What do you think of when you hear the word “Cambridge”? Considering the city's university is commonly known just as “Cambridge”, it's no surprise that the 800-year-old educational establishment can sometimes overshadow the city itself. It goes without saying that university-related attractions are the heart that gives Cambridge its beat, but don't forget to set aside some time to discover medieval passageways, green open spaces and exquisite architecture, or you could miss out on the real charms of a city Forbes magazine deems one of the prettiest in the world.
One of the best things about Cambridge is its compact stature. Within a small area large pieces of history are clustered, including the Anglo-Saxon tower of St Bene't's Church, the Cavendish Laboratory where the atom was first split, and the mesmerising Great St Mary's Church. Cambridge is also home to some of the most impressive museums outside London like the Fitzwilliam, showcasing the University of Cambridge's art and antique collection, and the sleek new Polar Museum. Of course, most popular of all attractions is the university itself. Many halls and buildings are open to the public when classes are not sitting, but “The Backs” make the best viewing point where you can wonder along the River Cam and catch a wonderful vantage point of the colleges.
Though the city's university population may favour cheaper eats, in no way do you have to travel to London for a fine feed. Of the city's premier restaurants, Alimentum is where you can find modern fare in the old city. The Varsity Roof Terrace is a bit of a local secret tucked high away from the bustling streets, but definitely worth tracking down for the campus view alone. Even more elusive is Restaurant 22, located in a cosy suburban house a 10-minute walk from Riverside. Down the price list you'll find all manner of options with the Kingston Arms as popular for a bite as it is for a pint.
Where to Stay
Cambridge has no shortage of excellent rooms. These days, even the university is throwing its doors open to allow tourists as guests! Bed and Breakfasts are where you'll find the most variety, with the city boasting more than 100 B&Bs. If you decide to stay in one of the hotels in Cambridge, you have a choice of both independent and chains. The modern Varsity Hotel is one of the best hotels and offers great views of St. John's College. Of the chains, Hotel Du Vin has the most character with 41 rooms and Victorian bathtubs. Save a few pounds and you'll still get a great night’s sleep at the Regent Hotel or one of the city's Holiday Inns.
While your friends may not believe you became a student on your trip, most people can't leave Cambridge without getting a Cambridge University-branded souvenir. Ryder and Amies, located on King's Parade, is the university's main outfitter where you will find Cambridge University ties, tees and rugby shirts. All along King's Parade is a further selection of souvenir stores. For less tourist-oriented shopping, head to The Grand Arcade in the city centre, home to a collection of well-known chains and local independents Nearby is Market Square, which is open every day other than Sunday.
Cambridge Like a Local
If you've come all the way to a famous university, you just can't leave without sharing a drink with the local scholars! It's hardly surprising that Cambridge is home to all manner of old pubs, with The Eagle on Benet Street one of the oldest and favoured by the discoverers of DNA. The Flying Pig may be dark and dirty but it's also one of the most lively drinking establishments among locals and students. Less rowdy is The Free Press, a 120-year-old pub that was once a printing press. Some other friendly watering holes to check out include The Cambridge Blue, Pickerel and Maypole.