Cirencester is a charming market town located in the heart of the Cotswolds. With a rich history dating back to Roman times, there are many wonderful things to do in Cirencester from exploring the bustling town center to nearby nature walks, stately homes, and more.
The town is home to lots of boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes and there are weekly markets, as well as a bi-monthly farmers’ market, selling local produce, beers, wines, and handmade goods. Some of the top places to visit in Cirencester include the Corinium Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre.
I’ve been visiting the Cotswolds for years and I often find Cirencester makes a great base for exploring the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The nearby towns and villages such as Bibury, Bourton on the Water, Stroud, and Chipping Norton are all reachable in under an hour by car. Have a look at Discover Cars for discounts on rentals.
Best Things To Do in Cirencester
Below, you’ll find a selection of the best things to do in Cirencester from exploring the charming town center to relaxing in the many parks and gardens and checking out historic sites and museums like the Roman amphitheater and villa at Chedworth.
1. Shop at the Weekly Markets
One of the best things to do in Cirencester is to check out the weekly markets. The Charter Market takes place every Monday and Friday in the Market Place between 10 am and 3 pm. Here, you can pick up a range of goods from locally made foods and drinks to handicrafts, clothes, and gifts.
Around the Market Place, you’ll also find the Corn Hall Indoor Market which holds regular specialty stalls from artisan foods to vintage clothing and more. On the second and fourth Saturday of the month is the Cirencester Farmers’ Market where you can pick up specialty food, drinks, and produce from local farmers.
Browsing the markets is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in town and I know whenever I visit, I’m sure to end up buying a few bits and pieces (usually handmade cooking sauces and local brews). The Market Place overlooks the stunning Chuch of St John the Baptist which is well worth checking out too (see below).
Address: Bingham House, 1 Dyer St, Cirencester GL7 2NX, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
2. Visit the Corinium Museum
If, like me, you’re fascinated by Roman history, (being born in the Roman capital of Britain probably has something to do with it), then you’ll want to head to the excellent Corinium Museum which houses one of the most impressive Roman collections in the country.
Here, you’ll find a wealth of locally excavated remains and exhibits from floor mosaics to sculptures and much more. This is one of the best museums in the country and is well worth an hour or two to browse the displays. This is one of the best things to do in Cirencester for families as it’s both educational and engaging.
The Corinium is open from 10 am until 5 pm from Monday to Saturday and 2 pm until 5 pm on Sundays. Entrance costs £7.40 for adults and £4.60 for children aged 5 to 16. There’s a gift shop and cafe that sells hot and cold drinks and light snacks.
Address: Corinium Museum, Park St, Cirencester GL7 2BX, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
3. Take a Walk Around Cirencester Park
The gorgeous Cirencester Park was originally created as a deer park in the 18th Century and also served as a military base during the First and Second world wars. The park covers an area of over 3,000 acres of woodland and open pasture that was once considered the largest park in the world.
The park is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm and is free to enter. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a lead, and there are designated signposted trails specifically for dog walking. Inside the park, you’ll find the impressive Cecily Hill Gates which is a Grade I listed building used to form part of the military barracks.
Just inside the Cecily Hill Gates is the Beano coffee stand where you can grab a coffee and a snack. You can also pick up supplies from one of the supermarkets in the town as the park is the perfect place for a picnic. There isn’t an entry fee and so visiting the park is one of the best free things to do in Cirencester.
Address: Cecily Hill, Cirencester GL7 2EF, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
4. Visit Cerney House and Gardens
The picturesque Cerney House and Gardens contains original Victorian Gardens that have been kept and maintained by the Angus family for hundreds of years. This is one of the best places to visit near Cirencester if you’re looking to escape into some stunning country surroundings.
Inside the gardens, you’ll find hidden walkways crisscrossing the estate and secluded spots hidden by high walls and plants. Cerney House holds regular events including foraging walks which are a great way to learn about local edible plants.
The gardens are open to the public every day between 10 am and 7 pm (contact for visits outside these hours) and cost £6 for adults and just £1 for children. Dogs are also welcome but must be kept on a lead. Visiting these beautiful gardens is one of the best things to do around Cirencester.
Address: Cerney House, North Cerney, Cirencester GL7 7BX, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
5. See the Church of St John the Baptist
The Church of St John the Baptist is located in the Market Place and was first part of an Augustinian monastery that dates back to 1117. The church is built with the local Cotswold Stone which is also used for many of the cute cottages within the region. The church and tower as you see it today was completed in the 15th Century.
St John’s is a working church but it’s possible to both look around or attend a service. Inside, you’ll find guides in a variety of languages giving you a history of the church. There are also guided tours available on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week (ask inside for details).
