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Brighton Palace Pier

The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier is difficult to miss, it's at the end of the string of green spaces (Grand Parade) that lead past the side of the Pavilion and down to Old Steine and the seafront.

The pier was built in 1899 as a more entertainment-focused replacement for the older Chain Pier. It's architecturally rather nice, and it's certainly much prettier than, say, the one in Eastbourne. 

Rides and food are expensive, but you can wander along the pier and enjoy the view for free, so prices probably need to be higher than normal to compensate. If you're going to be having a go on the rides, there's a token system, and most of the standard seaside fair rides are there, with the exception of a ferriswheel ... which the Brighton Wheel now obligingly provides.

Brighton Palace Pier, with photographerinterior of Brighton Palace Pier - dome

On the downside, the pier suffers from the same attitudinal disease as some other surviving seaside piers -- these "sea palaces" used to be constantly revised and kept up to date with the latest attractions, but nowadays there's almost an expectation that the pier experience ought to be something fixed and out of date in order to be "traditional", so the contents and presentation sometimes make you feel as if you're in a theme park based on the 1970s, and you start to remember just how bad the 1970s really were. The dome interior is beautiful, but to see it you have to navigate between a mass of loud arcade coin machines. The "international food hall" seems to have both types of exotic international food (as the concept was understood in the 70s), hamburgers AND hotdogs. While the world outside has moved on, the Palace Pier seems to be one of the few places in Brighton where there's no obvious place to buy a decent coffee. You can probably get one in one of the establishments at the pier end (where they sell a portion of fish and chips for a tenner), but it's missing a "cappucino machine" establishment somewhere visible, right by the entrance.

Locals tend not to use the pier much, partly because it's regarded as a cheesy tourist trap, and partly due to misgivings about the pier's ownership, its attempt to rebrand itself as "Brighton Pier", and local conspiracy theories about who may or may not have been responsible for finally burning down the competing West Pier. Locals enthuse about the local shopping and the Pavilion, but almost seem embarrassed to recommend a trip to the pier. As a result, the Palace Pier is badly underused, and doesn't really occupy the place that it should have as a hub of Brighton life. Which is a shame, because as an architectural space, it's really rather nice.

Brighton Palace Pier

Verdict: Admire the pier from the beach, and you won't care about the prices and the naff arcade machines inside. Stroll along the pier and you can admire the buildings and the decorative Victorian ironwork, and the view of the seafront, for free. Nobody's forcing you to buy the candyfloss and doughnuts, and one of the things that the pier management have done right is to keep the noise levels down, so that it's a restful pace for a stroll. And because the pier is so under-used for most of the year, you probably won't feel jostled or crowded.

Brighton Palace Pier homepage