Most famous for its prestigious university (and the accompanying rivalry with Oxford), Cambridge is a city break that deserves to be on your UK hit list. Set on the River Cam in eastern England, under two hours from London, the historic city is compact but exudes character from every corner: College gateways lead to quiet courtyards and dreamy pastures, while lofty spires peek out above spectacular buildings designed by architects like Sir Christopher Wren and James Gibbs. Old and new happily co-exist in Cambridge, so a collection of classic pieces that transcend time is the best attire for exploring and shopping the collegiate city.
One of the best-located places to eat in Cambridge, the two-Michelin-starred Midsummer House on the banks of the river serves up a contemporary British dining experience led by award-winning head chef, Daniel Clifford. If you are able to get your hands on a sought-after reservation, dive headfirst into the tantalizing seven-course tasting menu with accompanying wine for an experience you won’t forget. Catch the last of the oyster season at Trinity Bar, enjoyed with a glass of sparkle from the bar’s extensive champagne menu. Taking its moniker from the college of the same name, the bar’s British menu offers up meat of the ‘pan-fried pigeon’ variety, too.
Once home to large chain hotels with conference room breakfasts, Cambridge’s hospitality scene has really stepped up, attracting big-name boutique owners and world-renowned architects and designers to renovate some of the city’s oldest buildings. In fact, the oldest hotel in Cambridge, the University Arms, has been welcoming guests since 1834 (when it was a coaching inn). A complete revamp by top architect John Simpson and hotel interiors guru Martin Brudnizki (see our interview here), however, has brought it into the 21st century, with a charming and detailed evocation of the city in which it sits, echoing the design and legacy of the University’s colleges. Sleek renovations and the relocation of one of Cambridge’s top restaurants have lifted the Gonville Hotel from boring to boutique. Exceptional service and a classy bar elevate the city-center hotel to pure luxury (a Bentley S1 is available as a courtesy car for special occasions, too). Elsewhere, new-kid-on-the-block the Graduate Cambridge is joining the city’s ranks in 2021. If the brand’s other hotels in university-anchored cities are anything to go by, expect carefully crafted interiors that continue the theme of combining tradition with modern features, all set against the hotel’s radiant riverside location.
The sartorial term ‘blazer’ actually originated in Cambridge — members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, the rowing club of St John’s College, were nicknamed the ‘blazers’ because of the bright red cloth of their club jackets — so it’s only appropriate to slip on a contemporary version for a weekend away. Explore the city’s extraordinary architecture from a different point of view by taking a punting tour on the River Cam or navigating its many cycle paths with a bicycle rental (arranged via your hotel’s concierge). Swap sneakers for dressy boots once the sun sets to elevate a spring look for evening arrangements without the hassle.