Think Cambridge and you think university and punting. And yes, both are wonderful in their own ways. But to get a real feel for this East Anglian hot spot you need to step away from the tourist trail and eat, shop and do Cambridge like a local.
The city centre is full of a diverse range of shops and restaurants but like most tourist destinations, you need to know where to look for the very best ones. Wander through the Grand Arcade for example and you can pop in to all manner of the usual high street brands, but step just outside to St Andrew’s Street and you come to Chocolat Chocolat, a unique little chocolate shop where you can see the chocolatier making their famous sheets of chocolate by hand. Try the caramel and sea salt; it’s completely divine.
A stroll down Petty Cury is nice enough but make sure you also make time to take in the market stalls in the square – the vibrant array of fruit and veg with King’s College Chapel in the background makes a perfect backdrop for that holiday selfie. Keep walking towards King’s and you’ll reach Ark, a quirky shop full of unique treasures and trinkets that will make the ideal gift to take home.
Those after a browse in Cambridge’s boutique quarter should head towards King Street to the north of the city. There you can find Cambridge’s very own designer emporium, Giulio’s, stocked with all the big designer names for men and women, smart ladies wear boutique Boudoir Femme and the eclectic Rosie’s Vintage with one-off retro and vintage fashions for all.
As luck would have it you are now in the ideal spot for lunch. King Street boasts Stickybeaks, Afternoon Tease and Urban Shed sandwich bar and you can’t go wrong whichever one you choose. Stickybeaks is great for healthy salads and people watching; Afternoon Tease has a fantastic cake line-up including a chocolate and Guinness cake to die for and the best flat whites in town; Urban Shed serves a mean Panini and also sells the furniture you sit at, just in case a chair takes your fancy! Stay at the brand new Newmarket Road hotel and you will have a short walk to all of this and more.
On a fine day you can walk off your lunch with a wander round the Cambridge Botanic Gardens (entrances on Hills Road and Trumpington Street), home to 40-acres of wonderful green space and plants. Locals know to exit via the Trumpington Road gate on a sunny day because you are likely to come across Jack’s Gelato, a unique ice cream bike serving handmade flavours such as Allotment Rhubarb and Dark Chocolate and Orange made by local chef Jack Van Praag.
The inevitable wet summer weekends calling for indoor activities can be filled with a class at The Cambridge Cookery School or a visit to one of the city’s many galleries or museums, the Fitzwilliam museum is the largest with regular special exhibits and workshops for all the family. Wander out through their majestic pillars and towards town and you come to Fitzbillies, a Cambridge institution famous for its sticky Chelsea buns. Try a bun or even take some home with you but make sure you try one of their coffee choux buns too – it’s a thing of wonder.
Of course no weekend break would be complete without a night out. Cambridge now boasts two Michelin starred restaurants in Midsummer House and Alimentum and both offer set tasting menus to show off their best dishes.
Book your stay at Travelodge Central Hotel and you’re just a short walk from Mill Road, where on the last Saturday of the month posh fish and chip bar The Sea Tree serves up their lobster special. Follow this up with your tipple of choice in 196 cocktail bar just across the road.
For more information about Cambridge take a look at our Get Up & Go Guide