Cambridge travel guide: What to see and where to stay on a trip to the university town

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travel essentials

when should we go
With exquisite 15th century colleges shimmering in the spring sunshine and swans bobbing in and out of the river as boats pass by, Cambridge is a weekend of relaxation and getting away from it all.

For culture vultures, a series of drawings, paintings and digital works by David Hockney will be on display at Fitzwilliam until August 29, while Ai Wei Wei’s “The Liberty of Doubt” will be on view at Kettle’s Gallery. Yard until August 29. 19.

The city is full of outdoor dining options in the summer, and the University of Cambridge Botanic Gardens, which are open all year round, are particularly beautiful. For an added summer attraction, the Cambridge Folk Festival takes place July 28-31 this year.

However, Cambridge also looks spectacular in winter, with The North Pole festive event featuring food stalls and carnival rides, and as the city is less busy when it’s cold you can bundle up and do some sailing with the possibility of being the only person. in water.

Where to stay
Book rooms at West Court, Jesus College, which is part of the college but is open to visitors all year round. Modern, clean and comfortable rooms are in the center of the city, overlooking the university grounds. Doubles from £84 B&B (jesus.cam.ac.uk).

Just beside the River Cam, overlooking the semi-rural grasslands of Coe Fen, the new Graduate Hotel is a playful ode to college life. Oars line the walls, a double helix indicating a DNA molecule hangs in the lobby, and each hotel room key card bears the photo of a famous alumnus, from Alan Turing to Emma Thompson. There’s also an Art Deco bar that’s hard to leave, whether you’re enjoying an ice cold Martini or a cup of English tea. Double from £172 (graduatehotels.com/cambridge).

Cambridge’s oldest hotel, the University Arms has an eccentric English manor feel, with a wood-panelled library and books next to every bed. All public areas and 11 rooms are fully wheelchair accessible. Earrings are also available. Doubles from £200 (universityarms.com).

how to navigate
If driving, use one of the five park and ride facilities, which are easily accessible from anywhere in the country and are located on Trumpington Road, Babraham Road, Milton, Madingley Road and Newmarket Road. Family tickets £3 return. The train station is about a 20 minute walk from the center. The city is a paradise for cyclists. Hire a bike from City Cycle, £25 for two days (citycyclehire.com).

Trinity Street at dawn. (Photo: Aubrey Stoll/Getty)

Saturday

start the day
Breakfast or brunch at The Old Bicycle Shop (6), former Howes Cycles restaurant, where Charles Darwin is said to have purchased a bicycle in the 19th century. It’s a cozy and comfortable place, typically Cambridge, with handlebars turned into lamps and saddles turned into wall art.

gonna hit the stores
Wander downtown Rose Crescent, Market Square, King’s Parade and Trinity Street for historic streets of independent shopping. Visit The Haunted Bookshop, which specializes in antique and used children’s books and picture books. At the Cambridge Gin Laboratory, enjoy a one-hour tasting class and history lesson (£30) led by experts.

Do not get lost
Take a private or shared boat trip (below left) from Rutherford’s to Jesus Green Moorings and a guide will show you the beautiful canals and ‘Backs’ College. Private tours from £100 for up to six people for 45 minutes (rutherfordspunting.com).

Amy, Kasia Delgado’s friend, cruising the River Cam on her weekend

time for a drink
The Eagle, in the center of Bene’t Street, is so evocative it’s like stepping back to 1953, when pub regular Francis Crick came here to tell pub patrons he had discovered, along with James Watson, the structure of the DNA double helix. . .

dinner reservation
The inspiration behind the Pint Shop in central Cambridge is the breweries that originated in the 1830s as a result of the Beer Act. Beer lovers will appreciate its slate with around fifteen constantly changing local beers, but the cuisine is quality, elegant but simple, such as the mango turmeric chicken kebab and the celeriac cutlet with pickle mushroom sauce (pintshop .co.uk).
The new Pinch tapas bar (12) is also a relaxing and gourmet place to spend the night. (pinchcambridge.co.uk).

Sunday

To go for a walk
The Backs, a four-mile circular walk through the city named after several University College buildings face the river, makes it one of the most scenic walks in the UK. Starting from Market Square, walk down Rose Crescent to join the route at Trinity Lane. Follow the trail keeping the road to your left and you will pass several reputable colleges. In spring, the river banks are covered with daffodils and crocuses, making the walk even more picturesque.

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: People boat on the River Cam on March 30, 2021 in Cambridge, England.  Forecasters predict temperatures of 72°F (22°C), and with the relaxation of pandemic lockdown rules, many people will head outside.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
People boating on the scenic River Cam (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty)

lunch time
The Orator is a light, bright, stylish and newly refurbished brasserie and bar that also houses the Cambridge Union debating society. The delicious cuisine is complemented by a range of wines, ranked cheapest to most expensive by ‘Bachelor’, ‘Masters’, ‘Doctoral’ and ‘Fellowship’, a playful nod to the building’s academic significance (theoratorcambridge .co.uk).

Relaxation time
The University of Cambridge Botanic Garden is a 40-acre Grade II listed heritage garden in the city center with over 8,000 species of plants from around the world, including one of the most impressive tree collections in the area, set in beautifully landscaped and colorful gardens £7.50, under 16s free, botanic.cam.ac.uk.

have a present
Make time for afternoon tea at the historic Fitzbillies Bakery on Trumpington Street (£21.95 or £29.95 with champagne). Established in 1920 and famous as the home of Chelsea’s scones, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon, with its Art Nouveau windows and stunning wedding cake displays.

Make time for afternoon tea at the historic Fitzbillies Bakery on Trumpington Street (Photo: Kasia Delgado)

get out of town
Near Ely stands a 1,000-year-old cathedral, one of the largest in England, towering over verdant marshes.

ask a local

Maxim Thompson, filmmaker

“Indigo is a lovely little cafe that holds a special place in my heart. It’s a converted old house, with outdoor seating in the driveway of Edward Street Passage. It’s central but not too close to the crowds so you can get away from the crowds and have some peace and quiet.”

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