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Updated: June 24, 2020
The 70 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, craft breweries, cafes, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Cambridge.
1. Varsity Hotel and Spa • $$$$
With excellent views of Cambridge from its rooftop bar, Varsity commands an enviable location overlooking the River Cam and Magdalene College, just minutes from Trinity, King’s, and St John’s. Expansive rooms are themed after particular colleges and flooded with natural light through plate-glass windows. Facilities – on-site hot tub, gym, spa, steakhouse, and casual bistro – are top-notch.
+44 1223 306 030 • Review of Varsity Hotel and Spa
2. Hotel du Vin • $$$
A short walk from Cambridge’s best museum and the most popular historic colleges, Hotel du Vin occupies 5 Georgian townhouses and is a seamless blend of original features and 21st-century comfort, including decadent freestanding bathtubs and mini-cinema in the highly individualized suites. A cellar bar and an eclectic bistro menu are among the perks, and the location is superb.
+44 1223 928 991 • Review of Hotel Du Vin
3. Gonville Hotel • $$$
Overlooking Parker’s Piece, this 19th-century college house turned luxury hotel combines period touches with 21st-century mod cons (virtual concierge on iPads) and creature comforts (king-sized beds, rain showers). The on-site restaurant is one of Cambridge’s best fine dining venues and Cambridge scenes projected onto bathroom tiles ensure that you never forget where you are. An easy walk from the city center and the lively pubs and ethnic restaurants of Mill Road.
+44 1223 366 611 • Review of Gonville Hotel
4. Duke House • $$$
On a quiet street lined with 19th-century Victorian cottages, the former home of the Duke of Gloucester comprises just 5 individually decorated rooms, with period furniture and plenty of light-filled spaces. Hospitality is second to none, breakfasts are generous, and there are welcome little touches such as guidebooks and umbrellas to borrow. An easy walk from the city’s main attractions. Two-night minimum stay on weekends.
+44 1223 314 773 • Review of Duke House
5. Graduate Cambridge • $$$
Combining a Brutalist façade with a terrific location on the banks of the River Cam, the hotel is super-central, sleek, and modern. Generously-sized rooms (some with balconies) overlook the river and the amenities make it a great choice for families. There’s a state-of-the-art spa and gym and a good restaurant, and the service is well-informed and welcoming.
+44 1223 259 988 • Review of Graduate Cambridge
6. University Arms • $$$
Overlooking the Parker’s Piece green, Cambridge’s oldest hotel and coaching inn has been given the 21st-century treatment by architect John Simpson and interior designer Martin Brudnizki. A nod to Cambridge as a venerable center of learning, there’s a fantastic guest library and a literary theme to the spacious rooms and signature suites. Terrific location and great on-site dining at Parker’s Tavern.
+44 1223 606 066
7. 5 Chapel Street • $$
This welcoming B&B is located inside a handsome Georgian townhouse on a quiet street in the residential neighborhood of Chesterton, an easy 20-minute walk from the city along the riverside path. There’s a delightful period feel to the snug rooms filled with acquisitions from craft fairs, and the communal dining table encourages camaraderie between guests. Owner Christine is a treasure trove of local knowledge and home baking, and cream teas are among the guest perks here.
+44 1223 514 856
8. Clayton Hotel Cambridge • $$$
Part of the regeneration project that’s transformed the formerly humdrum area around Cambridge train station, this design hotel is a bold mélange of industrial chic and softer touches such as velvet furniture. Three on-site dining venues attract a mix of local foodies, businessmen, and affluent students. The thoroughly contemporary rooms are all Cambridge blue, dark wood, and floor-to-ceiling windows, and the service is on-point.
+44 1223 792 888
9. Hotel Felix • $$$
A half-hour walk or easy bus ride from the city center, Hotel Felix is an 1850s mansion with 2 modern extensions and beautifully landscaped gardens. Behind the historic façade, a rich collection of modern art dots the property, and rooms are refreshingly contemporary, with Hypnos king-sized beds and walk-in rain showers. Cutting-edge Modern British cuisine at the onsite Graffiti restaurant attracts local gourmets and the service is warm and personalized.
+44 1223 277 977
10. Sayle House • $$
In the residential neighborhood of Chesterton, a 25-minute walk or easy bike ride from Cambridge city center, this friendly B&B is found inside an elegant Edwardian house. The 3 rooms are named after flowers and decorated in soft pastels, and owners Lesley and Brian go out of their way to make guests feel welcome. Plenty of info on Cambridge is provided and terrific breakfasts include produce from the owners’ garden.
