When it comes to the Cotswolds, choosing the prettiest villages to visit is no easy task. At almost every turn, labyrinthine streets are lined with beautiful honey-hued cottages, sleepy rivers are studded with quaint footbridges and breath-taking churches exude historic charm.
To take the stress out of creating your weekend itinerary, we’ve rounded up the best villages in the Cotswolds and added in our favourite Cotswolds weekend stays to ensure your trip is packed with the cream of the crop of this truly breath-taking Area of Natural Beauty…
All places to stay and things to do are independently selected by our editor. If you book something through the links on this page, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The best villages in the North Cotswolds
Straddling the River Windrush, Bourton-on-the-Water is a postcard-perfect Cotswold village with an abundance of attractions and beautiful backdrops
What makes Bourton-on-the-Water special for a weekend visit: The ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ is not only pretty as a picture with its historic footbridges and Cotswold stone buildings, but it has plenty of tourist attractions, eateries and accommodation options making it the perfect place to while away a couple of days.
Best places to eat: With plenty of local ales and a regularly updated menu of seasonal produce The Mousetrap Inn is the perfect spot for dinner and drinks while Bakery on the Water is packed with artisanal treats which you can enjoy in their riverside garden café.
Top things to see: Created in Cotswold stone and complete with its own flowing river, the Bourton-on-the-Water model village is a must for your trip, while Birdland offers a great family day out (make sure you go to see the King penguins; our favs).
Best time to visit: Bourton-on-the-Water is a popular tourist hotspot so you may wish to opt for an off-season visit to avoid the biggest crowds.
How to get there: While there isn’t a rail station in the village itself it is possible to travel by train to Moreton-in-Marsh or Cheltenham Spa and travel on to Bourton-on-Water by bus. Alternatively Kingham Station is around a 20 minute taxi drive from the village.
Where to park: Bourton-on-the-Water has two pay-and-display car parks which are located on Station Road and Rissington Road.
Where to stay: Well Cottage is a 16-century Cotswolds stone Jacobean cottage with character and charm – ideal for a peaceful and relaxing weekend with friends or family. Sleeps 5 | 2 minutes walk to Bourton village.
Known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ the medieval village of Burford brims with historic charm
What makes Burford special for a weekend visit: Located around 20 miles from Oxford, Burford is ideally positioned for exploring the best market towns and villages of the Cotswolds and has plenty to offer itself, too. The famous Burford High Street is one of the prettiest around with a plethora of shops, cafes and eateries and plenty of buildings of historic note.
Best places to eat: If you’re in search of some lunch or a spot of tea, Huffkins Cafe and its bakery next door offer a tasty array of meals and cakes while The Angel at Burford boasts a menu of gastro pub delights, including pan-fried fillet of hake with chive mash and their pie of the day.
Top things to see: The Tolsey Museum in its stunning Tudor building is a Burford must-do and will give you a deeper understanding of the social and industrial history of the area. Burford is also packed with quaint shops and is particularly well-stocked with high quality antique businesses.
Best time to visit: The Burford Festival, a 10-day celebration of life in the area, runs every other June making this an excellent time of year to visit this Cotswold village.
How to get there: There is no direct train service to Burford but there are stations in the nearby towns of Charlbury, Hanboroough and Shipton where it is possible to connect by bus or taxi.
Where to park: There is a free car park located at the lower end of Burford village.
Where to stay: 6 George Yard is a cosy Cotswolds cottage where two of you can hunker down in front of the log burner for a romantic weekend in Burford. Sleeps 2 | Centre of Burford.
The highest town in the Cotswolds offers a heavenly combination of rural beauty and first-rate shopping
What makes Stow-on-the-Wold special for a weekend visit: As one of the Cotswolds’ larger market towns, Stow-on-the-Wold embodies the tranquility and beauty of the area but with a dash of cosmopolitan charm in the form of luxury accommodation options, numerous eateries and a thriving high street. There is also plenty to see for those with a passion for the past, including the town’s original penal stocks, market square and quaint winding alleyways.
Best places to eat: The Old Stocks Inn is an elegant boutique hotel complete with a cocktail bar and restaurant serving up contemporary twists on classic pub meals such as slow-roasted pork belly with burnt apple – delicious! Stow-on-the-Wold is also home to an array of tearooms including Lucy’s, a traditional tearoom serving cream teas from within a super-cute Grade II listed building.
