A Uniquely Capricious Pleasure Palace
The star attraction of Brighton, self-anointed “London-by-the-Sea,” is the restored Royal Pavilion, a pseudo-Oriental pleasure palace built in the late 1700s by the Prince Regent, later King George IV.
He lent his name to an era called the Regency, and his play-palace graphically demonstrates the excesses and extravagances of that period when Brighton became England’s most fashionable—and one of Europe’s first—seaside resorts. The fantasy structure of minarets and onion domes offers a whimsical interior to match, arguably one of Europe’s most unusually ornate interiors.
Victoria and Albert visited a number of times, but the queen was not enthralled with the bon vivant air of the seaside town and eventually packed her bag. By the early 1900s, Brighton was becoming passé and soon became known for its tatty, decadent decay—nonetheless embraced by those who sought out the melancholy romance of out-of-fashion resort towns off-season.
Always loved for its embracing breezes, architecture, once-royal patronage, and reliably memorable fish-and-chips while promenading along the 3-mile-long amusement-lined Palace Pier, Brighton’s regentrification is well under way. Cafe, antiques shops, and galleries make up the trendy area of tight-knit alleyways called The Lanes. It’s worth tracking down English’s Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, a long-time institution known for its no-fuss, super-fresh oysters on the half-shell, among other goodies, plucked from the English Channel. Ask for a table downstairs.