A small full-service hotel in the historic heart of this quintessentially English city offers comfort and great food and views
Hotel Insider: The Varsity Hotel & Spa, Cambridge, United Kingdom
The six-storey hotel is situated in a 5-year-old brick-built block in a quiet lane close to the River Cam. The ground-floor reception is pleasant and unostentatious. The hotel spa and The River Bar Steakhouse & Grill occupy an attached older building – a 17th-century warehouse – and these buildings have separate entrances.
The hotel is surrounded by historic buildings and is close to Magdalene College. It’s a 30-minute walk or a 15-minute drive from the train station.
The 44-room hotel feels like a cross between an apartment block and a boutique hotel. Its clientele is made up mostly of weekend visitors to the city, as well as friends and family of those studying at the university and locals celebrating special occasions. At times, the hotel, which is one of the most comfortable in the city, has hosted Gulf students on local courses.
Its top-floor open rooftop is popular in spring and summer, and has brilliant, 360-degree views of the city. There’s also a restaurant on the 6th floor and a steakhouse and grill by the river. In the spa is a gym and a Roman-style hot tub and steam room area overlooking the river. There are also seven treatment rooms and a hairdressing salon.
My room is on the 5th floor and has an attractive outdoor terrace overlooking the city. It has bold floral wallpaper and is quiet, feels private and fresh and has a bathroom with a bath. There are tea and coffee making facilities and an iPad has been updated with train times, local events and other information.
Staff are cheerful and responsive without being intrusive. They happily print documents for me and even help arrange transport to
The buffet breakfast was basic, with toast, yoghurt, fruit, eggs and local jams and honeys. There is also an a la carte menu. I had dinner in The River Bar Steakhouse & Grill, where I had the pan-fried mussels with chilli & lemon (£9.95; Dh50), served in the pan in a tomato-based sauce and without shells – tasty and a meal by itself. The 12oz rib-eye steak (£26.50; Dh132) is also served in a hot pan and comes with chips, a small salad and choice of sauce. Delicious.
From the breakfast room and rooftop I could look down into Madgdalene College and its beautiful gardens beside the river. It was so close, I could see students studying in the library. The hot tub overlooking the river and medieval Magdalene College was quite unique.
My terrace connects with that of the next-door room, meaning that I don’t feel secure leaving the sliding door open at night.
An ideal base in a relaxing city – with sensational views.
The bottom line
Rooms at The Varsity Hotel & Spa cost from £255 (Dh1,272) per night, including taxes and buffet breakfast.