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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.
Cambridge is a beautiful city. Its Gothic spires and grand facades are everywhere you turn whilst 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 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.
What Not To Miss
- 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.
- However, you should make sure to see Trinity from the front. This is Cambridge's largest college and it has an impressive Tudor entryway, as well as an even more impressive statue of Henry VIII. Christ's College also has an impressive entrance. If you only visit a few colleges, make sure one of them is Peterhouse, the smallest and oldest college, founded in 1284.
- Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, one of Britain's first public art museums, housed in a wonderful neoclassical temple-esque building.
- See the Round Church built by the Knights Templar.
- Try your hand at punting and bring along a picnic for a relaxing afternoon on the water.
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, perhaps even midweek.
The Best Places to Stay in Cambridge
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.
- Hotel Du Vin is superbly located, bang smack in the centre of town. This renovated university building offers quirky accommodation with a number of unique suites, a library and a French bistro serving up lovely food.
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.
For An Apartment
- If you think a self-catering option would best suit your needs then check out the wide variety available with our partner, booking.com.
- Weather-wise, it's best to visit over the summer months. In August the average daily temperature reaches 18°C. Whilst there may be more tourists than during other times of the year, this is pretty evenly balanced out by the diminished student population.
- International guests should fly into London Stansted Airport, 27km south of the city. From here, hop on a direct train to Cambridge which takes roughly half an hour.
- Direct trains from London Kings Cross take around 50 minutes, whilst if you're coming from Edinburgh Waverley this takes roughly 5 hours (and requires changing at Peterborough).
- The train station is rather inconveniently located 2km south of the city. You can either enjoy a peaceful walk (which takes half an hour) or take the bus. There are a few options here: the Citi 1 towards Arbury, Citi 3 towards Fison Road, Citi 7 towards Cottenham or the double decker 'Cambridge Blue' bus which also heads to the centre.
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars
Still not sure which to book?
Best Hotels in Cambridge
The Gonville Hotel 84 rooms from $182Cambridge (Cambridgeshire)
A recent refurbishment has spruced up this city centre hotel. Contemporary design throughout, the rooms are spacious with clean lines, feature mirrors, sleek furnishings and indulgent bathrooms. The fine-dining restaurant is exemplary and there's an elegant bar too.City Style - A chic boutique hotel located in the heart of the city.Sailing - Laze on a punt on the River Cam.
The Tamburlaine 155 rooms from $281Cambridge
A large and stylish contemporary hotel in the heart of the city. Sleek rooms are spacious and light, cleanly designed and boast wonderfully indulgent marble bathrooms. An elegant restaurant serves exemplary fine-dining dishes and has an excellent choice of wines. A smart city base.City Style - Created by the group O'Callaghan (known for stylish hotel's across Dublin) this venture into the UK market is no disappointment.Great walks - Take a stroll through the nearby and beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Garden.Sailing - Take a relaxing punt along the River Cam.Romantic - Good for couples.
5 Chapel Street 3 rooms from $130Cambridge
A delightful small B&B in a pretty Georgian house. Traditional rooms are beautifully styled with polished parquet floors, sash windows, crisp white linen and a choice selection of antique pieces. Home made breakfasts and tea are offered along with vintage bikes and a very warm welcome.Local exploring - A charming home with warm hosts who provide vintage bikes and endless nuggets of knowledge with which to explore the city.Sailing - Take a traditional punting trip down the River Cam.Restrictions on children - Children over 12 are welcomedFull of characterRecommended by - Sawdays
The White Hart 10 rooms from $104Cambridge (Fulbourn)
Nestled in the picturesque village of Fulbourn a few miles outside Cambridge, The White Hart is a charming B&B. Featuring comfortable, spacious rooms and an atmospheric restaurant. The hotel's bar is the great place to unwind in the evening.Great walks - Go for a walk in the nearby Wandlebury Country Park and Nature Reserve.Sights nearby - Four miles from Cambridge city centre and all of its sights.
The Varsity Hotel & Spa 48 rooms from $176Cambridge
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 $228Cambridge
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.