This impressive church is definitely one of the top Cirencester attractions and can be combined with a visit to the markets around Market Place.
Address: 5 Market Place, Cirencester GL7 2NX, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
6. Take a Dip in the Open Air Swimming Pool
One of my favorite things to do on a hot summer’s day is to take a dip somewhere and the open-air swimming pool next to Cecily Hill and the park is the perfect place to cool off. The pool has fantastic views of the Cecily Gates and surrounding parkland and is definitely one of the best things to do in Cirencester for families and groups of friends.
The pool first opened in 1870 and visitors have enjoyed splashing about here ever since. Unlike many others around the UK (including my local one), the pool at Cirencester is heated so you can enjoy it even if the sun isn’t making so much of an appearance. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Cirencester during the summer.
There are different sessions throughout the week (afternoons and weekends are open swims, so everyone is welcome and you don’t need to book). Other sessions include lane swims, aqua aerobics, and children’s swimming lessons. See the website for more information and to book classes. Open daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
Address: Riverside Walk, Thomas Street, Cirencester GL7 2EF, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
7. See the Roman Amphitheater
Although not intact like amphitheaters found in Greece and Italy, the archaeological site of the Roman amphitheater is well worth a visit for history lovers (like me). The remaining artworks represent what was once one of the largest amphitheaters in Britain.
This is another of the best free things to do in Cirencester and is one of the top places to see in the town. The site is open during daylight hours throughout the year and there’s free onsite parking. The surrounding area is a great place for a walk or a picnic and dogs are welcome.
Address: 30 Cotswold Ave, Cirencester GL7 1XW, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
8. Check Out New Brewery Arts Space
The New Brewery Arts Space is located inside an old brewery building that closed in 1937. The building was due to be demolished but was saved by a local group of artists and turned into the creative space it is today. If you’re looking for stuff to do in Cirencester the New Brewery has so much going on and is definitely worth stopping by.
The space includes a gallery, craft shop, cafe, and workshop facilities where artists and makers can develop their skills and showcase their work. The venue also hosts a wide range of events and exhibitions throughout the year, including performances, talks, workshops, and classes.
Check the website to see what’s going on during your visit or just pop in and see what’s currently on display in the gallery. You can also visit the onsite Glaze Cafe for a light lunch, a cup of coffee, and a selection of yummy homemade cakes and other treats.
Address: Brewery Court, Cricklade St, Cirencester GL7 1JH, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
9. Visit the Westonbirt Arboretum
One of the top things to do near Cirencester is to visit the Westonbirt Arboretum. Explore trees and plants from around the world in this magical garden that’s a hit with guests of all ages. With over 2,500 different species spread across a vast area, this is a wonderful place to escape into nature.
There’s an aerial walkway above the trees for spectacular views, an outdoor cinema for evening entertainment under the stars, and a cafe serving a selection of hot and cold drinks and snacks. This is one of my favorite places to visit in Cirencester as there’s always so much to see and do.
The arboretum is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Dogs are allowed and there are areas where they can be let off the lead. Tickets cost £12 for adults and £4 for children and there’s free onsite parking.
Address: Westonbirt, Tetbury GL8 8QS, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
10. Spend a Day at the Cotswolds Water Park
One of the top tourist attractions in Cirencester is the Cotswolds Water Park on the outskirts of town. This isn’t your typical water park with slides and flumes though; it’s made up of 180 lakes over 42 square miles. There are lots of fun activities on offer from riverside walks and picnics to boating, kayaking, and swimming.
This wetland habitat is a breeding ground for thousands of bird species and is the perfect place for wildlife watching throughout the year. There’s even a sandy beach for swimming, making sandcastles, and a host of different watersports to try. You’ll also find a beach shack cafe here, and it’s possible to hire your own BBQ if you want to cook up your own lunch.
I love visiting the water park as there’s so much to do, and in summer I’m the first into the lake for a swim (usually followed by beers and a bbq on the lakeshore). It’s possible to stay within the water park in one of the many hotels, B&Bs, or under canvas with both camping and glamping options available. Click here for more info.
Address: Rigsby’s Ln, Cirencester GL7 6FJ, UK. Click here for directions.
11. Hike Part of the Thames Path National Trail
It might surprise you to know that the source of the River Thames is located in a meadow three miles from Cirencester. The spring of Lyd Well at Thames Head is nothing but a trickle that belies its progression into one of the most famous rivers in the country.
