18 Feb 20 / Brighton
Seven Must See Museums in Brighton
Known for its vibrancy, Brighton is also synonymous with great art and culture from street art to the many galleries. Brighton's museums cover it all from the seaside heritage to natural history, plus world-class art exhibitions and childhood delights.
1. BRIGHTON MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
Located in the Royal Pavilion's garden, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has a wonderfully eclectic collection of art and history. Discover prehistoric Brighton right through to today with some wonderful images of the area. The 20th Century Art & Design gallery focuses on Pablo Picasso, Eric Ravilious and Grayson Perry, and the furniture display has pieces by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Ron Arad and Charles Eames. An iconic highlight is the Mae West Lip’s sofa, designed by Salvador Dalí, that was acquired to remember when the Hollywood actress came to Brighton.
The costume collection in the Fashion & Style gallery looks at different aspects of Brighton life including the Regency period when George IV created the Royal Pavilion. The museum is as wonderfully diverse as the town itself.
If you would like to dig deeper, The Keep archive centre has the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections, collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections.
2. BRIGHTON TOY & MODEL MUSEUM
Close to the railway station, Brighton Toy & Model Museum grew from a large personal collection. There are over 10,000 items on display from models and trains to teddy bears and aeroplanes. For many, there are plenty of memories associated with the LEGO and Meccano displays, and the model trains date back to the 1860s. It's a small museum but the displays are excellent, and the staff are really helpful too.
3. OLD POLICE CELLS MUSEUM
Nearer to the seafront, the Old Police Cells Museum is in the basement of the Town Hall. On a guided tour – usually led by a retired police officer – you can see the prison cells and a collection of Sussex Police history memorabilia from 1830 onwards. There is some gruesome history as this was where the first Brighton Chief Constable was murdered but you can also see some prisoner graffiti and try on costumes for photo opportunities.
It is free to visit with daily 10.30 am guided tours from April to October, and Saturday tours only from November to March.
4. BRIGHTON FISHING MUSEUM
Right on the seafront, the Brighton Fishing Museum is dedicated to Brighton's fishing and seaside history. Free to visit, it tells Brighton's story from a bustling little fishing village on the south coast which was transformed into a fashionable seaside resort.
Brighton was once the most important fishing town in Sussex. The museum is full of memorabilia and artefacts about the local fishing community and also about Brighton beach and its holidaymakers since the 19th century. It is a small but informative and well-presented museum, plus the history is brought to life as adjacent arches are still used by fishermen.
5. BOOTH MUSEUM
The Booth Museum is all about natural history with birds, butterflies, fossils and bones. Victorian naturalist and collector Edward Thomas Booth started the museum in 1874. Much of the original collection is on display including his stuffed bird dioramas (display cases showing the birds in natural settings). And there are now also 525,000 insects, 50,000 minerals and rocks, 30,000 plants and 5,000 microscopic slides. About a 20-minute walk from the railway station, it is a quirky museum that's free to visit.
6. PRESTON MANOR
Also to the north of the town, Preston Manor is a charming historic house. It belonged to the Stanford family for over 200 years and still has the atmosphere of an Edwardian country house. You can explore the elegant home of this upper class family through each room dressed in period furniture with displays of ceramics, glass, silver and clocks. Then enter the servants' quarters for the true contrast of life in the early twentieth century.
Open April to September each year, you can get a Visit Brighton History pass that gives reduced entry to Preston Manor, the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum.
7. HOVE MUSEUM
Families particularly like the Hove Museum and Art Gallery as the interactive toy gallery is designed with the theme of a wizard's attic. Highlights include a mock-up of the Wizard's workshop for broken toys and a bedroom split by time, half modern-day and half Victorian.
You will also find displays about cinema, local history and fine art plus the South East Art Crafts Collection. Drawing on themes of inspiration, alchemy and making, the works explore the processes of production in different materials. A small museum, it's worth a visit if you are exploring Hove Lawns.
WHERE TO STAY
There are an abundance of fascinating museums in and around Brighton. If you're looking for somewhere to stay, Malmaison Brighton is a lovely boutique hotel on the waterfront at Brighton Marina Village. The funky interior makes it a real treat. The elegant Chez Mal Brasserie mixes French style with generous British portion sizes and modern American and Asian influences. The Chez Mal Bar has fabulous views of the marina – the bar has floor to ceiling windows – and a large decked terrace. And the Spirit of Mal Happy Hour deals mean you can stay to watch the sun go down.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin