You’ve got to love a good museum. Generally, they’re full of curiosities and quirky information and they’re a great way to while away a few hours with the kids (while actually exposing them to an educational experience) or learn more about the local area, life, legends and more. And Brighton is not only a fantastically eclectic place to hang out but it’s also awash with all sorts of fabulous museums, the collections of which couldn’t be more diverse or intriguing.
So whatever it is that tweaks your curiosity, with 10 BrightonMuseums, there’s almost certainly something here to appeal.
Brighton Fishing Quarter and Museum
The Old Brighton Fishing Quarter is in the arches right on the seafront between the Palace and West Piers. And it’s free. It doesn’t take long to go round and it’s not all about fishing as the name might suggest. The museum takes you through the story of the sleepy fishing village of Brighthelmstone in the 1700s, to Brighton as a fashionable resort town. Of course, it does also have lots of information about the fishermen of Brighton too as well as the West Pier, Brighton Swimming Club and Punch and Judy. There’s even a 27 foot traditional Sussex fishing boat inside.
It’s open every day, 10 am – 4 pm.
Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Found in Trafalgar Street (numbers 52-55) in the archways underneath Brighton’s main station, the toy museum is four thousand square feet and home to over ten thousand items. It majors on toy trains and aircraft but there’s also lots of other stuff going on here including “end-of-the-pier” slot machines (which can be played), dolls, bears, dollhouse furniture, lead figures, diecast vehicles, toy kitchenry, beautifully engineered working scale models, and Meccano. In short, it’s packed to the rafters.
It’s open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am – 5 pm and Saturdays, 11 am – 5 pm.
Hove Museum and Art Gallery
From the King Alfred Leisure Centre, head north and turn left onto New Church Road. Hove Museum & Art Gallery is a superb (and free) museum and a great one for the kids. Harry Potter fans will enjoy the Wizard’s Attic (complete with wizard and a treasure trove of toys) or you might wish to discover the story of film making, admire the Jaipur Gate (commissioned for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held at South Kensington in 1886), or learn about the history of Hove. They also hold temporary events and exhibitions.
Open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.
Old Police Cells Museum
This Brighton museum in the Town Hall at the bottom of Prince Albert Street is a museum for legal eagles. A tour takes you through the old police cells and includes 200 years of Sussex policing and crime history. It touches on the 1964 clash between the Mods ‘n’ Rockers, as well as the bombing of the Grand Hotel by the IRA. They’re also currently working on two exhibitions, one about crime scenes and the other about women in the police. It’s a small and fairly new museum and a work in progress but friendly, informative and highly recommended.
Open Monday and Saturday, 10 am – 1 pm.
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
In the grounds of the Royal Pavilion, this is a museum packed with an eclectic collection of the bizarre, the extraordinary and the utterly compelling and you could visit time and time again and never be replete. Love all things Egyptian? Head to the Ancient Egypt gallery and see items from major excavations in Egypt including tools, jewellery, sandals and animal mummies. Fashion your thing? Head to the museum’s Fashion and Style gallery or the Performance Gallery with its displays of props, costumes, sets, masks, puppets, musical instruments, and prints. Interested in fossils or maybe pottery and ceramics? There’s something for you too and art lovers are well provided for with the museum’s World Art collection.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm.
Museum of Penny Slot Machines
Back on the seafront, in the King’s Road arches not far from the Pier, this is another fun little museum with crazy mirrors and vintage slot machines. It was free when I last visited but you’re asked not to just walk in and take photos. They don’t have a website and I’m not sure of the opening times. It’s also quite easy to walk past and miss it.
Booth Museum of Natural History
Head out of Brighton and Seven Dials along Dyke Road for this museum and a fantastic collection of birds, butterflies, fossils, and bones. Originally part of a private collection there are also displays of mammals, insects and marine life as well as temporary exhibitions. There are over 400 birds and beetles, bees, wasps and other insects and arthropods in the collection. In the fossil display, you’ll find items that date back 3 billion years and Sussex chalk collections dating from the age of the dinosaurs, from the elephant beds beneath Brighton, and ice age mammal fossils and subfossils.
Open: Monday, Tuesday & Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm, Wednesday (school term time), 2 pm – 5 pm, Wednesday (school holidays), 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday, 1 – 4 pm.
Closed 24 Feb to 11 March 2022.
For lovers of Downton Abbey and Edwardian charm, Preston Manor is a must. Just off the main A23 at Preston Park, it doesn’t look much from the outside but is decorated and furnished in splendid Edwardian style. Walk through the elegant entrance hall, dining room and reception room. Have a peek at the beautiful bedrooms and then explore the functional servants’ quarters downstairs. This is all about bringing history alive, great for school trips but also for those who just love the Edwardian era.
It’s currently closed but re-opening from Easter 2022.
The Royal Pavilion
Brighton’s museums don’t get much bigger or more extravagant than the Royal Pavilion! Just back from the Palace Pier and in the heart of the city, a trip to the Royal Pavilion starts with a walk around some of the jaw-dropping rooms. The Banqueting Room, for example, has exotic Chinese canopies and decorative wall canvases, a 30 foot high chandelier hanging from the claws of a silver dragon and an exquisite central table. Or the extravagant Music Room with rich red and gold canvases in the chinoiserie style and a gilded domed ceiling made up of hundreds of plaster cockleshells. And of course, don’t miss the opulent Royal Bedrooms.
There is also the Indian Military Hospital Gallery which tells the story of when the Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital for troops from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders during World War I.
This year (19th March to 11th September 2022) there’s also going to be a Regency Wardrobe exhibition which will include ballgowns, walking dresses, parasols and bags to match the opulence of the magnificent interiors of the Royal Pavilion.
Open daily April to September, 9.30 am – 5.45 pm and October to March, 10 am – 5.15 pm
Volk’s Electric Railway Visitor Centre
One for the children (or the big railway enthusiasts). At the aquarium station of the Volk Railway on the seafront (head to Palace Pier), there’s a new Visitor Centre. It has an exhibition exploring the history of Magnus Volk and the railway and includes a family activity trail.
Opens 11th April 2022.
If you’ve enjoyed Brighton Museums and still looking for things to do, You may also be interested in:
16 Things To Do in Brighton
The North Laines
A Brighton Mini Break of Two Halves
For more information about Brighton Museums, visit: https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/