15 Quirky Things to Do in Cambridge
18 Jan 2021
Each year, over 8 million tourists descend upon the city of Cambridge, eager to soak up its academic ambiance, quintessential cobbled streets, and vibrant student atmosphere. But for those who are regular visitors or local to the area, you may have exhausted the university tours, punting trips, and museum experiences.
If you’ve checked off most of the top places to see in Cambridge, then take a look at our list of 15 quirky things to do in Cambridge, which includes some of the lesser known, but equally fantastic places to visit.
With both free and paid options on the list, as well as adult and child-friendly attractions, there’s something for everyone!
So, next time you visit the city, take a trip off the beaten path and you’ll discover all sorts of hidden gems in Cambridge, such as vintage bookstores, circus training centres, and record-holding lidos - there’s so much to do and see in this historic city!
1. Learn to circus
If you ever find yourself on Milton Road with time to spare, then why not pop along to Chesterfield Road where you could leave a whole new collection of skills.
Chesterfield Road is home to Cambridge Community Circus - a not-for-profit community organisation which is run by a team of volunteers. Individuals are encouraged to come along and join in the workshops and training sessions, where you can learn everything from how to hula hoop and juggle, to perform some impressive aerial skills. It really is one of the Cambridge’s best hidden gems.
2. Taste some delicious craft beers at Calverley’s Brewery
Founded by two brothers back in 2014, Calverley Brewery is a small batch site based in the heart of Cambridge, with a commitment to brewing a diverse and eclectic range of drinks.
Fans of the eccentric Mill Road area of Cambridge may have passed Calverley’s Brewery already. Nestled at the end of Hooper Street, Calverley’s brews a range of craft beers on-site and opens its doors to its very own Brewery Taproom in the afternoons of Wednesday through to Saturday. Be sure to keep an eye out for the revolving selection of food vans who join in the fun, serving up tasty bites to eat.
3. Discover Cambridge’s Computer Science history
For centuries, Cambridge and its world-renowned university have led the charge of the computing world; from the work of the university’s alumni and code-busting genius Alan Turing, down to the present day developments being unveiled by their research department. It is therefore fitting that the city has its own museum and education centre, dedicated to helping others understand the history and importance of the subject.
Nestled near the end of Coldham’s Road, the Centre for Computing History hosts hands-on exhibitions, workshops, and a range of interactive events for all ages. Most importantly, it celebrates the history of this subject in the local community.
4. Dive into one of Europe’s longest outdoor swimming pool
Having remained open since its construction in 1923, Jesus Green Lido is one of the few remaining open air pools in the UK which was built during the roaring twenties.
Measuring in at a long-busting 91 metres, Jesus Green Lido is also one of the longest outdoor swimming pools in Europe. Unusurprisngly, it is significantly longer than it is wide - an apparent design feature which meant swimmers could mimic the feeling of swimming in the nearby River Cam.
The site is open to the public between May and September each year, where visitors can enjoy a swim, or, the nearby Sauna and sunbathing area.
5. Go bird sculpture-spotting at Mill Road Cemetery
Back in 2014, internationally acclaimed artist Gordon Young installed seven avian-inspired sculptures in the Victorian cemetery on Mill Road, which each one dedicated to a different species of bird. All seven of the sculptures are inscribed with poetry related to the chosen bird, as well as a phonetic rendition of its song - as written by the artist Young.
So, if you’re ever looking for some quirky things to do in Cambridge, taking a trip to the cemetery should definitely be on the list! Can you spot all seven of the pieces?
6. Catch up with Cambridge’s cows
Visitors to the city of Cambridge are often surprised to see the frequent herds of cows grazing around the most central spots. But as one of the busiest and most popular tourist cities in the UK, the cows are a pleasant reminder of the rich and agricultural history of Cambridgeshire and allow locals to connect with nature.
To catch a sighting of our Bovine friends, you can take a walk to Coe Fen, Midsummer Common or Stourbridge Common. All of which are regular grazing homes for the cows. Alternatively, you can keep up-to-date with them via their own Twitter account!
7. Watch rowing practice
Fans of the annual Cambridge-Oxford boat race may enjoy watching local teams practice along the River Cam.
The best chances of catching a glimpse of the rowers is on the weekends. If you start your journey from Midsummer Common and follow the river downstream, you will be able to see no end of rowing teams out practising on the waters. Watching the coxes shout at the rowers as they zip up and down the river is quite an amusing way to spend a few hours, especially on a warm spring or summer day.
