The United Kingdom has made quite the mark on the international traveler's itinerary. The Big Ben, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, all the places on the Monopoly board – everyone wants to tick them off their bucket list. However, the UK is much, much more than just London. It is also home to a myriad of national parks, beautiful scenery, and lovely, quaint towns.
Here's What To Do if You're on a Solo Trip to Cambridge
One such town is Cambridge, most known for its centuries-long association with academia. Solo travelers have loads to do here and can find affordable, charming lodgings in either youth hostels or within the university campuses themselves. Here is a list of all the things you can do on a solo trip to Cambridge.
1. Immerse Yourself in The World's Most Renowned University Town
Of course, this list must start with the University. Cambridge is home to the world-famous University of Cambridge, renowned for its prestigious colleges, groundbreaking research, and rich academic heritage. It is the third oldest university in continuous operation!
As a solo traveler, you can fully immerse yourself in this unique academic environment by exploring iconic colleges such as King's College or Trinity College, attending public lectures at the University Library, or browsing renowned bookstores like Heffers and G. David Booksellers. It's a rare opportunity to experience the intellectual vibrancy and scholarly traditions of this esteemed university town, which has produced no less than 14 British Prime Ministers.
2. Discover Cambridge's Rich Literary Legacy in Historic Libraries and Bookshops
Cambridge's historical libraries and bookshops are a haven for book lovers. The University Library, also known as the “UL,” is a treasure trove of rare manuscripts and books, including works by famous authors such as Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. The Wren Library at Trinity College houses rare books, including an original copy of Shakespeare's First Folio. Additionally, independent bookshops like Cambridge University Press Bookshop and Sarah Key Books offer a cozy ambiance for solo travelers to browse and discover literary gems.
3. Enjoy The Unique Tradition of Afternoon Tea in Historic Tea Rooms
Cambridge is known for its quintessential English tradition of afternoon tea, and there are several historic tea rooms where you can indulge in this delightful experience. Fitzbillies, a renowned bakery established in 1920, is famous for its sticky Chelsea buns and serves a scrumptious afternoon tea with freshly baked scones, clotted cream, and homemade jam. The Orchard Tea Garden, located in the picturesque village of Grantchester, offers a tranquil setting where you can enjoy traditional afternoon tea in a serene garden, just as famous writers like Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke once did.
4. Explore The Vibrant Food Scene With Eclectic Eateries
Cambridge has a diverse and vibrant food scene, with numerous eateries that cater to different tastes and preferences. As a solo traveler, you can indulge in diverse cuisines from around the world, from classic British pubs to international fusion restaurants. The Cambridge Chop House, located in a historic building, offers locally sourced, seasonal British cuisine in a cozy setting. For a taste of the Mediterranean, The Oak Bistro offers a range of delicious tapas and modern European dishes. The Rainbow Café is a popular vegetarian and vegan eatery that serves delicious plant-based fare. You can satisfy your culinary cravings and discover unique dining experiences while exploring Cambridge on your own.
5. Wander Through Cambridge's Quaint Streets and Picturesque Gardens
The picturesque cobbled streets of the city center, such as King's Parade and Market Square, are lined with historic buildings, quaint shops, and cafes, perfect for leisurely strolling and people-watching. The Jesus Green and Midsummer Common are expansive green spaces along the River Cam where you can relax, picnic, or simply take in scenic views.
6. Unwind at The Eagle, a Historic Pub With Wwii History
During World War II, The Eagle served as a popular hangout spot for RAF pilots, who left their signatures on the ceiling with candle smoke. Soak in the rich history and enjoy a pint of local ale or cider in this iconic pub. The Eagle also offers a cozy atmosphere and delicious pub fare, making it a great place to relax and unwind after a day of exploring Cambridge.
7. Explore The Beauty of Cambridge University Botanic Garden
The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a stunning oasis of botanical beauty, spanning over 40 acres of land. You can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and enjoy the 8000 plant species on display, including rare and exotic species from around the world. The garden was opened in 1831 by Charles Darwin's mentor. It also hosts special events, workshops, and exhibitions, providing you with a unique opportunity to learn about the fascinating world of plants and horticulture.
8. Enjoy The Cambridge Film Festival
The Cambridge Film Festival is a popular annual event that celebrates the art of cinema, showcasing a diverse range of films from around the world. This is the third longest-running film festival in the UK and takes place annually during Autumn. You can catch screenings of critically acclaimed films, attend Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and participate in workshops and masterclasses. The festival offers a unique opportunity to explore the world of cinema, engage with film enthusiasts, and enjoy the magic of the big screen in the historic city of Cambridge.
9. Participate in Cambridge's Historic May Week Celebrations
May Week is a historic Cambridge tradition that marks the end of the academic year and is celebrated with a week-long series of events and festivities. From garden parties to formal balls, punting on the River Cam, to live music performances, May Week offers a memorable cultural experience unique to Cambridge, providing you with a glimpse into the city's rich heritage and traditions. Just a heads up – May week is now celebrated in June, so make sure to get your dates right before going!
10. Explore Cambridge's Thriving Arts Scene
With numerous art galleries, museums, and theaters that cater to diverse artistic interests, Cambridge has much to offer the artistic-minded. You can explore local art galleries like the Fitzwilliam Museum, which houses an extensive collection of art and antiquities, or the Kettle's Yard, a contemporary art gallery in a historic house. You can also catch performances at the ADC Theatre, a renowned student-run theater, or the Cambridge Arts Theatre, which hosts a variety of plays, musicals, and performances throughout the year, providing you with ample opportunities to immerse yourself in the local arts scene.
11. Attend World-Class Concerts at The Cambridge Corn Exchange
The Cambridge Corn Exchange is a historic venue known for its diverse lineup of concerts, performances, and events. The iconic site began as a corn exchange but transitioned into a popular location for events in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first Motor Show of many was held in 1898, the venue hosted the London Symphony Orchestra in 1925, and one thousand people were welcomed to a Tea For a Thousand in 1935. During the 1940s, local women used the venue to clean and repair rifles. After the war, the venue was popular for boxing, wrestling, and roller skating. The floor was usually marked out for badminton matches that were held in the building. A temporary wooden bridge across Wheeler Street was even constructed in the 1950s to join it to the neighboring Guildhall for balls and other events.
Famous artists who have performed here include David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, John Cleese, Johnny Cash, and Adele! Maybe you'll get lucky and stumble on a celebrity doing an impromptu set.
12. Immerse Yourself in The Cambridge Science Festival
The Cambridge Science Festival is a renowned annual event celebrating the city's rich scientific heritage and cutting-edge research. As a solo traveler, you can participate in a wide range of interactive exhibitions, talks, and workshops, showcasing various scientific disciplines, from physics to biology to computer science. You can engage with leading scientists, researchers, and innovators and gain insights into groundbreaking scientific discoveries, making it a unique and intellectually stimulating experience.