Top things to see: The impressive St Edward’s Church stands proud in Stow-on-the-Wold’s Market Square and, with its fairytale door and historic structure, is well worth a visit. Stow-on-the-Wold also offers excellent shopping with a selection of independent shops, arts and crafts emporiums and antique dealers to explore – perfect for those looking to include a little retail therapy on their weekend break.
Best time to visit: Stow-on-the-Wold is close to some of the most beautiful gardens and parks in The Cotswolds, making the town a wonderful summer destination. Don’t miss Batsford Arboretum, which showcases over 1500 species of tree.
How to get there: Trains run from Paddington Station to Moreton-in-Marsh which is less than five miles by bus or taxi from Stow-on-the-Wold.
Where to park: There is a free car park located close to the centre of the town as well as a pay-and-display car park on Maugersbury Road.
Where to stay: We love the Clock Tower in Stow. It’s an gorgeous apartment for 5 of you, housed within a gorgeous and historic clock tower of a former Methodist church. Overlooks the oldest inn in England!
Upper and Lower Slaughter
A pair of beautiful Cotswold villages on the banks of the meandering River Eye
What makes Upper and Lower Slaughter special for a weekend visit: In November 2021 Upper and Lower Slaughter took the top spot in The Times’ list of the prettiest villages in the UK and it really isn’t very difficult to see why. Upper and Lower Slaughter have remained largely unchanged over the years and offer all the chocolate-box charm you could possibly hope for on a break in the Cotswolds. Lower Slaughter also boasts Britain’s most romantic street, making it a dream destination for couples seeking an intimate escape for two.
Best places to eat: Enjoy handmade organic ice cream at the Old Mill in Lower Slaughter (take the opportunity to check out the restored water wheel while you’re there) or a meal in the traditional Slaughters Country Inn with its menus of locally-sourced produce. For those celebrating a special occasion, the Slaughters Manor House boasts three AA rosettes and serves deliciously decadent afternoon tea.
Top things to see: Discover more about the historic Old Mill and the history of bread making at the Museum in Lower Slaughter, pay a visit to St Mary’s Church with its Cotswold stone roof and spend the day hopping back and forth across the River Eye over the low foot bridges – bliss.
Best time to visit: Like much of The Cotswolds, Upper and Lower Slaughter become very busy during the height of summer so consider a spring trip to avoid the biggest crowds while still being able to enjoy the walk between the villages.
How to get there: The nearest train station to Upper and Lower Slaughter is in Moreton-in-Marsh which is around seven miles from the villages. Busses run from Moreton-in-Marsh to Slaughter Pike which is a 15-minute walk from Lower Slaughter.
Where to park: There is some on-road parking available in Lower Slaughter, however it is limited and so you may prefer to park in Bourton-on-the-Water and walk from there.
Where to stay: Jasmine Cottage dates back to the 19th Century and has all the character and charm you would expect from a Grade II listed property. Sleeps 6 in 4 bedrooms | Ideal for couples, friends or families.
It might not offer bright lights and sold-out musicals but the ‘Jewel of The Cotswolds’ should make your bucket list
What makes Broadway special for a weekend visit: Resting at the base of the Worcestershire hills, Broadway brings together some of the best aspects of the Cotswolds, including stunning surrounding scenery, a thriving local food scene and beautiful streets and buildings which are steeped in history and tradition. Broadway also has some excellent shopping, gorgeous galleries and excellent accommodation options making it perfectly placed for your next weekend jaunt.
Best places to eat: As one of the larger villages in The Cotswolds, Broadway has plenty of drinking and dining options available to suit everyone. Indulge in a seafood feast at Hook in the Fish Hotel, elevate your break with fine dining at Russell’s of Broadway or enter cake heaven at The Cotswold Larder.
Top things to see: Set in 200 acres of parkland, the iconic landmark that is Broadway Tower is not to be missed during a weekend visit to the village. A walk up this striking building will be well rewarded with museum exhibits laid out across three floors and breath-taking views from the top – you might even glimpse the park’s herd of red deer. Broadway is also a stop on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway so hop aboard and puff along the track for some spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Best time to visit: Although the summer is busy in The Cotswolds, the Broadway Arts Festival is held every second year in mid-June making this a wonderful time to see the village in full flow. The next festival is due to be held from the 9th of June 2023 with over 60 events for all the family to enjoy.
