather and beach at Brighton and started flocking to the city in droves for some quality self-care.

The demand created for accommodation and entertainment by visitors to Brighton quickly transformed it into a bustling town, and then eventually into the charming city we know it as today. 

A word of warning, though; don’t feed the gulls! 

Deckchairs on Brighton Beach
Deckchairs on Brighton Beach

British Airways i360 

Located just off the Brighton seafront is the British Airways i360 tower, which gives visitors a panoramic aerial view of the city and surrounding countryside.

While it only opened in 2016, the tower has become an iconic part of the Brighton skyline and is very popular among visitors from London and abroad, too.

Note that, in summer, you might find that the wait for the i360 is longer than usual due to its popularity. You can pre-book tickets here.

North Laine/The Lanes 

Brighton’s labyrinthine North Laine and the Lanes are some of its most unique and memorable locations (despite the somewhat confusing names).

Both of these districts are rich with independent shops and excellent restaurants; the Lanes are closer to the sea and have a wider, more open feel, whereas North Laine is essentially a cramped bazaar, full of vintage shops and vegan eateries.

Indeed, if you’re visiting Brighton to sample the plant-based cuisine, then you’ll find plenty to whet your appetite in North Laine. The Lanes, on the other hand, being somewhat more historic, are still home to plenty of the city’s older, more established restaurants and retailers. Just try not to get lost!

Brighton Palace Pier 

It feels like Brighton is almost synonymous with its pier at this point. As perhaps one of the largest and best-preserved in the country, Brighton’s Palace Pier is home to rides, an arcade, food stalls and fish and chips shops, fortune tellers, and more!

Depending on the time of year that you visit, it’s also an excellent place to see starling murmurations taking place. The pier is a popular place for starlings to roost, and during the winter they can be seen flying in formation around the pier; it’s a remarkable, rare sight. 

Brighton Pier
Brighton Pier

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Located just next to the Royal Pavilion, the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is home to a surprisingly varied collection of artefacts and artworks from different historical periods. 

Naturally, some of the collection focuses on Brighton’s local history, making it an excellent destination for visitors who want to learn as much about the city as they can. 

The Undercliff

Beginning around the Brighton Marina and extending all the way past the nearby village of Rottingdean, the Brighton Undercliff Walk is perfect for getting away from the crowds and enjoying some stunning views of the sea in any weather. 

Simply head out to the Marina (which is also a great place to get your shopping done, if need be) and continue along the path that follows the cliffs.

You can pretty much go as far as you like; geology enthusiasts in particular will likely enjoy the walk, as it lets you get up close and personal with the chalk cliffs that are so unique to England’s southern coast. 

Devil’s Dyke 

If you have the time and want to take in a beautiful nature spot while visiting Brighton, then consider visiting Devil’s Dyke to round out your day.

Don’t be put off by the foreboding name; Devil’s Dyke is a stunning valley located in the South Downs just outside Brighton. You can travel there from the city by bus and take in the stunning views once you’ve arrived. 

Devil's Dyke
Devil’s Dyke

Brighton Pride 

If you’ll be visiting Brighton for the day in August, then you may want to consider checking out the city’s iconic Pride festival. Usually falling over a weekend in early August, Brighton Pride is the UK’s biggest Pride gathering and attracts visitors from across the country and even overseas. 

Note that the festival can get pretty crowded and a bit rowdy, so it might not be for everyone. However, if you’re up for a bit of a party, then you really can’t go wrong here! 

Have 2 or 3 Days in Brighton?

If you’re planning on spending 2 days in Brighton or 3 days in Brighton, then you might be wondering what else you should check out during your time in the city. 

I would actually suggest going on a day trip or two for the second or third day of your Brighton itinerary. The nearby village of Lewes is incredibly quaint and charming; combine this with its beautiful castle and the Anne of Cleves house, and it’s basically paradise for history lovers. 

The mighty chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters are a little over an hour from Brighton, too; they’re easy to access via the bus and are the perfect place to go for a longer walk, especially during the warmer weather.

Note that, just behind the bus stop for the Seven Sisters, you’ll find Friston Forest, which is also a fantastic place for a stroll. 

One of the best views on Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk
Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk

Where to Stay in Brighton

The Southern Belle – This 3-star hotel in the centre of Brighton is perfect for mid-range visitors to this coastal city. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from, a great on-site restaurant and bar and a wonderful breakfast on offer each morning. Click here to check availability

Red Brighton Blue – Located within a stone’s throw from the iconic Brighton Pier, this is an excellent base if you’re spending the night in this lovely city. They have a number of comfortable rooms to choose from along with breakfast, parking and a terrace. Click here to check availability

Q Square – If you’d like a self-catering option in Brighton, then this aparthotel is a great choice. They have a range of different flats to choose from – all fully furnished with everything you may need – along with plenty of other amenities and a great location. Click here to check availability

Seadragon Backpackers – Budget and solo travellers to sunny Brighton will love this convivial hostel in the centre of the city. They have a range of dorms available, great common areas and fantastic amenities to ensure you have a great stay. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Brighton hotels!

Brighton is arguably one of the most interesting and dynamic cities to visit in the UK. This can make putting together a Brighton itinerary somewhat challenging, in fact; how do you know which spots to visit and which to leave out? Fortunately, we’ve done that for you – all you need to do is have a great time! 

Are you planning to visit Brighton? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Emily Marty

Emily is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she is currently based in the UK. She enjoys exploring Northern & Western Europe and Southeast Asia and has a bit of a thing for islands in particular.

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