+44 1223 969 332
11. Midsummer House • $$$-$$$$
The fanciest table in town, Midsummer House stands alone as Cambridge’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, and it has 2 of them. Chef Daniel Clifford’s kitchen serves cutting-edge, experimental reinventions of British dishes. There’s an 8-course tasting menu and a more modest lunch menu; in both cases, vegetarian and vegan options are available. Advance booking advised. • +44 1223 369 299
12. Restaurant Twenty-Two • $$$
Superior modern British cuisine, hidden away in a Victorian townhouse backing onto the river. The menu, built on local, seasonal produce and thus changing weekly, has earned the restaurant a place in the Michelin guide. Order a la carte or splash out on a 5 or 7-course tasting menu (£45 or £55). • +44 1223 351 880
13. Parker’s Tavern • $$-$$$
A new star spot on the Cambridge dining scene, found inside the historic University Arms hotel. British classics reinvented with precision and attention to detail. Meet friends for poached eggs and smoked haddock or a full breakfast buffet, or romance your date over buttered sole or roasted lamb in the evening. • +44 1223 606 266
14. Smokeworks • $$
BBQ, cooked slow and served fast, to the delight of meat-lovers. Go for a brisket, ribs, or moreish fries with pulled pork and jalapenos, and finish off your meal with a beer, bourbon, or alternately a decadent milkshake (there are alcoholic options here, too). One super-central branch and another near the railway station. • +44 1223 365 385
15. Thanh Binh • $$
The only proper Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge, with a wallet-friendly lunchtime set menu (Monday to Friday) and classics such as pho and bun cha in a simple, elegant setting. • +44 1223 362 456
16. Cambridge Chop House • $$-$$$
With its super-central location on King’s Parade and facing King’s College, this smart steakhouse is a fine choice for traditional British food, particularly the Sunday roasts – roast beef with all the trimmings. Wallet-friendly set lunches (Monday to Friday) and a good selection of local ales and French wines. • +44 1223 359 506
17. Oak Bistro • $$-$$$
Classy local bistro which simply does fantastic-looking, delicious food. Emphasis is on local produce with big flavors – duck, beef, and lamb. Elegant inside, with a cozy walled garden outside. • +44 1223 323 361
18. The Old Bicycle Shop • $$
Industrial chic gastropub – formerly the country’s oldest bike shop – now serving brunch, drinks, lunch, and dinner. Offers tempting vegetarian and vegan options like green tea marinated crispy tofu and pulled jackfruit kebabs. Reservations are a good idea even at lunchtime. • +44 1223 859 909
19. De Luca Cucina & Bar • $$-$$$
Tasty modern Italian fare, including lunchtime sharing plates – look for the Cicchetti menu. Their top floor piano bar won Cambridge’s Bar of the Year 2018. • +44 1223 356 666
20. Stem + Glory • $-$$
Friendly vegan place that’s serious about creating delicious food to tempt everyone, from lasagna with creamy cashew béchamel to raw raspberry cheesecake. Drop by for a quick coffee and cake, or a leisurely brunch or dinner. There’s also a fine vegan bar. • +44 1223 314 331
21. Pint Shop • $$
As much a destination for foodies as a gin and craft beer bar, Pint Shop specializes in Modern British food with global influences. Come here for Sunday roasts, superlative fish and chips, and more global offerings such as crispy duck flatbread and Bombay scotch egg. Save room for fantastic desserts and cheeses. Book ahead. • +44 1223 352 293
22. Green Street
23. Bene’t Street/Peas Hill
As close to a shiny shopping mall as Cambridge gets. A good mix of British and international brands, from the affordable (JD Sports, Topshop) to the high-end (Fossil, Rigby & Peller). Tech lovers can head for the Apple Store, Menkind, or Raspberry Pi.
25. John Lewis
Taking up a prime spot at one corner of the Grand Arcade is this high-end department store, a British institution. Fashion to furniture, beauty, and electronics across 4 floors.
A Cambridge institution since 1876, this bookshop is a true pleasure to browse. There’s a brilliant children’s department, a vast range of board games, and regular events.
27. Fudge Kitchen
A place of sweet, creamy delights opposite the gates of King’s College. The fudge comes in many flavors and is handmade daily in front of hungry tourists. Come in for a free sample and you’ll be sure to buy.
28. Ted Baker
Streetwear and smart attire by the polished but quirky British men and womenswear designer. By the Grand Arcade.
30. Gwydir Street antique shops
By the entrance to the Grand Arcade, find this charming purveyor of all things
chocolate – homemade chocolates, ice creams, and rich hot chocolates.
32. Lilac Rose
This Bridge Street shop specializes in casual dresses, tops, skirts, knitwear, and coats, as well as an array of jewelry, handbags, gloves, and other accessories.