8. Explore the home of David Parr
Known as Cambridge’s “hidden heritage gem,” the home of Victorian artist David Parr is opening to visitors in 2021 with donations going towards building a visitor space to host learning and outreach events.
David Parr was an “artist-painter”, who, for over 40 years, decorated his working-class home with Arts and Crafts he received as gifts from jobs. From paints and plaster mouldings to mis-matched door handles and taps, the building houses a truly special and eclectic taste of artefacts, and is a great to spend a few hours in the city on a rainy day.
9. Soak up the beauty of some of Cambridge’s lesser-known streets
Tucked away next to the city centre lies a beautiful old row of cottages on Orchard Street, which are often covered by blooming wisteria in the spring and summer months.
The nearby lanes of Elm Street, Eden Street, Paradise Street, and Adam and Eve Street are also worth a stroll down too, for their quintessnial brickwork is the perfect backdrop for a relaxing walk - especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Cambridge's city centre.
10. And then walk ‘the Mile’
Once voted as the most cosmopolitan street in the UK, Mill Road is lined with vibrant boutiques, quirky eateries and cocktail bars, as well as multi-cultural food stores.
Although the road is around a 15 minute walk from the city centre (we’re using John Lewis as a reference point), it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into your food and drink. From cheese and delicatessen counters to craft beers, cakes and even the British favourite - fish and chips - there’s so much to sample on Mill Road.
If you go in the winter, be sure to try and visit on the day of the annual Cambridge Christmas market, which is more commonly known as Mill Road Winter Fair. It’s the one day in the calendar year where the street is closed off from traffic, and local residents come together and celebrate the winter season with music and plenty of food and drink. Not one to miss!
11. Make your own gin
Always dreamed of your own distillery? Rather than sample the best gins on the market in one of Cambridge’s many cocktail bars, go behind-the-scenes and have a go at making your own gin!
The award-winning Cambridge Distillery offers private tailoring sessions in Grnatchester. These bespoke experiences are hosted by their Master Distiller, Will, who has been named as one of the BA Modern 100 Britons and the WSET Future 50 for his works in the drinks industry. His session will take you through a range of blind tasting sessions, before creating a bespoke gin recipe that’s tailored to suit your individual tastes.
12. Enjoy a birds-eye view of the city
The city of Cambridge is made up of a truly astounding collection of architectural styles, many of which are variants on one unifying theme - the College Courts. The best views of the city’s buildings can be seen from above.
If you feel up to the challenge, then you should try climbing the 800-year old St Mary’s Tower, which is part of the university church in Cambridge. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to soak up the views with a drink in your hand, then a trip to the rooftop bar of the Varsity Hotel is the perfect spot.
13. Catch a movie at the Enchanted Cinema
Discover the magic of the open air cinema in the heart of Cambridge’s city centre with the Enchanted Cinema. With classics like Top Gun and Grease available to contemporary favourites like Rocketman and La La Land, there’s plenty of films available to suit your interests.
The outdoor cinema usually pops up at the Gonville Hotel, which is nestled right in the heart of Cambridge’s city centre. This makes it the perfect location to carry on the night, as you’ll be surrounded by a whole range of bustling bars and restaurants.
14. Spook yourself with a Ghost Walk
With a city that has stood for centuries and housed many of the world’s most famous and unique individuals, it’s not surprising to think of the ghosts you could find hanging around the streets of Cambridge.
Enjoy a spook-tacular ghost walk around some of Cambridge’s main haunting spots, as a historian fills you in on their macabre history. It’s an hour of spine-tingling tales, thrills and all-things gruesome - definitely not one for the faint hearted!
15. Delve into David’s Bookshop
For cities with a high bookstore to residents ratio, Cambridge is probably near the top of the list. But one of the most enchanting bookstores is G. David Booksellers.
Squirrelled away in a small court just off of the popular King’s Parade, this bookstore is filled with history, having been in operation since 1896. The original G. David (a Parisian bookseller) began selling his books on a stall in the popular Market Square, before expanding to a physical store around the corner.
There really is no better traditional bookstore in the area, with the shop specialising in antiquarian books, second-hand books, fine bindings and manuscripts - some from the 14th Century. Dive into the store’s vintage archives and you’re sure to find a piece of treasure to take home with you.
If you’re looking to trail off the beaten track, then there are plenty of quirky things to do in Cambridge, no matter what time of year you visit.
Let us know if you have the chance to experience them by tagging us in your photos on social media - @dewscoaches
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