Believe it or not (and I can’t – where has the time gone?!), I’ve been living in Cambridge for almost a year. Over the past ten months, I’ve eaten my way round the city’s cafés, had more scoops of gelato than I care to admit to, taken advantage of the many free events and explored the local area. I’ve been plotting this post for a while, umming and ahing over which places merited a spot, and it required a hefty amount of creative thinking at times to fill in some of the letters (without resorting to college after college after . . . well, you get the idea). Without further ado, here’s an A-Z of Cambridge, featuring some well-known landmarks and some lesser-known gems.
A is for Aromi, a Sicilian café which serves up the most authentic gelato you can get your hands on outside of Italy. Try the dark chocolate, blood orange or lemon flavours (or all three, I won’t judge you).
B is for (Cambridge University) Botanic Garden, a green oasis on the fringes of the city centre. Discover plants from across the globe in its landscaped gardens and greenhouses, and if that’s not enough there are plenty of events on throughout the year, including Orchids, Sounds Green and Apple Day.
C is for Coe Fen, where you’ll find a dozen or so furry, four-legged friends grazing on grass come rain or shine.
D is for (The Cambridge) Distillery, a gin emporium which started out in its co-founders’ living room and has now grown to become an award-winning business.
E is for e-Luminate, an arts festival which sees iconic buildings around the city, including Senate House and Gonville and Caius (pronounced keys) College, bathed in light and colour.
F is for (The) Fitzwilliam Museum, home to all sorts of curiosities from lands both near and far. Whether you’re into coins or clocks, pottery or paintings, you’re sure to find something of interest in this treasure-trove.
G is for Grantchester Meadows, one of the nicest places to wander on a warm summer’s day – and a great spot for barbecuing.
H is for Heffers, my favourite bookshop in Cambridge (and not just because of the shelves upon shelves of second-hand books at bargain prices).
I is for Indigo, where you’ll find freshly-baked cakes and tasty toasties, plus plenty of vegan and veggie options.
Related: Café Crawling in Cambridge
J is for Jack’s Gelato, which churns out small batches of seasonal specials seven days a week. They’re currently serving up a dozen or so different flavours, including roasted banana, elderflower and salted treacle.
K is for Kettle’s Yard, which reopened earlier this year following extensive renovations. Until 27th August, it’s hosting Anthony Gormley: Subject. While you’re there, swing by Kettle’s Yard House, the former home of the museum’s founder, Jim Ede.
L is for Lime Kiln Close and East Pit, which together make up the Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits. These two quarries once provided hard chalk used to build the colleges, and now support a host of wildflowers and insects.
M is for Mathematical Bridge, or so the tourists would tell you. This bridge’s real name is the distinctly less glamorous Wooden Bridge.
N is for Newton’s Apple Tree, a grafted descendent of the original apple tree which stands just outside Trinity College.
O is for Old Divinity School, beneath which lie the remains of some 1,300 scholars. Historians had known of the medieval burial ground’s existence for some time, but it was only as a result of recent excavations that they were able to uncover the true size and scale of it.
P is for Pembroke College, one of the prettiest of the colleges and, more importantly for those on a budget, one which doesn’t call for you to stump up a tenner just to explore the grounds.
Q is for Queens’ College, so-called due to it being founded by Margaret of Anjou (wife of King Henry VI) in 1448 and then re-founded by rival queen Elizabeth Woodville (wife of King Edward IV) in 1465.
R is for (The) Round Church, the colloquial name of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The congregation had outgrown the church by the mid-nineties, and these days it hosts a permanent exhibition (free for residents, just bring along proof of address) alongside concerts, recitals and plays.
S is for Salisbury Arms, a spot which never fails to serve up good pub grub in my hour of need. They specialise in pizzas, pots (including the likes of mac and cheese, pulled beef brisket lasagne and lemon chicken) and pints, all at wallet-friendly prices.
T is for Tom’s Cakes, my all-time favourite café. If I’m having a lazy weekend, chances are I’ll be found here, steaming mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a wedge of cake in the other.
U is for University Museum of Zoology, which was reopened by none other than Sir David Attenborough in June 2018. Inside, you’ll come face to face with a fin whale (the world’s second largest species of whale, weighing in at a whopping eighty tonnes), discover cases of beetles collected by Charles Darwin and thousands more specimens from the animal kingdom.
V is for Vistors, of which there are many (especially during the summer months).
W is for Walking Tour – and it’s a free one at that, run by Footprints Tours. Just turn up at 11 Kings Parade at 11am or 2pm (Monday-Sunday from July 23rd to September 2nd, and Friday-Monday the rest of the year), and they’ll pack a thousand years of history into a two-hour tour. Find out more on their website.
X is for X5, the bus service which links the City of Perspiring Dreams (Cambridge) with its rival, the City of Dreaming Spires (Oxford). It takes forever and a day – but then so does the train these days!
Y is for Yim Wah Express, an independent restaurant with a focus on traditional Chinese and Cantonese cuisine. If you need a fix of crispy duck, char siu or spring rolls, this is the place to go.
Z is for Zoo. Shepreth Wildlife Park isn’t actually in Cambridge, but it’s pretty darn close and it is a great day out. Personal highlights included the free-flying bat enclosure, the adorable slow lorises, the red pandas – and the rescue hedgehogs, which, in time, will be released back into the wild. As an added bonus, if you travel by train, you’ll get a discounted rate; just show your train ticket when you buy your tickets to the zoo.