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Brighton Pier – Fun For All the Family

deck chairs on a beach
Brighton Pier and beach

Brighton is my hometown. The salty seawater, I’m fairly sure, is in my blood. My always unruly hair often has the same style and texture as the candy floss you can buy on the pier, and I do have a worry predilection for chips.

I love the city like a member of my own family – sometimes we’re so close as to be indistinguishable. Other times we’ll fall out and I won’t see Brighton for months, but I’ll always return.

I’m not sure why I have such a deep affinity for Brighton. I guess in many ways it reflects the British psyche quite well. It’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit quirky and there’s a definite undertone of a sense of humour everywhere.  

brighton palace pier

And of course, like Britain itself, it’s at its very best when the sun is out, blazing down on trendy hipsters, lost Londoners and crusty students everywhere.

It’s also incredibly liberal. Swelled by an ever-growing university population and the always vibrant LGBTQ+ community, it’s very got a definite “anything goes as long as you’re not being a dick” vibe, as the EDL found out about 10 years ago when they tried to have a march down the seafront. The counter-protest outnumbered them fifteen to one. Gotta love Brighton when it’s like that.

But despite its trendy energy, Brighton is first and foremost a British seaside resort, and you’ve got to start at the beginning to understand it. And that means a trip to the pier.

The first thing you need to know, as any Brightonian will tell you, is that Brighton has two piers. Yes, it has. Well, one and a quarter, as the second one is nothing more than a twisted pile of metal, but without wanting to stray too much into pier politics, there is the Brighton Palace Pier and the remains of the West Pier.

west pier in brighton through a circular window
The remnants of West Pier

In order to not annoy any locals, you’re not planning to visit Brighton Pier, you’re planning to visit either the Palace Pier (open, vibrant, a good day out) or the West Pier (mostly scrap metal, definitely not open, but home to the Brightoni360 which is still fun).

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to assume you’ve Googled Brighton Pier, ended up here, and are actually planning a fun day out at the Palace Pier.

The History of the Brighton Palace Pier

brighton palace pier

Brighton loves a good pier. The current Palace Pier is the third pier in Brighton, after the Brighton Chain Pier which unceremoniously collapsed during a storm in 1896, and the aforementioned West Pier, which after a period of neglect in the 70s saw the buildings on the pier collapse and then suspiciously burn down, just as money for a restoration was in sight.

This leaves us with the Palace Pier as the only survivor.

Built in 1891, it cost the equivalent of £3.8 million to build at the time, which is an insane amount of money. You’ve got to hand it to the Victorians, they just saw a good idea and ran with it and hang the cost.

brighton palace pier

I can’t imagine it these days – if I stood in a boardroom of a major business and asked for nearly four million pounds to put some planks out over the sea I would have been carted off to a mental home before the sentence had left my mouth, but they were truly different times then.

Speaking of different times, the pier itself has changed like a chameleon throughout the years to match the changing tastes of the Great British public.

In the past, it has sported reading rooms and concert halls, which over the years attracted greats like Stan Laurel and no less than Charlie Chaplain to perform before they realised they could make more money in Hollywood than Brighton, which is entirely fair.

The major change came in the 1980s when the theatre hall was removed after a storm and replaced with an inevitable amusement arcade, which sealed the pier’s future as an amusement and fairground destination, with several fairground rides consequently sprouting up.

Today it remains the foremost amusement destination in Brighton – an outlier of British tradition in a city desperately trying to remain hip and trendy – like your Dad at a school disco.

Getting to Brighton Pier

deck chairs on brighton pier

If you are blessed with eyes and a sense of direction, you should have no problem getting to Brighton Pier. I can’t believe I have to write this part, but Mrs B apparently tells me it’s good for the search engine ranking.

If you’re arriving in Brighton by train, leave the station, head for the sea and turn left. Arriving by bus? Come out of the bus station, head for the sea and turn left.

Arriving by car? Come out of the car park, head for the sea, and look for the enormous 525-metre steel and wooden construction with a fairground on the end with the enormous neon lights that spell out “Brighton Palace Pier” on the top that is sticking out into the English Channel and head for that.

Got it? Sea. Enormous pier. That way. Alright. Good.

Prices and Attractions at Brighton Pier

a fairground on the pier

So, the first thing to be aware of is that the pier owners, the Eclectic Bar Group, have recently, and very controversially, introduced a charge of £1 GBP/$1.2 USD to get on the pier for anyone over two, or anyone who isn’t a resident of Brighton and Hove.

On one hand, I get it, because maintaining a 124-year-old pier that is relentlessly battered by waves can’t be cheap. On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that the pier makes quite a lot of money already.

For anyone who is a Brighton resident, you can apply for a Residents Card at the link here which should ensure you can continue to enjoy the pier for free.

Once you’ve parted with your pound, you can enjoy all that the pier has to offer – and there is a lot on offer.

fish and chips store at the pier

At the front of the pier is a selection of food vendors smashing out traditional fish and chips and ice creams, and as you move up the pier towards the amusement arcade halfway up, there are stalls selling everything from doughnuts and churros to craft jewellery, Brighton souvenirs and even the chance to have your palm read by a local clairvoyant, if that’s your jam.

an arcade on a pier

Halfway up the pier, there’s a huge games arcade which is hugely exciting to anyone younger than a teenager, and hugely baffling to anyone who is a functioning adult.

The pier owners clearly want to remain up to date with all the latest gaming technology, so all the latest arcade games and VR technology are in there. You’ll soon find your pockets emptying quicker than a bath with the plug out, especially if you have children with you.

