Stay Here: Varsity Hotel & Spa, CambridgeBy Alicia Grimshaw
There are very few places that are as beautiful as Cambridge. With its windy cobbled streets, chocolate-box cafes, and pubs tucked down roads as wide as breadsticks, the city has become popular for weekends away. And for good reason. Where else can you try your hand at punting, marvel at the world-class university, take a trip to the botanical gardens and see one of the best collections of ancient and modern art in western Europe at the Fitzwilliam Museum? Need your next staycation fix? The Varsity Hotel and Spa should be top of your list.
Varsity Hotel & Spa: The Lowdown
Within punting distance of the centre is where you’ll find the Varsity Hotel & Spa; a boutique-style venue located on the edge of the River Cam with 48 uniquely designed rooms, each celebrating the cultural heritage of the city.
To call the Varsity just a hotel would be selling this place short. A Cambridge destination in itself, there’s full-service facilities including the Glassworks Gym & Spa featuring a SPA pool overlooking the river, plus sauna, steam room and Elemis treatments; the gorgeous rooftop terrace, and not one, but two restaurants – Six Panoramic Restaurant (if you’re feelin’ fancy) and River Bar Steakhouse (think the finest prime beef, saucy sides and an excellent wine list).
Varsity Hotel & Spa: The Rooms
Smart, sleek and understated, each room has its only style and personality. Ranging from the Graduate Double room with its walk-in shower to the Fellows King Rooms, complete with King-size beds and bathrooms with underfloor heating, and not forgetting the Senior Fellows Suite featuring a private terrace, free-standing bath with direct views onto St John’s College Chapel, and a separate lounge with snazzy floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s accommodation to suit every price point and occasion.
We stayed in the cosy Graduate Double Room boasting an elegant and timeless interior, and due to its central location, it was surprisingly quiet. Pops of colour paired with luxe fabric and patterned wallpaper gave the rooms a modern feel without detracting from the historic nods found throughout the hotel. Complete with a cloud-like double bed, a large (actually huge) shower, Elemis Toiletries, tea and coffee making facilities, and fancy dressing gowns and slippers, The Varisty go above and beyond to make your hotel stay a memorable experience.
For those inclined to join the en masse of students who like to travel around Cambridge on two wheels, the hotel also offers complimentary bicycles. Failing that, we recommend booking in for a massage at the neighbouring spa and while away the afternoon poolside.
Varsity Hotel & Spa: Eat and Drink
During our stay, we made a beeline for the River Bar Steakhouse following the promise of ‘only the most tender, full-flavoured steak, using the finest prime beef’. Housed in an 18th century bonded warehouse, the restaurant is as much about the views and vibe as it is about the food.
With Pinterest-worthy interiors (all about the exposed brick walls, leather banquettes and wooden tables), industrial lighting illuminated the restaurant, while the large windows gave a snapshot of the River Cam below. Service was friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the staff were on hand to guide us through the menu. Special thanks to the waiter who recommended the calamari. Nothing brings us more joy than lightly-battered, deep-fried squid rings with a garlicky aioli.
Visiting a steak restaurant and not opting for its hero dish always feels a little odd, so we ploughed on and ordered the Rib-Eye Steak with rosemary salted chips and a mixed leaf salad. This highly desired cut of meat deserves top billing due to its full flavour and soft texture. Thanks to its rich marbling of fat, the steak, as large as a paving slab, was succulent and tender (so much so that a butter knife would have sufficed). The sides didn’t disappoint with the chips potato perfection; crispy, golden-brown sticks that were fluffy on the inside. The food was knock-your-socks-off delicious but try as we might, we couldn’t find room for dessert.
Breakfast as you’d expect was an indulgent affair with all the early-morning greats available. A buffet reminiscent of those you find on holiday – there was everything from cooked items to cereals, pastries, and an almighty selection of bread, and other things (but we don’t have the word count to mention it all).
Varsity Hotel & Spa: The Verdict
Modernity in the heart of antiquity, The Varsity Hotel and Spa is a real treat for a weekend away in Cambridge. Within walking distance from Cambridge Train Station (and only an hour away from King’s Cross), leave the capital behind… even if it’s only for a night or two.
For further information on The Varsity Hotel and Spa, visit the website here.
Rooms start from £176 per night.