getting away the Varsity way

Kate Morfoot, food and travel writer and founder of LoveToEatToTravel.com, checks in to the Varsity Hotel and Spa Cambridge, the hotel in the heart of the city with the best views in town. 

The Varsity Hotel and Spa in Cambridge is a perfect getaway situated right in the heart of everything that’s delightful about this historic city. It’s been ages since we last visited Cambridge with friends, before lockdown. There was a real buzz about the city because when we went, it was the first day back for excited Cambridge University students about to start their new year and also because the sun was out for the first time in weeks. 

Launched in 2011, this new-build hotel has plush modern rooms and a buzzy sixth floor restaurant with a fabulous birds’ eye view of the city. The Varsity sits amid the city’s lively Quayside area and, backing onto the picturesque River Cam, it is located in one of the most attractive spots in Cambridge. The top two floors of the hotel feature floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing guests breath-taking views of the surrounding area from the comfort of their room, The vista included St John’s College spires, the lush green of Midsummer Common, and punts gliding down the River Cam. It was a scorching 28° on a September afternoon when we checked in and the rooftop bar, adorned with colourful flowerpots and trees and a fabulous view of St John’s College spires and many other famous colleges, was a welcome respite before we tackled all that awaited outside the calm of the hotel. In the bar will find an impressive list of cocktails and mocktails that could tempt you to leave the sight-seeing behind. 

We stayed in a Fellows king room with a four-poster king size comfortable bed. This luxurious and spacious bedroom had floor to ceiling windows with a balcony and tables outside for drinks and nibbles, enabling us to make the most of the impressive scenic views over the city and the nearby park. There was a large walk-in shower, with my favourite Elemis products to use, and comfortable sofas to lounge on. Despite being in the centre of town, the hotel is perfectly located off the main street, making it incredibly quiet apart from the odd rattle of a cyclist’s bike or ring of a bell!

The Fellows Room

Taking advantage of the weather and the handy location next to the river, we headed for the punts at nearby Mill Lane. Although I’ve done this before, I cannot resist a meander down the River Cam. It is wonderful to see the historic colleges from the water. This time, I opted for a chauffeured punt as on my last attempt, I had discovered that punting was not my forte. 

Equally, Cambridge is a wonderful place to walk, discovering some of the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge as well as the many chapels and churches. You can literally breathe its past in the present. We enjoyed shopping in interesting lanes finding independent boutiques and wandering around the famous market. Mixed in were trendy cafés, bistros, and high-end eateries, making for a fun adventure of retail therapy and grazing.

The Glassworks Health Club is located in the adjoining building and provides a cutting-edge health club with state-of-the-art gym equipment and yoga, pilates, aerobics, and spinning classes on site. All hotel guests receive complimentary membership to The Glassworks during their stay. 

The Varsity Spa is comprised of a beautiful jacuzzi that overlooks the river, a sauna and steam room plus eight private rooms offering treatments from facials and massage to Jessica nail treatments and Aveda hairdressing. We enjoyed the use of the facilities and while bubbling away in the jacuzzi that overlooks the river, punts glided by the very large window. We weren’t sure whether it was tinted one-way glass, but hoped it was. 

The Varsity hotel’s SIX River Bar Steakhouse & Grill is located on the sixth floor, on the Quayside, with magnificent views of the river. Head Chef Angus Martin locally sources much of his menu’s ingredients. He is committed to serving the most tender, full flavoured steak, only using the finest prime beef, aged for 28 days. My husband chose crispy whitebait to start, then he enjoyed a delicious 8oz fillet of beef steak from the grill menu. I chose the burrata and tomato caponata with wild rocket on chargrilled toast, followed by chargrilled leg of Saffron Walden lamb with braised cabbage and rich gravy from the wood stone oven menu. 

Along with fabulous service, the food tasted good and despite the restaurant being incredibly busy, we didn’t have to wait long before each course was served. There’s a wide choice of food, guests can enjoy fresh fish, great vegetarian and vegan dishes, pizzas and homemade puddings. To match the varied food menu, the wine list, gin, and cocktail lists are impressive! 

The Varsity Hotel is perfect for getting truly immersed in the culture and charm of Cambridge life and is the ideal base to enjoy good food and drinks, sight-see, punt, shop, and relax. 

Fact box 

  • Rooms can be booked from £199 per room per night. 
  • For £25 per night there is valet parking – just hand over your keys and they need 30 minutes notice to return your vehicle. 
  • The Varsity Hotel and Spa, On the River, Quayside, Cambridge. CB5 8AQ
  • Tel: 01223 306030 
  • E-mail: info@varsityhotel.co.uk 

Review by Kate Morfoot – follow her on Instagram @Love2Eat2travel

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