On a mission to do more city breaks in the UK, my boyfriend Dan and I recently ticked Cambridge off the list. I’ve been a handful of times before, but only for the odd evening to see a band at The Corn Exchange or passing through on day trips. We used a wine tasting trip as an excuse to head to Cambridge for the weekend as the Vineyard was only half an hour from the town centre. The weather was so good to us, and late October was a great time of year to visit as all the trees were turning golden. After scouring blogs and asking friends for recommendations, we basically created the perfect long weekend full of exploring, food and a lot of gin!
So on that note, grab a cuppa (or a G&T!) and find out the best places to stay, see, shop, eat and drink in Cambridge.
There are several Premier Inns and Travel Lodges near the centre and on the outskirts of Cambridge, however, we decided to go for a little bed and breakfast instead as it was a bit cheaper and nicer. We stayed at Warkworth House, a little hotel on Warkworth Terrace, about a five-minute walk from Regent Street, one of the central high streets. It was absolutely perfect for what we needed and included breakfast which was a huge highlight. The ingredients were all locally sourced from around East Anglia and offered plenty of choices whether you wanted a small bite to eat or a full English. The room was light and modern complete with a shower I didn’t ever want to get out of! If you want a cosy, home from home hotel that is close to the centre of town, I definitely recommend.
Tip: Parking is pretty limited in Cambridge and you often need permits to park, so find a hotel with its own car park or one nearby! You can walk everywhere in Cambridge so your car won’t move for the weekend.
Cambridge is most famous for its university, founded in 1209, so the city is full of beautiful architecture. The city is essentially built around the university buildings so you are likely to find a college on nearly every street you turn down. A majority of the buildings are always private to public entry but they are still so beautiful to look at. Everything in Cambridge is only a short walk away so it’s very easy to see the whole city on foot. If you’re feeling brave, you can join the herds of cyclists and cram more sights into your day, but it was very relaxing just wondering around. It is a very compact place so you find your bearings quite quickly.
Punting on the River Cam
The best way to experience the colleges in all their beauty is definitely to take a punt down the River Cam. It’s probably number one on the list of things you should do when you go to Cambridge and although a little pricey, totally worth doing. You can either hire a boat for yourself or go on a guided tour. I’d recommend a guided tour if you’re visiting the city for the first time as not only can you can giggle at everyone else attempting to punt themselves, you can actually enjoy the beautiful surroundings whilst absorbing some of the history of the city. We went with Scudamores Punting and had a very insightful guide that took us on a 45-minute punt down the river to see the seven colleges that back onto the River Cam. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny Autumn afternoon and the boat was even complete with blankets to keep off the chill.
Kings College Chapel
King’s College Chapel is one of the college buildings that is open to the public and one of the most of beautiful in the city. It costs £9 to go in, but if you gift aid your ticket (UK taxpayers only) your ticket is valid for the whole year should you wish to go back. King’s is one of the oldest colleges and founded by Henry VI so it is steeped in history. The architecture is very impressive and the Chapel also boasts some incredible stained glass windows. If you go on a guided puting tour, ask about the Night Climbers and the traffic cones on top of the towers…
Although not strictly in the centre of Cambridge, Anglesey Abbey is only a 15-minute drive away and is well worth a visit on the way into town or on your way home. It is a gorgeous National Trust property that used to be a Priory in the 1200s, then became a country house before being donated to the National Trust in 1966. The gardens are breathtaking and are in bloom all year round so if you enjoy a walk, there are some lovely walks around the grounds.
As with any city, there is a standard city entre shopping mall with your standard high street stores in. There are several local shops that are well worth a look too if you don’t fancy the crowds and want to take a few unique souvenirs home. Located opposite King’s College, Cambridge Wine Merchants is an Alladin’s cave for wine and gin lovers alike. They have several very well stocked walls of wine, as well as a corner with various gins from all over the country, including a Cambridge gin! Next door is The Fudge Kitchen which sells homemade fudge and has a very tempting smell wafting out throughout the day. I dare you not to be enticed!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Cambridge if you didn’t pop into The Cambridge Satchel Company. There was something quite special about having a browse in the shop where the company was founded. They have a huge range of bags, satchels and accessories and also offer embossing instore.
Eat & Drink
I’ve saved the best til last – food!! Cambridge did not disappoint when it came to places to eat. There were several great spots to eat and drink that meant we didn’t even so much as look at a chain restaurant (though we may have ended up in Wetherspoons on a mad Friday night…) We didn’t have one bad meal, so I’ve recommended all the places we tried!
For lunch: Nanna’s Mexico
29 Petty Cury / 33 Regent Street nannamexico.com
Nanna’s came recommended by my friend who is at university finishing her MA. There are two in the city centre. We went to the one just opposite the shopping centre. Nannas is a Mexican street food destination that is perfect to fuel your afternoon of exploring. There are lots of Mexican treats to try including quesadillas and nachos, but I recommend the ‘Big Ass Burrito’ which they are most famous for.
For dinner & drinks: The Pint Shop
10 Peas Hill thepintshop.co.uk
On Friday evening, we met my friend Hannah for dinner and headed to The Pint Shop. This was one of my highlights and if you love gin or your craft beers, then you cannot miss it! They had over 20 craft ales and beers on tap which was right up Dan’s street. They had 100 gins on the menu including my absolute favourite, Adenams, which was their house gin. Food-wise, they do bar snacks as well as their main menu. If you like meat this is a good stop. Dan had the slow cooked pork and I went for lamb chops, both of which were gorgeous! I’d recommend booking if you’re heading in at a weekend, as it gets very very busy. The bar downstairs can also get a little crowded during weekends and evenings so expect it to be a bit of a squeeze.
For date night: Trinity Restaurant
15 Trinity Street trinitycambridge.co.uk
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit fancier for a treat, Trinity Restaurant opposite Trinity College is a good place to start. This was our favourite spot of the weekend. Trinity is a cosy, intimate space with incredible food. Think fine dining, but a bit more casual. The scallops in my starter were like butter and Dan is still daydreaming about his seared tuna steak. The main courses didn’t disappoint either – Dan’s absolutely seafood risotto blew him away with the addition of Octopus and squid ink. The whole evening was absolutely perfect and the service was great. I was just disappointed in myself that I was too full to attempt dessert… I would recommend booking ahead for this one.
For after-dinner drinks: La Raza Cocktail Bar
4 – 6 Rose Crescent laraza.co.uk
If you’re after cocktails there are plenty in the city, but we headed to La Raza which is just around the corner from Trinity. Located in a basement, it’s a cute little spot that is fairly quiet early on in the evening. We had a few cocktails here to finish off the night.
For an Instagrammable brunch: Novi
12 Regent Street novicambridge.co.uk
By night, Novi is a cocktail bar, by day, it’s a cafe serving food and coffee. Located on Regent Street, it was only a short walk from our hotel. We headed there for a Sunday morning brunch which was absolutely brilliant. I had the most amazing sweet potato rosti with bacon, poached eggs and bean salsa, and Dan had scrambled egg, bacon and cornbread. Uh-mazing. We perched on the tables by the windows which is the perfect spot for a bit of Sunday morning people watching.
So there we have it, my mini city guide (that’s still managed to be well over 1,000 words) on how to spend a long weekend in Cambridge. Now to plan the next city break…