If you’re tired of the city you may be looking for things to do in Cheltenham. Cotswold-based blogger, Danni Blackburn of Danni Meets World gives you all the insider tips on how to best spend your weekend in the Cheltenham and beyond with all the best restaurants and days out that the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has to offer.
With trains running regularly across the Cotswold or with a drive under 2 hours (traffic dependant), you could be closer to your perfect weekend than you might think.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend away, a girls’ trip or a family break, the Cotswolds has something for everyone.
How to Spend a Weekend in Cheltenham: Cheltenham One Day Itinerary
Why You Should Stay in Cheltenham if You’re Visiting the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is a vast area stretching across multiple counties including Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Although the Cotswolds is super accessible if you have a car, if you’re hoping to catch the train out of London for your weekend in the Cotswolds, you may want to decide where to visit first before you commit to where to stay.
Although I suggest staying in places like Broadway, Bourton-on-the-Water or Stowon-the-Wold if you’re looking to stay in a chocolate-box village, reminiscent of scenes from The Holiday, if you want to stay somewhere larger and then explore the area on day trips, then I biasedly suggest Cheltenham.
Often described as the centre of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham is a bustling town with plenty of choice when it comes to places to stay, restaurants to try, and a busy calendar of events to attend no matter the time of year.
It’ll also give you a great base with plenty to see in the town itself, but also with its location on lots of main routes in the area (A40, A417, M5), making it the perfect spot to further your adventures around the Cotswolds.
Known as #TheFestivalTown, Cheltenham is home to a plethora of live events from the multiple horse racing events, (most famously Gold Cup Week in March) to a world-renowned Jazz, Science and Literature festival taking place in April/May, June and October respectively.” Cheltenham is famous for its array of regency architecture and is regularly recognised as “the most complete regency town in England.
With over 2500 beautiful buildings being listed, you can pretend that you’re stepping back in time to Bridgerton as you promenade through the parks and tree-lined streets of Cheltenham.
How to get from London to Cheltenham
Paddington to Cheltenham Spa
Leaving from London Paddington you’ll arrive at Cheltenham Spa in just under 2 hours. To find cheap train tickets to Cheltenham Spa, have a look on Trainline.
Driving from London to Cheltenham
Driving from London to Cheltenham Spa takes about 2.5 hours, mainly along the M40 and A40 or the M4. You can park at your hotel or accommodation, or Cheltenham Council has a few parking lots dotted around the town available too.
Where to stay in Cheltenham
Whether you want a relaxing spa weekend or a town-centre hotel, luxury is easily found in Cheltenham. Some of our favourites places to stay include:
Set just outside of Cheltenham with amazing views over the town, Ellenborough Park is home to a luxurious spa as well as gorgeous hotel rooms. Perfect for those of you who want to coincide a trip with a horse racing meet, or enjoy a delicious afternoon tea in the Cotswolds. Ellenborough is a also great option for those of you who are driving into the area.
If you would prefer to stay more centrally, why not try No 131 – The Lucky Onion’s flagship hotel based right in the heart of Cheltenham. With gorgeous interiors and a central town location, you have the whole of Cheltenham at your fingertips.
Not that you’d need to go far if you didn’t want to as No 131 also offers 2 restaurants (No 131 Restaurant and newly-opened Yoku) plus the very popular Gin & Juice bar right next door.
A gorgeous Georgian building with beautifully contemporary interiors, No 131 is a hugely popular spot in Cheltenham often frequented by The Lucky Onion owner, Julian Dunkerton, and his wife, Jade Holland Cooper whose fashion boutique Holland Cooper is located just outside of the town.
The Queens Hotel
Also situated in the beautiful Promenade area of Cheltenham, The Queens Hotel is one of the first purpose-built hotels in Europe, first opening its doors in 1838. With historic hallways and traditional rooms, Queens is the place to stay if you want to reimagine your life as a character in your favourite Austen novel.
It is also home to one of the most beautiful staircases with historic wallpaper designed by Augustus Pugin, who also designed the interiors at the Palace of Westminster.
