Banish the winter blues with a city break in Cambridge. Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop during a trip to Cambridge.
There is no best time to visit Cambridge, it’s a year-round destination. In spring, the city’s green spaces comes alive with colourful flowers, summer lends itself to punting and lazy days sprawled in the parks, autumn sees students return to the colleges and the foliage change colour, and winter welcomes crowds of shoppers, scarves flapping in the wind, darting from store to store.
For me, winter in Cambridge feels extra special. Scenes you read about in books take place in front of your eyes; cobbled streets filled with shoppers, steamed-up coffee shop windows and roaring laughs spill from the warm glow of the pubs.
Shopping in Cambridge
Under the twinkling festive lights, residents and visitors bustle among the Market Square and shopping malls. Though our shopping experience may feel a little different this year, and online shopping should certainly be encouraged, don’t miss an opportunity to support local independents that have truly felt the pinch of this year’s pandemic. Sidney Street, Green Street, King’s Street and Bridge Street are great for browsing indie retailers. Expect to find boutiques and stores stacked with quirky gift ideas, designer brands and handmade items.
Where to eat in Cambridge
Foodies should slip down the side street of All Saints Passage. A resident favourite, The Cambridge Cheese Shop, awaits. Taste samples at the deli and buy cheese, wine and chutneys. Gift hampers are available, but if you’re feeling extra extravagant you can arrange a cheese tasting in advance. This is also the location of Hill St; a delightful chocolatier.
It’s quite easy to eat your way around Cambridge. The city has a delicious café or restaurant on almost every corner. Duck into Cambridge classic, Fitzbillies, whose windows are stacked with mouth-watering sticky buns. Aromi tempts passers-by with its cheesy pizzas, bulging arancini and Sicilian desserts. Under the colourful canopies of the market is a sweet and savoury display of worldly cuisine. There’s also a taste of Asia at the likes of Pho and the newly opened, Giggling Squid. Read our review.
Meat lovers should head to Bread + Meat on Bene’t Street. Juicy, meats that are cooked overnight are stuffed into ciabatta, served as poutine or as a plated meal with wedges, house slaw and oven roasted vegetables. Simply divine!
To dine with unbeatable views of the city, seek out SIX. Located on the sixth floor of the Varsity Hotel, the restaurant offers panoramic views of the city’s skyline with its floor to ceiling windows. Prior to dinner, perch yourself at the chic, mirrored bar (COVID restrictions permitting) and order a cocktail from the extensive drink’s menu. For food, there’s a selection of steaks from the grill, and fish and meat dishes cooked on a wood stone oven. Personally, I think the highlight of the menu is the stone baked pizzas coated with plenty of tasty toppings to choose from.
Things to do in Cambridge
Wandering the streets admiring Cambridge’s grand architecture is an easy and free way to spend an afternoon. You can also pay to visit the grounds of some of the colleges, though numbers are currently restricted, and you’ll need to purchase your ticket in advance.
Embrace the cold winter air and take a walk along the River Cam. A 45-minute walk will bring you to the pretty village of Grantchester. Alternatively, wander around The Backs, where the colleges and their grounds line the banks. Both walks are best on cold, frosty mornings.
If you have time stop by Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. The winter garden is over 40 years old and features brightly coloured florals, ornamental trees, perennials and seasonal bulbs. Winter opening hours are from 10am to 4pm.
Of course, the British weather doesn’t always play nice but on rainy, damp days, the city’s museums and galleries offer the perfect escape. First time visitors should make their way to the impressive Fitzwilliam Museum, which presents world history and art from as far back as 2500 BC to the present day. The Cambridge Folk Museum is set in a 17th century building and shows how people have lived, worked and played in Cambridge since the 1660s.
Where to stay in Cambridge
There’s nothing quite like being in the heart of the action when you visit Cambridge. For great views, relaxation and style, check-in to the Varsity Hotel & Spa. Guests have access to the fully equipped gym, steam room, sauna and SPA pool, where you can relax among the bubbles while watching the punts float by. Quirky, bright artworks line the walls of this modern boutique hotel. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, perfect for a good night’s sleep after a long day stomping the streets of the city.
The hotel is perched on the edge of Jesus Green, and minutes from shops, bars and restaurants. However, you don’t have to venture far for a bite to eat or good cocktail, the hotel is the location of SIX, and The Riverbar Steakhouse and Grill is just around the corner. Rooms rates start from £135 per night in early December.