Have you ever returned from a trip and been excited to plan your next getaway? If you’re anything like me, the answer is all the time.
I usually return from weekend trips feeling so refreshed that I get excited about the chance to travel again. Returning from such an epic long weekend in Norway, I hadn’t planned anything for my weekend in London but found myself wanting to escape the city for a bit.
When I found a £16 return trip to Cambridge for a Saturday, I knew I had to take advantage of it. Even though I didn’t book my ticket very far in advance (only a few days), I scored a good deal by traveling at off peak times (left London at 11 am and returned at 7 pm).
Cambridge has been on my list of places to visit in England since I moved over from the States, but I chose to check out Oxford first last year because, Harry Potter.
While Oxford is beautiful in its own right, and I’m looking forward to returning this fall for a race, Cambridge was stunning.
No doubt, it’s one of the UK’s prettiest cities. Famous for its university, the second oldest uni in the English-speaking world, Cambridge is a city rich in history.
I was only in Cambridge for a few hours, but there’s plenty to do in Cambridge, you could easily spend a full day or weekend exploring.
First order of business upon arrival? An espresso from Espresso Library. I’ve heard Hot Numbers has great coffee as well, but I was drawn to Espresso Library for its atmosphere- bikes hang from the ceiling and the decor throughout the cafe is pretty cool.
Next up: brunch at The Old Bicycle Shop. Based on what I’d heard about its popularity with weekend diners, I was expecting a wait, but lucked out as a solo diner- the window seat opened up right before I came. Loved the vintage decor and rustic touches- perfect environment for a leisurely brunch. Highly recommend the sweet potato pancakes, served with a poached pear, warm granola and yoghurt. Delish.
Ready to see more of the town, I headed for the colleges, starting with Queens’ College and Mathematical Bridge.
Queens’ College is steeped in history. Founded by two queens, Queen Margaret of Anjou and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, the college was found to support women, and match Henry VI’s founding of King’s College in the 1400s.
Admission allows you to wander the lovely, peaceful courtyards, and gives you a peek inside the dining hall- beautiful woodwork and paintings.
Owned by Queens’ College, the Mathematical Bridge connects the college back over the river Cam.
According to the legend, the Mathematical Bridge was built by Sir Isaac Newton from nothing else but wood. No nuts, no bolts, Newton built the bridge to illustrate the principles of force and gravity.
Then, after Newton’s death, the students disassembled the bridge in an attempt to learn about its structure, but failed to reassemble it properly. Present day, the bridge is supported with nuts and bolts.
With an hour before the King’s College Chapel closed, I made my way over to the college. Tickets for the chapel are £9, but well worth it. Started in 1446 by Henry VI, it took over a century to complete and boasts some of the world’s finest medieval stained glass.
Truly stunning. I sat in the chapel for a while, admiring the carvings and stained glass.
Leaving the chapel, it was late afternoon and most of the other colleges were closing for the day. On a future visit, I’d like to make it out to St. John’s and Trinity.
Wandering town for a while, I popped in and out of some shops. A favourite: G David Antiquarian Booksellers- great selection.
Everyone told me I had to go punting in Cambridge, they said it was mandatory. Since I was by myself, I decided to join a guided tour with Scudamore’s. But first, a stop in Fitzbillies for one of the Chelsea buns everyone raves about. Happy to confirm they are worth the hype.
I was on the fence about punting before buying a ticket- it didn’t seem like a necessary experience, but I’m so glad I decided to do it. Our guide shared great facts and stories about the colleges as we floated by their backs. Plus, it’s a way to see colleges and architecture, like the Bridge of Sighs, you may miss otherwise.
You can hire your own punt, but after seeing so many people struggling, I’m glad I decided to do a tour. If you’re with others, grab a bottle of prosecco to enjoy while you relax on the boat.
After punting, I walked around the town a bit more before popping into Aromi for a slice of pizza. Worth it, some of the best pizza I’ve had in England.
Before heading back to London, I dropped in The Eagle and Pint Shop for a few pints. The Eagle is famed for being the location where the structure of DNA was discovered. Back in 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson announced to the pub they’d ‘discovered the secret of life’ referring to the double helix structure.
And, Pint Shop is a cool gastropub. I’ve heard the food was fantastic, but I went for the craft beers.
Before I knew it, it was time to head back to London. An ace first time in Cambridge.
Have you ever been to Cambridge? What’s your favourite day trip outside of London?