Sitting right on the edge of Parker’s Piece, a park in the centre of Cambridge, has been Cambridge’s leading luxury hotel since 1834. Just a few minutes’ walk from punting and the city sights, the hotel is iconic, and we couldn’t wait to visit. Stylish and inviting, the Cambridge-blue bikes outside promised sightseeing excursions, and the stunning archways invited us in.
The hotel is quintessentially English, with Edwardian interiors and leather-panelled desks. Chandeliers, stained glass windows and beautiful old interiors met us, and we were warmly welcomed by Fidn, who was so lovely and genuinely caring, it was such a fantastic welcome.
The hotel has a beautiful signature scent by DR Harris, which creates a gorgeous ambience as it wafts through the halls, and we checked in, before taking a little trip into the city to explore the churches, boats and river.
Upon our return, we made a quick stop at the hotel’s restroom, and to our surprise, a recording of The Wind in the Willows was playing. So we spent a little time reminiscing, with the story bringing back childhood memories before we went to explore the rest of the hotel.
Exploring University Arms
The hotel has 189 rooms and suites and is filled with books, a nod to its location in the heart of academia, and all the suites are named after Cambridge icons. We were fortunate enough to stay in the Charles Darwin suite, with bookshelves curated appropriately to Darwin’s areas of interest and expertise, and pictures on the walls to match.
The room was breath-taking, with soft carpet and huge draping curtains framing a view onto Parker’s Piece. Cambridge-inspired artwork adorned the walls with images of the Oxford- Cambridge boat race as well as the River Cam. A plush sofa and pillows, as well as a velvet chair, were all inviting us to relax and enjoy a cup of tea and a book, and so indeed we did!
The cups are bespoke to the hotel, decorated with the hotel’s façade on the cup and saucer, with such gorgeous attention to detail. A cup of tea and a butterscotch shortbread provided the perfect break to wander and peruse the piles of books in the room – a History of Whisky particularly caught my eye. I wonder if Darwin was an avid Whisky drinker…?
A spacious bathroom with a black and white tiled floor and a spectacular bath with golden feet greeted us as we wandered through the suite and sweet tubes of toiletries and a rainfall shower. The perfect room to get ready in, the suite was everything you’d need and more – ideal for a bride getting ready, or a romantic getaway or city minimoon.
Spa Treatment at University Arms
Aromatherapy Associates are the brand of choice, using the healing power of the finest natural ingredients in products and treatments. Containing 80% essential oils, the fragrance is intense and so relaxing. Amba welcomed me to my treatment, and took the time to understand how I wanted to feel; relaxed, energised, uplifted, revitalised, detoxed… we went for a relaxing option, and my one hour treatment began. I enjoyed a gorgeous facial, head massage and full body massage, with a wonderful scent, it was truly relaxing! The spa offers couples massages which would be incredible to enjoy before a wedding or for just a little extra pampering.
Dining at University Arms
Returning to our room and taking in the views once more, we prepared for dinner at Parker’s Tavern, a quintessentially English brasserie restaurant. Chef Director Tristan Welch greeted us and explained a bit about his background working with Gordon Ramsey and working in a top Mustique hotel – just a charming and lovely man, and a menu to match! Local, natural and fresh produce filled the menu, and I chose a heavenly local smoked salmon to start, with Crème Fraiche and young herbs, followed by a Norfolk Chicken Kiev with stunning garlic butter, it was so fresh.
To finish I chose a Crème Brulee, and I’ve never had one like it, the thick sugar top cracked loudly and underneath was sublime creamy custard, just divine.
Parker’s Tavern also creates afternoon teas, and at the moment offers a Winne the Pooh-themed afternoon tea, which looks so fun, and simply delicious. I’d definitely recommend it, the atmosphere, service and food were wonderful. I’d definitely go back the next time I’m in Cambridge.
Returning through the bar to our suite, we slept beautifully, pulling back the curtains in the morning to watch life pass by once again. Breakfast offered a range of delicious options, and then one more treat was in store.
A quick cycle trip
You can’t go to Cambridge without hopping on a bike, so the lovely Fidn helped us with borrowing some of the hotel’s bikes, and we cycled off around Parker’s Piece for a little while. It was so much fun and such a brilliant way to explore our surroundings. Cambridge streets are dominated by bikes, with tourists, students and residents using them as their primary mode of transport around the historic city streets. We just had a little cycle around the park, but it was such a good afternoon.
Weddings at University Arms
The hotel has undergone an £80m refurbishment, including the ballroom, with huge, beautiful stained glass windows, filled with each university’s crest, and views over Parker’s Piece. Fireplaces, chandeliers and classic wood panelling create a charming atmosphere, designed by John Simpson, the architect responsible for reorganising Kensington Palace and parts of Buckingham Palace.
It would be perfect for Cambridge alumni to hold their and can accommodate up to 200 guests. Smaller weddings can use a section of the ballroom, creating a more intimate atmosphere whilst keeping the elegance of the setting.
We wanted to listen to The Wind in the Willows one more time, so took an extended break to the restroom to check my hair… and makeup… and hair again… and linger just a little longer to enjoy some nostalgia, before we checked out.
University Arms is truly outstanding. From start to finish we had the most amazing experience.
The hotel offers so much, is a perfect location for exploring Cambridge, and with friendly staff, impeccable service and delicious food gave us the most wonderful break.
Our 5 Star highlights:
- The superb Charles Darwin suite with spectacular views, a stunning bathroom and luxurious surroundings.
- My aromatherapy treatment was incredible, so relaxing and such a treat.
Dinner at Parker’s Tavern was exceptional. Chicken Kiev and crème Brulee are unmatched!