Cheltenham is a beautiful Regency town, as well as my hometown. In fact, it’s said to be the UK’s most complete Regency town, with rows of beautiful townhouses and manicured gardens. It offers a great range of historic and modern culture, with all kinds of fun attractions to enjoy. From an exciting calendar of festivals to stunning parks, theatres, and museums, there are so many things to do in Cheltenham. From stunning scenery to explore in the morning and activities through the day to indulging in Cheltenham’s fun nightlife, there’s something to do for everyone. Here’s my list of the top things to do in Cheltenham.
Just south of Cheltenham’s town centre, Montpellier is one of Cheltenham’s most affluent districts. Dating back to the 1830s and modelled on its French namesake, it boasts rows of elegant Regency townhouses and boutique shops and restaurants. Just across the road from its bustling bars and restaurants, you’ll find the lovely Imperial Gardens and Montpellier Gardens. Visitors can enjoy Montpellier for its wonderful restaurants including The Ivy, as well as drinking at its vibrant bars. There are a number of boutique shops from lingerie to antiques that are perfect for browsing. Watch out for the iconic caryatids along Montpellier Walk, and discover Montpellier Arcade. It’s one of the UK’s oldest shopping arcades, dating back to 1832.
Walk the Promenade
One of Cheltenham’s most iconic streets is the leafy Promenade. Lined with multiple horse chestnut trees and red pillar boxes, it’s one of the best places for shopping in Cheltenham. The Promenade dates back to 1818, when it was planned as a primary street that would align it with the new Sherborne Spa. Proving itself as integral to Cheltenham’s status as an important spa town, today it’s an important thoroughfare for the town. As well as rows of stunning Regency townhouses, you can find some of the best restaurants in Cheltenham, including No. 131. There’s also a great range of bars, cafes, and upmarket retailers. Don’t miss the pretty, manicured gardens of the Municipal Buildings and their colourful flowers. These gardens are also next to Neptune Fountain, which dates back to the late nineteenth century and was inspired by Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
Relax at a Coffee Shop
Did you know Cheltenham was crowned the coffee capital of the UK thanks to its sheer quantity of coffee shops? As well as all the high street coffee brands you’d expect to find, there are dozens of independent coffee shops and cafes across the town. It would be rude, therefore, not to indulge in your favourite flat white or cappuccino and relax or go for a walk. Some of the best coffee shops include Havanas, with its delicious coffees and doorstop sandwiches, the Coffee Dispensary for its minimalist Scandi decor, and The Find for their delicious artisan beverages. Whether the sun is out or it’s a rainy day, enjoying a coffee and relaxing is one of the best things to do in Cheltenham.
Visit Pittville Park
Cheltenham’s Pittville Park opened in 1825, and should be high on any visitor’s list of the best things to do in Cheltenham. Pittville Park was initially designed as a space for visitors to sample the waters of the mineral wells. This was back when Cheltenham Spa gained its reputation as a luxurious spa town for visitors from across the country. Spa goers would visit the town’s iconic Grade I listed Pittville Pump Room to drink the therapeutic waters. Nowadays, Pittville Park is a spot that’s ideal for families with a pond, and an aviary with birds and rabbits. You’ll also find a nine hole golf course, kids’ play area, tennis courts, and a skatepark. Pittville Park is the perfect spot for wandering around with a coffee, or you can try your hand at rowing on the boating lake.
Climb the Surrounding Hills
As the centre of the Cotswolds, one of the best things to do in Cheltenham is to climb one of the surrounding hills to familiarise yourself with the town. There’s so much beautiful countryside in the area, and you can take in these incredible green views from the hills. Try taking a walk up to the local landmark of the Devil’s Chimney, a limestone column that’s said to mark the devil’s underground home. It’s also a wonderful viewpoint across the Cotswolds, where you can see across Cheltenham, Gloucester, and all the way over to the Malvern Hills. Cleeve Hill is another beautiful spot for walking near to Cheltenham Racecourse. A gentle yet challenging walk, the views are well worth it, with sprawling countryside for as far as the eye can see. It’s certainly a good way to get to know Cheltenham and beyond.
Go to Cheltenham Races
One of the world’s most famous racecourses, Cheltenham Racecourse can’t be missed off a list of the best things to do in Cheltenham. As one of the best racecourses for National Hunt racing, Cheltenham Racecourse has various Grade I races, and a racing season that stretches from November through to the spring. With the climax of the racing season being the iconic Cheltenham Festival, check out my ultimate guide to Cheltenham Races. The racecourse accommodates for well over 60,000 punters, and is famous for its beautiful Cotswold countryside views. It’s a great day out in Cheltenham for all the family, with great entertainment, food, and of course, plenty of Guiness.
Attend a Festival
As well as the iconic Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham has a number of other notable festivals that are well worth a visit. Festival season kicks off in sunny May with the Jazz Festival in Montpellier Gardens. Each year, it attracts musicians from Gregory Porter to Jamie Cullum. In June, there’s Cheltenham Science Festival, which brings together some of the country’s greatest thinkers and scientists. Noone should miss Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, which gets bigger and bigger each year. Guests can attend fascinating talks by the biggest names in literature, from JK Rowling to Louis Theroux. The many festivals of Cheltenham show how important culture is to the vibrant town.
Take a Dip at the Lido
During the summer months, there’s no better thing to do in Cheltenham than take a trip to the Lido. Sandford Park’s Lido dates back to the 1930s, and is one of the biggest outdoor pools in the country. Surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens within the park, it’s a lovely place to spend a day. The swimming pool itself is an impressive fifty metres in length. There’s also a children’s swimming pool and a paddling pool, and all are heated to over 70 degrees. After you’re tired of swimming and sunbathing, there’s some other entertainment available. All part of the entry charge, visitors can play basketball, table tennis, and even volleyball. You can also grab food and drinks from the poolside cafe.
Visit Sudeley Castle
One of the best things to do in Cheltenham to get a little history is take a trip to Sudeley Castle. Just a few miles out of Cheltenham’s town centre, Sudeley Castle is one of the few remaining castles in the UK that is still a private lodging. Dating back to 1442 Sudeley Castle is particularly notable in history thanks to its possession by King Richard III. It’s also where Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, spent her last months on earth at the castle. She eventually died from childbirth, and her tomb remains at Sudeley Castle. There’s a whole exhibition on Catherine Parr’s life as well as intimate love letters that she wrote to her last husband, Thomas Seymour. It’s a great day out with all of the family, and you can learn a lot while exploring the beautiful grounds.
That’s my list of the best things to do in Cheltenham! Is there anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.