33. The Free Press
Find this backstreet pub and enjoy a beer or ale by the log fire in winter, or in the beer garden in summer, accompanied by delicious food.
34. The Eagle
Sip a pint and drink in the air of history in this cozy 16th-century coaching inn. Cambridge scientists have been drinking here for years; most famously, Watson and Crick first announced their discovery of the structure of DNA right here.
Open since 1812, this pub serves up traditional atmosphere, real ales, and a clever food menu.
36. The Anchor
Opposite Queens’ College and on the river, this pub is great for before/after hiring a punt at Scudamore’s punt station, right outside. Alternatively, sit on the terrace in the sun, enjoy a jug of Pimm’s or some comforting pub food, and simply watch the action on the river
A pretty waterside pub, perched by a mill pond. The riverside beer garden offers the perfect spot to relax with a gin or ale and watch the punters pass by.
This quirky bottle shop/bar/café serves a good selection of low-intervention wines and craft beers from Northern Europe. Oh, and the food is by a Michelin-star chef.
Specialty coffee by day, craft cocktails, beers, and organic wine by night. Open till 3 am, a rarity for Cambridge.
Great independent bottle shop which doubles as a bar, with a wide selection of all things alcoholic. Ideal for sipping a drink and watching the crowds on Bridge Street outside.
Speakeasy-style basement bar beneath Trinity Street, with a solid menu of classic and original cocktails as well as frequent DJ nights.
42. Parker’s Tavern
Not only is Parker’s Tavern one of the best restaurants in Cambridge, but its bar has also quickly become one of the city’s top watering holes. Stylish, with a carefully selected wine list, whiskies that span the globe, and a dozen or so terrific original cocktails. Take your date nowhere else.
43. The Maypole
Find this pub, nestled in a quiet street by Jesus Green, and enjoy one of their quality beers, particularly one of their 16 rotating microbrews or keg beers, or one of their many single malt whiskeys and some homemade Italian food. There’s also a pleasant beer garden.
44. Pint Shop
Cool yet friendly bar specializing in cask and keg craft beers from all over the UK, with some guest beers from the US as well as gin (over 100 varieties). The food – dry aged steaks, coal-cured salmon – is likewise award-winning. There’s a nice little outdoor terrace out back and their homemade scotch eggs are a winning beer snack.
One for the serious craft beer connoisseurs and definitely worth seeking out on Gwydir Street, off Mill Road. Their extensive keg and craft beer collection spans the globe and includes lesser-known US brews as well as some from New Zealand, Belgium, and other shrines to hops. Over 100 bottled beers, too.
In a super-central location on King Street, this is Cambridge’s only brewpub, featuring their 3 brews (an IPA, a bitter, and a pale ale) on tap, 3 guest cask beers, and friendly and knowledgeable staff.
The oldest bakery in town has been serving its famous, sticky Chelsea buns since 1920 and is still going strong. Drop in for brunch, a traditional Afternoon Tea, or just take away some sweet treats. The main branch is on Trumpington Street, with a smaller one on Bridge Street.
Chilled out café with its own micro-roastery, so you know they’re serious about their coffee. Serves single origin coffees as well as cakes from local favorite Fitzbillies and breakfast items (granola, avocado on toast). The central branch is on Trumpington Street.
49. Espresso Library
Friendly, airy space where bicycles hang from the ceiling and you can dig into the likes of smashed avo on toast and eggs Benedict, accompanied by specialty coffee (including single origin). Good for vegetarians and vegans.
Super-central Sicilian café with a window stuffed full of sourdough pizzas, arancini, and cannoli. Everything is handmade, authentic, and delicious, as the busy interior suggests. Finish things off with the extra thick hot chocolate.
51. Bread & Meat
The little sister of Pint Shop has a short and sweet menu of gourmet sandwiches (porcetta, honey soy chicken, Philly cheese steak, and British beef), accompanied by poutine, slaw, potato wedges, or oven-roast veggies, and washed down with a milkshake, organic coffee, or craft beer.
Award-winning specialty coffee shop near the Round Church. Well-trained baristas, a changing filter and espresso coffee menu, depending on time of year, plus freshly-baked goodies and friendly, efficient service.
Things to Do
53. Visit King’s College
Unmissable and the most iconic place in Cambridge. The chapel is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture; buy a ticket online or from the visitor center across the street, then walk in to stare up at the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world. The chapel remains accessible from Senate House passage in spring, when the rest of the college is closed to visitors. During term time, fans of choral music can hear evensong sung by the famous choir each day for free; book well in advance for the legendary Christmas concert.
