Brighton began life as a small fishing town, labouring under the name of 'Brighthelmstone', but it was Dr Richard Russell who really put it on the map in 1754 when he transformed the modest settlement into one of Britain's most famous resorts. Dr Russell believed fervently in the curative properties of seawater, and he began to promote Brighton as somewhere where the ailing could regain their health. Part of the cure included being towed out to the sea in horse-drawn bathing machines and plunged underwater by people employed as 'dippers'. It certainly caused a boom in the little fishing settlement, which became dubbed 'Doctor Brighton'. The Prince Regent, who later became George IV, helped to strengthen Brighton's new-found status by moving to a house which he then transformed into the Royal Pavilion. The town's genteel Regency terraces and graceful crescents reflect his influence on Brighton.
The Old Steine, an area of grass now dominated by busy traffic, became a fashionable strolling ground. Later still, the railway era attracted visitors and holidaymakers in their thousands, boosting the town's economy to unprecedented new heights. As a seaside town Brighton has always been a mix of 'the raucous and the refined' – as one writer described it. It's cheeky but loveable; a place of fun and excitement. In 2000 the united boroughs of Brighton and Hove were awarded city status by the Queen, one of three millennium cities to be favoured in this way.
Brighton changes in mood from one quarter to the next. The main reminder of Brighton's fishing-town origins as 16th-century Brighthelmstone is in a knot of picturesque tiny streets and alleys known as The Lanes, just in from the sea front. Further north is the area known as the North Laine, with its strikingly individual shops and funky cafes. West of the Palace Pier are Brunswick Square and Hove. To the east lies Kemp Town, with its grandiose seaside architecture reaching a climax at the elegant curves of Lewes Crescent.
The Royal Pavilion
For sheer eccentricity, few buildings in Europe can rival the 18th-century Royal Pavilion, which looks stunning at night when floodlit. Even in the daytime, this Oriental fantasy, characterised by exuberant spires, minarets and onion domes, cannot escape your notice. Designed by the illustrious John Nash, it is Indian style outside, but inside the mood is of festive chinoiserie. Next door to it is the Dome, built in 1806, originally used as stables and a riding school for the Prince Regent. Across Pavilion Gardens, the Brighton Art Museum and Gallery is free to enter, and has an excellent section on the development of the town.
From the front of Brighton Railway Station, keep the Queen's Head on the right and walk down Queen's Road, heading for the sea. Cross over North Road and continue down to the junction with North Street. Turn left here at the clock tower.
Turn left into the broad, largely pedestrianised New Road. Pass the Theatre Royal on the left and on the right is the Brighton Dome Pavilion Theatre. Note the striking facade of the Unitarian church. Bear right into Church Street and pass alongside the Corn Exchange, part of the Brighton Dome. Keep the Pavilion on your right, pass the George IV monument and veer right. Just after three art-deco bus shelters cross Castle Square into Old Steine and look for the YMCA and adjacent Marlborough House on the right. Originally built for the 4th Duke of Marlborough, the latter was sold in 1786 and later transformed by Robert Adam.
Turn right at some iron bollards and go along a pedestrianised walk simply called 'Avenue'. Cross over East Street and, just after the handsome town hall on the left (located in Bartholomews), bear right into Market Street, passing Nile Street. Continue into Brighton Place. You are in the district known as The Lanes. Veer left opposite the red-brick former 1835 House of Correction into Meeting House Lane, turning right at the junction in front of the Friends Meeting House entrance and keeping left at the next junction. Just after the Bath Arms, turn left into Union Street, then left again into Ship Street towards the seafront where, after dark, you can see the flashing lights of a huge array of off-shore wind turbines. Veer left here and then continue to the Palace Pier.
Fork left by the Sea Life Centre and then follow Marine Parade. Pass Royal Crescent on the left, and the Madeira Lift on the right.
Opposite Bristol Court and Paston Place at a signpost to Kemptown, take the steps on the right, descending to the Volks Railway. Travel back to the terminus or return along the pavement to the Sea Life Centre, passing the statue of a local athlete, the Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett. Cross into Old Steine, pass the YHA on your left and bear round with the road to the right, past Avenue, before turning left into Castle Square.
Take the second right through the India Gateway and the Pavilion Gardens and past the Royal Pavilion and Museum and Art Gallery to another ornamental gateway. Turn left. Pass the Royal Pavilion and turn left into Church Street. Turn right into Gardner Street, through the funky North Laine area, and follow signs to the station, turning right and immediately left at the end into Kensington Gardens. Turn right and then left into Sydney Street, and left up Trafalgar Street to return to the station.
Pavements, streets, squares and promenade
The heart of Brighton and its famous seafront
On lead at all times
AA Walker's Map 15 Brighton & The South Downs
Various pay car parks close to station
Several on seafront; Royal Pavilion Gardens
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.