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 radius.
It's also famous for recently 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).
Frequent rail links to London Paddington, Bristol and the south and Birmingham and the north. The station is a little outside the metropolitan area. 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
There are buses from Cirencester, Stroud and other local villages to Cheltenham once an hour. National bus services are also available. National Express stops at the 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cleeve Hill. The highest point both of the Cotswolds hill range and in the county of Gloucestershire, at 1,083 feet (330m). 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.
- Art Gallery and 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.
- 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.
- Crickley Hill and Barrow Wake. The country park is a site of nature conservation, geological & archaeological interest.
- 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.
- St. Mary's Church, Clarence St, GL50 3P, ☎ +44 1242 519520. Visit Mo-F 11:00-15:00, Sa 10.00-12:00, Service Su 11.00. Dating back to medieval times, it has been in continuous use for 850 years. In 2013 it became Cheltenham Minster.
- Hailes Abbey, Hailes, Nr Winchcombe, GL54 5PB (11 miles north east of Cheltenham), ☎ +44 1242 602398. adults £4.40, children £2.60, concessions £4.00.
- Pittville Pump Room (10min walk north of High St). Test the waters (and go to concerts) at the Pittville Pump Room.
- See a production at the Everyman or Playhouse Theatre or Town Hall.
- Swim at Sandford Parks Lido (set in landscaped gardens next to Sandford Park). The Lido has a 50m 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).
- Cineworld Cinema, The Brewery (Just off the High St, behind Tesco). The new cinema that put the Odeon out of business. Decent screens, decent sound, comfy seats, expensive popcorn 0871 220 8000 (premium rate from mobiles and many non-BT landlines).
- 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. 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 is a popular shopping destination in the region. The Promenade street in the centre has 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 are a couple of small shopping malls, the Regent Arcade and Beechwood Place shopping malls.
- House of Fraser, 32-38 Promenade, ☎ +44 345 6021073. A high end department store with many of the expensive brands.
- Marks & Spencer, 173 High Street. A fairly large branch of the British chain store, with a large food section.
- 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.
- The Moon Under Water, 16-28 Bath Rd. 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.
- The Bank House, 15-21 Clarence St. Another Wetherspoon's pub more centrally situated.
- Bon Appetit. Has one branch in Cheltenham High Street. Basic but very cheap. Every item on the menu is 99p (Unless it's 2 for 99p)
- 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 Nandos and Real China. Parking available (paid). Great if you like eating on industrial-estates.
- Daffodil Converted cinema, decorated in an art Deco style. Just off Suffolk Road
- Laze Daze is a good choice for meat dishes, on the Promenade.
- Flynns in Montpellier does a decent steak at a reasonable price.
- The Langton, on London Road in Charlton Kings, offers some nice (if slightly pricey) bar food in a Regency-style building, as well as a good Sunday lunch.
- Café Rouge. 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!
- Storyteller, 11 North Pl, ☎ +44 1242 250343. Is reasonably posh and nice. Very popular.
- Zizzi's Wonderful converted Church, elegantly decorated with good Italian food and wine. Family/baby-friendly in the daytime.
- Que Pasa beautiful cocktails and tapas dishes to suit every pallet.
- Le Champignon Sauvage, 24-28 Suffolk Rd, GL50 2AQ, ☎ +44 1242 573449. Be punctual. Entry Tu-Sa 12:30-13:15 (last order: 13:30) & 19:30-20.30 (last order: 20:45). 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.
- Lumière Clarence Parade, has a good reputation.
- The Swan. A popular bar with frequent entertainment. It's located on The Strand (which connects to The High St) and has a large heated outdoor area for smokers. Serves both local and known-brand drinks.
- The Retreat. 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.
- EXS. Gloucestershire's only gay/lesbian club. Tends to be busy only late on Friday/Saturday. Closes Sunday and Monday and varies on other dates. There is usually a cost to entry after 22:00. Located at the furthest end of The Strand.
The only large nightclubs in town are Moda (High St) and Blush, nothing unique but both enjoyable. Popular mainly with students.
- Sandford Park Ale House, 20 High St (Head east along the High St until just out of the shopping area), ☎ +44 1242 574517. 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
- Shakes2Go, 9 Grosvenor Street. 10.00 - 18.00. A wide array of ice cream shakes made from delicious and not so delicious ingredients.
- YMCA, 6 Vittoria Walk, ☎ +44 1242 524024. Wi-Fi. £19 bed and breakfast. Open Weekdays 07:30-22:00, Weekends 09:00-22:00.
- Hilden Lodge Hotel, 271 London Rd (on the A40 towards Oxford, just out of town centre), ☎ +44 1242 583242. Newly renovated. £35-50 pppn.
- Charlton Kings Hotel & Restaurant London Rd (on the A40 towards Oxford, just out of town centre), +44 1242 231061.
- Ellensborough Park, Southam Rd, £150-200
- Hotel Du Vin, Parabola Rd, £85-100
- The Montpellier Chapter, Bayshill Rd, £85-100
- The George Hotel, St Georges Rd, £80-125
- Queens, Montpellier
- 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.