Day Trip from London to Brighton

Brighton is a quirky little seaside town just an hour out of London by train, which makes it one of the most popular day trips from the city.

Having grown up in Florida, I’m pretty much constantly homesick for the ocean. I hoped a day trip to Brighton would be a nice reprieve from the city – and it was.

What to do:

Starting out from the station and following the crowds, you’ll pass through North Laine (shopping), the Royal Pavilion, and the Lanes (more shopping) before finally reaching the ocean. The Lanes is the most well-known of the two shopping districts. That’s where people take those photos of cute storefronts and narrow, crooked walking paths that you might have seen on Instagram.

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North Laine is gaining in popularity, though, for both food and shopping. I didn’t linger long in either area – I’m not a big spender, and I wanted to maximize my beach time.

I did swing by the impressive Royal Pavilion. The gardens include a large grassy square where people sit around, chatting or dozing, and the walking paths are lined with flowering bushes. It’s £13 per person if you want to go inside the Royal Pavilion.

I had lunch at a sushi place – see below – before I finally stopped dawdling and made it to the beach. There are vendors by the road selling kitschy wares, some overpriced restaurants, an actual carousel overlooking the sea. I walked down until the sound of waves on the beach drowned out the chatter. Don’t expect a sandy shoreline – it’s all rocks. But that made it easy to lounge in my jeans and sneakers; the water was icy cold and I had no plans to go swimming. The day was sunny and clear, but breezy enough that I felt comfortable sitting there fully dressed (as were many others).

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I stayed there for a solid three hours, reading. Stopped by a cafe for an iced tea on my way back, and then I left. Another time, I’ll probably stick around for dinner in town, grab some gelato, check out the pier, or maybe spend more time exploring the Lanes… but for today? I did everything I felt like doing. Wrapped up in dissertation work, it’s hard to remind myself to take breaks, and the anxiety of doing so can be smothering – but as soon as I saw the ocean, I was super glad I’d pushed myself to make the trip. I finally remembered how important it is for me to break my comfortable routine every now and then.

Where to eat:

Moshimo: Conveyor belt sushi place. The plates range from £2 – 4.80, which is about average, and it’s good quality. Do get the hot sake. I normally wouldn’t be drinking at noon, but… hey, it was my day off.

Small Batch: Locally brewed coffee at this trendy, casual cafe, which you’ll find on Jubilee Street. I stopped here on my way from the beach back to the train station. Lots of places to sit, nice staff, and a good selection of looseleaf tea.

La Choza: A beloved & affordable Mexican spot. I didn’t get the chance to go here – it was going to be my dinner stop but I ended up not feeling hungry enough for it in the end – but it’s at the top of my list for next time.

Note: many travel blogs recommend Marwood for coffee, but I found a Tripadvisor review that reports they have transphobic displays on their wall (and a poor response to concerned customers). A screenshot, in case the review gets deleted:

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Because of this review, I avoided the place, which means I can’t confirm one way or another whether the transphobic joke is still on display. But the fact that it ever was? That’s bad enough. No, thank you.

How to get there:

You can get a direct train from several stations, including Victoria, King’s Cross St. Pancras, and London Bridge. I booked in advance on the National Rail website and got a flexible, off-peak, round-trip ticket on a weekday, which cost me about £25.

TL;DR: Brighton is an easy and relaxing day trip from London. Don’t feel pressured to do “everything” there – the beach is really the only thing worth seeing. Before you go, research some of the restaurants and cafes in town, because there are a lot of great eating options.

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