Move Over Taj Mahal: Say Hello to the Royal Pavilion

royal pavillion

Why travel to India to see the Taj Mahal when you can see the equivalent in Brighton, England? That’s right; I was shocked by what I had discovered on my recent visit to the city, as I was blown away by the absolute beauty of the once-owned Royal Pavilion by the British Royal Family. I’ve lived in England my whole life, and it never got mentioned to me in school, or I had ever seen shows or news about the beautiful landmark. It’s staggering to think it took 35 years to learn about the majestic Pavilion, and it’s only a train journey away for me. 

royal pavillion brighton
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

Perhaps it’s Brighton’s beach that gets all the plaudits as the seafront in Brighton is extremely beautiful and lively. It’s a great place to spend the day relaxing and having fun, where there are plenty of coffee shops, lively bars open, and plenty of restaurants where you can find some traditional fish and chips! All of this is great; however, you must make your way to Brighton and witness the magnificent Royal Pavilion.   

marine pavillion
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

Originally called the Marine Pavilion, For 35 years, the Royal Pavilion grew from a plain sailing lodging house to a picturesque oriental palace. King George VI, whose successor was the recent Queen, Elizabeth II, had a vision for the Pavilion. Combined with his extravagant and indulgent ways and indifference to the opinion of others, with confidence in his dream, it resulted in the creation of the Pavilion as we see it today.

The exterior of the building was constructed in the Indo-Saracenic style. For most of the 19th century, this style was popular with British architects in India. Hence why, you get a feel of it looking like the Taj Mahal. Once you step inside the Pavilion, you will notice the distinct style in which the Pavilion was decorated. Even though he had never travelled to China, George VI loved the chinoiserie decorative style, which was fashionable in the mid-18th century in China. He hired the Crace firm of decorators with a team of independent agents to furnish the palace with Chinese furniture, wallpapers and objects, and a large abundance of bamboo and lacquer furniture. There is an exotic feeling inside as it was, after all, a place for George VI to enjoy himself with his friends and family.  

In the dining area, George VI’s original chair is in the middle instead of at the head of the table. One of the staff members, Nicola, told me, “George VI wanted to feel closer to his guests, which is why he sat in the middle to engage with them all. He also wanted to be the centre of everyone’s attention. Plus, he was known for always, without fail, having two ladies sitting beside him.” Nicola also mentioned, “The Kitchen was next to the dining room as he wanted his guests to smell the food coming through. He wanted to bring that homey feel to the place.”  

george's chair
George’s original chair. Photo credit: Shebs Alom

There is such awe about the place, no matter which room you walk into. Such as, the kitchen has artificial food set out, ready to be cooked for the guests. The most significant part for me was the bedroom. I found it fascinating to see the original bed in which a past monarch slept. Not only did it have George VI’s bed, but there was also Queen Victoria’s original bed as she would frequently visit and stay with George VI. 

Another significant factor I wasn’t aware of, and it’s likely most Indians around the world aren’t aware of it, was that the Indian soldiers who fought for Great Britain during World War I, those wounded, were brought into the Pavilion to be treated. Pictures of the soldiers are on display for you to see. There was a whole section detailing the history next to Queen Victoria’s old bedroom, which was intriguing. 

Now that the Royal Pavilion is no longer part of the British Royal Family, it still staggers me to think that Queen Victoria decided to sell the landmark; it meant a lot of the interior decor was shipped to Buckingham Palace. These included carpets, wallpapers and chandeliers. Replicas replaced the decors sent to Buckingham Palace at the Pavilion. 

replica chandellier from buckingham palace
This is a replica chandelier. The original is now in Buckingham Palace. You will now see the original when the Queen and the royals come out to wave on the balcony. Photo credit: Shebs Alom

One last thing to note, as you can imagine now that the Pavilion is no longer under the British monarchy, the place has become popular for T.V. and movie directors to shoot their films. Over the years, numerous recordings have gone on here, including an Alfred Hitchcock film. 

Regarding the general admission cost, you can buy tickets at a reasonable price of £17 (July 2022). This will get you access to the Pavilion for a year, so you can return multiple times, which is a tremendous bargain. You can also buy a membership which will give you access to many other venues. Furthermore, many Christmas banquets, weddings, corporate hires and private tours can be reserved at a reasonable cost.  

Visitor numbers are not what it was like pre-covid, and the Pavilion hopes it can return to those numbers soon. You can have the luxury of visiting one of the most spectacular venues in the world, and personally, it’s like having the Taj Mahal on my doorstep.  

What else is on offer

goal power

I recommend staying for a night or two and exploring other parts of the city. I highly recommend the Brighton Museum, which is part of the Royal Pavilion and right next to the Pavilion. There is an array of historical artefacts from all over the world with regular new exhibits, such as the current ‘Goal Power! Women’s Football 1894-2022.’ 

FIFA women's world cup
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

This exhibit is to help actively grow and shout about football for all, particularly women. With the recent success of the England women winning the European Championship in July 2022, and with a record number of 23 million watching on mainstream T.V. and online in the U.K., the exhibit highlights how to ensure this momentum continues. That women and girls have the same opportunities to play and work in football as the men, and the women’s teams are successful and sustainable. This exhibit finishes on September 25th, with a small entrance fee to pay on arrival. 

rapinoe equal pay
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

If you want to relax after a long day of visiting the Pavilion and museum, the beach is the best place. You can get yourself an ice cream or cold drink, soak up the atmosphere and later get some local fish and chips down you. If not fish and chips, plenty of bars and restaurants offer quality food and drink for you to enjoy your evening. 

rising tide coffee brighton
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

If you fancy some local coffee, there is this terrific coffee shop that also serves some delicious pastries called ‘Rising Tide.’ Run by two owners, Nick and Emily, who are extremely friendly, this spot is also great if you are a vegan. All the alternative kinds of milk don’t cost you any extra as it does in some of the big chain coffee shops. You can also grab yourself some delicious breakfast and lunch freshly cooked in the kitchen by Emily.

rising tide brighton
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

How to get to Brighton

If you’re travelling from abroad, the best route to Brighton is to fly into London Gatwick, and from the airport, take the direct train to Brighton. If you fly into any other airport, head to London Bridge station and take a train to Brighton from there. The journey will take up to an hour. You can take regular trains into the city, with a return ticket if you book in advance for around £10-14. 

Royal Pavilion is the star attraction

Somehow fitting that this remarkable structure, the existence of which did so much to complete modern Brighton, should be attracting travellers regularly from all over the world. London will always attract visitors, but the Royal Pavilion is a true crown jewel that deserves even more recognition than perhaps it gets. And maybe George VI would be amused to see that many of those who visit the Pavilion find it immense fun. After all, that was the whole point, wasn’t it?