Ever since King George III arrived in 1788 in the hope of curing his ailments with the town’s medicinal spa waters, Cheltenham has attracted a steady stream of visitors. Esteemed schools and colleges, music and literature festivals, world-famous horse racing and a growing gastronomic scene – this elegant town now has something for everybody.
Best good old-fashioned pub
Tucked away behind the grand Regency houses of Montpellier, this Victorian corner pub offers a number of real ales from local breweries and good food in the bar or dining room. In winter, grab a table near the open fire or bag a seat in the enclosed garden when the weather is warmer.
1-3 Montpellier Villas, GL50 2XE
Best Sunday lunch
The Wheatsheaf Inn (above)
A short and pretty drive from Cheltenham itself, this splendid 17th-century hostelry on the market square at Northleach is the quintessential Cotswold inn-with-rooms. Open fires, flagstones, wooden floors and sumptuous furnishings set the scene for lazy Sunday brunches and hearty roasts showcasing local produce.
West End, Northleach , Burford, GL54 3EZ
Best with kids
The Tavern (above)
In a quiet side street close to the bus station and shopping district, this former boozer has been transformed into the sort of on-trend New York-style bar/diner you would expect to find in Soho rather than genteel Cheltenham. Approachable, popular staples such as sliders and steaks for the grown-ups are supplemented by a separate kids’ menu.
5 Royal Well Place, Cheltenham, GL50 3DN
Best overnight stay
It’s not cheap, but readers reckon the “top-class fare” served in the brasseries belonging to this posh and polished hotel chain is well worth it. Malmaison’s establishments have always had an urbane, sophisticated feel, and their stylised interiors make everyone feel instantly inclined to pop a Champagne cork or two – with or without one of the famous afternoon teas.
Bayshill Road, GL50 3AS
Best for posh nosh
Le Champignon Sauvage (above)
Approaching its 30th anniversary, this recently refurbished two Michelin-starred restaurant is widely acknowledged as one of the finest gastronomic experiences in the UK. Owner-chef David Everitt-Matthias uses cutting-edge culinary techniques to create mesmerising dishes from Cotswold produce, much of it wild and foraged.
24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, GL50 2AQ
Located on a sleepy street in leafy Montpellier, this friendly, well-supported café has been serving the locals for over 10 years. Grab a table or one of the comfortable sofas and enjoy well-made single-estate coffees from Bristol-based Extract roasters, along with freshly baked pastries and cakes or light lunches such as soup or toasties.
14 Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham, GL50 2XE
Housed within a beautiful converted art-deco cinema, the Daffodil’s open kitchen occupies what was once the stage. Chef Tom Rains’ dishes are classic, unpretentious and created with some fine Cotswold produce. Enjoy a pre-meal drink in the cocktail bar upstairs and time your visit for Saturday’s jazz sessions.
18-20 Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham, GL50 2AE
Best for local produce
A primrose yellow-painted Regency building just off the high street, this intimate restaurant has quickly made a mark on the local scene since opening in 2012. Head chef Gareth Fulford’s menus showcase exceptional regional produce and Cornish fish; each dish is cooked with care and served by friendly, chatty staff.
16 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, GL50 1JJ