Boasting a history as rich as the desserts served at the adjoining Parker’s Tavern restaurant and a deep sense of the academic at every turn, University Arms Hotel has become as much a part of Cambridge as the world-famous colleges themselves. First opened in 1834 as a coaching house, it has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years to become the majestic yet homely accommodation that it is today, boasting 192 rooms and suites, a snug library, vintage bar and elegant restaurant next door.
Inspire a passion for learning in your children by surrounding them in the true spirit of the university while enjoying the best that Cambridge has to offer, with all the city’s top attractions right on your doorstep.
Cambridge is a city built on its world-famous university and the University Arms Hotel pays homage to it at every opportunity. From the themed corridors and college crests in the restaurant to a bespoke library featuring works from Williams Wordsworth, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, the hotel wonderfully captures the literary and academic spirit of the area.
No detail has been overlooked, with each little quirk of the hotel sure to leave an indelible mark on those lucky enough to visit. Be it the sound of Alan Bennett reading from Wind in the Willows in the lavatories, the unique scent that fills the corridors or the gorgeous original bay windows of the ballroom, every inch of University Arms brims with wonderful idiosyncratic charm.
Overlooking the famous Parker’s Piece – the site on which the definitive rules of football were first nailed to trees in 1848 – and just a short stroll from all the action in the city centre, University Arms Hotel could hardly occupy a more enviable location.
Nearby activities for kids
Kick-abouts on Parker’s Piece, care-free wanders around the colleges and punting tours down the river are absolute musts. The hotel offers its own bicycles and specially-made city maps for a full day’s worth of exploring – but the city’s sights are fairly close together meaning journeys on foot are just as easy. The city is littered with museums and galleries, with The Fitzwilliam Museum the most well-known among them thanks to its impressive collection of artefacts, paintings and sculptures spanning the centuries.
Kettle’s Yard offers a unique insight into the home of former Tate Gallery curator, Jim Ede, while Cambridge Museum boasts a bric-a-brac compendium of local objects housed in the premises of an 18th-century inn. Ignite a passion for education in your children with a tour around the historic colleges or, for a truly magical experience, book tickets for an evening in front of the world-famous King’s College Choir.
Rooms are spacious and bright, showcasing the hotel’s Edwardian splendour without sacrificing modern convenience. Suites – each named after a former Cambridge University student – come with balconies offering sweeping views over Parker’s Piece. Bathrooms are squeaky clean and some come with deep bathtubs, where one parent can relax while the other entertains the kids by reading aloud from the welcome gift book – a beautiful hard-back copy of Wind in the Willows. While there are no specific family suites, interconnecting rooms can be arranged before arrival.
University Arms Hotel reopens on 31st July
Grand doors on the right-hand side of the entrance lead to the cosy inside of Parker’s Tavern, an all-day bistro and bar serving up an exquisite menu of seasonal British food. From flaky pastries and melt-in-the-mouth poachies at breakfast, to braised suckling pig and fresh Cornish hake at dinner, your only regret upon leaving will be that you haven’t been able to try the lot.
At Parker’s Tavern, children are held in just as high regard as grown-ups, with a menu that was designed by Head Chef Tristan Welch under the watchful eye of his very own kids. Consisting of sustainably-sourced ingredients and a sensible moderation of sugar and salt content, little ones will feel as though they are one of the adults thanks to delicious mains of crisp-battered fillets of sole and Cambridge-inspired grilled chicken and waffles (Cambridge, Massachusetts, that is!).
Best time to go
With so many wonderful museums, cosy drinking dens and quirky cafes, Cambridge is just as ripe for exploring during the winter months as it is when balmy weather arrives. The hotel’s library, featuring a bespoke selection of books connected to the city and a splendid open fireplace, provides a delicious space to recline for families. During the summer, the River Cam becomes a joyous and vibrant setting for days spent punting, wandering over the bridges and sipping drinks by the water’s edge. It truly is a year-round destination for families.
Family Traveller top tip
Pick up a map from the concierge, hop on the hotel’s free bikes and cycle down to Magdalene Bridge for a punting tour. Not only is it the best way to soak up the city, but the punters also offer a fascinating and insightful history of the various different colleges, their former students and other little nuggets of information that bring the vibrant city to life.
Make sure you’re all back in time for the daily 6pm tour of the hotel, where you will learn about everything from the unique scent of the hotel to the Winston Churchill-inspired uniforms worn by staff.
Furry friends are not allowed.
Instagram this An eclectic array of artworks covering the walls of the gorgeous Parker’s Tavern
Kids love this Whizzing around Parker’s Piece on one of the hotel’s free bicycles
Eat this Braised suckling pig with crackling and fennel for parents, spaghetti bolognese followed by whipped ice cream dessert for kids
Experience this Family punting tour down the River Cam