Cheltenham town centre is home to the Regent Arcade, a beautifully designed shopping mall on three floors, that was built in 1985. It is clean and bright with mirrors and a marble floor. It is easy to navigate; the shops and cafes are plentiful and easy to find. It has recently undergone a refurbishment to meet the requirements of 21st century shopping and to lend the centre a more contemporary look.
The Regent Arcade is not a massive mall, which is part of its charm. It is all under one roof, easy to access from the pedestrianized High Street at the front and from the rear near the town's Promenade and adjacent car park. There are 60 shops and cafes at the Regent Arcade.
Everyone knows where to find it as it is bang in the middle of the town. It isn't an obvious shopping centre as it blends in so well with the towns classic lines and has an impressive archway as its main entrance. There is a well-established department store to visit called Cavendish House, accessed near the rear of the Regent Arcade and which is also the oldest department store in Cheltenham. There are lifts and escalators as well as stairs in the Arcade, which is also linked to a multi-storey car park owned and run by Cheltenham Borough Council. There are other car parks nearby, and is very close to main bus and coach stops. The Cheltenham Spa railway station is a little further away and is a good 20-minute walk, which is not ideal with bags of shopping and young children in tow.
There is no food court at the Regent as it isn't a massive centre as in many cities but there are seven cafes and restaurants inside the arcade, there are other outlets within easy reach on the High Street.
Locals tend to go there to shop and eat but Cheltenham is home to many festivals and attractions so it also attracts tourists. The tourist economy is worth £154 million a year to the town. The Tourist Information Centre is located at The Wilson, Cheltenham's Museum and Art Gallery in nearby Clarence Street.
One restaurant, that can be recommended is Marinades, which is a five-minute walk from the arcade located on the High Street. It is a Caribbean restaurant but caters for a variety of dietary including vegan. There are plenty of options for starters, mains and desserts, with friendly staff, a chilled-out atmosphere and great food. The Regent Arcade was named the 'greenest' shopping centre in the UK for energy conservation and re-cycling in the 2013 Green Apple Awards.
In the Regent Arcade, there are patisseries and coffee houses such as Druckers and The Soho Coffee House. If you want something more substantial than coffee and a cake, Carluccios Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a classic Italian menu with outside dining, free Wi-Fi, a bar and Disabled Access. Other places to eat are The Bridge Café, on the Galley (2nd floor) which also serves food with an Italian flavour but also offers full English breakfasts. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels offers takeaway pretzels and for the health-conscious, Buzz Food offers fresh and healthy snacks to take away.
Families shouldn’t miss the famous Wishing Fish Clock, which blows bubbles and plays music every half hour. At the front of Regent Arcade is the lower High Street area where there is always something happening whether it is street entertainers or a children’s mini fairground. During the Christmas holidays, there are many events organized for children, such as Meet and Greet Santa, parties and competitions.
There is a well-established department store to visit called Cavendish House, accessed near the rear of the Regents’ Arcade and which is also the oldest department store in Cheltenham. It is also a House of Fraser store and offers consumers a wide range of designer items from clothes to furnishings to perfume on four floors.
The Regent Arcade Shopping Centre itself has more than 60 stores offering an enticing blend of big High Street brands and independent retailers. The popular new H&M offers many fashion brands over an impressive three floors.
Other big fashion names include Schuh, Top Shop, Sunglass Hut, Blue Inc, Bravissimo, which offers larger sized ladies lingerie and TK Maxx which sells designer items and household gifts for up to 60 per cent less.
There is also a selection of beauty and wellbeing stores at Regent Arcade including The Body Shop, The Perfume Shop, Holland & Barrett, Regis Salon and Hollywood Nails. There are also plenty of gift and card shops such as Sugarloaf, Thornton’s and the Card Factory.
For supermarket shopping, there is a Tesco superstore which is a 15-minute walk from the town centre and a Waitrose, which is about ten minutes away. There is a Marks and Spencers Food Hall, Iceland and an Aldi on the High Street. There are no supermarkets within Regent Arcade.
There are lifts and escalators as well as stairs in the Arcade, which is also linked to a multi-storey car park owned and run by Cheltenham Borough Council. Regent Arcade Shopping Centre has over 500 parking spaces and is open from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Saturdays, and 9am to 5pm on Sundays.
