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This going to be another long review so once again I will provide you with a contents so that you don't get bored and stop reading halfway through.
For a full list of shops and cafes please go to: http://www.thebrunel.co.uk/eating--drinking.aspx
-Location and Transport
-Location and Transport-
The Brunel Shopping Centre is located within the pedestrianised Swindon Town Centre.
All of the buses in Swindon go to Fleming Way and/or the bus station which are both located within a five minute walk of the Brunel Centre (and that's five minutes if you walk slowly).
In addition to being so close to the bus station the train station is just another two minutes away so if you are coming from outside of Swindon you can just get on a train and not have to worry about taxi's when you get to Swindon. Buses from outside of Swindon also stop at the bus station.
I think the location of the Brunel Centre is possibly it's biggest strength. There are a lot of shopping centre's in Swindon but this one is right in the town centre and transport to and from it is both frequent and convenient.
Please note that there are a lot of shops in the Swindon Town centre but as this review is specifically on the Brunel Centre I will not be including them in my review, but if your favourite high street shop is not included in this review that doesn't mean that it's not within a two minute walk of the centre.
The thing that I like best about the Brunel Centre is that there is such a variety of shops and you can get to them all without having to go outside. With the amount of rain (and lately snow) that you get in this country I think that it is very important for your comfort to not have to go outside everytime you want to go into another shop.
My favourite shop in the entire Brunel Centre is Waterstones. I love books, so that automatically puts this shop above the rest as it's the only book shop in the centre. I find the staff in there to be very friendly and helpful. The one thing I can say with certainty is that the staff have been consistently friendly over the past ten years and always very helpful. I'm not the easiest customer to deal with and they have always managed to remain very polite.
Unfortunately the shop tends to be quite disorganised and the trolleys with books waiting to be shelved are a permanent fixture in the shop.
There are also some really great alternative shops in the Brunel Centre. I'm not a big fan of Blue Bananna, although you can get some nice clothes in there I just find that the staff are a little bit aloof and while not outright rude they don't make customers feel comfortable.
The Trinket Box on the other hand is a wonderful shop with a slightly moer limited range of clothing but with friendly staff who are always willing to chat.
I collect crystals and the other shop that I tend to be drawn to is the Crystal Shop. I always think it's a good idea to go in there and then when I do I remember why I never buy anything in there. The shop is quite small but it's adequate for displaying crystals and the lighting is really good so you can see all of the details of the crystals. But everything is very over priced and the staff often know next to nothing about crystals. It is part of a chain of shops so I guess it's expected that the staff won't know much.
The other shops in the centre tend to be quite generic. However, they are generally of a really good size. Top shop, house of fraser, boots and Marks and Spencer are all really big and have a great selection of products. Being such big shops the customer service does tend to vary depending on who you are served by. I've always found the people who work in Top Shop to be particularly helpful and for the most part very friendly but they are probably the only shop that are consistent in this (other than Waterstones) among the bigger highstreet names.
There are a lot of places to eat within the Brunel Centre, although no proper restaurants and no pubs.
If you're looking for somewhere to have lunch I would recommend Boswell's above the other cafe's. It's recently moved to a bigger place (which is about ten seconds away from the original) and with its move there have been a lot of positive changes. Not only is there a lot of seating, there is always a much better variety of food. You won't get any restaurant quality food here but the food is decent enough and quite reasonably priced. You can't really go wrong with sandwiches and jacket potatoes, although I would stay away from their home cooked hot food, like the lasagne which tastes more like a microwave meal. I find the atmosphere to be pleasant, although I find that sometimes the managers are very rude to staff, and the overall experience to be a positive one. Staff are usually friendly and helpful and food is served quickly.
If you want the best cake then I would recommend Marks and Spencer, if you want the best coffee Costa Coffee. However, as it would be tiresome to go to one place for coffee and another for cake I would have to say the best place to go if you want coffee and cake would be Costa. The service is sometimes pretty slow but the cafe is very comfortable, has plenty of seating (in Marks and Spencer it can be difficult to find somewhere to sit) and the friendliness of the staff makes up for their lack of efficiency.
The Brunel Centre is pretty child friendly. It's accesible for buggy's and prams (and therefore wheelchairs too) and you can even rent out one of those cars that children sit in and you push. In my experience this makes a big difference to the shopping trip as it keeps children entertained while you look in shops that they wouldn't be interested in.
There is an Early Learning Centre although not one of the best in my opinion. As a child I loved to play in ELC but since they moved it to a smaller shop there isn't as much choice of toys to play on. Not that I still want to play with the toys, but if I was a child now I wouldn't be as satisfied with the shop as I once was.
