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Brighton is a great place to go shopping for Christmas presents as it has plenty of quirky, unusual shops where you can buy quirky, unusual presents, as well as all the usual high street chain stores.
But be warned: lots of people know this, so it gets busy! So break out your credit card, get your pointy elbows ready... then relax and try to start a little earlier than everyone else. If you're stuck in the Christmas rush, at least try to get to the shops early in the day as if there's one thing a Brightonian loves more than beer and coffee shops, it's a good lie in at the weekend.
Places to shop...
The oldest part of Brighton, what was once a fishing village is now home to lots of small shops including jewellers, antiques merchants, toy shops, specialist pen retailers, and being Brighton, lots of pubs.
If you'd like a nice chain or ring for someone, this area has the most independent jewellery shops and your best bet is to wander around the more northerly end of Ship Street and the pedestrian area off of Union Street, where you will find plenty to browse through.
If you're looking for nice children's toys, there's a lovely toy shop selling traditional and modern toys in Meeting House Lane, deep in this area. If you can find Brighton Square, which has a fountain in the middle, look for the lane branching off between Claire's Accessories and the restaurant, go down there and you'll find Meeting House Lane with the toy shop in it.
You can't get around the Lanes by car, as most of it was built before modern cars were invented, so it's all tight little alleyways. There are several car parks close by, if you can get in it the one under the Town Hall comes out on the edge of the area, and it's then a case of walking around and if you get overloaded, nipping back to the car to drop things off.
Containing Brighton's quirkiest shops, the North Laine is a large area between the main railway station and North Street. The main shopping roads are Sydney Street, Kensington Gardens, Gardner Street, and Bond Street, and they run easily on from each other so once you've found one, you can flow along all of them with the rest of the shoppers.
The North Laine has a trading association which blocks chain stores from the main streets, so all of the shops are small, independent outfits. This makes it great for picking up unusual gifts, whether that's a rare comic, a bonsai tree, vintage clothing, solar powered desk widgets, or unusual photo frames. Along the way there are plenty of coffee shops to dive in to for a break from the shops.
The roads around this area of Brighton are either part of a complicated one-way system, or pedestrianised during the weekend. Best to either come in by train, or if you have to drive park at the train station or the multi-storey car parks by the Town Hall or Churchill Square. Avoid the multi-storey on North Road as it's very expensive.
If you need mainstream shops, you need Churchill Square and Western Road, which are home to most of the high street brands you'll known and potentially love, or at least need to go to for that must-have Pepper Pig back scratcher for your favourite niece.
Outside the Churchill Square shopping centre is a broad area which is usually filled with stalls during the Christmas rush. They sell various types of small gift, and all sorts of snacks to keep shoppers going. This lends a festive air to an area that is normally devoid of any soul, so if you have to go to the main shops, at least you have something cheerful to greet you there.
Churchill Square has two multi-storey car parks behind it, one is attached so you can go straight from the car park, through Debenhams and in to the main centre. If you're coming by train, the Square is about 10-15 minutes walk; downhill on the way to it, unfortunately uphill when you have lots of bags!
The final shopping area in Brighton is along London Road, which leads north from the edge of the North Laine area. It used to be quite vibrant and it still has it's own personality, but that's mainly one that is depressing at the moment. Currently it's full of Pound stores and charity shops. This is great for the odd bargain and stocking fillers, but if you've got limited shopping time then bluntly you may as well skip this area for now. The shops in London Road tend to ebb and flow with interest in the area, so in another two or three years it will hopefully be back to somewhere it's worth visiting for a Christmas shop.
Brighton's a great place for shopping, but it does get very crowded. Try not to get too stressed, and do sample a coffee shop or pub while you're here to help you calm down.
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