Lonely Planet

Share Published on November 1, 2018

New life breathed into an old city stalwart

What’s the deal?

A hotel has stood on the site of the University Arms since 1834, starting life as a coaching inn and, latterly, serving as a rather tired chain hotel. After an £80-million, two-year refurbishment by architect John Simpson and interior designer Martin Brudnizki, it reopened earlier this year.

What’s changed?

Anyone familiar with the University Arms in its last guise is unlikely to recognise the current incarnation. Gone is the ugly 1960s façade, and in its place is a magnificent classical frontage, with three sets of enormous doors opening onto the lobby. While first impressions are of formal grandeur, once inside, warmth and humour reign.

Tell me more 

The most interesting bits of the old hotel (the stained-glass windows showing college crests, the ceiling- height oak fireplaces) have been retained, but much else is fresh, including an entire new floor containing the suites. A sense of playfulness is apparent throughout: the hallway carpets are patterned like university ties, intriguing artwork covers the walls, and Cambridge Blue, a bright turquoise, pops up in places as diverse as the exterior ironwork and the  Do Not Disturb signs.

What’s my room like?

‘Calm’ is the word. Each  is beautifully quiet, with black-out curtains, Farrow and Ball paint, Edwardian-style bathrooms, 300-thread count bed linen and Hypnos mattresses. A nice touch is the set of three books in each: Wind in the Willows, Porterhouse Blue and Cautionary Tales for Children. For a treat, book one of the 12 suites on the top floor; the wonderful Franklin (named after  DNA chemist Rosalind) has a triple-aspect bathroom  in a turret and a terrace overlooking the park. 

What am I eating?

Before food, have a cocktail in the convivial bar or fireside in the library.  The light-filled restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, serves revamped, unfussy classics such as braised lamb and pie of the day, courtesy of head chef Tristan Welch. We loved the delicately spiced kedgeree at breakfast.

I want to ride my bicycle

Good news: the city’s compact size and flat terrain make it a great place to cycle (though its cobbles may be a little unforgiving). Better news: vintage-style bikes are free for hotel guests to use. A pleasant, untaxing spin takes you along the River Cam and across beautiful Grantchester Meadows to the village of Grantchester. The hotel can rustle up a picnic to have on the riverbank. 

University Arms Hotel Cambridge update

In light of the Government announcement on the 23rd of December, we at University Arms and Parker’s Tavern will close our doors on Boxing Day.

If you have a reservation, please know that we will contact you about this, however should you have concerns, please do call our team on 01223 606066. 

To stay up to date with our opening, please do sign up to our newsletter.

I look forward to welcoming you in 2021.

Ian James

General Manager

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