Where to Stay in Cambridge, England, for a Local Experience

Stay close to Cambridge's major attractions to easily explore its rich history
Stay close to Cambridge's major attractions to easily explore its rich history | Courtesy of the Gonville Hotel / Expedia
Photo of Callum Davies
21 January 2021

Cambridge welcomes travellers from all over the world to explore its rich history. There are plenty of accommodation options that put you within easy reach of all the best attractions, such as Trinity College, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Botanic Garden. Here are our top picks for where to stay in the English city.

King’s College and King’s Chapel – The Gonville Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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Gonville Hotel
Courtesy of Gonville Hotel / Expedia
King’s is the most famous college in a city that’s full of prestigious academic spots, so where better to lay your head than a hotel which was, in a previous life, a house for Cambridge academics. It was converted into a guest house in the ’60s and then a hotel in the ’70s, and now enjoys a reputation as one of the city’s most upmarket hotels, with an in-house jazz band, Atrium restaurant and even a Bentley that guests can rent out for tours. The college is a short walk away, as is Parker’s Piece and most of central Cambridge.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden – The University Arms

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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University Arms Hotel, Autograph Collection
Courtesy of University Arms Hotel, Autograph Collection / Expedia
Of the various university-owned attractions around the city, the Botanic Garden is one of the most popular – it’s perfect for a stroll on a summer’s day. Right on its doorstep sits the University Arms, a 19th-century hotel which was completely rebuilt between 2012 and 2018 following years of disuse. Now, you can book a room named after a Cambridge academic, peruse your own personal bookshelf, have a pint in the Parker’s Tavern and relax in a student library all without leaving the hotel, and that’s before even examining the huge beds, monsoon showers and other comforts you’ll find in the rooms when you bed down for the night.

St John’s College – West Court Cambridge

Bed and Breakfast, Hotel
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St. John’s College - West Court Cambridge
Courtesy of West Court Cambridge / Expedia
St John’s College is another in the group of ancient academic structures from which Cambridge draws its reputation. West Court is ideally situated, overlooking the River Cam and just as close to the Orchard, Round Church and the Bridge of Sighs. It has 36 rooms with distinctly modern decor, some of which have balconies overlooking the college greens. The handsomely laid out bar and lounge area offers drinks in the evening and continental breakfasts in the morning, and there are plenty of great places for dinner in the immediate vicinity.

Trinity College – The Waterman

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Trinity College - The Waterman
Courtesy of the Waterman / Expedia
Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and alumni include Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and Lord Byron, so there’s plenty of reason to go and explore the grounds. The Waterman very much feels like an inn, with only eight rooms, all boasting something of a bohemian feel, with stained walls and contemporary artwork, much of it based around famous faces from Cambridge history. The pub below is lively, with a huge range of craft beers and good, hearty pub food. The seasonal special events and alternative menu days (like meat-free Mondays) might tempt you to head back early after a day of exploring.

The Fitzwilliam Museum – Lensfield Hotel

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The Fitzwilliam Museum - Lensfield Hotel
Courtesy of the Lensfield Hotel / Expedia
The Fitzwilliam (nicknamed “The Fitz”) is a world-famous art and antiquities museum that is free to enter and provides an entire day’s worth of intellectual exploration. The Lensfield is a five-minute walk away, and it contains its own history – a Grade II-listed building that has stood there since 1812 and was once home to a boarding house. Now it’s a quaint, attractive 40-room hotel with a bar and lounge area. The Lensfield also has its own spa where you can have a steam, a swim or a relaxing massage.

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  • Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill – Crown And Punchbowl

    Budget Hotel
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    Crown and Punchbowl
    Courtesy of Crown and Punchbowl / Expedia
    For those who want a more tranquil experience, removed from the hustle and bustle of central Cambridge, the nearby village of Horningsea has plenty to offer. The Church of St Peter is a fascinating 12th-century relic, walks along the Cam are within easy reach and Anglesey Abbey is a 10-minute drive away. The local hotel – the Crown and Punchbowl – is a gastro pub with nine rooms, a beer garden and plenty of hearty food on the menu. The outdoor terrace offers great views of the rural surroundings, as well as the banks of the river, and a traditional cooked breakfast awaits guests in the morning.

    Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – Hotel du Vin

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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    Hotel du Vin
    Courtesy of Hotel du Vin Cambridge / Expedia
    Of the many museums dotted around Cambridge, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is one of the hidden gems, not as large or impressive as some of the others, but filled with amazing artefacts dating back millennia. The Hotel du Vin is perfectly situated for those planning on visiting, as well as anyone who just fancies a walk around the Colleges. The five former townhouses that make up the hotel each contain rooms named after famous winemakers and champagne houses. Expect big, comfy beds, a handsome cellar bar and a bistro restaurant with varied, imaginative dishes.

    The Cam – The Varsity Hotel and Spa

    Boutique Hotel, Independent Hotel, Hotel
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    The Varsity Hotel & Spa - Cambridge
    Courtesy of the Varsity Hotel and Spa / Expedia
    The river that gave Cambridge its name, the Cam, cuts a line right through the middle of the city, and there are plenty of starting points if you’re minded to explore it – but few are better than the Varsity Hotel & Spa. It sits right next to the punt station, so whether you’re minded to explore the Cam by water, walk the promenade or simply watch others launching their punts from your window, all options are accounted for. The hotel itself, like many others, is full of references to Cambridge’s collegiate history, including scientific journal articles written by alumni displayed on the walls. There’s a restaurant and a rooftop bar to help you unwind, and a gym and spa to blow off steam.
    These recommendations were updated on January 21, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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