A landmark hotel in one of the most famous university cities in the world, the University Arms was Cambridge’s original hotel, first opening its doors in 1834. Sitting proud of place on the iconic Parker’s Piece green, the hotel witnessed the defining rules of football being invented in 1848 and it has long watched over the city. Sadly fading from its former glory in recent decades, an extensive refurbishment project was planned to bring in top designers and architects to restore the landmark to its prime. After two years and £80m the University Arms has opened its shiny new doors again. The LuxPad explores the iconic Cambridge University hotel…
Throughout its long history the University Arms has been renowned for its innovation. It was the first hotel in the city to have electricity and toilets on each floor. And in 1904 it shocked the nation by converting the stable yard into a garage thanks to the increasing popularity of the motorcar – a move which clearly paid off. The hotel was extended many times over the years and most notably, the Regency section along Regent Street was entirely demolished and replaced with features which jarred with the original architecture. Famed architect John Simpson was brought in to restore the building’s form which had been left scarred by nearly two centuries of disjointed development.
Simpson’s restoration of this Cambridge University hotel included demolishing the offending 1960s Regent Street structure replacing it with one set back from the road. He then added a Porte-Cochère (coach gate) in its place which contributes to the richness of the street and its location at the approach to the city centre. From an urban design stance this element, which is lower in height than the rest of in the imposing building, offers a smooth transition from the smaller scale residential and retail buildings on Regent Street to the large civic and university buildings closer to the centre.
Working tirelessly to reconnect the hotel with its surroundings, Simpson sought to reintroduce the fine Regency architecture examples which can be seen in throughout the rest of Cambridge. The hotel’s new interiors have been thoughtfully carried out by Martin Brudnizki. One of Europe’s leading interior designers, this is his first complete hotel project in the UK and his aim was to create an environment reminiscent of hazy school days, lazy afternoons spent on the banks of the River Cam and the raucous revelry of students. A space truly for locals, tourists, Cambridge students and their families alike.
The University Arms now contains 192 playfully designed guest rooms and suites, a destination restaurant, bar, library, event space, underground valet car park and gym. It has been redesigned with quintessentially English design in mind and the literary and academic spirit of the city is one of the defining characteristics. Guest rooms have been kept light and breezy with city or Parker’s Piece views. Hints of Cambridge blue, yellow and red enliven the spaces. Bookcases curated by Heywood Hill, one of London’s leading bookshops who have also filled the library, bespoke furniture and statement chandelier lighting all give that classic Cambridge feel.
Parker’s Tavern is arguably the defining point of the Cambridge university hotel. The stand alone restaurant has been inspired by the communal dining halls synonymous with the Cambridge colleges to give diners an authentic university experience. Filled with canteen-style seating and a mixture of free-standing chairs and benches, everything is finished with red and mustard leather and dark timber. It really is dramatic dining at its finest. The Cambridge blue wall panelling, solid wood parquet flooring and original stain glass windows finish the university dining hall feel. Head chef Tristan Welch has designed every dish to be a whimsical reimagining of British Classics. Sourced from field, fen and England’s seas. Think plates piled high with Norfolk seafood , suckling pig with wild mushrooms or even Tristan’s special spaghetti bolognaise.
The University Arms, Cambridge is an experience that must be witnessed by anyone in the city whether you are a tourist, student or local. So pull up a bench in Parker’s Tavern, browse the classics in the library, or sleep off a night of indulgence at one of Cambridge’s famed pubs in one of the rooms. For more information on the just reopened hotel, visit the University Arms website.