cambridge weekend

Take it to the bridge … the neo-Gothic Bridge of Sighs, that is. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

A Weekend Guide to Cambridgeshire, Where History and Culture Intersect

Cambridge, one of England’s greatest university cities, has tradition and culture to spare. Just over an hour on the train from London, its streets and buildings resonate to the march of history: when you come here, you’re walking in the footsteps of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking, to name just three.

It’s at the heart of a fascinating county, which takes in diverse towns like Peterborough and Huntingdon, and the remarkable Fenland countryside. Here’s what not to miss in Cambridgeshire on a weekend break.


The past is everywhere in Cambridge. It is possible to take a tour around any of its 31 colleges, although opening times are restricted by university business: Trinity, whose members have won 34 Nobel prizes; King’s, with its marvelous late Gothic chapel; and St John’s, which crosses the River Cam by the neo-Gothic Bridge of Sighs, are the most notable colleges.

A punt on the River Cam will take you under both the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge, which was featured in the recent Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything.”

Peterborough, in the north of Cambridgeshire, has its own cathedral, which was built in the 12th century. It’s known for its early English Gothic West Front, with its three huge and unique arches.

Huntingdon is a charming market town 13 miles northwest of Cambridge. Oliver Cromwell, who toppled the English monarchy during the 17th-century Civil War, was born here: you can find out more about him at the small but impressive Cromwell Museum, which will reopen after renovation in March 2020.

Art and Music

cambridge weekend
Get cultured at the Fitzwilliam Museum. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cambridge is not just a center of the sciences. At The Fitzwilliam Museum, you’ll find a huge selection of antiquities and art, including painters such as Monet, Picasso, Rubens and van Gogh. Kettle’s Yard has a wonderful collection of avant-garde art from the first half of the 20th century, including Joan Miró and Henry Moore.

Peterborough’s cultural life centers on the Key Theatre, which puts on a varied range of shows throughout the year. Outside you’ll find “Lagoon,” a sculpture by internationally recognized artist Sir Anthony Caro.

The Performing Arts Centre, which sits in the grounds of Hinchingbrooke House on the outskirts of Huntingdon, hosts music, theater and comedy throughout the year.

Eating and Drinking

It’s not hard to eat well in Cambridge. There are a number of Michelin-rated restaurants, including Midsummer House and Restaurant Twenty-Two, while Parker’s Tavern offers a modern take on high-end brasserie cooking.

It’s a great city for a drink, too. Try The Eagle, where Francis Crick announced to the world that he and James Watson had “discovered the secret of life”: the structure of DNA. For something sweeter, head for Fitzbillies. Its sticky, sweet Chelsea Buns have been a local favorite since it opened in 1920.

Peterborough is home to one of England’s most-respected modern breweries, Oakham. Head for the Brewery Tap in the city center to try their beers in peak condition.

Just outside of Huntingdon in the village of Abbots Ripton, you’ll find The Abbot’s Elm, a traditional pub with high-quality, hearty British food.


Recently named the best place in Britain to shop, Cambridge has something for everyone. From King’s Parade and Bridge Street, where you’ll find delightful independent stores — like Nomads, where you can pick up Afghan rugs, Tibetan necklaces and far more besides — amid the better-known national chains, to the Grand Arcade, with its flagship John Lewis department store, there’s a huge variety.

That’s particularly true if you love to read: naturally enough in a city full of students, bookshops like Heffers and G. David — established in the 19th century — are a key part of the street scene here.

Shopaholics are well catered to in Peterborough, which boasts the huge Queensgate shopping center. Niche Comics is perhaps Huntingdon’s most charismatic independent shop, with its impressive selection of books and comics. It also hosts regular musical events.

Out of Town

Relax along the greens of Ely Cathedral. (Photo: Alamy)

There’s plenty of charm in the countryside around Cambridge, too. The Fens, to the north of the city, is a remarkable marsh landscape; it’s flat, so perfect for cyclists who want to explore this particularly historic part of England. Ely Cathedral, in the tiny city of Ely, shouldn’t be missed.

Dating back to the 11th century, it dominates the surrounding countryside and can be visited on a special tour — making it the perfect place to get a full view of this wonderful region.