Cambridge is the most beautiful contrast of bustling and calm. As a city it is a thriving metropolis but when you wander around the crowds frequently disperse. You are left in the exquisite calm of the colleges, surrounded by breath taking architecture and quiet reverence.
There are so many famous sights, everyone recognises the beautiful gothic architecture of Kings College, whether from postcards and movies or from the Christmas carols on television every year.
Without question, everyone who comes to Cambridge should try to punt – or be punted. It’s a magical experience. It feels like something from a fairy tale. Once again the peace of the water will transport you. The local tour companies also will give you the heads up on the history and tell you the tales of the colleges and the town in a bygone era. Find out why there is a missing wedge from one of Clare Bridges stone spheres?
Cambridge has so many hidden gems. The Museum of Cambridge is one of them. Hidden in a stunning Grade II listed 16th Century former coaching Inn. The building itself is as much part of its attraction as the fabulous collection of memory evoking curiosities it contains. As the layout of the building changed over time it developed and eccentric character with winding staircases and uneven floors. Learn about the real lives of real people living in the city over the centuries. Next door to Kettle’s Yard which is also worth a look as they often have fascinating exhibitions which may need to be advance booked.
For sightseeing, while the Bridge of Sighs has the more famous history you should wander instead to the road bridge by Queens College on Silver Street and admire the Mathematical Bridge. While you are there either get a drink in ‘The Anchor’, if you can find a perch overlooking the water, or wander to ‘The Mill’ grab a drink and head over the river to sit on the grass. Enjoy some people watching as the first time punters find their water legs as they set off gingerly, and the loved up couples and excited international tourists.
If, and only if, you are here for a long weekend then head down to Granchester for a picnic by the river, or afternoon tea in ‘The Orchard’. It’s truly one of the most relaxing places, and absolutely the source on inspiration for many of Cambridge’s bright young minds over the years. If your weekend is shorter and an afternoon tea still sounds like a great idea. Head to the top of the Varsity. Where you can dine in style with a view.
Depending on the time of year you visit then wandering around the publicly accessible sections of the colleges themselves is a real delight. But be aware that when exams are on and students are busy the colleges may be closed so check ahead if this is your plan.
If you are visiting with children then as well as the Museum of Cambridge be sure to check out the Museum of Zoology, where as well as a 21 metre whale in the aptly named Whale Hall you can see everything from elephants, giraffe’s and giant sloths. As well as many weird and wonderful delights you have never seen before!
In terms of where to stay there are some stunning hotel options. I personally have a soft spot for the baths at Hotel Du Vin which feel like real luxury. The Varsity has some truly stunning views. Likewise the views of the river at The Graduate are really unsurpassed and drinks out on the lawn there watching the swans swim past are really idyllic.
If you are looking for a different experience outside of term time have a look into college accommodation. It’s a more unique experience – you may not be ensuite so padding down to the bathroom in your dressing gown may rather take you back. But as an alternative to a cheap and cheerful hotel you will get the whole college experience of meeting porters, being surrounded by some genuinely stunning historic architecture and getting a behind the scenes glimpse at what college life is really like in these ‘hallowed halls’.
Cambridge is perfect to simply wander around, discover hidden alleyways and streets, like Orchard Street, Melbourne Place or Trinity Lane. Find quaint independent retailers like The Cambridge Cheese Shop in All Saints passage. Frequent Fitzbillies for a Chelsea bun, wander the beautiful array of stalls in the market for fresh bread and stunning flowers.
If you happen to be in Cambridge on the 1st Sunday of the month the Hidden Cambridge Tours which end at the Museum are also a fascinating way to learn more about this remarkable city.
You can’t fail to find charm and beauty in Cambridge. Enjoy.