I did more travelling around the UK on a two week holiday than I have in the last six months of living here. I visited London in June before I knew I would be moving here and I made it to Cambridge, Horsham/Ardingly, and Windsor. My partner and I have been meaning to go to Kent for awhile, but it just never comes together. We’re always like, “Yeah, let’s go next week.” Next week rolls around and we’re like “Oh, we didn’t make any plans.” “Okay let’s go next week…”
In all fairness, I’ve been to three different countries since arriving, so it’s not like I’m travel slacking.
A day trip to Cambridge is a really nice way to get out of the hustle and bustle of London. Even though Cambridge is mostly known for its university, the town has a charming village feel, cobblestone paths and classic architecture that make it worth a trip. My partner’s brother was a student at Cambridge at the time, so we had access to a lot of buildings and got a tour of the town that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Here are some ways you can see Cambridge like a student, even if you aren’t (and sorry for my crappy camera – I’ve since upgraded):
Rent a Bike
Everyone is cycling in Cambridge. It seems to be the main method of transportation and I was nearly run over a few times by people on bikes. It’s not just students though. We were there on a weekend and there were older ladies carrying their shopping in baskets – there are a lot of one-way streets and parking isn’t very affordable – so cycling is just an efficient way of getting around.
Head to the General Market
This is in the central Market Square, across from the Cambridge book store. There is a bit of a motley assortment of offerings at this market on the weekend. It’s not just food like at Ally Pally or ‘pre-loved’ clothes like at Brick Lane, this market has fresh bread, old books, and even 17th century coins.
King’s College Chapel
Appreciate some Gothic architecture, learn some facts about its history, and look up. Built between 1512 and 1515, King’s College chapel is renowned for having the largest fan vault in the world.
Have a Picnic
We walked around a lot of the different Cambridge colleges. Trinity College has very nicely manicured lawns, but I doubt they would let you walk on them, much less picnic. We found a nice spot next the river Cam on the ‘backs’ of Trinity instead. We brought some snacks – including delicious oplatky my partner’s brother was nice enough to share – and made the most of the fickle sunshine.
Punting on the River Cam
Going to Cambridge and not punting is like going to Venice and not taking a gondola ride. Okay, maybe that’s a bad example because gondola rides are such a cliché! Punting probably is too – though perhaps less so if you do your own punting? Be warned: this activity is not for the weak-willed. You will fail your first time. Essentially, you stand on the back of a punt (a type of boat with a platform) and push the punt with a 5m long wooden pole. Expect to have blisters. Expect to enjoy seeing Cambridge from a different vantage point.
Dinner at Dojo Noodle Bar
If you have the chance, do it fast because Dojo’s will soon be no more. The restaurant is located in Miller’s Yard which used to be a brewery. Dojo’s, along with other restaurants and shops, surround a courtyard giving the area a kind of indoor-outdoor plaza kind of feel. The restaurant serves noodle dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, China, and Vietnam. Usually when you see that long of a list you expect everything to be mediocre, but students don’t protest closing a restaurant for average food.
I had the Chum Chum. I chose it mostly because of the name – Drunken Noodles were a close second. The dish had a rich, dark sauce and plenty of meat. Bliss!
Getting To Cambridge
Don’t drive into Cambridge town centre – as I mentioned above parking is pricey and the roads are confusing. There is a shuttle bus that takes you from the Park-and-Ride on the M11 into town. We visited on a weekend and found free parking behind one of the colleges, but don’t bet on it. First Capital Connect has trains to Cambridge from London King’s Cross meanwhile other lines depart from London Liverpool Street. The National Express offers coach services as well. Keep in mind when visiting in May and June that it’s exam season, so some of the buildings usually open to the public are closed.
Wondering how Cambridge got its name?
Easy. A bridge was built over the River Cam. Cam-bridge.