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10 things to do in Cambridge, by an ex-local

When I’m thinking of home, Cambridge is definitely the first place that comes to mind. 

It’s the city where I grew up, went to school, met some life long friends, got drunk for the first time, had my first kiss, and dated my husband. So I obviously hated it and couldn’t wait to leave. Its actually a really cool place, full of museums, history, stunning architecture and a gorgeous river running through the centre of it all.  So perfect to visit for a long weekend!

 

But what would I do on my weekends or when I was acting as tour guide for university friends and family members? Well, here’s my top 10… 

1) Hire a bike

You cannot visit Cambridge without riding a bike. You just can’t. (Although I did live there and avoid it almost completely. But I’m the exception to the rule).

As Cambridge is so flat, it’s super easy to cycle around making it the number one mode of transport for those living in the city. It’ll also allow you to see so much more of the town if you are limited on time! Just make sure you wear a helmet as cars and bikes don’t get along. 

There are plenty of hire options both online and through bike shops in the city such as Rutland cycles by the train station.

2) Climb St Mary's Church Tower

To get the best views in Cambridge you have to go up the tower of St Mary’s church. Mainly because Cambridge is pretty darn flat so there aren’t any hills for you to climb to get a better view. You’ll be able to get a peek inside some of the surrounding colleges and get away from the busy streets below.

Once you get your feet back on the ground, I’d also recommend taking a quick look around the church and take in some of the beautiful architecture.

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3) Go Punting

No top ten list of things to do in Cambridge is complete without mentioning punting. This is THE way to see Cambridge. Many of Cambridge University’s colleges are located along the river so you’ll get a peek into the gardens and dorm areas. If you take a guided tour you’ll also get an insight into the buildings you are seeing and other sights along the river. If it’s your first time punting, I’d suggest a guided tour so you can sit back and relax.

However if you are feeling brave and want to act like a  local you can hire your own. Just be aware that punting is definitely a trial by fire (or water) – one misstep or sway of the boat can tip your balance and send you head first into the river. (I’d advise doing this on a sunny day).

4)Catch a show at the ADC Theatre

If you’re into theatre and up for a good time I’d definitely recommend catching a performance at the ADC theatre. As it’s a department of Cambridge University, you can be sure this is not your average amateur dramatics club! The performances are always changing, you’ll be sure to find something for lovers of comedy, musicals, modern and more classic dramas. 

(Word of advice for taller visitors, the seats are quite close together).

5) Visit the Botanical Gardens

You’re never too far from a bit of greenery in Cambridge, but my favourite green area has to be the Botanical gardens. While the best time of year will be spring or summer for obvious reasons (flowers blooming and all that), it can also be a beautiful place to visit in autumn or winter. Catch the Autumn (Fall) leaves turning a gorgeous orange, red and yellow. Or stroll through the winter garden in February taking in the silvery grasses and evergreen trees reaching up into a grey, wintry sky. 

If you are looking for a sauna just pop in the tropical greenhouses to warm up (handy to escape the rain during those British summers). 

There is so much to explore, if you want to find out more keep an eye on the website for guided tours and workshops for all ages!

6) Walk to Granchester

If cycling isn’t your thing (like me) take a walk to the gorgeous little village of Granchester. 

The ability to escape the craziness was one of the things I loved most about Cambridge and something you can definitely do on this peaceful walk to Granchester. 

The trail from the city will quickly take you into quiet wooded areas and along the Granchester meadows, leaving you wondering if you were visiting a city at all. Once you reach Granchester, you’ll get the perfect taste of the quaint British village and a chance to quench your thirst in the Green Man’s Beer Garden. Or if you’re feeling a little more civilised, relax in the deck chairs at the Orchard Tea Rooms with a spot of tea and cake.

7) Explore the Fitzwilliam Museum

You will have access to endless museums in Cambridge (many of which are free of charge!), but the highlight of this studious city is the Fitzwilliam Museum. The stunning architecture of the building, particularly the dominating pillars and bright white steps to the entrance, are enough to warrant a  visit to the museum. 

Within its walls you will find a huge range of exhibitions to please everyone and anyone. You’ll see everything from egyptian mummies to stunning victorian furniture, religious and contemporary art and exquisite pottery. The museum also has an ever changing schedule of special exhibitions, so be sure to take a look at the website before you visit!

8) Eat some crepes at Bennet's

Bennett’s is probably the place I spent most of my weekends while living in Cambridge. However, it was actually my American husband who introduced me to it on one of our first dates. Now, I don’t know how I ever missed it. 

It’s a beautiful cafe, nestled on Kings Street, smack bang in front of King’s College Chapel. So if you’re looking for a perfect spot for those Instagram posts, Bennett’s is the place to go. 

They offer the typical coffee shop drinks, cakes and an amazing array of ice cream however the real reason to go to Bennet’s is for their crepes, pancakes and waffles. Once you have selected from the three you can then choose 2 or 3 toppings from an extensive list, including peanut butter, chocolate, strawberries, syrup, raspberries, Nutella, sugar and pretty much anything else you can think of that will help your teeth fall out. (In a good way). You can then sit in perfect view of one of the most famous sights in Cambridge enjoying the sugary goodness. (But you probably won’t be able to eat anything else for the rest of the day. Again, in a good way).

 

9) Relax on Jesus Green

Act like a local and spend an afternoon on Jesus Green. Cambridge is a beautiful city, full of parks, however my favourite has to be Jesus Green. Sit in the middle of the grass on a sunny day and catch some rays, grab a tennis racket and play on one of the courts, or spend a lazy afternoon on the banks of the Cam reading a book. It’s the perfect place if you’re looking to relax.

And if you’re visiting at the end of May you’ll catch the Cambridge Beer Festival, a fantastic event offering over 100 beers and an amazing range of food. What more could you want?

10) Visit the University of Cambridge's Colleges

 If you are going to Cambridge, this is probably why you are going. If its not, it should be. However, a key (and frankly annoying) misconception is that cambridge university is one place. Wrong!! Cambridge University is made up of a range of colleges, spread out all over the city, all with their own visiting policies (they don’t make it easy!)

The easiest way (and my favourite) to get a glimpse of the many Cambridge University colleges is to take a punting tour as mentioned above. However, if you want to get a better look at the colleges there are many walking tours available throughout the city which will take you through some of Cambridge’s most famous colleges.

However if you have limited time or you’re too cool for walking tours, don’t miss King’s College Chapel, one of the most famous and historic buildings in the city. (It’s the one you’ll want to put on social media).

So there you have it! My 10 step guide to visiting Cambridge that will have you loving the city as much as I do. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have any other suggestions!

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