The Varsity Hotel & Spa
- Style First class, with honours
- Setting College-lined banks of the Cam
The Varsity Hotel & Spa may have rooms named after colleges, artworks based on famous alumni and donnish decanters of brandy to hand, but there's nothing studenty about it. It's set in the riverside heart of Cambridge, has a spotless health club and Elemis spa attached, and from its seventh-floor rooftop you can catch the best views in the city. Academically gifted, this one.
Need to know
- Rooms 48, including four suites.
- Rates Double rooms from $203.48 (£124), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
- More details Full English breakfast is included.
- Facilities Glassworks Elemis spa with gym,Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, roof garden, TV lounge (with decanters of brandy and whisky to hand), DVDs and CDs available, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD and CD players, iPod dock, bottled water, Elemis bath products. Suite guests get Nespresso machines, a selection of books, and access to an iPad and Wii on request.
- Poolside There's no pool, but bring swimwear if you fancy a soak in the spa's river-view Jazuzzi.
- Check–out 11.30am, but flexible subject to availability and a charge, depending on the time. Earliest check-in, 3.30pm.
Children This hotel is better suited to couples - leave the children at home!
- Also All public areas are accessible to wheelchair users, all bedrooms are accessible by lift, and some have been specially adapted for mobility-impaired guests.
In the know
- Our favourite rooms With floor-to-ceiling windows in most rooms, it's a crime against viewpoints not to go as high up the hotel as possible – stick to the north or east ends of the building if you can. We were wowed by the objêts-d'art-dotted Master's Penthouse Suite on the sixth floor, which has two glass walls, a long balcony where you can ogle Cambridge's most famous bits, and a colossal four-poster; a room made for dirty weekending. The smallest rooms, Graduate Doubles, are on the weeny side, but fine for a quick city stay.
- Packing tips With historical architecture (and architectural history) around every cobbled corner, a camera is obligatory. Don't forget swimwear for the Jacuzzi. If you plan on punting the Cam (and you should), bring clothes you don't mind getting damp. NB No one really wears mortarboards.
- Also The Glassworks Elemis spa is housed in a Conran-designed building next door (you have to pop out into the street to get there). In addition to well-priced facials, massages and beauty treatments, you can book in for reflexology, aromatherapy and waxing. Yoga, pilates and boxercise classes are held in the beamed gym and, in summer, on the hotel roof. There's also an Aveda hair salon.
Food and drink at The Varsity Hotel & Spa
- Hotel restaurant Looking out over the water at mediaeval Magdalene College, the River Bar is a sophisticated split-level take on a traditional steakhouse, with warehouse-style exposed brick walls, a smart little coffee/cocktail bar and a grilling fixation.
- Dress code Blend in with all the students' parents staying for the weekend, and go for pastel-toned Home Counties casual, paired with a beam of maternal pride.
- Top table Downstairs by the window, looking out over the river – the view's better upstairs, but the atmosphere's a bit buzzier below.
- Last orders The River Bar shuts for food and drink at around 11pm each night, but after hours, there's always a decanter of brandy to be plundered in the first-floor guest lounge. No lunch is served on Sundays.
- Room service Staff will bend over backwards for you 24 hours a day, but the menu of drinks, snacks and light meals should cover most in-room cravings.
- Hotel bar Big beefy wines and competent cocktails are served in the River Bar, but it's more of a pre-dinner drinks place than somewhere to hole up for an evening.