Boasting a unique city centre location, ideal for punting, shopping, sight-seeing and nightlife, this boutique spa hotel in Cambridge has just 48 uniquely designed rooms, each celebrating the cultural heritage of the city. Here's what we thought of our 1-night stay at The Varsity Hotel & Spa.
Where is The Varsity Hotel?
Located in central Cambridge, just off the river, the location of this hotel really couldn't be better. We live locally to Cambridge so visit often, and this is a brilliant spot to be whatever you're looking for from your city break. The rooftop terrace is a must-visit to really take in the beautiful city around you and admire the view.
Where will I sleep?
As a boutique hotel The Varsity isn't huge, but this just adds to its charm. We loved the unique vintage furniture in the room and the artwork throughout the hotel, particularly the collection of stamps images on the stairs. There are a variety of rooms available including doubles and kings, as well as suites.
Our room was on the fourth floor with a lovely view across the Cambridge rooftops, it was clean and tidy and a good size. We were also impressed with the size of the bathroom. The only thing that we felt was missing were bedside lights, there were spotlights above the bed but they were very bright!
As standard all rooms include gym membership and classes, access to the spa which has a sauna, steam room and SPA pool, air conditioning, complimentary hotel bicycles, roof terrace priority access, concierge and 24-hour room service, bathrobes and slippers and Elemis toiletries. There is only one lift so it can get busy, especially when people are going up to the rooftop bar, but the staff are very courteous and always make space for guests.
Spa facilities at The Varsity Hotel
The spa is just next door to the reception area of the hotel, you're provided with robes and towels when you arrive at the spa, so we took our swimming costumes down from our room and spent a lovely relaxing hour or so enjoying the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi which has a window overlooking the river so was brilliant for people watching as they strolled along the Quayside or were punting along the water. The glass is tinted so while you can see perfectly out, it's not as easy to see in so you don't feel overlooked. While the spa is small we pretty much had it to ourselves on a Friday afternoon. There are also a range of Elemis spa treatments available as well as spa packages including afternoon tea that you can book via the hotel.
What is there to do at The Varsity Hotel?
If you're hoping to do some sight-seeing the Varsity is the closest Cambridge hotel to St John’s, Trinity, Jesus and Magdalene College. King’s, Christ’s, Queens’, Gonville and Caius, Clare, Corpus Christi and the remaining colleges are only a leisurely walk away and can be viewed from the Hotel. Or, you can also go punting to see these beautiful buildings and green spaces from the river. There are multiple tour operators who offer trips from the Quayside, or if you feel like giving it a try you can also hire your own!
The hotel is also in a great spot for visiting museums and galleries, The Fitzwilliam Museum is a 15 minute walk away and one of my favourite galleries, Kettle's Yard, is just over the bridge from The Varsity.
While we didn't take advantage of the complimentary hotel bicycles, this would certainly be a great way to see the city. But everything is easy walking distance, you're just down the road from one of the main shopping areas, and there are also a great selection of pubs, restaurants and bars if you wanted to pop out for a drink in the evening.
What is there to eat?
The Varsity also has two restaurants, and the rooftop bar. We dined at the River Bar Steakhouse and the food and service was fantastic. We were really impressed by the menu, although it is a steak house there are also a variety of other options including fish - we tried the scallops and crab cakes to start, which were both delicious, then we had a blackened salmon and of course a sirloin steak. My steak was cooked to perfection, I asked for it medium rare and that's exactly what I got, I also paired it with a Chimichurri sauce on recommendation from the waiter and that was excellent. The blackened salmon was also fantastic, it can be so hard to find a good steak place that offers other options that are as good, but the chefs are clearly a talented bunch. Even if you weren't staying at The Varsity I'd recommend visiting the River Bar Steakhouse and we'll definitely be returning.
The rooftop bar is also well worth a visit even if you're not a guest, the views across the city are unbeatable. It is on the pricier side, but it is in the centre of Cambridge and for a treat it's a great place to come for cocktails and enjoy the sights.
The other restaurant is on the 6th floor, Six Brasserie. We had breakfast here on the Saturday morning and sat on a lovely covered balcony area overlooking the views. The breakfast is a continental buffet, including breads, cheeses, sliced meats and a selection of fresh juices, with a menu of hot options including full English and eggs Benedict which are cooked fresh. Everything was delicious.
You really can't beat the location, and to be right in the heart of the city with access to all the amenities and sights Cambridge has to offer. You're also spoilt for choice on food options, with The Varsity boasting not one but two really excellent restaurants. Despite us being locals we'd never visited the River Bar Steakhouse and we honestly can't wait to return. We loved the boutique feel of the hotel with the artwork and the furniture, combined with the five star-service from the lovely staff. Access to the spa is a definite bonus as well, offering a chance to unwind after a day of sight-seeing and shopping. Overall we had an excellent stay at The Varsity, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone planning a city break to Cambridge.