54. Visit Trinity College
The richest and largest of the colleges, Trinity has an academic grandeur to match, boasting more Nobel Prize winners than all of France. Walk through the Great Gate, under the frowning eye of college founder Henry VIII, and wonder at the scale and elegance of the 16th-century Great Court. Behind it are the graceful cloisters of Neville’s Court and the famous Wren Library, where visitors can see Isaac Newton’s copy of the Principia Mathematica and AA Milne’s original Winnie the Pooh, among other treasures.
55. Go Punting
Punting – propelling a punt along the River Cam using a wooden pole – has been a popular leisure activity in Cambridge since the 1860s and is a quintessential Cambridge thing to do. You can rent a punt by the hour from one of several companies either by the bridge on Bridge Street or the bridge on Silver Street (with a cash deposit) or join a guided tour, with guides giving you a humorous history of Cambridge as you float past the centuries-old college buildings.
56. Visit St John’s College
Red brick and very handsome, John’s is second in size only to its neighbor, Trinity. Venture through the spectacular gate and you will find a series of majestic courts leading to a beautiful 19th-century chapel and Cambridge’s own Bridge of Sighs. Over the river is the neo-Gothic New Court, known as the ‘Wedding Cake’, the college gardens, and beautiful views of the Backs of Trinity and beyond.
57. Visit Queens’ College
A pretty medieval college of red brick, Queens’ sits right on the river. It features a 15th-century Old Court which leads to a stunningly decorated Old Hall, a Tudor President’s Lodge, and the tower in which Erasmus once stayed. The graceful Mathematical Bridge, which joins the older part of the college to the new, is rumored to have been designed by Newton and originally built without nails (both untrue).
58. Visit Fitzwilliam Museum
One of the first public art museums in the UK, this palatial neoclassical building holds a seriously impressive collection. Choose from antiquities drawn from the Near East, Egypt, and Rome; brightly illuminated manuscripts; artworks that span the 13th to the 21st centuries; and a lot more treasures.
59. Explore the Polar Museum
A small but rich museum of polar exploration, communities, and research. See equipment and poignant journals from expeditions by Scott and Shackleton; art, scrimshaw, and clothing from people native to the Arctic; and active work by the Scott Polar Research Institute looking at ice, climate, and, of course, penguins.
60. Scale the tower of Great St Mary’s Church
The university church stands as gracefully above the market at the center of Cambridge today as it did when it was erected in the 14th century. Climb the 123 steps of the Tower for sweeping views of the colleges and the city (tickets are £4 for individuals, £12 for families Mon – Fri, £5 and £15 respectively on weekends).
61. Explore Kettle’s Yard
Intimate gallery in the former home of H S ‘Jim’ Ede. Once a curator at the Tate Gallery, he collected art throughout his life, including works by Miró, Brancusi, and Henry Moore. Here you can enjoy his house in the way he intended – as ‘a continuing way of life’ – where space, furniture, and art make a harmonious whole.
62. Take the kids to the University Museum of Zoology
Gasp at mammoths and giant ground sloths and peer at insects and molluscs from one of the best collections of its kind. Connected to the history of the science as it is, the museum holds specimens collected by the great naturalists of the past, including Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, which led to their work on evolution. Good for families.
63. Visit the Round Church
A rarity even for a town loaded with history, this is one of only four round churches in the country. Built in 1130, it transports visitors back to Norman times. It also houses an exhibition on the history of the university.
64. Spend a lazy day at the Jesus Green Lido
A surviving 1920s open air lido with a fantastic 100-yard long pool in a beautiful green location by the river. Now has a newly-built sauna as well as plenty of sunbathing space. Open May to September, it makes for a perfect place to while away a sunny day.
Food and Flea Markets
65. Cambridge Market
The market has been the city’s hub since the Middle Ages and still runs daily. You can find everything from books to clothes and jewelry here. It’s also great for fresh fruits and veg, and a whole range of food stalls (particularly on weekends), from falafel to Chinese dumplings and curry. On Sundays, local craftsmen show off their wares here.
Local craftsmen and women, artists, designers, and independent traders have been selling unique, hand-made items at this outdoor market opposite Trinity College for over 40 years. This is the place to go for ceramics, leather belts, tiny jigsaws, organic soaps, jewelry, and more.
Cambridge’s first and only collective of street food traders turns up at various locations in the city, including the CB1 development by the Cambridge train station on Fridays (noon-2 pm). Come here for steamed gua bao, churros, buffalo wings, Sri Lankan curries, cheese toasties, tacos, and more.