Other notable mentions for where to stay:
If none of the above suit your fancy, I also suggest staying at the Hatherley Manor Hotel and Spa, No 38 The Park. And for those on a tighter budget, there are also plenty of central town options like Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express. There are also numerous listings on AirBnB.
P.S – Make sure you book well in advance, if you happen to be in town over a horse racing event it gets very busy.
Where to eat in Cheltenham
Cheltenham has a huge variety when it comes to restaurants, most of which are situated within
the town centre. Some of our favourites are in the nearby Suffolks area which is a short walk
Woodkraft, Regent Street, Cheltenham:
If you’re looking for the perfect brunch spot, look no further than Woodkraft. Founded by previous Masterchef winner, Simon Wood, Woodkraft prides itself on great quality produce and a warm welcome. They also serve lunch and excellent cake, but for us it’s the brunch menu that makes this place special.
The Coffee Dispensary, Regent Street, Cheltenham:
For those of you that exist on coffee, The Coffee Dispensary is one of the best places in Cheltenham to grab a drink. With really knowledgable, friendly staff, they really care about the coffee they make you! They also do brilliant porridge bowls and toasted sandwiches if you’re looking for a bite to eat.
The Ivy Brasserie, Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier, Cheltenham:
The Ivy opened one of their brasserie branches in Cheltenham in 2017 and it continues to be a hugely popular spot. Based in a former and rather dreary bank, the team at The Ivy has restored this beautiful Grade I listed building into its former glory with the central Rotunda dome being a gorgeous focus point for the restaurant!
Whether you’re headed in for brunch, lunch or afternoon tea, expect great service, quality food and plenty of Instagrammable spots throughout the restaurant. Private dining is also available.
Lumiere, Clarence Parade, Cheltenham:
For the discerning foodies enjoying a weekend in the Cotswolds, no trip to Cheltenham would be complete without a trip to Lumiere. Run by husband-and-wife team, Helen and Jon Howe, Lumiere truly exhibits some of the best food we have ever tasted.
Head chef, Jon, has recently been awarded The Louis Cipolla Award by the British Culinary Federation -an award given to the hotel or restaurant chef who has made the greatest contribution to the profession and it is clearly evident why when sampling their incredible tasting menu. Bookings are absolutely paramount for this hidden gem in Cheltenham and will certainly be one of the best meals you
Kibou, Regent Street, Cheltenham:
Another of the brilliant food choices on the most foodie street in Cheltenham (Regent Street) is
First opened in Cheltenham in a much smaller premises, Kibou offers the best that Japanese food has to offer. During the pandemic, the team opted to take a risk and open a much larger site and has continued to go from strength to strength.
Whether you like sushi or noodles, their menu is extensive but accomplished. Great news is that if you enjoy Kibou in their hometown of Cheltenham, they have opened a branch on Northcote Road so you can enjoy it in London too!
Bhoomi, 52 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham:
Featured in the Michelin guide, Bhoomi offers amazing Indian cuisine in a gorgeous, yet relaxed
From the same people that brought fine dining Indian restaurant, Prithvi, to Cheltenham, this JM Socials restaurant is one of our favourite places to enjoy a curry in Cheltenham. They also have an excellent cocktail menu so you can make an evening of it in this restaurant about 10 minutes walk from the Montpellier area of Cheltenham.
Other must-try restaurants/eateries:
Bao + BBQ: Asian & Texan fusion meats and bao buns. Enough said?
Domaine 16: Delicious cheeses and charcuterie boards, paired with fantastic wines. Another
Regent Street classic!
Sisu Pancakes: Pancake cakes to take away or eat in this highly popular spot. Perfect for
Instagram feed and your stomach!
P.S – For more restaurants in the area, read Danni’s post on her top restaurants in Cheltenham!
Where to drink in Cheltenham
As with restaurants, there are several options for those of you looking to enjoy the perfect tipple on your weekend in the Cotswolds.
