One month ago, I walked through Cambridge for the last time as an undergraduate. I’ll be back next week for a summer camp (I clearly can’t be kept away) but it will feel different. Familiar faces will no longer be there and I won’t be able to access many of the places I used to. However, here’s a list of places that are (happily) freely accessible.
1. Botanic Gardens
This is one of my favourite places and I wish I had visited it more often (especially while I had a student card which gave me free entry!). The gardens are the perfect place to picnic, read, relax, chat to friends or nap. Open spaces, benches, tables and chairs and a café make the gardens accessible and comfortable. The greenhouses are also worth a visit; walking through a tropical rainforest may not be possible in the UK but walking through the tropical greenhouse comes pretty close! I especially enjoyed the orchid exhibition.
2. The path along The Backs
This path goes across the backs of Trinity, Clare, King’s and Queen’s. In front of Trinity it goes through a small wooded section with tall leafy trees that fan out over you and the path then continues past Clare’s gates with a view of a beautiful avenue although Clare’s stunning gardens are not visible from this path. The path continues along the Cam providing an incredible view of King’s College and its world-famous chapel. This view provides a sense of how expansive the college is. If you walk towards Queen’s College you will come across a grassy area perfect for picnics or a game of frisbee. This walk is especially beautiful in the autumn when the leaves are changing colour and the ground is carpeted in red, orange, brown and yellow. King’s Chapel is probably the best known chapel but many of the other chapels in Cambridge are also worth a visit and can be experienced for free during Even Song which is also an opportunity to hear singing by some incredible choirs.
3. Market Square
Market Square is always lively. There is the sound of food sizzling in hot oil, of burgers being flipped on the grill, the smell of spices, the sound of people ordering and orders being called out in the numerous stalls that are grouped together in this area. Apart from the wide range of food, all of which is delicious and freshly-made, there are also stalls selling bread, flowers, books, clothes and bric-a-brac. Market Square is a good place to grab a quick snack if you’re looking for something different from the usual coffee shop fare but is an equally good place to wander around enjoying the atmosphere.
I also love Clare Bridge and Clare’s gardens but these have restricted entry – Clare Bridge is accessible at certain times of the year (not from April to mid-June because of exam term) but tickets are required.
If sightseeing makes you hungry (or thirsty) here is a very limited list of places to grab drinks or food.
Bould Brothers has fantastic coffee and is a cosy café at the intersection of Bridge Street and Round Church Street. The bench outside is good seating for savouring coffee on a summer day. This café is not the best choice for large groups as it is small – there is limited seating on the ground floor and slightly more seating available upstairs.
Fitzbillies is perhaps Cambridge’s best-known café and its signature item is the Chelsea Bun. This is a raisin-topped, sticky bun that tastes of cinnamon and happiness. I would definitely recommend buying one (or more, why restrict yourself?). The coffee is also good but the sandwiches could be better.
The best ice cream is found at Aromi which has surprisingly large servings per cone (£3). Jack’s Gelato has interesting flavours; I recently tried cardamom and really liked it (£2.50). They also serve more traditional flavours which are done exceptionally well. Aromi also serves other Sicilian food such as pizza slices, focaccia and arancini (my favourite), and a traditional, thick hot chocolate.
Novi is a café/bar that has a bench overlooking the road and the windows can be opened fully leaving you with an open-air atmosphere. They also have delicious, and innovatively named cocktails such as Detox While You Retox and Dozy Girl (I’ve never had a cocktail named after me before).