Cambridge is one of the most idyllic of English towns in the United Kingdom. Over the centuries it has vied with Oxford as being the centre of academic excellence in the country. It is as quintessentially English a town as you could possibly find. With beautiful classically styled architecture, charming little bookshops and independent cafes it is no longer is the exclusive preserve for the wealthy and elite Brits. It has reinvented its bookish impression to a remarkable extent, so much so that it is considered to be one of the hippest places in Britain.
Of course that is just one aspect of this thoroughly charming city that captivates one and all who visit it. With its quaint cobbled stoned streets and architecture that is stunningly picturesque it is hard to resist its charm. And apart from its illustrious academic institutions there is a lot more places to see and things to do in and around Cambridge. It has seen a steady rise in visitors and tourists to the area with the hotels near Cambridge being much in demand during the holiday season and weekends.
A visit to Cambridge would be incomplete if you do not explore its hallowed academic institutes. The best place to begin your academic excursion is by ambling off to Cambridge University. While Oxford and Cambridge may complement each other in various aspects, apart from being competitors for the mantle of being the elitist of Universities, there are some marked differences. In terms of size Cambridge is smaller and as a consequence of which its University is a prominent landmark in the town. There are a total of 31 colleges that are affiliated to the University with most of them being free to visit and explore. The only caveat is to check and see if they are open to visit during your trip, as they do not offer access during the exams period and other certain times of the year. The trio of St. John’s Trinity and King’s colleges are not to be missed while in Cambridge, with the Fellows Garden of Clare College is also worth a visit.
One of the most popular sports with Cantabrigians (natives of Cambridge) is that of punting. And the towns’ topography is well suited for the sport with the meandering River Cam flowing through the town. So get sporty and explore the town along the gentle waters of the river, while being seated in a punt. You could hire a punt and a rower from any of the punt hire companies in the area. And if you are feeling up to it why not try your hand at it. However, it is no mean feat to accomplish as the only thing you have to setter the boat is a long pole (sorry no paddles please)!
Every week starting on Monday and ending on Saturday, the market square in town plays host to numerous colourful booths, with vendors soliciting their wares. It is a time honoured tradition that has been in vogue for generations. Here you could make your way through the many stalls that sell an amazing variety of items ranging from handicraft to books. Just ensure your haggling skills are at their best as you can snag some great deals if you are really a good at the art of bargaining. Apart from an array of curio and antique shops there are some fine high-end shops as well to shop at.
If you have an inclination for archaeology and visiting museums, then Cambridge has a good selection of museums to satiate your curiosity. It is a paradise for culture aficionados who are fascinated by all that beholds them in Cambridge’s museums. Whether it is a tour of the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, going on a traipse through the exquisite art and antiquities to be found in the Fitzwilliam or a literary sojourn through the exceptional collection at the Imperial War Museum, there is something for everyone.
Another iconic establishment that is synonymous with Cambridge is Fitzbillies. A visit to Fitzbillies is not an opportunity to be missed! With its external facade that seems to take one back in time to the 1920s, do not let its appearance fool you. It is a classic take of the traditional bakery that still holds to its roots that date back to more than a century. An array of the finest confectionaries awaits you, not forgetting to mention their signature Chelsea buns. So if you have a sweet tooth, give into temptation and have a feast!
It would be a waste not to enjoy the pleasures of a classic English tradition of afternoon tea, in such British surroundings. Whether you visit the town for a holiday or are just passing through, having a cup of tea is a must! And the ideal place for it is to be comfortably ensconced in a laidback deck chair at the famous Orchard Tea Gardens. It is famous for its exceptional cup of brew that is served accompanied by an assortment of fine delicacies. It has been in business since the last century and is popular haunt with both the faculty and the students in town. Some of the well known names that have popped in for a cuppa include Virginia Woolf, Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry and Stephen Hawking to name just a few famous faces.