My Perfect Day in Cambridge
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Cambridge has always been one of my favourite places in England. It's the perfect size, with all the culture, cuisine, and conveniences you'd expect from a city, but with the quaint alleyways and little family-owned shops you'd find in a small village. It's also perfectly located, about an hour long train ride from Central London, and is home to probably some of my favorite architecture in England. If you're looking for cozy cafes, romantic canals, and a whole lot of history, you've come to the right place. Here are all the best things to do on a day out in Cambridge, according to yours truly.
To Do and See:
Punting: You can't come to Cambridge and not go punting - it's simply the best way to see the city. Either take a guided tour or rent your own punt, but beware - it's a lot harder than it looks! Tour guides give detailed history of the various buildings and bridges along the way, which is genuinely fascinating and well worth the money. And speaking of money - feel free to have a go at haggling with the punting companies, they expect this and are able to offer reduced prices, especially in the off season. Key stops along this tour are the Mathematical bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, and the gorgeous Wren Library, which contains A.A. Milne's original manuscript of Winnie the Pooh. Grab a coffee for the tour and curl up under the blankets provided for extra cozy Autumn vibes!
Cambridge University Botanic Garden: One of the most calming things to do in Cambridge is grab a cup of tea and spend the morning wandering among the foliage in the Botanic Garden. For a reasonable £6 admission, you get access to the entire garden, including the incredible greenhouses, which feel like you've stepped into a tropical paradise. The garden is home to the University's horticultural research and has over 8,000 species of plants, so there's always plenty to see.
Kings College Chapel: £10 admission gets you into arguably the most iconic building in Cambridge, and it's well worth the money. The Gothic interiors are unbelievably impressive and beautiful, and the massive organ has to be seen to be believed. There's a ton of English history in this amazing building (the first stone for the chapel was placed by King Henry VI himself in 1446!) It's often also used for concerts and choral performances as the acoustics are so good.
Heffers Bookstore: I'm a real sucker for a bookstore, and going to Heffers is like stepping back in time to the 90s and 00s, when I'd spend an entire afternoon reading various books in the stacks with my mother. I highly suspect the shelving and the carpets in Heffers are actually from that era, but the selection of books is great, and the staff are friendly and helpful. It's not got the polish of one of the bigger chain stores, but that's precisely why I like it. I could easily while away a few hours here with a cup of tea.
Market Square: I love a market, and Cambridge has one smack dab in the middle of the town, just off of King's Parade. You'll find all sorts here, from street food stalls, to woodworking, to fresh baked goods. Grab a fresh pastry here before wandering around the town for a cheap but delicious snack.
Check out The Backs: Called "The Backs", literally referring to the backs of the buildings along the River Cam, these are some of the most picturesque parts of the city, and home to various examples of incredible architecture, dating from back in the day to quite modern. While you can't actually walk along The Backs (the land is owned by the colleges), you can stroll along the Queens Road - or enjoy the view from a punt. If you want to get a bit closer to the river, you can walk along to Coe Fen, where there are pathways along the river. Beware though, the farmers in the area allow their cows to graze there from April to November, so watch where you step!
To Eat and Drink:
Smokeworks - Free School Lane: Perhaps I'm biased because this place feels fairly American, but Smokeworks is a firm favourite in our family. As a pescatarian, I often struggle at BBQ restaurants, but their pulled jackfruit nachos are well worth a try. Also highly recommended are the mac and cheese bites, and their craft beers could compete with any American bar.
Fudge Kitchen: If you've got a sweet tooth, this place might just be your downfall. Not only can you get freshly made fudge in every flavour imaginable, but you can watch the masters make it right before your eyes, and the staff are incredibly generous on free samples. 10/10 would eat every variety of fudge in this place and not even regret the resulting stomachache.
Benets: Located right across from King's College Cathedral, Benets is my favourite for a very specific reason - they make great American pancakes. After all, what could be better than banana pancakes with a view? Snag a seat upstairs for a quiet breakfast before hitting the town to explore.
Millworks: Slightly off the beaten track, a bit further along the river Cam, sits Millworks. As the name suggests, the restaurant is housed within an old mill house, and contains parts of the working mill within its design. Come here for something a bit quieter and away from the crowds - the food is a step up from pub food and entirely delicious. Not only that, but they have a pretty cool ordering system - each table gets a button that alerts their waiter when they're ready to order!
Is Cambridge on your must-see list? Follow along with my adventures in and around the UK at @elisedumont on Instagram!