It is possible to click and collect shopping goods online, if in a hurry. Just outside the arcade, on the pedestrianized High Street, it is possible to buy flowers and cheaply priced fruit and veg from nearby outdoor Market Stalls.
There are over 500 car parking spaces situated over four levels in the car park which has smart payment machines so shoppers only need to input their vehicle registration after their stay. The machines operate on payment before exit with both cash and bank cards There are also two charging points for electric vehicles in the Regent Arcade car park.
There are other large private car parks nearby, which operate on one level and are pay and display such as in North Place and St. James Street. Near the Brewery Quarter is a NCP multilevel car park.
There are a wide variety of shops out of the arcade that are the staples of every High Street, such as Marks and Spencers, Primark, Boots and WHSmiths. There are also cheap little fast food outlets, such as McDonalds, Burger King and a 99 pence eatery to be found here.
In Cheltenham, as it has something to suit all budgets and tastes. It has the cheaper end eateries such as Wetherspoons and Nando’s which offer good value and tasty food to posh nosh offered by high end restaurants such as Lumiere or the Daffodil, which are within short walking distance to the Regent Arcade.
The Brewery Quarter, an impressive arcade under one roof, offers dining and leisure facilities and is home to Nando’s, the Real China Chinese Buffet, Chiquitos, which offers Mexican cuisine, Harvester’s for traditional home-cooked food and a salad bar, Frankie and Benny’s and Prezzo for lovers of Italian food.
Just a two-minute walk from the town centre there is the Promenade which is home to upmarket yet popular shops and boutiques which sell antiques and vintage clothes. It has a distinctively Bohemian and Continental feel and it leads to the Montpellier district of the town which is adjacent to the beautiful Imperial Gardens.
If you want to park right outside your store of choice, maybe buying bigger items, you can try the shopping areas of Kingsditch, Benhall or Gallagher Retail Parks on the town’s outskirts, which have the large superstores such as B and Q and Argos.
On the High Street is where the town’s main bus stops are located. Just a few minutes away is the town’s coach station with links to all over the country. The train station is the one transport facility that is a little out of town. It is a good 15-minute walk from here to the centre but there are plenty of buses and taxis in operation that can take train travellers to the town centre. There are also two Park and Rides on the outskirts of Cheltenham at Arle Court and at the Race Course, which can be a cheaper and more convenient alternative for shoppers rather than going to the car parks in the town centre.
Cheltenham has been a health and holiday spa town resort since the mineral springs were discovered in 1716. Cheltenham attracts locals and tourists alike as it is a beautiful town full of stunning Regency buildings, dotted with beautiful manicured gardens and parks. The nearby county capital city, Gloucester, has far less to offer than Cheltenham in terms of shopping and culture. It is also the gateway to the Cotswolds, an area of stunning natural beauty. The town isn’t a sprawling urban mass and has a relatively small population of about 116,000 people, and is so near to many tourist attractions in the Cotswolds.
There is currently one shopping centre in the town (the Regent Arcade) and a converted complex that was once the towns brewery, now called The Brewery Quarter. The Brewery does not offer shops as such; it offers leisure facilities such as several trendy eateries, such as Nando’s and Chiquitos. It has a gym, a Premier Inn, a multiscreen cinema with IMAX, a bowling alley and Play Farm for young children. It is very popular for young people and families. It hosts events for children and families throughout the year, and during the school holidays. These include exhibitions, workshops, arts and craft activities, theatre and music performances etc.
Cheltenham isn’t just great for shops and eating out. There are numerous other attractions in operation all year round: the Christmas market, the Art Deco Lido, the Literary Festival, the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup which is the highlight of the UK’s Horseracing Calendar, the Steam Railway, the Science Festival, Cheltenham Fashion Week, it’s music festival, it’s street entertainment and beautiful Christmas lights.
Cheltenham is a busy town with always something going on. The Gold Cup Week in March means that the traffic can come to a standstill and accommodation is full and restaurant tables are hard to book. For anyone, planning a visit to Cheltenham, always check beforehand that if an event is occurring, such as the Half marathon or the town’s numerous festivals or horse-racing, and that you are well-prepared.