Talk of staycations invariably focuses on summer holidays. But what about city breaks? Before you search out a cheap flight for a quick weekend in Rome, Barcelona or wherever this spring, consider Britain's cities, some of which offer as satisfying a menu of culture, shopping, entertainment, bars and restaurants.
Chester is a worthy example. It has Roman walls to walk and a medieval cathedral to admire. There's a racecourse for a flutter, and the river Dee to go boating on. And much of the shopping is offered in the delightful and unusual setting of the galleried walkways, or rows, that line its four main streets – a kind of double-decker Tudor mall.
The city also has one of the country's finest county-town hotels, The Chester Grosvenor and Spa, independently owned by the Duke of Westminster's family since it opened in 1865 – though its black-and-white façade might fool you into thinking it dates from Tudor times.
The hotel sits on a prime spot in the centre of the city, next to Eastgate – with its colourful wrought-iron clock erected to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee – placing guests on the doorstep of all Chester's main attractions. A couple of the city's highlights – a Michelin-starred restaurant and a superb spa – can be found within the hotel's own walls.
Feel the quality. The rooms and suites have been lavished with top quality bespoke furnishings, fine linen and luxurious fabrics. Chic styling, using surprisingly bold, bright tones and designs, promotes an unstuffy atmosphere. Entertainment systems, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi keep the technology up to date. Marble adds a touch of glamour in the bathrooms.
The food and drink
Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor has just retained a Michelin star for the hotel for the 20th successive year. The smart dining room is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, when the eponymous chef serves an à la carte menu from £65 per head and tasting menus (including one designed for vegetarians) from £80 per head, supported by an extensive cellar. A special three-course meal for £45 per person currently offers a more affordable taste of Radley's seasonally inspired cooking. Carefully sourced produce, some of which comes from the Duke's nearby estate, is put to inventive and delicious use. For example, one current dish partners sticky Old Spot and halibut cheeks, and complements them with caramelised cauliflower and golden raisin. La Brasserie is the less pricey option, its atmosphere attempting to capture that of a Parisian bistro. Open daily from breakfast to dinner, it serves similarly inspired if less refined dishes, from about £25 for two courses without wine. The Arkle Bar and Lounge, named for the famous racehorse that was owned by the Grosvenor family, is a stylish spot for morning coffee or a nightcap.
The hotel has a top-end spa which caters to the latest trends in well-being with its herb sauna, themed shower and ice grotto. Darphin products were introduced last month for use alongside Elemis and Ren in the spa's five treatment rooms. There is also a small gym. Golf breaks can be organised through the hotel at nearby courses. For more ideas go to visitchester.com.
One bedroom has been specially modified for people with disabilities and the hotel is wheelchair accessible. Braille and facilities for people with hearing impairments are available. Pets not admitted. Children welcome.
A double room costs from £205 per night, with breakfast. A special "Indulge for Less" package is currently offered at £129.50 per person, based on two sharing, including an overnight stay, three-course meal from the Celebration Menu in La Brasserie and continental breakfast. Available until 31 August, excluding race days. Kate Simon travelled to Chester courtesy of Virgin Trains (0845 722 2333; virgintrains.co.uk), which offers advance single tickets from London Euston to Chester from £11.
The Chester Grosvenor and Spa, Eastgate, Chester CH1 1LT (01244 324024; chestergrosvenor.co.uk).