One of the best ways to visit the spring is to hike part of the scenic Thames Path National Trail which runs for 148 miles (240 km) from Tewsbury Mead near Cirencester to the Thames Barrer in east London.
This 12-mile (20 km) point-to-point section from Thames Head to Cricklade is for serious hikers as it’s moderately difficult and takes around five hours to complete. The route is extremely varied and offers stunning views of the rolling hills of the Cotswolds.
12. See the Chedworth Roman Villa
Visit the ruins of a 4th Century Roman villa at nearby Chedworth which is just a 20-minute drive from the town. I love exploring Roman ruins and have been lucky enough to visit sites across England, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Out of all the sites I’ve seen, the villa at Chedworth is definitely one of my favorites.
This is one of the most impressive sites in England with floor mosaics still in situ, bathhouses, and a water shrine. There’s an onsite museum with finds from the area, a shop selling souvenirs and educational gifts, and a cafe selling hot and cold drinks, ice creams, and other goodies.
The villa and museum are open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and tickets cost £12 for adults and £6 for children.
Address: Chedworth Roman Villa, Cheltenham GL54 3LJ, United Kingdom. Click here for directions.
13. Take a Cotswolds Tour of Britain’s Prettiest Villages
Taking a tour of the Cotswolds is the best way to get out there and see some of the prettiest towns and villages in England. Public transport in the region isn’t great so other than having your own vehicle, taking a tour means you can fit in many places otherwise unreachable.
14. Visit Bibury
Bibury is one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds (and indeed the whole of England) and is a must-visit when staying in Cirencester as it’s just 7.5 miles (12 km) from the center of town. Here, you’ll find picture-perfect stone cottages with thatched roofs, manicured lawns, and brightly colored flowerbeds.
See the famous Arlington Row houses that date back to the 14th Century, walk along the gorgeous River Coln that winds its way through the village, and stop for lunch at The Catherine Wheel (their Sunday roast is amazing).
The best way to get to Bibury from Cirencester is to drive which will take you just 15 minutes. There aren’t any buses but you can take a taxi or book an Uber. Another option is to walk which should take around two and a half hours.
15. Visit the City of Bath
The gorgeous city of Bath lies just 36 miles (58 km) to the south of Cirencester and takes less than an hour to drive to (or 90 minutes to two hours by train as you’ll need to change in Swindon). This fantastic city is well worth a day trip to see the famous Roman baths, take a dip in a spa, and study Georgian architecture.
Bath is one of my favorite cities in England and is a must-visit when in the Westcountry. There are also lots of excellent pubs and restaurants, boutique shops, and plenty of picturesque walks around the town along the River Avon or Kennet and Avon Canal.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Cirencester
If you’re not sure what to see in Cirencester first, these handy itineraries will help you get the most out of your visit. Whether you have a day to spend or much longer, these itineraries include all the top things to do in Cirencester:
1 Day in Cirencester Itinerary
With just one day in Cirencester, be sure to take in the top things to see in the town such as the Church of St John the Baptist, the Corinium Museum, and the beautiful park. Stop for a spot of lunch at the MBB Brasserie before continuing to explore the town. If you’re visiting on a Monday, Friday, or the 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month, be sure to stop by the Market Place.
2-3 Days in Cirencester Itinerary
With a few days to explore, make sure to see the archaeological sites of the Roman amphitheater and the Roman Villa at nearby Chedworth. If the weather is good head to the open-air swimming pool or Cotswold Water Park for boating on the many lakes on the outskirts of town.
If you enjoy getting outside, you can hike a stretch of the Thames Path National Trail or see the impressive Cerney House and Gardens. Try some more of the local pubs and restaurants like the excellent Tierra and Mar or the cozy Bear Inn.
1 Week in Cirencester Itinerary
With a week to spend in the town, follow the above itineraries for the first three days and add in visits to places across the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. See the towns of Stroud and Chipping Norton and the picturesque villages of Bibury and Bourton on the Water. You can also add in a day trip to the nearby city of Bath.
Where to Stay in Cirencester
These are a few of the best places to stay in Cirencester for tourists:
Kings Head Hotel – Best for First-Time Visitors
The Kings Head Hotel is a boutique hotel located in the heart of the town. Here, you’ll find elegant and modern guest rooms complete with en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning, flatscreen TVs, and the opportunity to relax with a treatment day. There’s also an onsite restaurant and bar. Click here to find out more.
Corinium Hotel and Restaurant – Best for Couples
The gorgeous Corinium Hotel and Restaurant is located on a quiet side street just a five-minute walk away from the town center. The hotel dates back to the 16th Century and is one of the most romantic places to stay in Cirencester for couples. There’s a large garden and an outside restaurant perfect for summer al-fresco dining. Click here to book.
