I've said this before. As much as I love London, my favorite part of living here is how easy it is to leave. As a domestic, regional and global hub, it feels like all of the world is at your fingertips. Thankfully, you don't have to look too far from London to find world-class destinations. There are endless options for easy day trips outside the city. Now that the summer is in full swing, we fully plan on taking advantage of the country's vast rail network. When our friends, Jen & Jonas, visited us in April, we quickly jumped on the opportunity to visit the storied college town (if it's fair to call it that) of Cambridge. In a few hours, we managed to cover quite a lot of ground by foot and punt. Read on to follow our path and help plan your own day trip to Cambridge!
A. Getting to Cambridge
Like many of England's top destinations, Cambridge is very easy and convenient to travel to from central London. Direct trains leave from Kings Cross Station (KGX) every 20 minutes or so and take under an hour (depending on which train you catch). The ease and speed of travel make Cambridge a perfect weekend getaway for Londoners. The only hassle is that, upon arrival, the railway station in Cambridge is a bit of a trek to the city center where all the action is. By trek, I'm talking a 25 minute walk or 10 minute bus ride. I guess it's really not that bad at all.
B. Coffee Stop
To help break up the "arduous" walk from the train station, make a quick pitstop at Hot Numbers Coffee. The cafe has a nice low key and laid back vibe. If you have some extra time to kill, linger around for a simple breakfast or some pastries. Better yet, come back at night to catch one of its popular gigs featuring local and visiting musicians. After coffee, you can either catch a local bus or take a leisurely stroll into town by cutting through Parker's Peak. We recommend the later.
C. Indiana Jones for a day
Cambridge University is known for its many outstanding museums. For a short detour, pop into the quirky Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. In a relatively small space, the museum manages to pack in a massive collection of fossils, minerals, bones and other ancient artifacts. You can't help but feel a bit like Indiana Jones as you peruse the museum's nearly 2 million specimens.
D. Vaults & Spires
One of the most iconic structures in Cambridge is the King's College Chapel. Beautiful inside and out, the Gothic-style chapel is recognized for its souring windows and iconic spires. Make sure to check the public hours prior to your visit. Unfortunately, we arrived right around graduation, so the chapel was temporarily closed to the public. Thankfully, you can get amazing views while punting along the River Cam. More about that later...
E. Bread & Meat
For lunch, head right off of King's Parade to Bread & Meat. We happened to stumble upon this place while walking around and were immediately drawn to the name. Bread and meat. How can you go wrong with that combination? Thankfully, we were not disappointed. You won't have a hard time picking from their fairly simple menu. The porchetta and honey soy chicken sandwiches were both ridiculously delicious. Grab a bench at the front window for some fun people watching to accompany your lunch.
F. Punting the River Cam
It's time to work off that porchetta. One of the best ways to experience Cambridge and take in the beautiful surroundings is by boat. On a nice, summer day, you will find dozens of flat-bottomed boats called punts floating up and down the River Cam. For £16/hour, you can rent a punt and have a go at navigating yourself. The boats are steered with a long pole that pushes against the bottom of the river bed. Punting may look easy, but you will quickly realize how tricky and tiresome it is. As an alternative, you can join a tour or hire an experienced student who will take you down the river. Just make sure to bring some chilled champagne with you to get the full experience. There's no better way of seeing Cambridge's most beautiful landmarks, including the Bridge of Sighs and the aforementioned Trinity College Chapel, than by punt.
H. Back to School
Similar to Oxford, many of Cambridge's famous colleges are open to public visitors. Exploring the courtyards, chapels and student commons is a great way to experience each of Cambridge University's 26 college. Our favorite was St John's College which straddles both sides of the River Cam. The New Court on the west bank of the river can't be missed. It's sprawling lawn and dramatic facade is the perfect backdrop for a few jumping photos :) Just make sure to keep off the pristinely kept grass lawn.
I. Art At Home
After school, it's time to go "home" to Kettle's Yard. This quirky private home turned gallery has an unexpectedly rich collection of artwork by the likes of Joan Miro and Barbara Hepworth. Visitors are welcome to explore the standalone gallery as well as the adjacent house, where the artwork is featured alongside furniture and home decor.
J. Goodbye Drinks
To wrap up your busy day in Cambridge, head to the rooftop of The Varsity Hotel & Spa for some cocktails. There you will be treated to sweeping views of the city. As you look at onto Cambridge, take a moment to retrace your steps from the day before rushing to catch your train.