The Brewery Quarter is always a popular area for weekends with familiar brands such as The Alchemist, The Botanist, Brewdog and Flight Club all taking residence in this part of town.
Other notable mentions are Gin & Juice, The Clarence Social and Memsahib Gin & Tea Bar. For fans of The Apprentice TV series, don’t forget to stop by Imperial Haus as it is the brainchild of recent contestant, Sophie Wilding.
If you’re more into wine than cocktails than a stop-off at Montpellier Wine Bar or The Grape Escape are brilliant options.
What to do in Cheltenham
After eating and drinking your way through your weekend in Cheltenham, be sure to plan time
for a walk through the regency streets of the town.
One of the best examples of its Regency architecture, and one of the sites of the town’s famed spa waters, is Pittville Pump Rooms set in Pittville Park. A short walk from the town centre, there is an enjoyable loop walk around the small lake and plenty of points to stop off for a coffee or an ice cream. Brilliant for anyone who wants to take their four-legged friends to the Cotswolds for the weekend!
If you’d rather not leave the town centre, you’re in luck as Montpellier and Imperial Gardens both offer large green spaces in the middle of town. If its a sunny day, Imperial Gardens is sure to be busy with a bar onsite making this one of the most perfect picnic spots in the town. Montpellier Gardens, which is opposite The Ivy, is where most of the larger Cheltenham festivals take place and always a hub of activity, particularly in the summer.
Cheltenham also has plenty of excellent shopping options, most notably a large John Lewis store which opened in 2018. Boutique independent shops can also be found across the town, and no shopping trip is complete without a stroll through the beautiful Montpellier area.
If you’re looking for somewhere to spend the evening, be sure to check out what’s showing at The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Often getting large London shows as well as hosting smaller shows in its upstairs’ Irving Studio Theatre, this theatre is going to be home to the world premiere of The Great British Bake Off Musical in Summer 2022!
Where to go in the Cotswolds from Cheltenham
Ultimately, Cheltenham has plenty to do in the town itself but if you’re looking for a weekend in the Cotswolds, Cheltenham really is an excellent hub for your weekend. Whilst there is great public transport within the area, to make the most of the Cotswolds, a car is definitely the best way to get around the small postcard villages.
Here are our favourite trips from Cheltenham, all easily achievable with a short drive and all leaving you plenty of time to enjoy both the town of Cheltenham, and the villages of the Cotswolds.
25 mins drive
Perhaps the most quintessentially Cotswold town you could imagine, no trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Bourton-on-the-Water.
Famous for its honey-coloured stone and idyllic walks along the river Windrush, you could easily spend a day in Bourton just sampling its’ various pubs, ice cream and cafes. Our favourite is Bourtanical right on the river front, easily found by its bright neon “You Are My Sunshine” sign welcoming you. We challenge you not to find it!
Broadway & Broadway Tower
35 mins drive
Nestled in the Cotswolds hills, the village of Broadway is instantly recognisable as a classic Cotswolds village.
With plenty of independent shops and little cafes to enjoy an afternoon tea in the Cotswolds, Broadway is a must-visit “jewel of the Cotswolds.”
A short drive from the village is Broadway Tower, the second-highest point of the Cotswolds (after Cleeve Hill) and promises excellent views and a beautiful country walk along the Cotswold Way. The brainchild of Capability Brown, the castle-like tower offers a slice of history as well as an excellent slice of cake in its cafe! For those looking to stay in Broadway, check out The Lygon Arms or The Fish Hotel. Our other must-visit is Guilt Trip Coffee + Donuts – you won’t be disappointed!
30 mins drive
Another beautiful example of Cotswold chocolate box village, Stow on the Wold is replete with gorgeous coffee shops and independent shops to visit.
Perhaps one of the village’s most instagrammable spots is St Edwards Church with a door that is sure to complete your doorsofinstagram bingo!
