The cathedral city of Chester is the perfect place to head away for a spa break with a bit of culture, history and some seriously good shopping. The city is getting a name for itself as one of the places to go if you're looking for a classy break and not yet too beloved of hen parties and stag parties but with options for both if that's what you're in the mood for.
There's plenty to do before and after you've booked in for a spa day, you could take a picturesque boat trip along the River Dee, drop in to Chester Zoo, hit the designer boutiques or get some history and culture from a wander around the Grosvenor Museum.
Chester, known as The Walled City, still has some of its original features; including an intact Roman Amphitheatre and Chester Castle for history buffs. The walls encircle the city and if you're feeling energetic you can walk all the way around them or you can amble slowly and stop regularly for a break in any of the cafes or coffee shops along the way to keep your energy up!
For a bit of culture, the museum is recommended, as is a look around the Watergate gallery which features work from over 100 hundred artists. The Roman Amphitheatre is also free to visit, and for history buffs there are walking tours of the city to whet your appetite.
Chester is such a lovely city, it's a shame to restrict yourself to just a day there. As well as the hotel spas above, there are plenty of options, and if you're looking for a place to indulge yourself for a few days Chester certainly isn't short-changed at all.
- the crabwall manor is one four star example of a luxury spa hotel with plenty of peace, quiet and fantastic spa facilities; and the restaurant gets rave reviews too. all guests receive complementary passes to the spa, with its five sumptuous treatment rooms and espa treatment menu. it/"s two miles from the city centre; and perfectly placed for a trip to Cheshire Oak Designer Outlet Village, which is just a five minute drive away.
- The club and spa at Hoole Hall in Chester is a bit of a one-off. It was 'intelligently designed' by a group of award-winning architects, spa consultants and interior designers, and describes itself as the most advanced club and spa in the area. It occupies three levels, and sits proudly in the stunning grounds of the Doubletree by Hilton Chester hotel. Get yourself down to the spa and road test the aroma room, hammam and steam room, chill out in the relaxation areas and enjoy treatments from a range of top quality spa brands. You can even get romantic in one of the couples' treatment rooms...
- Heading out of town a bit, around ten miles from Chester city centre is the Carden Park Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa. If you stay in one of the 196 bedrooms inside this fantastic hotel, you also get to experience the two championship golf courses, award winning spa and some stunning scenery. A brilliant place to catch a decent spa deal, this spa hotel has an awe-inspiring 20 treatment rooms and two relaxation areas, as well as pools and experience showers...and more!
- If you're in the market for a good value spa break close to Chester, you can't go wrong with a stay at the Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel & Spa - which comes with its very own mature 27-acre estate. The Vital Health and Wellbeing Spa promises serenity and pampering with spa packages especially for mums and brides-to-be, and hen parties.
- For something a little bit exclusive, there's the Hotel Chester Rowton Hall, a charming country house, spa and health club all set in an impossibly elegant Georgian Manor House. The hotel is a 4AA star establishment with eight acres of gardens and pastureland, and it's only two and a half miles from Chester. As well as a whirlpool, indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room, there's a croquet lawn and two floodlit tennis courts, so it's a good one for active spa fans.
- If you don't mind heading further into Cheshire, it's well worth investigating the award winning cottons hotel and spa in knutsford, which was voted' large hotel of the year' in 2008 by visit chester and cheshire tourism. worth checking out if you/"re enjoying a spa break, this spa not only has a deck level swimming pool, whirlpool and usual thermal facilities, but also a poolside colour therapy sauna and fibre-optic steam room! There are seven treatment rooms on offer too, with ESPA products. They even do a Girls Night In spa package.
- Mollington Banastre Hotel & Spa Chester gives you four star spa style just two miles out of the city and has all the facilities, an extensive ESPA treatment menu, fabulous comfortable bedrooms, and great facilities.
All that pampering can make you hungry, and if you fancy getting out of your hotel, or just heading out after a day spa experience, dining out in Chester is a dream, with something for just about every discerning palate.
- Head up to the Racecourse and try the 1539 Restaurant and Bar to find out why it was given the Best Large Restaurant award at the 2010 Chester Food, Drink Lifestyle Awards - and also won the Silver award for best use of local produce. The glass-fronted eatery has some hard to beat views across the racecourse, and serves up contemporary British cooking based on delicious produce from regional and local suppliers.
Address: The Racecourse, Nuns Road, Chester CH1 2LY
Tel: 01244 304 611
- The Olive Tree Restaurant on Hoole Road is set inside the privately owned, Victorian Town House Hotel, a short walk from the City centre of Chester. The emphasis here is definitely on fine dining, and the stylish decor is Italian inspired, along with delicious food and great service. Another selling point is the promise to cater for vegetarians and anyone else with specific dietary requirements, as long as you tell them when you book your table.
Address: 60 Hoole Road, Chester, Cheshire CH2 3NL
Tel: 01244 326 241
- For a delicious meal with an Italian/Mediterranean theme you could opt for the small but perfectly formed family owned La Cantina, which is in a handy location just five minutes from most of the major city hotels. The dishes are mainly authentic Italian, and all the ingredients are sourced either locally in Cheshire or from Italy. All the dishes are prepared freshly to order.
Address: 5 Boughton, Chester, Cheshire CH3 5AE
Tel: 01244 401 413
- Head across to Northgate Street and you'll find Chez Jules which brands itself as a little piece of France right in the centre of Chester. Continental meals are all prepared freshly using top quality seasonal produce, all served up with a relaxing and sophisticated atmosphere. The menu here changes twice daily - at lunch and dinner.