How to get there: Two of nearest train stations to Broadway are Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh, where it is possible to connect to the village by bus.
Where to park: There is ample parking available in Broadway across three carparks in Broadway High Street, Milestone Ground and Shear House.
Where to stay: Box Cottage is a small but perfectly formed 200-year-old Cotswold cottage hidden away in a quiet spot behind Broadway’s bustling main street. Sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms.
This utterly unspoilt village is a captivating haven of countryside charm
What makes Stanton special for a weekend visit: Stanton may have fewer tourist amenities than some of its fellow Cotswold villages but the unfettered beauty of the village makes it well worth the trip. Resting at the foot of Shenbarrow Hill, Stanton lies in Gloucestershire and is chock-full of charm thanks to the gorgeous thatched houses and landscape of rolling hills.
Best places to eat: Although Stanton has fewer eateries than some of the other Cotswold villages, the Mount Inn offers traditional pub grub with a side of panoramic views towards the Malvern Hills.
Top things to see: Stanton Guildhouse hosts a wide variety of events throughout they year including readings and musical events as well as a range of arts and crafts courses if you fancy exploring a new creative endeavour. Stanton is also well located for those who fancy exploring the area on foot, try the beautiful six-mile circular walk from Stanton through Snowshill and the Edge.
Best time to visit: Take a summer or early autumn trip to Stanton to see the golden stone of the village’s buildings glow in the sunlight.
How to get there: Two of the nearest train stations to Stanton are Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh, however the village is most easily reached by car.
Where to park: There is free public car park close to the Stanton Village Club.
Where to stay: Hobleys Cottage is a refurbished detached Cotswold stone cottage positioned on the edge of Stanton overlooking gorgeous countryside – with the Cotswold Way right outside your front door. Sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms.
The best villages in the South Cotswolds
Located in Gloucestershire, the market town of Cirencester is one of the larger hubs in the Cotswolds and has plenty to offer weekend visitors
What makes Cirencester special for a weekend visit: Cirencester still hosts several weekly markets including a Friday Charter Market, a farmers’ market every second Saturday and a variety of craft, antique, vintage and street food markets throughout the month. Whether you fancy sampling some local produce or want to seek out a souvenir, there’s a market that will suit you!
Best places to eat: For local produce with a Spanish twist try Tierra and Mar or treat yourself to a tasty cocktail (or four) and delicious tapas from La Bobina or try authentic Italian food at La Passione.
Top things to see: In Roman times, Cirencester, known as ‘Corinium Dobunnorum’, was the second largest town only to London. So the town has a fascinating history to explore. Not to miss is the Roman Amphitheatre, The Corinium Museum and the gothic St John the Baptist Church. Alternatively, get your creative juices flowing at New Brewery Arts with a workshop in anything from calligraphy and lino printing to macrame!
Best time to visit: There’s plenty to see and do in Cirencester all year round but a spring trip will allow you to make the most of the beautiful Cirencester Park as it bursts into bloom.
How to get there: National Express runs a regular coach service from London to Cirencester which take around two and a half hours. If travelling by rail, the nearest station is Kemble which is approximately 4.5 miles from the town centre.
Where to park: Cirencester has a number of conveniently located car parks run by Costwold District Council including Brewery Car Park, Waterloo and Sheep Street.
Where to stay: It’s no secret that we are cock-a-hoop about Log House Holidays, which is just 10 minutes’ drive away from the centre of Cirencester. Made up of 8 stunning timber cabins set on a private lake, Log House Holidays is our go-to Cotswolds’ favourite weekend stay.
Nicknamed the Queen of the Cotswolds, Painswick is a must-visit for those looking to immerse themselves in the charm of the area
What makes Painswick special for a weekend visit: Founded on the wool trade, Painswick is super pretty with sweet cottages and quiet lanes – perfect for getting some gorgeous ‘gramworthy shots to return home with.
Best places to eat: Although not big, Painswick serves up some good foodie options to suit all palates. Enjoy a bite to eat in cosy surroundings at St Michael’s Bistro, indulge in the seasonal offerings of The Falcon (newly opened) or go all-out with a feast at boutique hotel, The Painswick.