There is a children's play area which in my opinion is adequate but not great. They do sometimes have activities for children, like drawing but if you really want a child friendly shopping experience in Swindon you're much better off going to the outlet village.
The Brunel Centre is actually made up of two buildings that are connected by a bridge. You can also walk under the bridge to get to the other side.
Both sides have a lift and the entire centre is accesible to wheel chair users.
There are cashpoints throughout the centre and there are banks and post offices close by.
There is a car park attached to the centre and I've always considered the prices to be quite reasonable.
-My Overall Opinion-
I really enjoy going to the Brunel Centre, although I have to say I wouldn't travel to Swindon just to go there. It's one of those places that if you live in the area or you're there for some reason then it's worth going to. There is a good variety of shops and I like that they're all under one roof.
The worst thing in my opinion about the Brunel Centre is that they rent out floor space to people who just harrass you everytime you go past. It ranges from people trying to sell you sky television to those who want to hold your hand (I think they're selling nail products or something) and I find it incredibly irritating. I always think that it can't be particularly good for business to allow someone to harrass every customer who walks past them but it doesn't stop me from going there, it just annoys me everytime it happens.
For me the main thing about the centre is that it's all so convenient. I'm quite a lazy shopper, I like to get in, buy everything as quickly as possible in as much comfort and then spend a couple of hours having lunch with friends. The Brunel Centre allows me to do this and that is why I continue to shop there when I'm in Swindon.
The Brunel shopping centre is seen as the pinnacle of shopping in Swindon, Wiltshire. The shopping centre is right in the centre of the town and is served by multiple transport links, it's only a 2 minute walk from the bus station and a 5 minute walk from the train station. The shopping centre also has it's own multi-storey car park that allows you to exit on the 3rd floor directly into the shopping centre itself.
The shopping centre is housed on two floors and in two buildings with a walkway through to the otherside on the second floor. The main shops are House of Fraser, Marks and Spencers and Boots which all have the biggest stores, but there also such stores as Western Computer, Waterstone's, Sole Trader, Zaavi and Lush.
Foodwise, there are few choices, though both House of Fraser and M&S have cafes, there is a Starbucks, a BBs and a Cafe Roma. There is also a MacDonalds nearby. Nearby Havelock street contains a huge number of independent cafes if you're looking for something a bit different.
The shopping centre is easy to traverse, with escalators and lifts. They also have the shop mobility scheme for those who are disabled. Most staff are helpful and friendly, however the Security Guards appear to be on a permanent power trip. If you are under the age of 25 be aware that sitting on a bench within the centre alone to eat your Boots meal deal will probably be something to be thrown out for as the security in this centre appears to have a great problem with people of a young age, seeing them all as 'yobs', even when the people are behaving properly and not causing any disturbance to other people.
Despite being a large shopping centre, there is not the biggest selection of shops available, and many seem to close down regularly. There are some stalls in the lower level of the centre, and several of these are the cause of much annoyance to those who use the centre regularly, as they constantly attempt to get your attention to sell you items you potentially do not want (the Black Sea Spa stall and the Sky stall are the main culprits of this). You will need to go into the main town centre to do some of your shopping, in order to have a larger number of stores available.
It is located right in the centre of Swindon. In fact when you go to the biggest multi story car park in the centre of Swindon you take the lift to the third floor and can enter the shopping centre from here. There are two floors. Ground level and Upper level. The first thing you will notice is how clean, bright and new everything looks. There are about 60 shops on each floor. The shops include something for everyone. Toy, Baby, Card, Childrenswear, Food stores, Music, Optician, Restaurants and cafe, Ladieswear, houseware, health and beauty, shoes and sports shops. Besides all the shops you have a play area and room where you can take your baby and there is a changing room and feeding room. All nicely done out. If your children are a little older they can use the shopping trolleys that are just like the one Mummy is taking around. If you want something to eat there are cafes and a good MacDonalds and a Boswells coffee house. You also have a stand where you can ask for any information and buy your lottery tickets. Dont forget if you parked in their carpark to take your ticket with you and pay for it at the entrance. There are 3 paying machines and it is roughly 70p an hour. There are plenty of esculators and even a glass one where you look out of the window as you are going up to the next floor. They havent forgotten people with walking disabilities either as you can hire one of the motorised chairs to help you go around the centre and the town. You will get some good bargains throughout the centre. The Brunel Centre also has a www site at www.brunelcentre.co.uk which is very good. Dont forget if you are arranging to meet friends here that they do have a Meeting Point which comes in very handy. All in all it is a good place to visit.