The city is not only revered for its university — you can also expect quirky shops, lip-smacking cuisine and plenty of festive-themed treats. Here’s how to compile all its best bits into one fabulous winter weekend
Day one: architecture trails and fine dining
Start your trip by checking into apartment-style hotel The Fellows House, which opened in summer 2021, a stone’s throw from the River Cam. The property, which has rooms named after Cambridge Fellows such as Quentin Blake, Alan Turing and Rudyard Kipling, is hosting a variety of Christmas-themed workshops this winter, including gingerbread biscuit decoration with mulled wine for grown-ups and hot chocolate for the younger ones, wreath-making and cocktail masterclasses.
Cambridge is a walker’s paradise steeped in history. One trail starts at the Grade I-listed Bridge of Sighs, which dates back to 1831, the only covered bridge on the River Cam and a celebrated feature of St John’s College. En route, check out the 900-year-old Round Church and wind your way towards the breathtaking architecture of narrow Trinity Lane. Stop for coffee and a mince pie at the 100-year-old Fitzbillies bakery, before visiting King’s College Chapel, home to the world’s largest fan-vaulted ceiling and the King’s College Choir. Don’t miss Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge’s largest church, and the unusual Corpus Clock nearby.
For a festive menu option, head to The Orator brasserie and bar, part of the Cambridge Union Society, to enjoy some modern fine dining in a historic building. The menu features turkey leg ballotine, breaded celeriac steak and classic Christmas desserts such as sherry trifle.
Day two: Christmas shopping and Potter-themed adventures
For some quirky Christmas gift ideas, check out the All Saints Garden Arts & Crafts market, showcasing jewellery, pottery, sculpture, photography, paintings, prints and clothing. It’s on every Saturday from 10am and, in the run-up to Christmas, during the week, too. Keep the cold at bay with an indulgent hot chocolate at Signorelli’s Deli, a few minutes’ walk away, or stroll a little further to try an artisan coffee and Italian specialities at Modigliani — delicious authentic cannoli await.
Continue your retail therapy with a stop at Rose Crescent. With an uncanny resemblance to Diagon Alley, fans of Harry Potter can complete their pilgrimage with a visit to The Department of Magical Gifts. Other shops include artsy boutique Podarok and Nomads, a beguiling emporium of curios that aptly describes itself as an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’. The narrow, cobbled walkway of Green Street is also a must-see. If all that shopping has taken its toll, pamper yourselves at Gresham House Wellness with facials, massages, beauty and spa packages.
Enjoy a warming cup of mulled wine from Cambridge Wine Merchants, the UK’s most awarded independent wine merchant, at its Bridge Street wine bar. Market House nearby champions sustainability, with fresh, seasonal produce sourced from small, regional businesses. For hearty pub grub pass by the Eagle pub, and round off the evening with cocktails at 1920s-themed The Lab Cocktail Bar.
Time to spare?
Check out the Defaced! Money, Conflict, Protest exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum. The show runs until 8 January and is the first major exhibition to explore a 250-year history of protest.
If you’re after some Christmas sparkle, head to the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, around a 20-minute drive from the city centre, to find a winter wonderland, complete with more than a million lights, giant baubles, Christmas-themed music and toasted marshmallows. The event runs from 25 November to 1 January.