The Varsity Hotel & Spa – hotel review

A boutique property where old Cambridge traditions meet new

Situated on the bank of the River Cam among university buildings, this 2010 addition to the skyline may be a modern build, but is visually sympathetic to its elderly neighbours. Wood panelling and glass fronted balconies give an designer edge to this six-storey stone property. The brainchild of two university graduates, The Varsity is a trendy and welcoming place to eat, sleep, drink and be pampered. Its central address means only a short walking distance to shops, pubs, punting and, perhaps more importantly, the breath-taking architecture of the city’s famous colleges.


Out of 48 individually designed rooms and suites from a Graduates Double to the Masters Penthouse, we checked into the Senior Fellows Superking, which came complete with floor to ceiling windows and opened out onto a decent-sized balcony and stunning views of the quaint streets, home to the likes of Trinity College, Jesus College and Green, the latter a perfect place for a weekend picnic.

Rooms were light, airy and each came with a portrait of a famous graduate on the wall; a subtle nod to Cambridge’s educational prowess. Decor combines university-style wood and fabrics with contemporary features; think Union Jack cushions and floral feature walls. Meanwhile, the extras are sharp – rooms have air conditioning, and an iPod docking station, while bathrooms boast a monsoon shower with Elemis products.

The adjoining 18th-century converted brewery is well worth a visit, it houses the Glassworks Health Club and Spa and hotel guests can use the Jacuzzi, sauna and gym free of charge.

Food and Drink: The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill, located in the same building as the spa, is a meat lovers sanctuary. The exposed brick work and mezzanine split level dining creates a stylish eatery, which overlooks the river and Magdalene College (we suggest calling ahead to book a window seat). An extensive menu of locally sourced produce will leave you spoilt for choice. We sampled a perfectly grilled steak with roquefort butter sauce, and the delish hazelnut slab brownie for desert. Post dinner, the hotel’s roof terrace bar, open until 10pm, offers uninterrupted panoramic views and champagne.

Price: Rooms start from £155 per night

Address: The Varsity Hotel & Spa, Thompson’s Lane, Cambridge, CB5 8AQ, 01223 306 030,

Radio Times Travel Rating: 9/10  A chic, unique property with a New York city vibe. We just wish the rooftop bar had a later licence.