A friend came up to visit me in Cambridge the other weekend, which was a great opportunity to spend a day doing all the touristy things students never otherwise find time to do in Cambridge…
The Botanical Gardens, conveniently located near the Cambridge Train Station and free for students, are a lovely place to relax and have a stroll. There is a cute little coffee shop in the centre selling refreshments (although at rather expensive prices) or alternatively you could bring along a picnic and hang out with friends on the grass.
OK, admittedly this is less of a touristy thing since you need to know a student to get in – but going to a formal hall in one of the university’s colleges is a really unique and quintessentially Cambridge tradition. All student colleges hold formals at least once a week, some every evening, usually in old Harry-Potter-style dining halls. My college (Murray Edwards) has them every Tuesday evening and one (themed) Friday a month – and it was to a Halloween themed formal dinner we attended.
The menu was pretty average if I’m honest – pumpkin salad followed by the main course of chicken then chocolate mousse for desert. However, it was definitely the decorations that made it worthwhile – pumpkins, fake spiders webs and ghosts adorned the tables and many of the guests and waitresses wore halloween-themed outfits!
Generally considered the number one touristy thing to do in Cambridge, punting is actually a lot harder than it looks. Essentially, you stand on a flat, narrow boat with a long pole you use to push yourself along with. The cheapest option for hiring punts is from Trinity punts, located around the back of Trinity College (a boat is £14/ hour for students, £18 for tourists). Those less confident or wanting to hear (mostly fictional) tales about Cambridge can opt for a guided tour from one of the many other punting companies.
Brunch is apparently a very English concept (according to my Chinese friend) which all tourists have to experience. Murray Edwards is widely known to have the best student brunch in town and so we piled our plates high with bacon, eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, toast and more! If you find yourself in the centre of town however, there are plenty of local restaurants offering brunch at pretty reasonable prices.
As a Cambridge student, I am able to visit any of the other colleges for free (the idea being that I might have supervisions/ friends there…) and so we definitely made the most of this opportunity when wandering around town to check out some of the more traditional colleges’ architecture and gardens. Kings, St. Johns and Trinity may be the main highlights for the tourists, but they also tend to charge a fee – top tip: if you look aged around aged 18 then claim to be a sixth form student interested in applying to Cambridge and wanting to check out their college, they will let you in for free 😉
The Fitzwilliam Museum is one of the most famous museums in Cambridge, housing an impressive collection of art and antiques from around the world. I have to admit to not being all that excited in old pots, but even so browsing around the exhibits for an hour or so was an enjoyable way to spend a cloudy afternoon.
All in all, a very welcome break from studying and a lovely day exploring my own city with a friend. Sometimes students forget that we are so lucky to live in such a beautiful town, instead moaning about the tourists blocking our way and the terrible British weather – but maybe I should make more of an effort to visit the local sights when I have time.