Saturday, 28 August 2010

Ten: Brighton

Brighton Pier, dusk by MJA Smith
Source: MJA Smith

1. Hotel Seattle, Brighton Marina

Okay, so it's not in the heart of the city (it's around a 30 minute walk – or see below), but it's a beautiful, modern hotel right in the heart of the Marina and thus escapes two major issues common to hotels in the city centre – noise (unless you dislike the sound of boat masts clacking) and lack of parking (there's a free carpark nearby). More info at my TripAdvisor review.

2. Volk's Railway

This small electric railway runs from Black Rock next to the Marina all the way to the aquarium – 1.5 miles in all. The 1883 concept of Magnus Volk, an inventor not dissimilar to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Caractacus Potts, the journey is a fun, kid-friendly way to get from the Marina to the main city attractions.

3. The Pavilion

Brighton's Indian-styled stucco-smothered pavilion was the folly of the Prince Regent and has become a major tourist attraction and landmark. Behind the Pavilion is a buzzing park and café, where a jazz trio was playing the day we sat on the grass for a picnic. Cool sounds in cool grounds.

4. Resident

So you're in Brighton and you want to buy some records; you usually shop at Rough Trade in East London and you want somewhere with the same aesthetics. Where do you head? The answer is Resident. Situated in the North Laine network of narrow streets and wonderfully unique independent shops, Resident could be the Brighton outpost of the aforementioned RT with its eclectic jazz / alt.rock / electronica focus. Brighton also has a rich supply of good second-hand record shops, if looking through racks of old vinyl is more your thing.

5. Lick

It's the seaside, so ice cream is de rigueur, right? Well, Lick (also in the North Laine) sells ice cream, naturally, but the main draw is its frozen yoghurt. Out-of-this-world-delicious is an understatement.

6. Zoing Image

'It's my boyfriend's shop,' she explained, carefully applying initials to the mounts that would soon frame a range of monochrome photos for sale in the shop. 'He started out selling pictures in the street. From that to this.' Zoing Image sells prints, small canvasses and various photo products including magnets and coasters, mostly comprising photos of Brighton, as well as Lomo cameras, books and photo-related miscellanea.

7. Eco Logic Cool

Want cufflinks made of circuit boards? Or coasters made from recycled coffee cups? Then point your environmentally-friendly compass here. And don't miss the fish in the tank underneath the till – a cheap alternative to Brighton's tedious (though structurally beautiful) aquarium.

8. The West Pier

The tragically dismembered West Pier has, over the years lost out more than once to the nearby Palace – now Brighton – Pier, first in terms of popularity, and then in terms of its very corporeality. Eerily bleak, the most tragic sight is the retrieved posts stacked up in a metal mass grave beneath the surviving pier buildings shore-side.

9. The World Famous Pump Rooms

Just east of the West Pier is this popular beach-side café, selling ice creams and locally-made coffee. Expect convivial chatter, Italian accents and great coffee. You'll feel like buying a Vespa and getting all Quadrophenic.

10. Architecture

Fans of Regency stucco-faced splendour will not be disappointed by Brighton, and its sense of preservation of these monuments to the Victorian era of UK holiday-making is impressive. Occasional civic planning inconsistencies aside (most notably Richard 'Centre Point' Seifert's Sussex Heights, a 24-storey, horizon-changing tower), Brighton's elegant cliff-top promenade is the place to head for building fans.