After having lived in Brighton for almost 4 months, this little quirky seaside town has truly started to seem more familiar and like everyday life. At the beginning of the semester, I had little idea of what the town had to offer, as it’s not a hugely popular or well-known city outside of the UK. I had done some snooping online and watched a few YouTube videos but for the most part, I had no clue of the charm Brighton boasts. Now like my hometown, I have discovered and cemented a few distinct places and events that are my favorites to see and do, whether that be on a regular basis or as a fun one-time treat. I wanted to share this list with future USAC Brighton students to give you a kick-start when you enter this strange and charming place.
1. Trading Post Coffee Roasters
Trading Post is a place that will remain dear to my heart even after I leave England. This two-story coffee house is in the heart of the Lanes, the main shopping district in Brighton, and has served as my go-to study spot and relaxing hangout place all semester. They also have the best croissant sandwiches and iced chai tea lattes that won’t break your study abroad budget. Additionally, it expands to include outdoor seating in nice weather, giving you a great spot to people-watch and enjoy the day.
2. Charlie’s Sweet Emporium
This place is kind of silly but there were many times throughout the semester where I was feeling a bit homesick, or rather home food sick. I missed American treats WAY more than I would have ever expected and from time to time found myself daydreaming of snacks from the states. This small candy shop in the Lanes sells PopTarts and tons of other U.S. candies. Although the import and exchange rates made the food a bit expensive, they were very comforting to my heart and stomach. It also boasts an extensive sugar selection that is just fun to explore during a day of shopping.
Ok, I know you might be thinking “Hey, we have Aldi’s in America too,” but hear me out. Food (and pretty much everything else) becomes a much bigger investment with the conversion rate so having this discount superstore just a bus ride away was a game changer. I probably saved upwards of 20 pounds a trip on groceries. That left me 20 pounds to do something more fun than just sustain myself. I hadn’t done much Aldi shopping in the states but now that I have experienced the wonders it can do here, I may become a total convert.
4. Sitting on the seaside at sunset
Brighton is arguably best known for its seaside location and the pebble beaches that extend up and down its shores. Even though at school in Chicago I live right on Lake Michigan, being here on the Channel was a really great experience as well and made me a newly minted beach lover. I especially love to sit on the rocks and watch the sunset descend behind the old burnt-down pier with friends. There is something really special about these moments that I know I will miss tremendously and can’t recommend others take apart in enough.
5. The arcade on the pier
The pier is one of the most iconic locations in Brighton and one that everyone will at some point venture onto. I would suggest that when you do go, you step inside one of the two arcade areas. Though you may assume these rooms would be geared towards those 13 and under, they actually are a ton of fun and a great way to spend some of the mountains of coins you will inevitably accumulate. Many of the games are perpetual and give you a return on your tokens, giving you at least a half hour of entertainment and nostalgia to enjoy. My favorite was for sure the coin pusher game that occasionally gifted players a cheesy keychain. The arcade was probably one of the most objectively dumb things I did while here but it was tons of fun.
6. The Foodie Festival
Brighton in the summertime has become a whole new beast as tourists and locals alike have flooded to the city center to shop and enjoy the warm weather. May is also a huge month, as it is when Brighton hosts what feels like millions of festivals and events. It begins with May Day carnivals on The Level and extends into music festivals like the Brighton Fringe and the Great Escape, along with tons of comedy performances and experiences. My favorite event so far has been the Foodie Festival which ran from Saturday the 5th to the Monday bank holiday on the 7th. I arrived after 4pm and got a discounted entrance fee and then indulged on sangria, pulled pork sandwiches, and tons of mini desserts. Live music and sunshine made that afternoon close to perfect and one I wish I could relive.
7. Very Italian Pizza
It is no secret that the British are not known very fondly for their food. That being said, I have not struggled to find a bunch of local and chain establishments around the area that cook up very good meals. One of my favorites has been the margarita pizza from VIP. The Italian-style decor of the store is very fun and the servers are extremely nice and helpful. As an added bonus, the store is right off of the Old Steine bus stop, making a quick craving super attainable in less than an hour round trip.
8. The Amex Stadium
The American Express Stadium is literally seconds from campus and towers over the otherwise small quiet village of Flamer that the university resides in. Last season the Brighton and Hove Albion Seagulls were promoted to the Premier League which has breathed incredible life into the already impressive venue. You can find cheap tickets by either buying online a few months in advance like I did or by walking over to the ticket counter attached to the stadium a few days before a match is set to be played and asking if any seats are left. The energy around the area is truly electrifying on game days but there is nothing like sitting in the crowd while trying to pick up on the constant chants and songs being yelled by die-hard fans. I was also lucky enough to attend a winning match, which was even more exciting. The required British Culture class that all USAC students take also provided us with a free tour of the Amex which was crazy cool and by far my favorite class excursion. We were shown luxury boxes, the locker rooms and were even allowed to walk on the field. The day we went was freezing but seeing everything up close was something I will never forget.
Samantha Leary is a Loyola University student who studied abroad in Brighton, England.