The roof is a stunning, astro-turfed terrace, open to 360 degree views of Cambridge - a wonderful place for an early drink, and just above the SIX Brasserie restaurant and cocktail bar. Next door, their River Bar restaurant serves a reliable menu of steaks, with a superior wine list, while tucked away in their Glassworks spa are tiny havens where expert masseuses work transformative magic. A perfect base for sightseeing, or a great treat for a special weekend.
- The views: Cambridge has never looked so grand as from the Varsity’s summer roof terrace
- The location: perfectly situated in the heart of the city for colleges, shopping, and strolls along the Cam
- Two restaurants: the small but superb steakhouse, with a good wine list too, and the panoramic 6th floor brasserie serving food and cocktails all day
- The well-equipped gym and spa: great massages, yoga and Pilates classes, plus a hot tub looking over passing punters
- The overall feel of a smart city-centre hotel with style: something Cambridge has historically lacked
- Graduates Rooms are small, and lower floor rooms have uninspiring views. Book the best you can afford, and as early as possible (1st come, 1st served)
- After a period of mixed feedback, service seems to have improved again, though we still witnessed the odd confusion when checking out
- No parking outside (or anywhere in the historic centre), but there are car parks a few minutes' walk away, or the hotel offers valet parking for a small fee
- You have to go outside and back in again next door to enter the restaurant, or the spa
- Corridors have alarming liquorice-allsorts striped carpet in places
Best time to go
Our top tips
On arrival, either drop your bags and park up Castle Hill (the cheapest option; 10 mins walk back down), or use their valet service so you don't need to stress.
Any first-time visitor to Cambridge needs to see those colleges in all their magnificence, and the Varsity kindly offers a free guided tour on Saturdays. Do take advantage. This is a great introduction to the city.
- Boutique Hotel
- 48 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car not necessary
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Electric car charger
Never has ascending through academia seemed so appealing. The Varsity’s rooms are named after colleges, priced according to bed size, and ranked from Graduate Rooms to Senior Fellows. Sadly, price rather than talent determines where you lie on the scale, but we advise heading for the Senior Fellows Superking, or higher if you can afford it; and booking early so you can get an upper floor room. All rooms have free WiFi, large flat screen TVs, iPod docks/radios, DVD players, with use of the spa and gym also included.
Graduates Rooms, though well designed, are distinctly small, and some give more intimate views than you might like of terraced houses or the neighbouring substation. Those on the upper floors have tremendous views, which compensate for the size, so check before you book. Bathrooms are sleek, with monsoon showers and Elemis toiletries, but are otherwise uninspiring.
Fellows King Rooms are worth the extra cash for the space. Again, request an upper floor room for the views. Design here tends to be a little more exciting, with swirly wallpaper and bold colours.
Some of the Senior Fellows Superkings are truly special, with floor-to-ceiling windows, four-poster beds or free-standing baths. We lucked out on our first visit, with spectacular views from two walls of glass and a decked strip of balcony. The tea-making facilities and Illy espresso machine were a nice touch, and the abundance of space was glorious.
- In room treatments available
- Safe box
There are stunning views across the colleges from the SIX Brasserie on the top floor beneath the Rooftop Garden. Open all day serving brunch all the way through to dinner and cocktails (including over 30 different gins), plus a proper afternoon tea with all the trimmings, this is a lovely spot for dining.
You get a lavish spread at breakfast. Freshly squeezed juice, good fruit salad, delicious pastries, a proper range of cereals and muesli with nuts, seeds and fruit compotes, ham, brie and quartered tomatoes for continental types. The full English is served too - bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, black sausage, eggs - and other variants at a small premium.
Next door, the brick and glass River Bar Steakhouse and Grill restaurant faces the Cam, the view of willows on the opposite bank is serene, with leather banquettes and low lighting to complete the steakhouse feel. Our steaks were superbly cooked - 4 different cuts are offered, with wild mushroom and port, Béarnaise, peppercorn or Roquefort sauce. There are fish dishes, too - swordfish or fishcakes - and 3 vegetarian options, and an excellent wine list.
Cambridge is overflowing with restaurants, bars and pubs serving food, so if you feel like stepping out, ask reception staff for recommendations.
- Family friendly
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Vegetarian options
- Spa and Gym: Unusually for a boutique hotel, the spa and gym here are serious and professional. The Glassworks health club, designed by Richard Rogers, converts a lofty glass works into a great space to work out. Spa treatment rooms are small, but the massages, from a long menu, are excellent, as are the Elemis products. Yoga, Pilates and Aerobics classes are on offer (some free for guests) in the mirrored hall
- Drinks on the rooftop garden: A fabulous place to sit and take in the details of Cambridge’s impressive architecture, with a glass of champagne in hand
- Stroll: Cambridge is a wonderful city to explore on foot. Take a map from reception; buy picnic food in the market and lunch by the Cam before taking a punt, or walk to Grantchester’s water meadows
- Kettle’s Yard: Just a short walk from the hotel is one of Cambridge’s most lovely small galleries, founded by Jim Ede (ex Tate curator) to show a permanent collection of early 20th-century art in a beautifully serene house. Open Tues-Sun; free
- The Fitzwilliam Museum: A grand collection of fine art and antiquities to rival any world-class collection. Open Tues-Sun; free
- Shopping: Cambridge is now a major city centre, and has all the usual high-street shops, but retains some smaller individual galleries and boutiques sprinkled through its streets. Don’t miss the central market, which has a wonderful cheese stall
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
Children of all ages are allowed, but this is definitely a grown-up hotel, and there are no concessions toward making children especially welcome. That said, the larger suites could easily accommodate a rollaway bed or a baby cot. Cots are available free of charge, as is a baby monitoring device.
Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
The Varsity is in the old city centre of Cambridge, near to Magdalene College, St. Johns College and the river Cam. Cambridge is an hour's drive north of London.
London Stansted airport is just 30 miles away, and 45 minutes' drive along the M11 motorway. Otherwise you can fly (in order of proximity to Cambridge) into London Luton, London Heathrow or London Gatwick. From the airport, the hotel can prebook a taxi for you (see rates). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
Frequent trains from London King’s Cross (1 hour), or other British cities via Ely and Peterborough.
Central Cambridge is largely pedestrianised. Look very carefully at the directions with a detailed map before setting off. Navigating the one-way system takes patience.
No car parking outside, but two nearby car parks are suggested. Always drop luggage at reception before trying to find the car park, and pick up the hotel’s helpful map.
If you want to hire a car see our car rental recommendations.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to the UK and getting around
- London Stansted 52.0 km STN
- London Heathrow 146.0 km LHR
- Beach 130.0 km
- Shops 0.5 km
- Restaurant 0.1 km