Cheltenham is an historic spa town in England, which started its development in the early 1700s with the discovery of healing waters. It became very popular after the visit of King George III in 1788, and developed further. You cannot take the waters in Cheltenham, but you can visit the Pump Room to get a feeling for the ambience.
Cheltenham is now probably most famous for the Gold Cup horse race which takes place in mid-March every year. You'll need to book early to find a room, possibly as early as the previous year. Many people accept rooms anywhere within about a 50-mile (80-km) radius.
It's also famous for housing the top secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) responsible for signals intelligence (SIGINT) for UKUSA by Britain's best computer scientists and mathematicians, in its doughnut-shaped building (designed that way for security reasons).
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
The 1 Cheltenham Spa station is a little outside the metropolitan area and has frequent rail links to London Paddington, Bristol and the south and Birmingham and the north. There's a regular bus service (D) or an easy walk through Montpellier into the centre (15–20 minutes). An alternative off-road walking route is The Honeybourne Line but there have been muggings at night.
It's too far to walk if mobility is an issue, so take a taxi.
The M5 reaches Cheltenham from the north and south and the A40 from the East (from Oxford) is also a useful transport link. Parking is rarely a problem now in Cheltenham, but the one way systems can sometimes get a little confusing. With this in mind a good option would be to use the Park and Ride facility National Park and Ride Directory. If you're planning a day at the races, Cheltenham, has its own Racecourse Park and Ride facility
National bus services are also available. National Express stops at the 2 Royal Well station (behind The Promenade) for easy links to London Heathrow and beyond. It's not possible to buy a ticket at the station outside of office-hours, so buy online or by telephone.
Birmingham Airport (BHX IATA) and Bristol Airport (BRS IATA) are each only a couple of hours ' drive (north and south respectively) and offer a wide range of destinations inside and outside of Europe.
Taxis are fairly reliable. If you flag a taxi down or get one from the taxi rank you will be charged from the meter, whereas if you book with a taxi company you will be charged considerably less. Most locals use taxis at night as far as the surrounding villages as night-buses are few (apart from a regular link to Gloucester). At night, taxis wait along The Promenade (it can be very busy at pub-closing times).
The main bus company is Stagecoach which operates a number of buses around the town, mainly on routes with letters rather than numbers.
The D bus goes from the station through the town centre to the racecourse and on to Bishop's Cleeve. A single from the town centre to the station costs £1.50, and a day ticket for all the Stagecoach services within Cheltenham (Megarider) costs £2.80.
- 1 Promenade. The broad, tree-lined Promenade and its continuation into Montpellier Walk (look for the caryatids) and Montpellier Street, the town's smart shopping streets (the chain stores are mercifully elsewhere, in the High Street). Look out for the Neptune Fountain at the south end of the gardens in front of the council offices.
- 2 Imperial Gardens (off the Promenade). Colourful display of summer flowers.
- 3 Pittville Park. Laid out in the early 19th century as the centre of the then-new residential area of Pittville. The park is arranged round an artificial lake, with Pittville Pump Room on the hillside at the north-western edge. The Pump Room is open for free visits to see the fine interior and water tasting when it is not being used for events or weddings.
- 4 Cleeve Hill. The highest point of the Cotswolds hill range and in the county of Gloucestershire, at 1,083 feet (330 m). It commands a clear view to the west, over Cheltenham and the racecourse, over the River Severn and into Wales; and to the north over Winchcombe.
- 5 The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum, Clarence St, GL50 3JT, ☎ . The museum re-opened in 2013 after a £6.3-million project to expand the building including additional galleries, a performance space, larger cafe and shop and a new home for the Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre. The collection of furniture and other pieces by Cotswold-based Arts and Crafts Movement craftsmen such as Ernest Gimson and Edward Barnsley is particularly good. Free.
- 6 Holst Birthplace Museum, 4 Clarence Rd, GL52 2AY. The Regency terrace house where Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets was born in 1874. Interesting both for the building and for the musical history. £4.50.
- 7 Crickley Hill and Barrow Wake. The country park is a site of nature conservation, geological & archaeological interest.
- 8 Leckhampton Hill. A site of Iron Age hill fort and long barrow and famous for its old limestone quarries. One particularly striking feature on the hill is the Devil's Chimney, a substantial pillar of stone left standing next to one of the upper inclines.
- 9 St. Mary's Church, Clarence St, GL50 3PL, ☎ . Visit M-F 11AM-3PM; Sa 10AM-noon; Service Su 11AM. Dating to medieval times, it has been in continuous use for 850 years. In 2013 it became Cheltenham Minster.
