Editor of Independent Cambridge, Anne Beamish tells us celebrate individuality by shopping independently in Cambridge.
Cambridge really is a beautiful city. Visitors flock to see its stunning architecture, its picturesque river and open spaces and its landmark attractions such as The Grantchester Tea Rooms, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Kettle’s Yard, Botanic Garden and of course the University itself.
So, all incredibly lovely! However, if you are on a mission – a shopping mission – what better than a guided tour of the ‘real Cambridge’ from a long-term resident with a passion for independent retailers? By stepping away from the main shopping centres and exploring the city’s charming, historical streets and inviting passage-ways, you will discover a wonderful array of specialist shops, cafes and restaurants – all doing things their own, unique way and doing them very well indeed.
We all love going abroad and discovering something different, something new we can tell our friends about and this is exactly what you can do by exploring Cambridge. By choosing to shop at independent stores, drink coffee in independent cafes and eat in independent restaurants, you are not only showing your individuality, you are enjoying a special experience. Even more importantly, by supporting local traders and producers you are making sure they can continue to flourish on our high streets.
If travelling to Cambridge by car, it’s best to head for one of the various Park & Ride services or the Park Street car park in the city itself as this is the closest to independent shopping heaven. Buses also run regularly into the centre from the train station or a short walk from your train will take you to Mill Road – an area renowned for its independent traders, coffee houses and eateries.
Now for the real Cambridge shopping tour!
To orientate yourself, head for the main market, near the Guildhall – from here you have a wealth of exploring opportunities and the market itself has a fascinating selection of different stalls, from fruit and veg to vintage and everything in between.
If art is your thing then head for Bene’t Street, just around the corner from the Guildhall. Here you will find the very lovely Cambridge Contemporary Crafts gallery and the wonderfully quirky Podarok (which means ‘gift’ in Russian). This street is also home to history at the Eagle pub, where Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson had discovered the structure of DNA!
Strolling further along will bring you to the world-famous King’s Parade with its popular attractions including the mesmerising Corpus Clock and the stunning view of King’s College Chapel – and with galleries galore including The Lawson Gallery, Primavera and Byard Art – it’s an art collectors dream.
If you are a book lover, head down adjoining St Edward’s Passage to discover G David’s with its fascinating antiquarian book room. Fashion followers should head for the neighbouring St Mary’s Passage to discover indie boutique Cuckoo Clothing. Cambridge is home to a great many independent clothing boutiques and more fashion can be found at Boudoir Femme and Rosie’s Vintage in King Street; nearby Nord in Sussex Street; Modish Shoes and Sundaes in the very pretty Green Street; Anthony (for menswear) on Trinity Street and at Prohibido Lingerie, 19:10, Petrus, Lilac Rose, Della Kaur, Bowns & Bis and Baska – all to be found within walking distance of each other in All Saint’s Passage, Bridge Street and over the river and punts in Magdalene Street.
Look out for other gems in these same areas, such as Catesby’s, Homestuff with History and Providence with their inspired vision for beautiful things for your home; When I Was a Kid and The Cambridge Toy Shop for the little (and not so little) ones; Millers Music – which has been serving local musicians well since 1856; Tindalls Arts and Graphics for creative types and Open Air for outdoor fans.
Of course, all this shopping will be mean energy levels are flagging and there is no shortage of great independent cafes and restaurants to assist in recharging your batteries. King Street boasts four fabulous and very different places to eat. The Urban Shed with its up-cycled interior, Afternoon Tease which is a must for brunch fans, the Yippee Noodle Bar with its focus on fresh ingredients and Clowns which has been serving fresh pasta and coffee to Cambridge folk for as long as any of us can remember.
Around the corner is the bright and cheerful Stickybeaks or back to the market square for Italian cuisine at Don Pasquale’s where you can sit outside and enjoy watching the bustle of the market. Finally, for something very special, make time to visit The Varsity Hotel in Thompson’s Lane with its stunning roof terrace and panoramic view of the very fine and unique city of Cambridge.
For much more detail including maps and gorgeous photography buy a copy of Independent Cambridge before you travel from www.independent-cambridge.co.uk. Also available from most of the indies mentioned plus Waterstones in Sidney Street and Heffers in Trinity Street.