Cheltenham has been a health and holiday resort since the discovery of mineral springs there in 1716. Spa visits became popular due to the example set by King George III and the Royal family when they visited the Cheltenham Spas.
On the 4th May 1825, Joseph Pitt began a planned extension of Cheltenham, specifically aimed at spa tourists. The project was called Pittville and was completed in 1830, the Pittville Pump Room still supplies spa waters for recreational use. Cheltenham's success as a spa town is reflected in the railway station, which is still called Cheltenham Spa, and spa facilities in other areas that were inspired by or named after it.
Horse racing features heavily in Cheltenham with the Gold Cup, the main event in the Cheltenham Festival, being held every March. Horse racing began in Cheltenham in 1815, and became a major national attraction after the establishment of the Festival in 1902.
Whilst the volume of tourists visiting the spa has declined, Cheltenham racecourse attracts tens of thousands of visitors each day of the festival each year, with such huge numbers of visitors having a significant impact on the town.
Regency architecture features heavily and Cheltenham is considered to be the most complete regency town in England. Consequently, many of the buildings, such as the Cheltenham synagogue, are listed.
The town hosts several festivals of culture often featuring nationally and internationally famous contributors and attendees; Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Science Festival and Cheltenham Music Festival.
Two sporting events are also routinely described as the 'Cheltenham Festival' or 'the Festival': the Cheltenham Cricket Festival, which features Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, and National Hunt racing's Cheltenham Festival.
PRS for Music named Cheltenham the United Kingdom's fifth 'most musical' city in 2010.