As I mentioned earlier this week, Andy and I checked out Cambridge a few weekends ago. We were only there for a day trip and we’ve already posted the most important part (the pictures), so I’m going to make this review quick.
Things to know before you go
I’d argue that there really isn’t much you need to know about Cambridge before going. I’m sure you can read up on the history and research the sights but it’s England – the language will be the same and the culture will be more or less the same.
To get there, Andy and I took a National Rail train. The National Rail trains are exactly what they sound like – they service the UK. The train costs about £30 each for a round trip and run about every 30 mins. If you’re lucky, you can catch a Hogwarts Express…I mean a Cambridge Express train which will get you there in about 45 mins from London. If not, the non-express trains will take about an hour and 20 mins.
Once you get out of the train station at Cambridge, you’ll have about a 20 minute walk to get to city center. That is unless you catch a bus or rent a bike somewhere. Otherwise, be prepared to walk.
Originally, we were planning our trip to Cambridge as an overnight trip and then decided to switch it to a day trip. Part of that reason was because it was difficult to find a decent hotel. And I don’t mean a decent hotel at a reasonable price. I mean it was hard to find a room at a decent hotel. I’m not sure if it was the weekend that we were planning for, or whether Cambridge hotel rooms book out early, but we didn’t have luck finding a room at a decent hotel. My suggestion: book early if you want to stay overnight.
There’s lots to see in Cambridge – lots of beautiful, beautiful architecture and scenery that looks straight out of a photograph. And, you can even take a double-decker bus to the sites (although, honestly, I don’t think a bus ride is necessary this time around). However, the one thing I recommend you do (or at least see) is called punting. Similar to the gondolas of Venice, punts are small(ish) boats that seat anywhere from four to about ten. One person stands in the back of the boat’s flat surface and rows the boat using a long pole. Don’t be fooled, it’s hard work! If you’re up for a bit of exercise on your visit, try it. And if you’re not up for some physical activity, you can pay someone to row that little boat for you. There are plenty of people willing to sell you their muscle strength for a punting ride, just be on the lookout.
Unfortunately for us, the one meal we had in Cambridge was a complete bust! We were both in the mood for British pies (my new thing) and went to sample some at the place Yelp highly reviewed for pies. Not sure what was up with the kitchen on the day we went because my pie came out burnt and Andy’s pie was just gross! What really sucks is that after our lunch mishap we passed by the Cambridge General Market where there seemed to be lots of yummy foods to snack on. My advice: skip the sit down places and grab some grub at the market.
The crappy food was made up for, however, when we came across this amazing little candy shop called Hardy’s. It reminded me of a smaller, scaled down version of Willy Wonka’s candy factory (expect a store instead of an actual factory). I scored these super fun white chocolate bars for my nieces. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when I give these to them!
There’s a lot of shopping to be done in Cambridge! The city features a rather large mall complete with lots of well-known English/European stores. There’s even an Apple store in there. And there’s lots more shopping options outside of the mall with streets and streets filled with shops. And, (as if that wasn’t enough) you can get souvenirs that say “Cambridge” at the market or at the souvenir shops that line the streets.
There’s not much to say about the fashion in Cambridge other than wear comfortable shoes. I didn’t and truly regretted it by the end of the day. With all the walking that you do (remember, a 20 min walk from the train station not to mention walking around the city) along those cobblestone streets, your feet will be sure to ache by end of day if you don’t wear comfortable shoes. Sneakers/trainers or similar shoes are a must!
Oh, and if you plan on going punting, layering is your friend. For the punter – who will likely get hot doing all that work – and for the those enjoying the ride – especially if you go on a cool day.
Personally, I didn’t find anything to be outrageously priced given how touristy Cambridge seems to be. Prices are, of course, in GBP (£) so keep that in mind if you’re visiting from outside the UK.
While I did see city buses, what I noticed most were the bicycles. It seems like everyone – young and old – use bikes to get around (or at least to get around city center). We didn’t bike while we were there so I’m not sure what the cost of a bike rental would be but I’m sure an easy Google search will fix that for you if you’re interested in biking in Cambridge.
Unless you go crazy shopping and eating, you shouldn’t expect to spend a whole lot of money in Cambridge. Most of the buildings/areas are free to walk into so you probably won’t spend much on sightseeing.
A lovely place to see, Andy and I both agree that Cambridge would be a nice place to visit if you happen to be in the London area for several weeks. However, we would not recommend trying to cram it into a shorter stay. Also, while we did not experience the night life in Cambridge, when deciding whether to stay overnight or not keep in mind that the city center is still very much a college town. We thought we saw enough in just a day’s trip there.