Rumoured to have inspired J R R Tolkein’s fantasy worlds, even if you’re not into The Lord of The Rings, it is an incredibly stunning door framed by two ancient yew trees that you really should visit if you’re in the area. Our favourite cafes here include Lucy’s, Huffkins and The Hive.
25 mins drive
The capital of the Cotswolds and the ancient Roman town “Corinium”, Cirencester has plenty of Cotswold-stone buildings for you to enjoy whilst also retaining some of the perks of being a larger town within the area.
It has plenty of side streets to wander down and find yourself in, but it also has some larger brand stores for anyone who wants to enjoy a spot of shopping for the weekend.
Cirencester also boasts some of the best restaurants in the area and is a brilliant option for Sunday roasts or lazy brunches. The Golden Cross Inn in the centre of Cirencester is arguably one of the best roast dinners you can find in the Cotswolds, whilst Luxe’s sweet treats and afternoon tea options are sure to satisfy even the sweetest of tooths.
15 mins drive
Whilst traditionally there has been somewhat of a rivalry between the spa town of Cheltenham and the more industrial city of Gloucester, Gloucester is truly putting itself on the map as a worthwhile place to visit whilst in the area.
Famed for its’ historic docks, the whole Gloucester Quays area has become a brilliant destination for food and shopping with plenty of restaurant choices and a Designer Outlet shopping centre.
Once you’re done with shopping, grab a bite to eat at Settebello or Greek on the Docks, or enjoy a beer at Gloucester Brewery – a complete microbrewery in one of the historic warehouses and one of the newer additions to the area.
With Gloucester Food Dock opening later in 2022, there will be even more choice of where to eat. And once you’ve finished enjoying the Quays area, make sure you take a walk up to Gloucester Cathedral where you can step back in time to visit the tomb of King Edward II, or for Harry Potter fans, take a step into Hogwarts as the cloisters were the location for plenty of the magical school scenes in the movie series.
Other Notable Villages Worth Visiting from Cheltenham
Winchcombe (15 mins drive):
has plenty of pubs in which you can sit by a cosy fire whilst enjoying a glass of wine. It’s also home to Sudeley Castle, once inhabited by Katherine Parr and Lady Jane Grey and now a fantastic historic site and also event venue.
Burford (35 min drive):
is close to the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border and an absolutely stunning example of Cotswold village.
Whilst it may not sound like the most exciting way to spend a few hours, the Burford Garden Centre is truly brilliant, especially once they start their Christmas display and is sure to get you in the festive mood! There is also the nearby Cotswold Wildlife Park which is a guaranteed good day out, whether you’re visiting with friends or family.
Chipping Norton (45 mins drive):
has some of the most lusted-after properties in the Cotswolds. The perfect place to imagine your dream Cotswold life, nearby Cornwell was where some of Christmas-film classic The Holiday was filmed. Chipping Norton has had a recent surge of tourism thanks to the Diddly Squat Farmshop made famous on Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm series on Amazon Prime.
Plenty of Cotswold villages have been made famous on film including Upper and Lower Slaughter, Castle Combe and Snowshill. The last of which is also home to Cotswold Lavender which if you’re here at the right time of year simply cannot be missed. Snowshill (and nearby Chipping Campden) are both perfect add-ons to a day trip to nearby Broadway. Last but not least but if you spend longer than 5 minutes searching Cotswolds on Instagram, you’re bound to end up at Daylesford Farm. Set over 2000 acres,
this iconic flagship location offers way more than just a farmshop.
In fact it plays host to plenty of indoor/outdoor dining and drinking options, a wellness spa, cookery school and workshop with creative courses. If you’re looking for a weekend of total relaxation, you can even stay here too and enjoy the nearby village of Kingham.
About the Author
Danni Blackburn is a linguist and blogger at Danni Meets World, currently living in the Cotswolds. A keen traveller, she is an advocate for travelling with children – something she loves to do with her own young daughters. Having relocated from Chicago back to her home county of Gloucestershire, Danni now actively works with local businesses to promote all that is brilliant about one of her favourite places in the world – the Cotswolds.