Thousands flock here every year to marvel at its quintessentially English charm and unspoilt beauty. And even though its towns and villages are popular spots with tourists, it still retains its strong cultural heritage. So whether you want to immerse yourself in the bustling market town of Cirencester or escape to the tranquil village of Painswick, we’ll help you decide with a list of the best towns to visit in the Cotswolds.
First on our list is Chipping Campden. Wander this lovely town and discover its well-preserved architecture and history. The high street is characterised by an unbroken terrace of buildings, with styles dating back to the 14th century. This means there are plenty of places to eat and drink, too.
Best things to do in Chipping Campden:
- Walk through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside to Broadway Tower
- Go wine tasting at the Little Oak Vineyard
- Have an afternoon stroll around the magnificent 20th-century gardens at Hidcote Manor
Where to stay: The charming Bumble Cottage makes for the perfect family getaway in the heart of Chipping Campden.
Located on the Fosse Way, Moreton-in-Marsh has been a traveller’s town for the last 1700 years. Marvel at its 18th-century inns and houses, or visit the famous Tuesday market. This Cotswold town is well connected to other towns and villages in the area too, so it’s the perfect place to base yourself for exploring this beautiful part of the country.
Best things to do in Moreton-in-Marsh:
- Visit Batsford Arboretum and marvel at 56 acres of trees, shrubbery, and flowers
- Have a drink at The Bell Inn – it’s thought to be J.R.R Tolkien’s inspiration for the Prancing Pony in The Lord of the Rings
- Go and see the Curfew Tower. It’s one of the oldest structures in the town, dating back to the 16th-century
Where to stay: You’ll have some of the best walks on your doorstep at Honeystone Cottage.
Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water is a vibrant village with the majestic River Windrush flowing through its centre. Elegant footbridges give you that gorgeous Venice feel, and an abundance of riverside restaurants, bars, and tea rooms make it the perfect place to spend sunny afternoons.
Best things to do in Bourton-on-the-Water:
- Explore the village like a giant at The Model Village. The one-ninth scale replica was built between 1936 and 1940.
- Travel back in time with the incredible collection of rare and vintage vehicles at the Cotswold Motoring Museum.
- Get lost in The Dragonfly Maze, a yew-hedge maze with puzzles to complete to find the golden dragonfly.
Where to stay: Book a holiday for the whole clan at the 3-bedroom Bears Court North Barn 1, a contemporary barn conversion perfectly positioned for exploring the local area.
Lower & Upper Slaughter
Don’t let their names put you off visiting, because The Slaughters are some of the prettiest Cotswolds villages. Have a gentle stroll along the River Eye and take in the stunning honey-coloured cottages, gardens, and grand manor houses in the area.
Best things to do in Lower & Upper Slaughter:
- Join the scenic walking tour between Lower & Upper Slaughter, to Bourton-on-the-Water
- Enjoy some afternoon tea at the majestic Slaughters Manor House
- Take plenty of photos, it’s one of the most picturesque places in the country
Where to stay: Park Bothy is just a stone’s throw from The Slaughters, and is perfect for staying in one of the best towns in the Cotswolds.
Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest of all the Cotswold towns at 800ft. The town’s vast market square has tons to discover, from quaint tea rooms to ancient historical sites. Visit the medieval stocks and the ancient market cross to get a feel for what life was once like here. Some of the largest sheep fairs took place here, with up to 20,000 being sold in just one day!
Best things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold:
- Visit the magical St Edward’s Church. With two ancient trees that stand tall on either side of its doors, it looks more like an entrance into a mystical world than a church.
- Stop off at Lucy’s Tearoom for a sweet treat and a pot of tea
- Shop over 120 cheeses at The Cotswold Cheese Co.
Where to stay: Don’t be put off by the name, Mucky Cottage is a gorgeous holiday home just outside Stow-on-the-Wold that sleeps up to 12 people.
Known as the Capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester has a deep-rooted Roman history. Walk around the town and you’ll find plenty of evidence of Roman settlement. It was also a prosperous wool town in the medieval period. Today, this market town hosts regular monthly markets, ranging from farmer’s produce to crafts where you can pick up some locally-made goods.
Best things to do in Cirencester:
- History buffs will love discovering the collection of local Roman finds at the Corinium Museum
- Splash around in the sun at Cirencester’s Open Air Swimming Pool
- Head to Cirencester’s high street for a spot of retail therapy
Where to stay: 4 Loveday Mews sleeps four people and has a cosy log burner to keep toasty on winter evenings.
Castle Combe has been named the prettiest village in England. And it’s not hard to see why. This quintessentially English village has retained almost all of its English charm and periodic features that date back 500 years. In fact, this chocolate box village has barely changed at all, as the newest house was built in the 1600s.
Best things to do in Castle Combe:
- Petrolheads will love a day out to Castle Combe Circuit, attend one of their shows or have a go at the circuit on a track days
- Rest your weary feet and enjoy a freshly-pulled pint at The Castle Inn
- Visit Dower House – it’s the setting of the fictional Puddleby-on-the-Marsh in Dr Dolitte
Where to stay: When you book Castle Combe Cottage, you’ll be in for a real treat. This period house is possibly one of the village’s original cottages.
This wonderful village is not to be missed on a visit to the Cotswolds. Bibury was once described by the celebrated textile designer, William Morris, as “the most beautiful village in England”. And he wasn’t wrong. The area is full of charm and English character and is famed for Arlington Row, one of the most photographed streets in the country.
Best things to do in Bibury:
- The Arlington Row cottages are a must-see. The street, lined with honey-coloured Grade I listed buildings, dates back to the 14th century.
- Visit the historic remains of an ancient estate at Chedworth Roman Villa
- Learn about the rainbow and brown trout at Bibury Trout Farm – the world’s oldest working trout farm
Where to stay: Stay in the heart of Bibury at Gable Cottage. It sleeps 4 people and is just a 2-minute walk from the pub.
Nestled in the tranquil Cotswolds countryside you’ll find Painswick. Known as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’, this delightful market town is one of the best-preserved settlements in the area. There are tons of walking trails to explore nearby, and you’ll uncover some of the most scenic views along the way.
Best things to do in Painswick:
- Painswick Rococo Garden was designed in the 1740s as a pleasure garden, today you can visit art exhibitions, go on family trails, and watch outdoor shows
- Take a look at the perfectly-preserved 19th-century stocks
- Visit The Painswick Pooch Coffee House for tasty lunches and fresh barista coffee
Where to stay: The Glebe is a wonderfully bright and airy detached cottage. Book a getaway here for up to 4 people and you can enjoy dining al fresco on the outdoor patio.
If your idea of the perfect getaway is sampling the local cuisine, embarking on gentle strolls over rolling hills, and uncovering centuries of cultural heritage, then you’ll fall in love with Broadway. Nestled in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Beauty, it’s one of the best towns to visit in the Cotswolds and is the perfect base for exploring the surrounding area.
Best things to do in Broadway:
- Walk through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside to Broadway Tower
- Wander along Broadway’s high street and discover the quirky antique shops
- Find the Millennium Garden. This hidden gem is tucked away beside the Broadway Museum
Where to stay: Meadow Cottage is a stunning contemporary holiday home that’s ideal for exploring the Cotswolds’ rolling hills.