- 10 Chedworth Roman Villa, Chedworth, GL54 3LJ (A half hour walk from the village centre, go from the pub past the church and up the valley.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. One of the largest Roman villas in the UK. Adult: £9.50; Child (over 5): £4.75; Family: £23.80.
- 11 Hailes Abbey, Hailes, Nr Winchcombe, GL54 5PB (11 miles northeast of Cheltenham), ☎ . adults £4.40, children £2.60, concessions £4.00.
- 12 Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, GL54 5JD, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Historic castle, notable for being amongst other things the final resting place of Henry VIII's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, who is buried in the chapel.
- 1 Pittville Pump Room, East Approach Drive, GL52 3JE (10-min walk north of High St). Test the waters (and go to concerts) at the Pittville Pump Room.
- 3 Swim at Sandford Parks Lido (set in landscaped gardens next to Sandford Park). May - Oct, hours vary. The Lido has a 50-m outdoor, main pool (with reserved lanes), a children's outdoor pool, and paddling pool. All the pools are heated to over 70°F (21°C). Café with value hot food.
- 4 Cineworld Cinema, The Brewery, St Margaret's Road, GL50 4EF (Just off the High St, behind Tesco), ☎ (premium rate from mobiles and many non-BT landlines). The new cinema that put the Odeon out of business. Decent screens, decent sound, comfy seats, expensive popcorn.
- 5 The Screening Rooms. Situated next to Cineworld, the Screening Rooms offers larger seating, waiter service and a "no kids after 8PM" policy. It's certainly the best way to watch a film but more expensive than Cineworld. Save money by going during the week and during the day and booking online. £££.
- Gold Cup horse racing, Cheltenham Racecourse, GL50 4SH. In March.
- International Jazz Festival. first week of May.
- Cheltenham Science Festival. early June.
- Cheltenham International Festival of Music. 3 weeks in July. Music festival and a fringe festival on the same dates.
- Cheltenham Cricket Festival. Starts late July or early August.
- Cheltenham Festival of Literature. October.
- Wychwood Festival of music. May.
Cheltenham has several theatres which host a variety of productions.
- 7 Everyman Theatre, Regent Street, GL50 1HQ, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Cheltenham's oldest theatre, it has been serving the town since 1891. It has had an expensive refurbishment and still produces to top class, West-End productions. Tickets are available from the box office by phone or online.
- 8 Playhouse Theatre, 47-53 Bath Road, GL53 7HG, ☎ . The town's community run theatre since 1945. For 70 years, the people of Cheltenham have enjoyed the notable facility of their own theatre, in which talented amateurs from all walks of life can work together with a single purpose; the presentation of nonprofessional drama of exceptionally high standards to the theatre-going public.
- 9 Town Hall, Imperial Square, GL50 1QA, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM. Cheltenham's magnificent town hall also hosts the odd production along with being used as venue for a multitude of events.
Cheltenham is a popular shopping destination in the region. Both Promenade street in the centre and Montpellier have many high end shops; including the House of Fraser department store. The High Street and Lower High Street are where you find all the usual chain-stores. There is also the Regent Arcade shopping centre.
- 1 House of Fraser, 32-38 Promenade, GL50 1HP, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A high-end department store with many of the expensive brands.
- 2 Regent Arcade, High Street, GL50 1JZ, ☎ . Not extremely exciting, but quite a few chain shops on two levels. Its biggest attraction is the Wishing Fish Clock which blows bubbles every hour.
- 3 Marks & Spencer, 173 High Street, GL50 1DF, ☎ . A fairly large branch of the British chain store, with a large food hall and clothing section.
Outside the town centre itself consists several retail parks that should fulfill most of a shopper's needs.
- 4 Gallagher Retail Park, Tewkesbury Road, GL51 9RR, ☎ . Retail park consisting primarily of large Sainsbury's supermarket with gas station and café, Next and Sports Direct for clothes shopping and Boots for pharmaceuticals or toiletries.
- 5 Kingsditch Retail Park, Kingsditch Ln, GL51 9PX. Retail park consisting primarily of a Marks & Spencer: Simply Food and Home stores, and a large Argos and Currys/PC World for electronics. There are also McDonald's and KFC restaurants nearby.
- Pittville Gates. A row of popular fast-food rather than one single restaurant. Located on the nearest edge of Pittville Park. Very handy for walking back to the town from the races. Mamaris (Pizza, Kebab, Burgers) are always fresh and friendly. Chinese, Indian and British all available along the same row.
- 1 The Moon Under Water, 16-28 Bath Rd, GL53 7HA, ☎ . Large Wetherspoon's pub with reasonable food for around £7. This is a large and characterless place, but it does have a nice outdoor area at the rear overlooking Sandford Park.
