The city of Cambridge is a bridge. The city is about a 60-mile drive from London, a bridge to the countryside. Every year hundreds of the world’s brightest students cross from the University of Cambridge to their respective careers. As a major economic port, Cambridgeconnects the world of commerce, as it has for thousands of years. It bridges the gap between the past and the present. Also, it literally connects the two sides of the river Cam. This is, in fact, where the name Cambridge comes from. In every way, Cambridge is a bridge, and it beckons you to cross.
In the context of the history of Great Britain, this heritage of the city that is so spectacular. That, and how well-preserved it is. The oldest structure in Cambridge is St. Bene’t’s Church. This parish dates back to the Saxon days and contains remnants of the original Roman city that first spanned the river. While most people think of the University of Cambridge as the foundation for the city, the metropolis actually has an even older claim to fame: Cambridge was built as a crossing point in the river, and allowed for easy transportation of goods along this water way. You can still see the city’s heritage of trade today. The technology industry has erupted here, gaining it the nickname “Silicon Fens.” Fashion, gastronomy, and theater also all blossom in this city. All of these fields represent a great entrepreneurial spirit that has forged Cambridge ahead throughout history.
Viewfinder Tip: Rent a punting boat for the day to see Cambridge in style. This is also a sweet way to hear the stories of the city.
While visiting Cambridge, I couldn’t help but notice what a youthful old city it is. Cobblestone streets echo with the click of Prada heels. Brick corridors are lined with art. On the University grounds, corridors that are more than 5,000 years old were abuzz with college students. Every boat that punted down the river was full of young men and women, probably (I imagined) off to a pub to discuss the future of commerce or the nuance of Socrates. Every street I explored seemed to mix old and new. Pubs were tucked into alcoves from the days of Henry VIII, each alternating between traditional English fare and new twists on dining out.
A local favorite and city landmark is the Anchor Pub. It doesn’t just offer a delicious view of the river but also culinary delights like portobello mushrooms with sage cream and Barbary duck legs. There is even a local wine-tasting school that offers a non-pretentious introduction to the art of enjoying wine.
For me, the best thing about Cambridge was the city’s accessibility. It was easy to get everywhere, especially to Round Church, one of only five remaining round churches in England built by the Knights Templar. You can explore Cambridge by bike, by foot, or—my personal favorite—by punting. Punting is one of the hallmark heritage parts of Cambridge. Small narrow boats are pushed by expert pilots down the river with long polls–sort of like how gondoliers push gondolas around Venice. This is the best way to see the (more than 20) bridges that span the river. Each of these bridges is a work of art and has a story behind it. Some of the stories are more entertaining than factual.
Cambridge is as jubilant and youthful as it has been for centuries, but continues to emanate the charm of a small English hamlet. While the city is a bridge for so many of England’s citizens into a prosperous future, it can also be a bridge for you into the past.
Which English cities are your favorites, and why?