Top things to see: Be sure to wander around St Mary’s churchyard, which is surrounded by Yew trees; 99 of them to be exact, planted in 1792. According to the legend, should the 100th Yew ever be planted in St Mary’s churchyard, the Devil would return from the underworld to destroy it. Gulp. The village is also well positioned for keen walkers with beautiful surrounding countryside and the Cotswold Way footpath running through the village.
Best time to visit: Painswick can be enjoyed throughout the year, however a January or February visit can be rewarded by the breath-taking sight of over five million snowdrops at the fabulous Painswick Rococo Garden.
How to get there: Painswick’s closest train station is in Stroud which is a 10-minute drive or bus journey from the village.
Where to park: Stamages Lane Car Park is the main car park in Painswick and there is limited on-street parking.
Where to stay: As well as serving good food, St Michael’s Bistro in Painswick also houses up some of the quirkiest rooms in the village. We stayed in the Retro Suite – just one of the 5 options available each individually decorated with its own personality.
Bibury may be small but this super-cute village is overflowing with irresistible photo ops and intriguing history
What makes Bibury special for a weekend visit: As one of the most photographed villages in England, Bibury is an essential stop on any Cotswolds’ tour. From the undeniable charm of Arlington Row, a gorgeous row of cottages dating back to the 1380s, to the wildlife-packed water meadows known as Rack Isle, every turn offers the perfect backdrop for a snap so be sure to have your phone at the ready to capture stunning memories.
Best places to eat: With a picturesque beer garden outside and a cosy dining room indoors, The Catherine Wheel offers a perfect spot for a bite, whatever the weather. Choose from a menu of mouth-watering classics such as beer-battered fish and chips or sticky toffee pudding. Alternatively, enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at The Swan, an elegant former coaching inn with an array of menus.
Top things to see: It may be small, but it’s very easy to pass an afternoon wandering around Bibury as every turn offers another gorgeous vista. The nearby Church of St Mary, with its famous stained glass is well worth a visit, while the Bibury Trout Farm offers the chance to try your hand at catching your own trout, you can even hire a BBQ to grill your freshly caught feast.
Best time to visit: The warmer months offer the best opportunity to walk around the village of Bibury and enjoy a stroll along the banks of the River Coln but you may want to make an early start to try and beat the crowds.
How to get there: Bibury’s closest train station is in Kemble where you can connect by taxi or by bus via Cirencester.
Where to park: Owing to the village’s popularity, parking in Bibury can be competitive so you may have to wait for a space in the car park by Bibury Trout Farm.
Where to stay: Quirky and contemporary, this old stone bothy was originally used for cattle over the centuries and has recently been converted. It now offers a light, bright and stylish accommodation for two in the grounds of Arlington House in Bibury.
Located in north-west Wiltshire, Castle Combe is a fairytale village where time seems to have stood still
What makes Caste Combe special for a weekend visit: Small but beautifully preserved, Castle Combe is very likely to capture your heart (as it has film makers over the years). From the spellbindingly pretty houses to the enchanting Grade II listed bridge, every inch of this village has an undeniably magical feel that will stay with you long after you leave.
Best places to eat: If you’re celebrating during your Cotswold weekend, go all-out with a meal at the Michelin-starred Bybrook by Rob Potter which offers innovative dishes in stunning surroundings. For something a little more low key, yet still delicious, give the Castle Inn a whirl. Don’t miss out on the local honesty bakeries and produce shops too.
Top things to see: Castle Combe is compact and strolling around the village, taking in St Andrews Church with its ancient clock and pausing to enjoy some local delicacies, is a very pleasant way to pass the afternoon. If you fancy something a little more high octane, Castle Combe Circuit has a calendar of racing events throughout the year.
Best time to visit: The beauty of Castle Combe can be appreciated at any time of year but a little dusting of snow makes this fairytale village even more magical so you might want to brave the chilly weather and shorter days for a winter trip.
How to get there: Castle Combe is most easily reached by car but a bus route serves the village from Chippenham, which is around six miles away.
Where to park: Free parking is available in Castle Combe in Dunns Lane Car Park.
Where to stay: Porch House Cottage is as sweet as it sounds and stands overlooking By Brook, the river which runs through Castle Combe. In fact, it’s so charming don’t be surprised if visitors stop to take pics of the cottage. Sleeps 6 in 4 bedrooms.