Located a short 45 minute train ride away from London, Cambridge is perfect for a weekend away or, if you’re feeling spry, even as a day trip from London! Filled with medieval architecture, quaint shopping streets and home to one of the world’s oldest universities and markets, there’s plenty of things to do in Cambridge. Here’s how you can spend a weekend in Cambridge.
Weekend in Cambridge | Day 1
Take a train out to Cambridge and check into a B&B in the city centre. Cambridge is a university town, founded by Oxford students in the early 12th century, and is just shy of 900 years old. The town grew up around the colleges, and there’s plenty of accommodation options in Cambridge to choose from. Once you’ve checked in, start your explorations with a wander around Cambridge’s colleges.
There are 32 colleges in Cambridge, most of them with beautiful, ornate buildings set in narrow, cobblestoned streets, some backing onto the river Cam, with landscaped gardens and immaculate lawns in their courts, with their own Porters, Fellows, and their own particular histories, gowns and traditions.
It really is its own separate little world altogether, and the best way to sneak a peak into this world is to either go on a Cambridge college tour, or explore some of the colleges which are open to public admissions yourself. Once you’ve explored some of the colleges, and checked out the Round Church, one of the oldest in the UK, make your way to the Anchor for a good pub lunch right on the banks of the River Cam.
Wander through Gonville and Caius, St John’s and Kings College, walk past Trinity College, then down to the Backs, where the river Cam flows, stately and quiet and green.
Afterwards, enjoy the sunlight and atmosphere by going for a punt on the River Cam. It is lovely out on the river by the Backs, and a punting tour is a great way of hearing the fun and funny university stories that have become legend in these parts. There are stories about Trinity and St John’s rivalry, how Henry VIII stripped away the wealth of the Catholic Church and bestowed it all to Trinity, how the Bridge of Sighs got its name, and where the expression “robbed of daylight” and “blind drunk” originated from, and how Trinity names their punts – to honour the college, every punt is named something to do with the number three; Blind Mice, A Crowd, Times a Lady, French Hens, The Graces, Wise Men, etc.
At night, head out and join the crowds at Beat Brasserie, which offers live jazz, cocktails and nibbles like tuna spring rolls. If jazz isn’t your thing, try the Plough and Stars instead, an intimate pub hosting original musicians, good beer and pub grub.
Weekend in Cambridge | Day 2
If the next day is a Sunday, head over to Cambridge’s Market Square, where a flourishing local food, arts and crafts market is located on Sundays. Browse to your hearts delight, then tame your hunger with brunch at the Copper Kettle, which serves a cracking, classic, English breakfast.
Once you’ve fuelled up, burn those calories and climb up the tower of Great St Mary’s church for a birds’ eye view over Cambridge. The most predominant building from up here is the graceful Gothic spires of Kings College. Started during the reign of King Henry VI, the college was finally completed after the reign of 8 kings during the time of Henry the VIII.
Once you’ve soaked in the view, head out of Cambridge across the Fens to Ely, where Ely Cathedral stands. The cathedral was founded by Saint Elthedred and completed between the 10th and 17th century. It’s majestic and massive, a brooding shape of dark blue on the horizon. Known as the Ship of Fens, Ely Cathedral can be seen from miles around due to the flat landscape it’s built on, like a ship on a glass quiet sea.
It is also the only Cathedral with a Gothic dome; built by extending the arches until all 8 sides touch in the middle; this is the famous Lantern Tower. Inside, there are wooden panelled ceilings, with scenes from the Bible painted in vibrant colours, and the play of coloured light from stained glass on the stone walls.
Wrap up your weekend in Cambridge with afternoon tea at Harriet Café Tearooms, offering a variety of teas, scones with jam and clotted cream and finger sandwiches. For one last look at Cambridge, make your way to the Backs, along the Cam – I visited in early spring when the crocuses were just blooming and the sunlight lit up families out in the sun, dogs gambolling on the paths and the arch of trees overlooking the river. It’s the perfect way of ending your weekend in Cambridge.
Where to stay in Cambridge
Predominantly a town for university students, visitors will find lots of options for accommodation in Cambridge. If you’re looking for something that evokes luxe tradition, try the Varsity Hotel & Spa. The rooms are decked out in modern furnishings while the common areas boast deep tufted sofas and liquor in crystal decanters. The sort-of-onsite restaurant is top quality as well – they do room service, if you’re looking to be pampered.
For a more traditional B&B and a warm welcome, Harry’s Bed and Breakfast offers down-to-earth, comfortable rooms and a full English breakfast spread, cooked every morning for guests. Located about 20 minutes walk away from Kings College, Harry’s is a great budget option for single travellers.
Lastly, Hotel Felix, located a short drive away from the heart of Cambridge, is a luxury bed & breakfast set in a beautiful Victorian house with original features. Rooms are updated and modern, and some come with expansive views across the lawns.