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By Nina Derham in London—
Once you’ve pounded the streets of London visiting museums and emptying your wallet at the shops, you’ll likely be in need of some fresh air. Cambridge makes for an ideal getaway from the hectic buzz of London and, best of all, it is easily doable in a day.
Getting to Cambridge from London
Fast trains leave from London Kings Cross to Cambridge twice an hour and the journey takes just 45 minutes. You can also catch the train from Liverpool Street Station, which takes 1 hour 10 minutes. For the best value train fare, travel off-peak (after 9:30 a.m). Book online.
As one of the world’s most famous and prestigious university towns, Cambridge has a sense of pride about it. The streets are clean and pretty much everything is aesthetically pleasing. The city has something for you year round, whether you plan to explore the great outdoors in the summer months or huddle up by an open fire in one of the city’s beautiful old pubs (of which there are about 119).
That famous University…
Most visitors will want to explore Cambridge University‘s stunning buildings, which are dotted all over the city. Cheapos should be warned, many of the most famous colleges do charge to get inside, meaning that spending the day ducking in and out of University buildings could cost a small fortune.
My advice to travelers on a budget is to admire the fantastic architecture from the outside and get a feel for things by wandering around some of the free colleges as well. Trinity College is the largest in Cambridge and offers free admission. Thus, be sure to visit Trinity’s spacious courtyard and have a snoop at how these most privileged of students live. (It certainly doesn’t bear much resemblance to my university halls!)
If you are willing to spend to visit one building, King’s College is the place to do it (admission from £7.50). Head to the back entrance to gain access to the magnificently Gothic King’s College Chapel for Evensong.
Alternatively, Clare College is just next door and visitors can explore the grounds at no cost at all. Stroll through the college and out into The Backs for a peaceful roam around the University gardens and along the River Cam.
Be warned that visitors aren’t allowed into the University buildings during the examination period from the end of April – mid June. However, you can still access the King’s College Chapel during this time.
Beyond the University make time to stop by the wonderfully quirky and hobbit-like Round Church. Also admire the view from Magdalene Bridge and have a look around the lively central market.
Punting in Cambridge
Popular with students, locals and tourists alike, punting along the River Cam comes highly recommended even during the chilly winter months. Grab a spot in one of the long wooden punts from £15 with a chauffeur. Alternatively, groups of up to six people can rent their own punt from £18 per hour and make their own way around.
Do be warned though Cheapos: If you haven’t been punting before, it is harder than it looks! Savings are to be had if you book online in advance.
Eating and drinking
Mill Road is a favorite with students and is packed with affordable eateries serving up food from all around the world, from Brazil to Lebanon.
Alternatively, try one of Cambridge’s lively pubs, which are bursting with character day and night:
The Eagle (8 Benet Street) is a remarkable slice of traditional pub life, with multiple dining rooms lined with wood paneling. It is also famous for being the spot were Francis Crick and James Watson went to celebrate following their discovery of DNA in 1953.
The Castle Inn (36 Castle Street) is a really welcoming pub with open fires and lots of cozy corners. It’s a little bit off the main drag but well worth the walk.
If you’re feeling extravagant or celebrating a special occasion then The Cambridge Chop House is the place to do it. The menu is bursting with mouthwatering steaks, stews and perfectly cooked fish. You can even opt for squirrel if you’re feeling daring before jumping on the train back to London.