Cambridge’s compact city center is its centuries-old heart, easily explored on foot and home to the city’s main attractions: the colleges, several excellent museums, Market Square, and a couple of historic churches. Accommodations right in the center tend to be mid-range to high-end, and the narrow streets, a few of them pedestrianized, are dotted with numerous bars, cafes, restaurants, as well as independent shops and boutiques. It’s a longish walk or easy bus ride from the Cambridge train station.
Best stuff: King’s College • Trinity College • St John’s College • Queen’s College • Punting • Fitzwilliam Museum • Great St Mary’s Church • Scott Polar Research Institute • Round Church • Kettle’s Yard • Pint Shop (well-priced Modern British dishes, terrific range of gins and craft beers, small beer garden) • Cambridge Chop House (smart, meat-heavy restaurant facing King’s Parade) • Parker’s Tavern (superb restaurant and cocktail bar inside the University Arms hotel, terrific Modern British dishes, good at any time of day) • Smokeworks (snug BBQ restaurant tucked away behind St Bene’t’s Church, industrial decor) • The Eagle (16th-century pub with graffiti from American WWII servicemen on the ceiling; famous also for Cambridge scientists announcing discovery of DNA here) • The Maypole (nice beer garden, microbrews, homemade Italian food) • Thirsty and Hungry (bottle shop with terrific range of craft beers, low-intervention wines, and excellent snacks) • The Cambridge Brew House (Cambridge’s only brewpub, own brews, and guest ales on tap) • Fitzbillies (Cambridge’s oldest bakery, best for cream teas) • Hot Numbers (excellent specialty coffee shop).
69. Mill Road
Running southeast from the corner of Parker’s Piece, the town green, Mill Road, and the narrow streets branching off it comprise Cambridge’s most ethnically diverse area. There are no attractions per se, though there are good-value Airbnb options here and it’s terrific for wallet-friendly dining, a glimpse of grittier, working-class Cambridge, and some of the city’s best beer. Mill Road is lined with independent coffee shops, Turkish, Korean and Chinese grocery stores, charity shops, kebab joints, and inexpensive restaurants whose cuisines span the globe. Around halfway down Mill Road, Tenison and Devonshire Roads connect it to the revamped area around Cambridge train station.
Best Stuff: Noodles Plus + (cheap and cheerful eatery specializing in many types of Chinese dumplings, plus noodle dishes) • Bibimbap House (informal little Korean place, numerous variations on the bibimbap dish) • Bedouin (sultry décor, moreish North African cuisine) • Vanderlyle (seasonal ingredient-led 5-course menus, stylish, advance reservations) • Samaan (coal-grilled meats, hummus, flatbreads, and more at this colorful Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant; popular with groups) • Atithi (contemporary Indian cuisine by Michelin-starred chef) • Smokeworks (slow-cooked BBQ and indulgent milkshakes near the train station) • Espresso Library (specialty coffees and healthy breakfast/brunch at the top of Mill Rd) • Hot Numbers (super-popular specialty coffee shop on the corner of Gwydir St) • Kingston Arms (legendary Gwydir St pub, sizeable beer garden, real ales on tap, and excellent pub grub) • The Cambridge Blue (pub with superb menu of bottled beers from around the world) • Live and Let Live (small, classic local pub, good beer selection, pool table, and darts) • foodPark (a dozen gourmet food vans converge on Cambridge train station between noon and 2 pm on Fridays).
A 25-minute walk northeast of the city center, Chesterton is a former village that was eventually absorbed into the town of Cambridge. It’s mostly a quiet residential area, but there are some decent pubs and restaurants here as well as Cambridge’s most decorated restaurant. Some of Cambridge’s most appealing B&Bs are also located in Chesterton. It’s reachable either via a beautiful walk along the River Cam, past Jesus Green and Midsummer Common (where the Cambridge Beer Festival and Summer Fair, respectively, are held), or else via a short bus ride.
Best Stuff: Jesus Green Lido • Midsummer House (Michelin 2-starred dining, experimental British cuisine, advance reservations) • Restaurant Twenty-Two (seasonal multi-course menu, cozy and romantic interior, book ahead • Hakka (excellent Chinese, from slow-cooked Hakka dishes to Cantonese classics) • Stem + Glory (Mitchum’s Corner branch of the popular vegan restaurant) • Polonia Club (home-cooked Polish stews, kielbasa, and pierogi in an informal setting) • Navadhanya (fine dining Indian restaurant, 7-course tasting menu) • The Portland Arms (1930s pub with real ales and live music on some evenings) • The Wrestlers (terrific Thai food, good selection of real ales) • The Haymakers (atmospheric pub with exposed wooden beams, real ales on tap, and pleasant beer garden).
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