If there’s one place in the world where bookworms thrive, it’s Cambridge, England. The quintessentially British college town is home to some of the world’s most historic literature landmarks as well as the most picturesque date spot (punting, anyone?). Whether you’re traveling throughout England or just making a beeline to this literary locale, fill your itinerary with these classic things to do in Cambridge, England, including everything from a posh afternoon tea to an inspiring day with Britain's beloved authors. And don’t worry, we also found plenty of places to visit for the foodies, art connoisseurs, and history buffs you’re traveling with. That way everyone can end their vacation on a high note.
Time stands still in this stunning tearoom. So much so, that this popular spot still has the same look and feel that literary greats like Virginia Woolf once loved. (Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, and Stephen Hawking all frequented this tearoom.) While its roots date back to 1897, this Grantchester treasure takes afternoon tea to the next level with freshly baked scones and homemade jam (not to mention the vast array of teas). Perfect for travelers looking to relax or curl up with a good read (To the Lighthouse, perhaps?), The Orchard Tea Garden is truly one of the best things to do in Cambridge, England.
In your world, beer and books might not mix, but in Cambridge, it’s a different story. Considered one of the town’s most popular pubs, The Eagle captures the history—and flavors—of the locals, making it one of the top things to do in Cambridge, England. Like most attractions in the area, The Eagle has a connection to a famous book: James D. Watson mentioned the pub in his book, The Double Helix, because Crick and Watson announced that they discovered DNA there. To honor (and thank) them, the pub even makes and serves a craft beer called DNA. Seems fitting, no?
Now, this is what you came for: Cambridge is undoubtedly one of the most visited college (dare we say, university) towns in England. Some of the most notable figures in history attended one of the schools within the University of Cambridge including Sir Isaac Newton, William Wordsworth, and Charles Darwin. So, you know what means: there’s more than 100 libraries stacked with some of the best reads from the last few centuries. An added bonus: most of these colleges are free to enter, which means you can roam, pretend you’re a scholarly student, and check out places that inspired some of the world’s best leaders.
Get your Gothic architecture fix by stopping at this larger-than-life chapel at King’s College. The gorgeous design, which took over a century to construct, was started in 1446 by Henry VI. Even though you can attend during one of the chapel’s services, it’s really worth taking a tour of the exhibition of the history of King’s College and the Adoration of the Magi by Rubens. During this time, you can also get a closer look at the world's largest fan vaulted ceiling which is as big as it looks.
Hear from the greatest voices of our generation at the biannual Cambridge Literary Festival. Held during April and November of each year, this inspiring event features a variety of speakers, ranging from authors to television personalities to politicians. Regarded as one of the most quintessentially British things to do in Cambridge, England, this festival is perfect for aspiring authors who need an inspiration boost or just anyone who has an itch to learn something new. (Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, has attended in previous years.)
Okay, this just had to be said. If you’re struggling to find things to do in Cambridge, England, then simply head to your nearest bookstore. For a massive selection, head to Heffers. The store itself has been around since 1876 but, like many things, it has modernized in recent years to become a family-friendly stop. The Haunted Bookshop, on the other hand, is well, haunted by a not-so-friendly ghost. While you may walk for the spooks, you’ll likely leave with a bag full of children’s books.
If you need to take a break from the stacks, take a ride up north to Kettle’s Yard, the former home of Jim and Helen Ede. Since Jim was the curator at the Tate Gallery, the couple had an impressive collection of artwork in their home, including works by Barbara Hepworth and Joan Miro. A visit to this gallery gives you a two-in-one experience: you get an inside peek at this couple’s countryside home along with a closer look at some of Britain’s finest art.
Along the same vein, The Fitzwilliam Museum is perfect if you’re looking for a free thing to do in Cambridge, England. Although it’s not as large as some of London’s museums (the British Museum, in particular) it still packs in an incredible amount of paintings, sculptures, and historical objects. Here, you can see history unfold with mummified figures, works by prolific painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso, and armor from the Roman times. Top tip: If you’re planning a visit to the museum, call it “The Fitz” to impress locals.
Close your eyes and imagine what Cambridge looks like. Do you see a massive river with luscious green gardens on either side? We thought so. Known as The Backs, this beautiful area of Cambridge is where the movie magic happens, which explains why it’s the part of town that people recognize most. For a romantic, movie-worthy moment, reserve a punting tour down the river. (FYI: Punting is a flat-bottomed boat that glides through a shallow river. Like gondolas, but Cambridge-style). Extra bonus points if you pack a picnic basket with snacks and wine for your adventure.
Inspired to check out some of the top things to do in Cambridge, England? While you finalize your trip, check out our private tour opportunities to help you figure out your itinerary. Contact us today to plan the trip of a lifetime!
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