Originally a fishing village named "Brighthelmstone", which had a mention in the Domesday Book, it was defended by walls against the French in the Tudor period, but was burned down twice. Charles II spent a night here in 1651, before escaping to France.
Brighton began its rise to fame in 1754, when Richard Russell, a doctor from nearby Lewes, expounded the virtues of sea bathing, and at first seawater drinking. An early visitor was Dr. Johnson.
Its success was sealed when in 1782 the Prince of Wales, the future George IV, arrived with his entourage. Most of Brighton's handsome architecture dates from this period.
The Brighton Pavilion was built by Henry Holland in 1786 and remodelled for the Prince by John Nash in an extraordinary Oriental style.
The original fishing village was situated in the area now known as The Lanes, a complex of passages and alleys containing shops, restaurants etc in buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries.
St. Nicholas' Church was rebuilt in 1853, but has parts dating from the 14th century, as well as a Norman font.
Palace Pier is very popular, and houses a variety of traditional seaside amusements. The Old Chain Pier of 1823 was swept away by a storm in 1896, and West Pier suffered a similar fate in 2004.
Volk's Electric Railway runs along the seashore, from Palace Pier to Black Rock.
A Marina was built in the 1980s, enabling Brighton to develop as a successful sailing centre.
Brighton Racecourse is at Kemp Town, and the first Body Shop opened in Brighton in 1976.
The IRA bombed the Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party conference in 1984, killing five people and injuring thirty. The plan had been to assassinate the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had a narrow escape.
Among the people born at Brighton are the artist Aubrey Beardsley; actor Ray Brooks; sculptor Eric Gill; athlete Steve Ovett; Body Shop founder Anita Roddick; and cricketer John Wisden, originator of the annual book that bears his name.
Rersidents have included the author W. Harrison Ainsworth; Prime Minister George Canning; and writer Richard Jeffries. Winston Churchill went to school in the town.
Jane Austen features Brighton in her unfinished novel "Sanditon", and it appears in Thackeray's "Vanity Fair". Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" was filmed starring a young Richard Attenborough, whose directorial masterpiece "Oh What a Lovely War", has scenes set in Brighton. The annual veteran car rally from London to Brighton was the subject of the hugely popular 1953 film "Genevieve".
Blue Badge Guide Colin Crosby is available to lead Guided Walks around Brighton for groups.