Must-do 11 quirky things to do in Cambridge
Food, off the beaten track and unusual things to do are always high on my agenda when I travel around the world. I tend to stay away from touristy spots, and I like to mingle with locals to get the real taste of a destination.
When I first moved to Cambridge in 2002, I walked for miles. I checked out every small alleyway, quirky shop and ate my way through Cambridge. Nothing has changed 18 years later. I still treat Cambridge the same as the first time I visited. Chat to locals to find out what is happening, keep finding new exciting places, and I am always on a quest to find new foods and drinks.
My 11 favourite quirky places in Cambridge.
Visit the pretty Orchard Street
One of my favourite streets in Cambridge, Orchard Street, is tucked away between the Grafton Centre and Christ Piece. When you leave the hustle and bustle Christ Piece behind, you will find a quaint street. It is so quiet here that it almost feels walking into a village in the countryside. Early spring, the most impressive drapes its flowers over the wall and roof of one of the houses and at summertime, the English roses stand proud against the row of houses.
I am so pleased that this now Grade 2 listed street has been saved from demolition when the Grafton Centre was built. When you walk through Orchard Street, you will notice that there are no windows in the roof on the front of the houses. They used to be part of an estate, and they weren’t allowed to overlook it. The row of houses is referred to as ‘Dutch-style’ houses, which baffled me. There are no such houses to be found in the Netherlands. Apparently, a Dutch farmer moved to Norfolk and built a farm with a huge and spacious roof. This was the start of this style of houses.
Walk the Mile
Once voted as the most cosmopolitan street of the UK, Mill Road is not only one of my favourite roads in Cambridge, but also one of my food destinations. Mill Road is lined with quirky, spice and foodie shops, multicultural restaurants, cafes, pubs and even a quirky cocktail bar.
Many visitors to Cambridge never go down to Mill Road as their perception is that it is too far away from the city centre. It is less than 15 minutes walk from John Lewis, and there are so many fantastic places to eat, drink and shop, so worth every step!
What to eat and buy in Mill Road? Spices at one of the Asian or Mediterranean shops, cheese and delicatessen at Culinaris, Brunch at the Garden Cafe, Urban Larder or Scots All Day, craft beer and excellent wines at Bacchanalia, cakes at Tom Cakes. For Italian it is Maurizio, Limoncello and Tradizione and eating in a Bedouin tent it is Bedouin. For Indian food Athiti and Prana and for Fish and Chips go to the Sea Tree.
Once per year Mill Road is closed off for the traffic for the fantastic Mill Road Winter Fair. A day filled with music, lots of food and drink. A festival not to be missed!
Art at the Cemetery
Mill Road Cemetery is one of my favourite open spaces in Cambridge. Tucked away between Gwydir Street, Mill Road and Norfolk Street this old Victorian cemetery is a quiet open green space in this quirky bustling area of Cambridge. Local residents use Mill Road Cemetary to walk the dogs, relax and pass through to either Norfolk Street or Mill Road. If you look carefully, you might see somebody hopping over the wall from the Cambridge Blue Pub. Drinking alcohol is not allowed in the cemetery, so don’t be tempted to grab a pint here and nip over the wall to have a quiet drink! You can find here stunning old gravestones with a rich history and public art, which reflects the birds who live and have died in cemeteries.
Eat and drink your way around Cambridge
Are you a foodie and keen to discover Cambridge off the beaten path? Join local foodies on an award-winning food tour and explore Cambridge through the eyes of a foodie. Meet the proud people behind these independent businesses sample their delicious food and drink and discover a Cambridge you probably didn’t know existed! The team of the Cambridge Food Tour will make sure it is a day you’ll never forget and you might be tempted to come back on one or the other food tours!
Bike around Cambridge
Make your way around Cambridge as most of the locals do. Hop on a bike and explore the city centre of Cambridge or head out to the picturesque village of Grantchester or cycling along the river to Waterbeach. Keen to do more than just cycling? Join Anthony on one of his cycling tours. It is a fun way of learning more about Cambridge.
Take a walk on the wild side
Keen to stretch your legs and explore more of Cambridge than just the historic centre? Cambridge has a lot of open green spaces, called Common Land. You don’t have to walk far to find these open green spaces, but if you want to explore further afield, then I highly recommend one of my favourite country walks.
Hit the river
Another favourite activity in Cambridge; the River Cam. Most of the visitors to Cambridge join a chauffeured punt, which is an exciting way to explore Cambridge from the riverside. If you are bit braver, I highly recommend to go Paddleboarding, hire a canoe, punt to Grantchester yourself or take a plunge into the River Cam.
Join a free concert in the park
Wondering what to do on a sunny afternoon? Bring a picnic and head off to one of the parks in Cambridge for a free concert in the park. These Jazz concerts are held on selected Sundays from June to September.
Rock at the Cambridge Folk Festival
Cambridge Folk Festival is one of the longest running folk festivals in the world. Held every year in Cherry Hinton during the summer, it attracts around fourteen thousand people, many of whom return year after year. The Cambridge Folk Festival is renowned for its unique atmosphere and its eclectic mix of music.
From a birds-eye view
If you are looking to see Cambridge in a different light, then viewing it from the top of the sky is certainly a must-do when you are in Cambridge. If you feel active, then you should climb the tower of St. Mary’s Church on Kings Parade. If you like to soak up the views with a cocktail in your hand, then the rooftop bar of the Vasirty Hotel is the perfect spot. Just below the rooftop terrace, you can find Restaurant Six, so in case of rain, you will still be able to admire Cambridge from a birds-eye view.
Make your own Gin
The last one on my list of quirky things to do in Cambridge making your own Gin. The award-winning Cambridge Distillery offers bespoke Gin tailoring sessions at their Distillery in Grantchester. These exclusive experiences are strictly by appointment only. Hosted in their unique tasting room within Cambridge Distillery, you will be treated to an afternoon consultation with their Master Distiller, Will.