The area takes its name from Thomas Read Kemp's Kemp Town residential estate of the early 19th Century, but the one-word name now refers to an area larger than the original development and is more correctly King's Cliff. Much of the housing is slightly later but still of the Regency style, although there is also Victorian architecture and some more modern buildings. Conversions of grand Regency buildings into flats and bars has provided Kemptown with some distinctively quirky properties; one club is housed within the former mausoleum of Edward Sassoon.
Central Brighton is to the west of the area. Travelling inland (north) from Kemptown one finds Queen's Park above the western portion of Kemptown. Further to the east are the Bristol Estate, Craven Hill estate, and Whitehawk, sometimes collectively known as "East Brighton". Returning south to the seafront, Kemptown's easterly neighbours are Black Rock and then Roedean. Also within walking distance is Brighton Marina.
The Royal Sussex County Hospital is based in Kemptown.
There is a space available to the community in the crypt of St. George's Church, known as The Crypt, which was built with support from a European Union urban regeneration fund. Around the same time as The Crypt was proposed, a community development group known as The Kemptown Network was founded. The network has since been disbanded, but a humanitarian aid charitable organisation, which was one of its first projects, continues as Aid Convoy.
There remain a number of bus services through Kemptown, and the Volk's Electric Railway passes the area along the beach.