Travelling doesn’t have to mean paying extortionate amounts in plane tickets and struggling with exchange rates. The UK is bursting with beautiful towns, tranquil countryside and rugged coasts and can be just as exciting to explore as foreign shores. In the “Hometown” series some of the Wessex Scene travel writers show us the places they grew up in and tell us why they’re worth a visit!
As soon as you say ‘Cambridge’ to anyone, Cambridge University immediately comes to mind. But there’s a lot more to the city – just waiting to be discovered!
It is a modern yet historic city, crammed with scrumptious cafes, markets, parks, amazing architecture, style and of course the world class university. But to me, Cambridge is ‘home’. Wondering around the parks or cobbled streets, is like a trip down memory lane – the Saturdays spent strolling around with friends, punting in the summer, the daily walk to school, water fights by the river, the dreaded annual cross-country race, and multiple ‘firsts’ that come with growing up anywhere.
Although, it’s a definitely a student city it still accommodates the backpackers, the families, grandparents, the artists, the musicians, the adventurous travellers and so on. As with anywhere it’s all about where you go and what you do! It has many layers and lots to offer.
What’s the Story?
Cambridge is an historic University City, dating back to 1209. It is a city bustling with life; from the musicians busking in the streets to the daily market, to the large variety of residents. Along with, the language students coming to study English and tourists who come to visit the University from far and wide adding to the cultural mix. There are 31 colleges within the University and the best way to see inside some is to join a walking tour. The guides are very informative about the city and colleges, even including stories about the many stunts that Cambridge students have pulled – I can never look at Senate House in the same way again! But, if you just want a quick look at the beautiful colleges and take in their history and beauty, you can wander along ‘The Backs’ (called this as you literally walk behind many of the colleges). At this time of year, it is extremely pretty with all the flowers blooming.
What’s the appeal?
As well as being saturated in history, Cambridge has a lot more to offer. It is a student city so is very affordable to fellow students! There are frequent musical and theatre productions at the Corn Exchange and at the Junction, as well as sports and other activities around the year.
The Fitzwilliam Museum always has many good exhibitions on. With the new Grande Arcade, Cambridge has become a shopping destination. There is a daily market (10am – 4pm, Mon – Sat) which sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to clothes, to Knick knacks, to Caribbean Food. Over the past couple of years there has, also, been an increase in Street Food Vendors serving; crepes, Falafels, Hot dogs and much more. It’s cheap and easy to pick something up from these and take it on a wonder through the abundant parks. One of my favourites is Jesus’ Green or venture further out of the city centre to the Botanical Garden; which are spectacular.
One thing you must do, if you go to Cambridge, is punting. A punt is a long boat that is navigated down the river with a large pole. It does sound rather odd, but trust me it’s great fun! Luckily, you have the option to be taken on a putting tour or you can be brave and get a self-hire and it’s open all year round!
Another great thing to do is walk along the River Cam towards Granchester, which takes about 30 minutes. Granchester is an idyllic village on the outskirts of Cambridge with a couple of pubs and a lovely tea room – The Orchard Tea Gardens. Also along the river, near to Granchester there is a rope swing which you can jump off into the water!
And when you need reviving. . .
Cambridge has a very vibrant cafe culture (with the council even starting to reject applications for cafes!). The best part of the city for the European café feel is along King’s Parade where cafes line the pavement overlooking the grand King’s College. Also, along here (but underground) is the Rainbow Café which serves great Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free food. Other good Café’s are Aromi (a Sicilian Café), The Aunties Tea shop or Benets. For something a bit heavier head to the noodle bar Yippie, or the Italian restaurant Dom Pascle.