Kenny explores Brighton on the South Coast of England
Travel pro Kenny Porpora heads to Brighton on the South Coast of England
What was once just a seaside vacation spot for affluent Londoners has emerged as a gay mecca for all Europeans; Brighton is now an internationally beloved beach getaway, an artist's colony, and a tolerant gay hub. Here you'll find vacationing Americans, young gay Scandanavian boys seeking artistic freedom, and Eastern European men who’ve moved in for their liberal leanings; this is the gay capital of the United Kingdom, and a breakout gay vacation spot all europhiles should have on their radar.
Brighton is a great bohemian city just an hour south of London overlooking the English Channel, a city so vibrant, so cultured, and so aesthetically enchanting, it is not uncommon to hear Londoners wax on about the days when they'll leave the London grind and move to Brighton; it's also common for London worker bees to live in Brighton and commute in. The city has an identity all its own, but could also be viewed as a distant London neighborhood (just don't say that outloud.)
At once quaint and gritty, hip and historic, Brighton is a blend of old meets new; historic lanes of winding cobblestones send you through centuries old architecture, hip restaurants, and bohemian fashion shops; there’s edgy street art just blocks from a boardwalk overlooking gorgeous sunny seaport days where sun drizzles atop foaming whitecaps that crash along wet sand.
Kemptown is their gay village where the scene thrives, clubs thump, and historic gay bars stay open until the slate blue glow of dawn eclipses rows of Victorian villas. When we recently explored the city, Kemptown was our home base and should be for most gay travelers who want to be in a cute and vibrant area; it's a lovely area in the tradition of Paris's Marais district, or San Francisco's Castro, full of history-steeped buildings that have been restored into flats, rows restaurants and historic gay bars, coffee shops and raving clubs. And following in the trends of those great gay urban districts, the gays have transformed the area into one of Brighton's most desirable, and expensive.
Other immediate favorites: the Seven Dials is a neighborhood atop a hilltop ridge just north of the city's center. Named after the seven-road roundabout it's been built around, the area is a main attraction for shopping and nightlife. You'll want to visit Clifton Hill, Port Hall, Brunswick, Central Hove, and the gritty but artful Poet's Corner.
On the cultural front, we were taken by the Royal Pavillion, an Indian-inspired palace of great beauty once built for the Prince Regent in the 18th century has become an extraordinary museum. Its Chinese exterior has been preserved and maintained to be viewed as it was lived in, and all artifacts available for viewing are works of art. More than a museum, it's a way of seeing into Brighton's past; the city was originally a playground for the Prince Regent and has his fingerprints in much of the architecture and culture you'll see while exploring. This is the city's best museum and great before a day of nearby shopping.
You come to Brighton for the art, for the gay scene, and for the pier. You’ll want to find yourself on the sundrenched boardwalk sometime in the late-afternoon, after the summer sun has weakened just a bit, and you can nibble on ice cream and watch the waves, and kick rocks. The shoreline is stunning and a main draw, as is the iconic Brighton Wheel that is a must for all visitors. We love sitting atop the city, especially at night, when the temperature has dropped, and the city is aglow.
From the Hove Lagoon to the Brighton Marina, you'll find four miles of pebbly beach that put Brighton on the map as one of the best beach communities in the world. Along the coastline are different sections to suit most any mood. Our favorite, between the Brighton Pier and Brighton Marina, is the stretch of nude beach. And while not specifically gay - yes, there will be straight people - it does have a gay feel and you'll feel more than comfortable.
Visitors will want to look at The New Steine for accommodations, a bit of classic France in southern Britain, a five-story Georgian Townhouse up the block from the English Channel and across the street from Steine Square, this elegant boutique had small but cute rooms, comfortable and simply designed, and a petite café perfect for morning coffee before strolling down the main drag of St. James which is just a steps from your front door. Staff are friendly and you’'re close to the seaport, gay clubs, historic bars, and chic restaurants.
Find out more about LGBT Brighton: http://www.visitbrighton.com/your-brighton/gay