When it comes to visiting Cambridge, there is something on offer for everyone. This city is the perfect destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in history and tradition by exploring the world-famous university buildings and gardens; but it is equally ideal for relaxing and soaking up the city's charm. Meander around the cobbled streets and stop off for some mouthwatering culinary delights, visit some of the city's trendy places for a spot of shopping, rub shoulders with the locals at the delightful daily markets, browse Cambridge’s famous bookshops or take a dip in the city’s celebrated lido.
Getting around Cambridge
Cambridge is a pleasingly compact city and it is easy to navigate on foot but you can also tour the city on two wheels as it is fittingly known as a cyclist’s paradise. In fact, the Old Bicycle Shop on Regent Street, which is a characterful eatery nowadays, used to be Britain’s oldest bike shop. Cambridge has a different appeal in every season but the carefree, sunkissed summer months are one of the best times to explore this wonderful city.
Our top five local things to do in Cambridge
Cambridge is a true foodie’s paradise. Take a delightful culinary journey through the city by seeking out some of Cambridge’s top eateries and sampling their delicious food. There is plenty to choose from here; from the fashionable artisan bakeries with their alluring pastries, to the more traditional coffee shops tempting passersby with their mouthwatering delights, and the increasingly popular pop-up street-food tents dotted around the city offering amazing food from around the world.
However, there is one place that should be on every visitors’ itinerary. A true Cambridge institution set up by a local baker after the first World War, and carried on through the generations, Fitzbillies bakery on Trumpington Street is a must-visit. Their famous sticky Chelsea buns are a thing of beauty and a firm favourite with the locals and visitors alike. These sticky treats have been baked by Fitzbillies since 1920 and they sell over 200,000 of them each year. In fact, their head baker who has been baking Chelsea buns for the past 50 years reckons that in her time at Fitzbillies, she has baked over 5 billion Chelsea buns, enough to stretch from Cambridge to the International Space Station. It’d be rude not to sample at least one!
Mill Road - Cambridge’s ‘Brick Lane’
Mill Road is regarded as Cambridge’s most vibrant and eclectic street. It is a long, art-splashed road away from the city centre’s big brands. The road has a strong community feel and it is lined with quaint terraced houses and trendy independent shops. Mill Road is often likened to London’s famous Brick Lane, which is famed for its many authentic curry restaurants, exhibitions and chic clubs and bars. If you are looking for a shopping experience off the beaten track, Mill Road is the place to be. It is Cambridge’s main indie scene and you will find vintage shops galore along the Mill Road mile for some nostalgic gifts, quirky clothing and evocative records and vinyls. If it’s food you’re after, you will not be disappointed with the array of tantalising choices on offer.
This cosmopolitan road is home to many lively fairs and food festivals throughout the year but one of the most anticipated of them all is the Mill Road Winter Fair. It takes place on the first Saturday every December and it brings together local businesses, shops, stallholders, musicians, artists, dancers and eateries in one brilliant day of festival joy. Mill Road has always been a firm favourite with the locals for an alternative shopping experience, live music nights and top notch food, but over the years it has also become a travel destination in itself for visitors to this diverse city.
Browse the markets
Rub shoulders with the locals at the popular daily market at the historic Market Square in the heart of Cambridge. Traders have been running stalls here since the middle ages and although the market is fairly small, it is well worth a visit if you are after a slice of local lifestyle. You can buy an amazing array of fresh food and ingredients from a wide range of cuisines, as well as plants, clothes, books, music and jewellery. Some traders even offer bike servicing and watch repairs. If you are looking for some delicious on-the-go snacks, look no further. This market square teems with enticing street-food stalls selling delicacies such as ostrich burgers, posh Scotch eggs, freshly squeezed juices and freshly made pad thai.
Just around the corner on Trinity Street in All Saints Garden, a quaint arts and crafts market takes place every Saturday. Here, everything is handmade and you can get your hands on some fantastic gifts ranging from stunning jewellery, pottery and sculptures to paintings, photos, prints and alternative clothing.
Cambridge is a city full of awe-inspiring delights to keep visitors captivated and coming back for more. At a time when the world has been in great need of some cheer and joyfulness, an anonymous Cambridge artist named Dinky Door set out to create a delightful trail of miniature doorways across the city centre to help bring more happiness to the city.
For the untrained eye, these petite, beautifully handcrafted doorways are almost invisible but look closer and your heart will leap for joy as you discover these petite portals to another world in the streets of Cambridge. There are currently 12 doors placed carefully in the nooks and crannies of the city centre and they are guaranteed to spark imagination and make people smile. There’s even an elaborate story behind each creation, which visitors can discover at their leisure on the intriguing Dinky Doors Tour.
Jesus Green Lido
For a true British experience take a dip in Jesus Green Lido, one of the very few remaining examples of these once popular open air swimming pools built across Britain in the 1920. The name is derived from the original Lido, a beach resort near Venice in Italy, and by the mid-19th century Lido’s reputation as a fashionable vacation destination for the well-to-do was such that it made it the envy of seaside resorts. With time, the town’s name was generalised and it was used for any chic Lido-esque beach. Today, the iconic colourful rows of beach huts at the British seaside are the only remnants of these once stylish Victorian seaside lidos.
In general, a lido is an outdoor swimming pool near a beach or even in a city where people can swim and relax in the surrounding green spaces. Jesus Green Lido is a perfect example of a city centre lido. It was built on the shores of the River Cam to mimic the experience of swimming in the river. Opened in 1923, Jesus Green Lido is situated on Jesus Green and unusually, it is significantly longer than it is wide. It is open for the public from May to September and it is only heated by the sun so although wetsuits are not compulsory, they are recommended. Go on, make a splash!
Experience of a lifetime
If you are planning to visit Cambridge as an international student during the summer, Illuminate Cambridge is the ideal way to combine exceptional academic studies and exciting, behind the scenes extra-curricular activities. Our empowering all-girl summer school is designed to welcome students aged 15-17 offering them the experience of a lifetime through a series of educational and cultural visits that will empower them to pursue their aspirations with confidence and drive.
This popular Cambridge summer school is all about creating immersive magical moments that spark intellectual curiosity and ignite passion to get to know the world around them. By coming to Cambridge, students will be privileged to experience behind the scenes city life, as well as living alongside the locals and immersing themselves in the local ways of life. They will be building strong bonds with their fellow students and making friends for life as they journey together through this life enriching experience.
To secure your place on our esteemed summer program apply here.