Horatios restaurant on brighton pier

Further up the pier, there are further stalls and vendors with a range of fairground games and shops where, if you are so minded, you can buy anything from a sweatshirt with an “I (heart) Brighton” logo to vegan milkshakes before coming across the rather classy Palm Court Restaurant and Bar.

Now this is the place to go on the pier if you’re after more of a sit-down meal over grabbing snacks as you go along. The menu is here and it’s got, as you would expect, the traditional fish and chips, but also a banging cocktail menu and afternoon tea options as well as burgers and pies, plus vegetarian and vegan options.

For those concerned about farming standards, all of their food meets exacting Red Tractor standards so you can be assured that the normal low standards of seaside food don’t apply in the Palm Court – no suspicious hot dog ingredients here.

small kids ride on a pier

Suitably fortified, you’ll then have the energy to head towards the end of the pier, where there’s another amusement arcade, but if you have small children, also, a soft play for children over 0.9 meters high, plus a café that served some pretty decent cakes where defeated parents can re-caffeinate while the youngsters run wild.

Outside the soft play is the fairground end of the pier and bear with me, because this is where it gets complicated. You can pay as you go for various rides at the end of the pier, but if you’re planning on going on a few, there is a wristband system in use.

rides on a pier

Wristband prices vary depending on height, age, the time of week and the number of rides you want to go on. And it’s dynamic pricing too, so this may all change.

As of May 24, if you are over 1.2 metres tall, visiting on a weekday and want to ride VR rides as well, an unlimited rides wristband will set you back £28.50. If you’re not fussed about VR, it drops to £26. If you’re under 1.2m and want to have a spin in the soft play, it’s £20.80 and without soft play, it’s £18.40. Got that?

If however, you’re visiting on a weekend, as of May 24, it’s £28.50, £26.50 without VR, and for children it’s £28.50 with soft play and £15.50 without. No, I don’t know why either.

haunted house ride on brighton pier

I think they’re cheaper to buy online in advance at the link here – as with most amusements, you’ll pay more for turning up on the day unprepared and there are further deals to be had for group bookings too – it’s worth researching your options on the link.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around that, you’re then free to enjoy all the rides at the end of the pier. There are river rides and helter-skelter, and there’s VR and a terrifying air race thing that makes me want to vomit just looking at it as it throws you over the sea.

helter skelter on brighton pier

The rides on Brighton Pier consist of twisters, dodgems, ghost trains and all manner of options to make you lose your lunch. If that’s all too much for you, you can amble off in the direction of the excellent Horatio’s Bar for a pint and a slice of pizza, which is a pretty civilized way to round off a day at the pier.

By this time, you’re probably full of food, drink and seaside fun and it’s a gentle walk back down the pier to home. The Palace Pier is always packed out on a nice day and that’s a mark of how successful it is.

brighton pier

British seaside traditions endure for a very good reason – they’re really good – and even if you’re visiting Brighton for other, more trendy reasons, even the most austere of vegan converts will find something to enjoy on the Palace Pier.

Yes, like your Dad at a school disco, it might be a bit old and naff and possibly slightly out of place,  but if you can get over that, you’ll have a fantastic time.

Hotels Near Brighton Pier

The Grand hotel in brighton

Brighton, just like any seaside town, has a huge amount of accommodation to choose from. However, if you want to be located within a 5-minute walk from the Pier (and secure a sea view), these are the best of Brighton.

Drakes Hotel – A luxury boutique hotel on Brighton’s seafront, overlooking the Brighton Palace Pier. It also has a fabulous on-site restaurant and a cocktail bar.

Harbour Hotel & Spa – Highly rated for a 2-person trip, the hotel includes a spa, heated indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, Scandinavian hot tubs and sauna

The Grand Brighton – Our favourite hotel in Brighton! This 5-star luxury renaissance Hotel is home to the Victorian Bar and Lounge, which does the most amazing cocktails and afternoon tea and Cyan which serves traditional British food.

The Charm Brighton Boutique Hotel and Spa – Situated in a Grade II listed building, The Charm is situated in Kemptown, with a highly rated breakfast!

Q Square by Supercity Aparthotels – a 4-star aparthotel with a sofa, dining area and well-equipped kitchen. Family rooms are available.

FAQs

brighton palace pier

Are dogs allowed on Brighton Pier?

No. The Pier gets extremely busy and the rides are enough to scare humans, let alone dogs.

What are the Brighton Pier Opening Times?

Gates open at 10 am every day, the rides are open from 11 am – 7 pm, Monday to Friday and 10 am to 7 pm at the weekend. The Palace of Fun opens from 10 am to 8 pm every day. Check out the times here.

Where is Brighton Palace Pier located?

Brighton Palace Pier is located on Madeira Drive, Brighton, BN2 1TW, England.

Are there any age restrictions for the rides?

Yes, some rides have height and age restrictions for safety reasons. These restrictions are posted at the entrance to each ride.

Are there any special events held at the pier?

Yes, Brighton Palace Pier hosts a range of special events throughout the year, including fireworks displays, themed nights, and seasonal celebrations. Check the official website for upcoming events.

Can I bring my own food and drinks to the pier?

Generally, visitors are encouraged to purchase food and drinks from the pier’s vendors. Bringing your own food and drinks may be restricted, but I see plenty of people tucking into a sandwich on the provided deck chairs.

Are there facilities for baby changing and feeding?

Yes, there are baby-changing facilities available on the pier.

Is there parking available near Brighton Palace Pier?

Yes, there are several parking options near the pier, including metered street parking and parking garages. It is advisable to arrive early, especially during peak times, to secure a spot.

Are there any discounts or passes available?

Yes, there are often discounts available for groups, and families, and during special promotions. It’s a good idea to check the official website or inquire at the ticket booths for current offers.

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