The Old Brewhouse – Best for Families
The 17th Century Old Brewhouse is a bed and breakfast situated in the heart of Cirencester that offers modern and comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms (bath or shower available). Rooms come with a Flatscreen TV, DVD player, and tea and coffee-making facilities. There’s also a pretty, patio garden for guests to enjoy. Click here to learn more.
Best Restaurants in Cirencester
Find a selection of the best places to eat (and drink) in Cirencester listed below. Whether you’re looking for a snack, pub grub, fine dining, or cuisines from around the world, there’s something for everyone.
Teatro: Teatro is an excellent bar and restaurant that was established in 2017 by the owners of the nearby Ingleside Hotel. Expect a high-end dining experience and be pleasantly surprised by the very reasonable prices (mains under £20). The crispy pork and Asian salad is a must-try. Click here for directions.
Tierra & Mar: I love Spanish food and Tierra & Mar restaurant in the heart of the Cotswolds offers a taste of Spain using the freshest local ingredients. From paella to the Iberian platter and excellent tapas options, this is somewhere I love to come for a bite to eat when in town. Try the five-course tapas-sharing menu from £32 per person. Click here for directions.
The Bear Inn: The Bear Inn is a cozy, 18th-Century pub in the heart of the town that serves up some of the best pub food in the Cotswolds and is one of the best things to do in Cirencester at night. From light lunches to an interesting evening menu featuring the likes of burgers, Korean pork, haddock fishcakes, and more, there’s something for everyone. Click here for directions.
MBB Brasserie: The MBB Brasserie is a classy brasserie with an open kitchen and is one of the top places to eat in Cirencester. The menu features British classics with a modern twist. From grilled aubergine steak to battered haddock and shoulder of lamb, there’s something to excite even the fussiest of tastebuds. Click here for directions.
Thai Emerald: Just because you’re in the heart of the Cotswolds doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a taste of South East Asia. I love Thai food and the Thai Emerald serves up authentic dishes from curries to Phad Thai and Tom Yum soup. This is one of the best Thai places I’ve eaten at. Click here for directions.
Getting to Cirencester
The closest international airport to Cirencester is Bristol which is 40 miles to the southwest. It takes around 80 minutes to drive via the M4 and A429. You can also take a shuttle bus to Bristol and then take one of the many hourly trains into Cirencester (change at Swindon).
From London, Cirencester is a two-hour drive along the M4. There are also hourly trains that depart from London Paddington with journey times under two hours. There are also hourly coach services from London’s Victoria Coach Station which is the cheapest method and takes only 30 minutes longer than the train.
Another option from London is this fun, small-group, day trip to the Cotswolds. The tour takes in Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, and more. Click here for details and to book your spot.
As it’s such a small town, all the major attractions in Cirencester are within walking distance. However, to get the most out of a trip to the Cotswolds it’s well worth hiring a car so you can explore the cute towns and villages that aren’t accessible using public transport (which is most of them).
Things To Do in Cirencester: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Cirencester:
Cirencester is known for its Roman history and proximity to the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Spring to Fall is the best time to visit Cirencester to take advantage of its many outdoor attractions and explore the beautiful countryside that surrounds it. To enjoy the open-air swimming pool and long evenings dining al-fresco, summer is best.
Cirencester is definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re interested in Roman history like me. It’s also a great destination for foodies as restaurants and pubs in the town use local ingredients from around the Cotswolds and Westcountry (local meats, cheese, and of course cider).
As it’s a small town two to three days is enough time for sightseeing in Cirencester, but if you wish to explore the wider Cotswolds (which you definitely should) then a week will allow you to visit some of the other picturesque towns and villages across the region.
Cirencester is a safe place compared to larger urban areas in England and was in fact named one of the best places to live in the UK. Take the same precautions you would when traveling anywhere such as avoiding dark streets at night and leaving valuables on display, particularly in your car.
Visiting the excellent Corinium Museum, seeing the church of St John the Baptist, shopping at the market, and trying out the many wonderful pubs, cafes, and restaurants are some of the most popular things to do in the Cirencester.
The Westcountry is one of the best places for fresh, local produce, and the top things to try include the local cider, ice cream, and cheeses.
Now you know what to do in Cirencester; one of the most charming small towns in the Cotswolds but one big enough that you won’t be bored. With its rich Roman history as evidenced by the Corinium Museum, Roman amphitheater, and Roman Villa, miles of picturesque countryside, and interesting shops and restaurants, Cirencester should definitely be on your list of Cotswolds destinations.