First-Class Honours for hospitality at this city centre hotspot.

Having initially opened in the form of a coach house in 1834 and having offered hospitality to visitors ever since, University Arms takes the crown as Cambridge city’s oldest hotel. Fresh from a £80 million-pound restoration, it has withstood the good, the bad and the brutal(ist) of 19th- and 20th-century architecture and design.

The hotel is situated on the edge of Parker’s Piece (the site of the very first game of football and where a 32,000-strong feast to celebrate Queen Victoria’s coronation took place), the epicentre of Cambridge city’s conservation area–both geographically and historically.


Given the site’s significance, it is fitting that the hotel’s restoration was undertaken by a heavyweight design duo: classical architect John Simpson and designer Martin Brudnizki. With CVs that include Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, Annabel’s and The Ivy, it’s no surprise that the hotel’s newly built limestone porte-cochère looks as authentic as it does.

Inside and out, the hotel is a prime example of ye olde cliche, “a modern classic”. Remnants of the original building remain with repurposed floorboards and fireplaces, alongside contemporary comforts. Notable touches include a Newmarket Racecourse-inspired Ralph Lauren leather chandelier in the library, Alan Bennett narrating The Wind in the Willows on loop in the bathrooms and a ballroom, gym and conference facility thrown in for good measure.

Conscientious design flows throughout the building and into the 192 guest rooms and suites, where Hypnos mattresses and luxury linens await. The splendour continues in the bathrooms with heated floors, cast-iron baths and D.R. Harris & Co goodies. Feeling studious? The entire hotel is peppered with libraries curated by famed London bookshop, Heyward Hill.

Reviewed by Hazel Byrne