Address: 71 Northgate Street, Cheshire, Chester CH1 2HQ
Tel: 01244 400 014
- Siam Japanese Teppan-yaki restaurant is set in an absolutely massive building that overlooks the Shropshire Union Canal, catering for 200 people and split between two floors. On the ground floor is Chester's first ever Japanese Teppan-yaki restaurant and upstairs you'll find an authentic Thai restaurant and bar.
Address: 32 City Road Chester, Cheshire CH1 3AE
Tel: 01244 403 222
- Dutton's is hidden away on Godstall Lane, close to the cathedral, and it's regarded as one of Chester's best kept secrets. The restaurant offers locally produced fresh food, and prides itself on a good selection of vegetarian options, a varied wine menu featuring wines from the old and new world, plus sparkling wines and Champagnes.
Address: 10-12 Godstall Lane, Chester CH1 1LN
Tel: 01244 401 869
Feeling decadent? Well, whether you're out with a group of girly spa lovers on a hen party, or slipping away on a lover's retreat, you can't go far wrong with the Champagne Bar on Fifth adjacent to the Michael Caines Restaurant, it's one of the in places to hang out in Chester. Chill out on the outdoor terrace, admire the arty photography indoors, drink lots of champagne and relax.
For food, drink and fabulous entertainment, those in the know all end up at Alexander's Jazz Bar on Rufus Court. Opened in 1991, it's become one of the leading venues in the North West, due to the fabulous entertainment which includes jazz, blues, soul, roots and rock, comedy and drama. There's even an 'Unplugged' open mic night, and alternative comedy nights every Saturday.
For more traditional party style nights out, the Level Two nightclub caters for over 21s only and it's perfect for girls (and boys) nights out in the heart of the city centre, and open from Thursdays to Saturdays.
If you're splashing out a bit on a special occasion, blow your budget on a few rounds at the oh-so-trendy Amber Lounge on Watergate Row. It's open later than some of the other city centre bars, with live bands on some nights and great music every night.
If the hot blooded Latino in you needs an outlet, head to the Fiesta Havana on Watergate Street for a little piece of Cuba in the city centre. They are proud of their Mojitos; apparently the best in town, and if you're in the mood, you can dance the night away! There are dance classes for all levels along with entertainment from International DJs and live bands. The drinks menu covers speciality rums and tequilas and the food menu offers up delicious tapas and fajitas.
Number Fifteen is where the race goers love to hang out and mix with the locals and tourists. A classy, relaxing bar that comes complete with a hearty, homely food menu and plentiful options for liquid refreshment.
A few more options for a night out include Oddfellows, the Temple Bar with its DJs and party atmosphere, the Pitcher and Piano for cocktails and The Boot for lovers of a traditional pub atmosphere with some good beers and bitters for the boys.
Fashionistas looking for the best independent women's fashion, accessories and shoes in the city should head towards the boutiques and stores of Watergate Street, Bridge Street and the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, and for anyone in search of a little sparkle, there's a great selection of jewellers in Chester, from luxury chains like Beaverbrooks to small designer places.
You'll find independents like the charming Rigby jewellers on Frodsham Street with its 300-year history and the high end Harriet and Dee boutique in The Vaults.
The Grosvenor Shopping Centre is nestled within the city walls, right by the river Dee and in the centre of Chester. This upmarket shopping centre features Jo Malone, Monsoon, Laura Ashley and La Senza as well as upmarket art shop Castle Galleries, a Costa Coffee and a Debenhams along with several boutiquey stores, designer wear emporiums and places to grab a bite to eat.
If you're on a budget after all your spa indulgence, The Forum shopping centre is on hand right in the heart of the city. More a family fun style centre, there's a good selection of fashion, food and gifts with High Street favourites and eateries to choose from.
Don't miss Browns of Chester, with five floors of everything you need for retail therapy. Fashion, home and beauty are all covered and there's even a personal shopping service that you can make the most of while you relax in the Crypt cafe.
Cheshire Oaks Designer Village is the best place for any aspirational shopper who wants designer luxury on a non-luxury budget. Find great value brands and high end designer items all in the same place, it's one of the largest discount designer retail outlets in Europe. The village boasts almost 150 shops which all offer around 50 per cent off the usual retail prices all year round, increasing to 75 per cent towards the end of the season. Perfect for when you've spent all your money on pampering beauty treatments on your spa break.
CHESTER'S TOP THREE SPAS
Onto the main focus – what you really want to know about. What are the spas in Chester like? Well, we've chosen the top three spas in Chester for your delectation.
- Right in the city centre is one of the best loved spa hotels in Chester, complete with an absolutely top notch spa that certainly deserves a mention in any spa guide. The Grade II Listed Chester Grosvenor and Spa is owned by and named after the family of the Duke of Westminster and it's one of only a few hotels outside London to be awarded five AA Red Stars. The spa is the absolute last word in luxury, with five luxurious treatment rooms, relaxation rooms and a thermal suite that includes a steam room, herbal sauna, ice fountain, foot baths, themed showers and a salt grotto.
- Day spa lovers looking for a pamper day with all the trimmings will love the Chester Dove Spa. Like all Dove Spas, they have all the best in beauty technology on offer, alongside professional services and the bespoke Skin Diagnostic. Everything from personalised facials to waxing, hair removal and holistic therapies is catered for.
- Crowne Spa Chester is another totally luxurious spa, it's pure indulgence and really conveniently located right in the city centre. The spa has only been established since 2009 and it has three lovely, stylish treatment rooms to chill out in, along with a pool and relaxation area complete with a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi.