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The historic heart of Cambridge, the area where the colleges stand together in an orderly way, feels like it hasn't changed for centuries. The splendid architecture is protected, and even outside the walls this area of narrow, cobbled streets and golden coloured stone feels like a time warp. Thankfully our pick of the best places to stay in Cambridge have escaped the worst aspects of old time hospitality and are firmly rooted in the twenty first century.
It's very easy to imagine yourself discussing politics with future prime ministers in the old Cambridge pubs, strolling the 'Backs' - the college gardens - in the company of future poets, or reading up on the latest research in the bottom of a punt with Nobel-prize-winners-to-be.
If you're only in Cambridge for a few days there are a few things you should definitely try to experience.
- See Kings College Chapel from the inside. It's beautiful when seen from the Backs, but do go in. It's very fancy for an English building and has had an incredible history.
- You should also stroll the Backs, it's one of the best ways to see the Cam, and some colleges have some pretty impressive backs as well as fronts.
- Though you should make sure to see Trinity from the front. This is Cambridge's largest college and it has an impressive Tudor entryway, and an even more impressive statue of Henry VIII. Christ's College also has an impressive entrance. And if you only visit a few colleges, make sure one of them is Peterhouse, the smallest and oldest college, it was founded in 1284.
- Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, one of Britain's first public art museums, housed in a wonderful neo-classical temple-esque building.
- See the Round Church built by the Knights Templar
- Try your hand at punting.
Cambridge is a beautiful city. Its Gothic spires and grand facades are everywhere you turn and its green, green gardens and the river Cam are a perfect picture of nature at her most pleasant. She's best traversed on foot, or bike, in fact many of Cambridge's roads are too small for cars to pass.
This is a student town so there are plenty of reasonably priced places to eat and drink, and plenty of cheap entertainment options. Some of the colleges charge an entry fee, though some are free and when they do charge it's not much. And the Fitz is free too! As is Kettle's Yard, the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences, the University Museum of Zoology and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
This city is an ever popular destination so the best places to stay in Cambridge can get booked up pretty quickly. Our advice if you want to bag a great bed for the night is to either plan well ahead, or else try to visit in less busy periods or even midweek.
For a City Break
- If you're looking for a central location with excellent views, The Varsity Hotel & Spa is certainly one of the best places to stay in Cambridge. It's relatively new, with a contemporary feel, but there's an eclectic mix of antiques and new pieces which stop it from feeling too industrial. There's a small spa and gym and a huge rooftop terrace, which becomes an open air cinema when the weather's right.
- Paddocks House was once the country house of Lord Byron's sister, so if you're looking for historic and romantic, then this is one of the best places to stay in Cambridge. The decor - and everything else here for that matter - is luxurious, with splendid copper baths forming the centrepiece of most of the 15 rooms. They take an age to fill, but don't worry, your personal butler will do it while you have a drink in the bar, or sup from the short, but imaginative, restaurant menu. This is also an ideal spot to come back to after a day at the Newmarket races.
For those on a budget
- At less than £100 per night, the Hotel Felix is one of the best places to stay in Cambridge if you're on a budget. Especially if you're looking for something manor-house-esque with a lovely terrace, a good fine dining restaurant and grounds.
Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Cambridge, or call, or email, one of our gurus for advice. Alternatively widen the net and check out all our recommendations in Cambridgeshire.
Best Hotels in Cambridge
The Varsity Hotel & Spa 48 rooms from $165Cambridge
Newish, central, contemporary hotel with plenty of light, great roof terrace and cinema, chic design details and a useful spa and gym.Cinema - Rooftop cinema in fine weatherViews - Rooftop and river Cam views from many rooms (but not all!)SpaRecommended by - I Escape, Tablet, Good Hotel Guide
Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Cambridge 37 rooms from $214Cambridge
Beautifully renovated university building. Rooms boast a range of architecturally quirky features and a number of unique suites. Library, French-stle bistro and bar available, offering a comfortable and relaxing stay in Cambridge city centre.Sights nearby - Well located in Cambridge city centre for historic sights of Cambridge University.Cots available - All children under 2 years stay free of charge for children's cots/cribs.Restaurant - French-style bistro offering A La Carte or Prix Fixe menusWedding license - Possible to book entire hotel for weddings.