- 2 The Bank House, 15-21 Clarence St, GL50 3JL, ☎ . Another Wetherspoon's pub more centrally situated.
- 3 Simpson's Fish & Chips, 75 Priors Rd, GL52 5AL, ☎ . Winner of the UK's Number 1 Fish & Chip Takeaway 2016 award.
- 4 The Brewery, ☎ . An entertainment/eating complex located behind the Lower High Street. Here you will find a selection of rather boring international chain restaurants including Nando's, Prezzo, Frankie & Benny's and Real China. Parking available (paid). Great if you like eating on industrial-estates.
- 5 The Daffodil, 18-20 Suffolk Parade, GL50 2AE (just off Suffolk Road), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 5PM-11PM, F-Su noon-midnight. Converted cinema, decorated in an art Deco style.
- 7 The Langton, 189-191 London Road, GL52 6HT (on London Road in Charlton Kings), ☎ . Offers some nice (if slightly pricey) bar food in a Regency-style building, and a good Sunday lunch.
- 8 Café Rouge, 31-41 The Promenade, GL50 1NW, ☎ . Su-F 9AM-10PM; Sa 9AM-11PM. Casual French restaurant. One of the best places to eat in central Cheltenham is Café Rouge, just off the high street. It's brilliant and the food is often good and comes with a smile!
- 9 Storyteller, 11 North Place, GL50 4DW, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Reasonably posh and nice. Very popular.
- 10 Zizzi's, St James Church, 3 Suffolk Square, GL50 2DR, ☎ . noon-10PM. Wonderful converted 19th century church , elegantly decorated with good Italian food and wine. Family/baby-friendly in the daytime.
- 11 Le Champignon Sauvage, 24-28 Suffolk Rd, GL50 2AQ, ☎ . Be punctual. Entry Tu-Sa 12:30PM-1:15PM (last order: 1:30PM) & 7:30PM-8:30PM (last order: 8:45PM). Cheltenham's only Michelin starred restaurant (two stars); 4 AA rosettes; Good Food Guide, 2014 Chef of the Year (David Everitt-Matthias) & Decanter Restaurant of the Year. You are not to use your mobile phone in the dining room and gentlemen are to sit down when they use the lavatory. À la carte lunch or dinner 2 courses: £48, 3 courses: £59, four courses (with cheese and dessert): £69. Set dinner menu: Tu-F two courses £26, 3 courses £32.
- 1 Shakes2Go, 9 Grosvenor Street. 10AM-6PM. A wide array of ice cream shakes made from delicious and not so delicious ingredients.
- 2 Sandford Park Ale House, 20 High St, GL50 1DZ (Head east along the High St until just out of the shopping area), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A slightly out-of-the-ordinary bar that takes real ale very seriously offering lots of variety. Also sells lager, cider and food. Large rear garden for drinking in
- 3 The Swan, 35-37 High Street, GL50 1DX (located on The Strand (which connects to The High St)), ☎ . A popular bar with frequent entertainment and has a large heated outdoor area for smokers. Serves both local and known-brand drinks.
- 4 The Retreat, 10-11 Suffolk Parade, GL50 2AB, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Established wine bar in Montpellier, located on Suffolk Parade. Worth finding to enjoy the "posh" side of Cheltenham. Popular with Cheltenham College on Friday/Saturday when it can be very busy. Ask the locals for other lesser known restaurants and bars nearby. Montpellier is not easy to explore without local knowledge.
The only large nightclubs in town are V (formerly Moda) and Moomoo (formerly Blush), nothing unique but both enjoyable. Popular mainly with students.
- 1 YMCA, 6 Vittoria Walk, GL50 1TP, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Has Wi-Fi. £19 for bed and breakfast.
- 2 Hilden Lodge Hotel, 271 London Rd, GL52 6YG (on the A40 towards Oxford, just out of town centre), ☎ . £35-50 pppn.
- 4 Cross Ways Guest House, 57 Bath Rd, GL53 7LH, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Single £45.
- 5 Holiday Inn Express, Dunalley St, GL50 4AP, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in the centre of the town; many amenities are within easy walking distance. £60.
- 6 Charlton Kings Hotel & Restaurant, London Rd, GL52 6UU (on the A40 towards Oxford, just out of town centre), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Located right on the east side of town, making it easy to get to from Oxford or London.
Cheltenham is mostly a safe town. The so-called "bad areas" though are Hester's Way to the west of the town centre and Whaddon to the north-east.
- Gloucester is about 9 miles west.
- Tewkesbury is about 9 miles north.
- Cotswolds villages of Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh are about 10 miles east.
- Cirencester , the 'capital of the Cotswolds' is a half hour drive to the south
- Bristol is a longer day trip to the south.