Akshaya Ramalingam recommends Cambridge
Greetings from the welcoming university city of Cambridge.
While it’s most famous for its Oxbridge place of learning, the city has other claims to fame: it’s where the atom was first split, where the structure of DNA was discovered, where the electron and neutron were first found and where Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity.
About 80km north of London, this compact city has been home to some of the world’s greatest minds of the past 500 years. It’s also one of the few cities that can take your breath away with its exquisite architecture, which is built on strong fundamental elements of history. Punting on the beautiful and tranquil River Cam or relaxing in the neatly manicured college gardens is a great way to forget about daily troubles and bask in the serenity of this intriguing city.
Cambridge is known worldwide for its mind-boggling mass of brainpower that has passed through its world-famous colleges. And a fresh new generation of designer boutiques, coffee houses and slick nightlife venues is finding a niche among the intriguing passageways and medieval doorways of the old town.
My favourite place
Cambridge is one of those places that has something for everyone, so there isn’t just one particular place for me. When visiting Cambridge you can’t miss out on punting. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat, which does not have a keel, and is propelled by means of a long pole. Punts were introduced as a pleasure craft in Edwardian times and since then, punting has become one of the most popular ways to see the famous bridges and colleges along the River Cam. If you can, have a go at punting yourself; if you’re able and fit, it’s surprisingly amusing and enjoyable. If you’d prefer someone else to do all the hard work while you sit back and relax as the world goes by, there are chauffeur punts. It’s more expensive but you will get a commentary of the various sights on the river and there will be no chance of you falling into the water!
A visit to Cambridge is not complete without taking time to visit the intriguing museums and the university to get the sensation of drowning in history and tradition that only seems to deepen the more you venture out. Cambridge is widely known as the home to the prestigious University of Cambridge, consistently ranked as one of the top five universities in the world. Sixty-one Nobel Prizes have been won by graduates from the hallowed halls of Cambridge. There are 31 colleges and most are open for visitors. Some charge a small fee and access may be limited during term time, so check before you go. For art afficionados, The Fitzwilliam Museum is a definite must-see. It contains the famous works of Picasso, Matisse and Constable. It also has collections of ancient artefacts from the Egyptian and Chinese civilisations. A visit to The Eagle pub is worthwhile, as it’s said to be the place where the form of DNA was discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick. It’s also a great place to just let go and have fun.
The climate. Visiting Cambridge at the right time of the year is essential. As the city is often cold, wet and misty during the winter, it can dampen the mood of the holiday. So it’s best to plan your trip in spring, summer or autumn. Any of these seasons are a good time to admire this stunning city.
All kinds of souvenirs can be found, but steer clear of the cliché tourist T-Shirts and try This is Cambridge, a great shop to get quirky souvenirs about DNA and the rock band Pink Floyd (founded in Cambridge). For tea connoisseurs, England offers unique types of tea and packaging. I would recommend buying tea sold in tea caddy in the shape of a traditional British red telephone phone box. These cute containers are found in many local gift shops in the market square in the city centre. If you want a university souvenir, Ryder & Amies sells ties for each of the Colleges and has been the official university outfitter for more than 120 years.
Where to stay
From five-star hotels for luxury to more modest places to stay, Cambridge can accommodate all budgets. If you have a big wallet, experience the striking Victorian building of the four-star University Arms Hotel, right in the heart of the old medieval town with major attractions like the River Cam, University of Cambridge and The Grafton Centre (a covered shopping centre) nearby. But for budget accommodation, I would recommend the Premier Inn, which is only a 10-minute drive from Cambridge’s historic centre and offers good facilities. There are also lots of cheap and cheerful youth hostels and bed and breakfasts around the city for a shorter stay.