One of England's grand old spa towns, Cheltenham has been attracting admirers since the 18th Century, when the apparent healing properties of its crystalline waters came to the notice of royalty, as well as the likes of Jane Austen and Lord Byron. Today, the city is a place of quintessential English charm and refinement, with pristine green squares, wrought-iron balconies, and of course some of the most exquisite examples of Regency architecture anywhere in the country. The fact that it's situated right on the edge of the hilly Cotswolds means it's perfect for city breakers and country lovers alike.
Things to see
Cheltenham Racecourse is one of the most famous circuits in the world, and every March attracts thousands of spectators (and eaters, and drinkers) to the Cheltenham Festival – a major event in the racing calendar which includes the legendary Gold Cup. Listen out for the so-called "Cheltenham Roar" from the crowd when it all gets under way. For a rather quieter day out, Sudeley Castle is a marvel that dates back to the 15th Century and, as well as ornate interiors, features majestic gardens with intricate hedges, sumptuous rosebeds, as well as the tomb of Henry VIII's sixth wife. Not far from Cheltenham is Bourton-on-the-Water, a genteel village whose bridges over the River Windrush have earned it the nickname "Venice of the Cotswolds". Opened in 1899, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum is a handsome Regency building with works by the visionary Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris, while the famed waters of Cheltenham can be sampled at the Pittville Pump Room, which with its Greek-style columns and proud dome is a popular concert venue.
Hotels in Cheltenham
One of the prettiest and poshest districts is Montpellier, and it's here you'll find many of the more high-end hotels in Cheltenham. You can imagine the kind of luxury they offer, from Egyptian linens to on-site beauty spas, often within the striking Regency buildings for which Cheltenham is so renowned. Boutique townhouse hotels in Cheltenham are particularly perfect for couples on romantic getaways, while there is also cheaper accommodation available around the city which doesn't skimp on flat-screen TVs and free WiFi – ideal for families and business travelers alike.
Where to stay
It almost goes without saying you'll love staying in the city center. Book a Cheltenham hotel here, and you'll be well placed to see the wide handsome avenues and green spaces that give the city its unique identity. The Promenade is a particular must-see – originating in the 18th Century, it's a beautiful boulevard with Georgian buildings on both sides. It's also close to the Long Garden, with its ornamental flower beds and the intricately-carved Neptune Fountain. Alternatively, if you fancy bedding down away from the city itself, the small market town of Stow-on-the-Wold is full of charm, dotted with galleries, antique shops, and tea rooms, and offering good access to the Cotswolds.
How to get to
The city is well connected to the rest of the UK thanks to Cheltenham Spa Station, which has rail links with major cities such as London, Cardiff, Bristol, and Plymouth. Cheltenham is also very easy to get to by car, as it lies alongside the M5 motorway. There are special bus services between Cheltenham and Cheltenham Racecourse, making a day out there a doddle.