The Varsity Hotel
The lowdown I'll admit it, I've never been a fan of the staycation. Why would you sit in traffic on the motorway, trying to persuade your Satnav to direct you to that remote corner of Cornwall, just to watch TV in a hotel room you can't leave due to the driving rain? In the amount of time it's taken you to get there, you could be wine-tasting in Bordeaux, partying in Ibiza or falling in love with Florence.
So it was with some trepidation that I packed up my bags and left London for a weekend in Cambridge. One very relaxed train journey and a barely noticeable 60 minutes later, I walked into the reception of the Varsity Hotel - I wasn't stressed out, I wasn't sweaty and I didn't feel the need to sleep for 12 hours; the exact opposite to the state I'm usually in by the time I've arrived at my final destination. That warm, happy feeling grew when I was shown to my room; floor to ceiling windows showcasing the city's spectacular views, a huge comfy bed and a luxurious bathroom decked out with Elemis minis greeted me. Perfection.
I quickly unpacked and headed up to the seventh floor to take a look at the hotel's most famous feature, its roof terrace (above left). Converted into a slick outdoor bar dotted with large sofas and squishy armchairs, the view across the Cambridge rooftops literally took my breath away. If exploring the university colleges by foot seems a little bit too much like hard work, you can spot nearly all of them from here, and you get to sip a gin and tonic while you're at it.
The rooms The standard rooms are small but perfectly formed, with everything you could possibly need for a comfortable stay neatly in its place, including LCD TV and iPod docking station. If you're on a budget, my top tip would be to book a standard room for the majority of your stay, but splash out on one of the suites for at least one night if you can. It's not prohibitively expensive, and the incredible views, vast lounge and the private terrace make it worth every penny.
Out and about The Varsity is perfectly situated right in the centre of Cambridge, on the banks of the river Cam, so you have everything the city has to offer on your doorstep. You can't visit Cambridge and not go punting, so pop along to any of the riverside kiosks to book in. I went to Let's Go Punting, just a minute's walk from The Varsity, and our Russell Brand lookalike guide talked us through the incredible history of the University, dating back to 1209, as we meandered our way down the river past the colleges.
If you're feeling energetic, take advantage of The Varsity's complimentary walking tour. It runs every Saturday at 2pm, and is a great opportunity to soak up the city's culture and take in the stunning architecture while chatting to fellow guests. It also provides you with the perfect excuse afterwards to put your tired feet up in The Varsity's beautiful Glassworks spa when you've totally earned that full body massage.
Eating and drinking Start your evening with a large glass of wine and perfectly cooked steak at the River Bar Steakhouse & Grill. The hazelnut brownie for pudding is divine if you¹re feeling naughty. Then let the fun begin by heading out to one of the city¹s many nightspots. The University dominates every aspect of life in Cambridge, including the nightlife, but don't let that put you off - Cambridge is so classy, even the student bars are sophisticated. You're more likely to see heated discussions on the ins and outs of Quantum physics than drunken brawls outside the nightclubs here. Head to the lively area around Downing Street (a 20-minute walk or five-minute taxi ride from The Varsity) for the best of the bars. The Soul Tree on Corn Exchange Street is a local favourite and open until 3am on most weekends.
By Jess Tibbits