Given its small size compared to Britain’s other popular tourist cities, Cambridge’s hotel scene exists on a rather compact scale – so expect unique accommodation that’s brimming with quaint personality. Here are some of the best boutique options in Cambridge.
Like many other antiquated buildings dotted around central Cambridge, the Gonville Hotel has its roots in academia, having been built as a fellows’ house on the fringes of Parker’s Piece. The interior has a ’40s/’50s vibe, especially The Atrium, the hotel’s restaurant. An in-house jazz band plays a weekly slot and you can even book a city tour in the hotel’s Bentley. The rooms feel a bit more modern, so if you’re bothered by the shift from 1940 to 2020, you can always use the smart TV to put on a classic movie.
Hotel du Vin have made a name for themselves buying up ailing properties and turning them into boutique hotels all over the country. Their Cambridge iteration is particularly special in terms of location – sitting just yards from the Fitzwilliam Museum and perfect for anyone who wants to explore the Colleges that Cambridge is so well known for. For a boutique hotel, the Hotel du Vin is surprisingly big, with lots of cavernous hallways decorated with interesting artwork featuring Cambridge students. The rooms are nothing to scoff at either – huge baths, bigger beds and drench showers, and you can grab a drink at the cellar bar or a characteristically upmarket meal as the bistro.
For many years the University Arms was a bit of an eyesore, a prominent disused hotel sitting like an ugly afterthought on the otherwise attractive St Andrews Street. It actually dates back to 1834, blighted by an ill-advised detour into modernism in the 1960s, before being rebuilt between 2012 and 2018 in an £80 million revival project. The result is a tribute to Cambridge, with rooms named for the academics who have passed through the Colleges through the years, a lounge resembling a student library, shelves of books available to guests in their rooms and even a fellows’ pub for a restaurant. All this might sound a bit gimmicky, but it’s done with so much love and care that nothing feels forced or dishonest.
Another hotel themed after the city’s academic roots, The Varsity Hotel & Spa enjoys a fabulous location overlooking the River Cam (right next to the punt station), a short walk away from Jesus Green park. Inside you’ll find a charming display of academic memorabilia like scientific journal articles framed on the walls and sculptures of bicycles, and in the rooms you’ll find various references to college alumni, eye-catching geometric wallpaper and spacious bathrooms with bespoke toiletries. Drinks are offered in the rooftop bar, a simple yet satisfying menu of food is offered at the Six restaurant and there’s a gym and spa on site as well.
Split between a main building and an annex called the Coach House, the Arundel House Hotel presses against the upper limit of what can be considered boutique – 102 rooms. The atmosphere, however is right on target, with rooms which take full advantage of the antiquated architecture, covered in classical artwork, wood panelling and huge king beds. Arundel House is tantalisingly close to Jesus Green, and the bar, restaurant and brasserie all offer unique experiences, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
Rectory Farm is somewhat more removed from the city than the other hotels on this list, sitting on the eastern outskirts of the city near the American Cemetery. A 15-minute drive would land you in the city centre, or if you’re there in warm weather, you could take a 40 minute countryside ramble and end up right outside Kings College. The rooms are handsomely populated with vintage style furniture and even the smaller ones have big beds, and the outdoor facilities include a heated swimming pool. There is no restaurant on site, but the lounge area offers breakfast, and you can sit and have a drink on the garden terrace on sunny days.
Located in Trumpington, a 15-minute drive from the city centre, this 17th-century Grade I listed building is ideal for those in search of tranquility. It has just 21 rooms, all adorned in Victorian-style wood beaming and many boasting enticing features like four-poster beds, fireplaces and clawfoot baths. There’s a bar and lounge area with a pool table, croquet on the lawn, and while there’s no restaurant, guests enjoy a 25% discount at the nearby Green Man pub. If you’re after a classical vibe, this is the hotel for you.
An old Georgian house overlooking Parker’s Piece, the Regent Hotel is a well-concealed option with plenty of rewards for those who seek them. The rooms are spacious, modern and feature quirky little nods to Cambridge like pillows with bicycles printed on them and photographs of landmarks like the Mathematical Bridge, and the sizes range all the way up to full suites. There’s no restaurant but you are within such easy reach of the wider city that it’s not hard to find somewhere close by to fuel up, and the front desk is always happy to advise on the best places to check out.