This isn’t about gambling, so no punter here trying to take your money away. You can relax now.
Cambridge is your quintessentially alluring British city. It’s a university town, immaculate in appearance, and proud of its history and heritage. Known the world over for and because of the many movers and shakers who have passed through its many colleges, Cambridge not only attracts students from all around the world but also tourists in vast numbers.
For individuals like myself, the only chance we will ever get to tell someone that we are “Cambridge return” is by actually visiting the city as a tourist. Since I have done that, I think it’s okay to mention, in passing, that I have “been to Cambridge” even if the other person is asking about my educational qualifications. I mean I did learn something new while I was there, so what if I didn’t attend a university…officially.
Jokes apart, what does one do in Cambridge, especially if it happens to be a bright and sunny day?
First of all, check if somehow Cambridge has miraculously teleported itself from England to some other part of the world, because let’s face it, the chance of British weather being so good, especially on a day you are out visiting a new place, is unheard of.
Seriously though, and I mean it this time, if you happen to be in Cambridge on a beautiful day, make the most of it by spending as much time as you can on the outside.
Trust me, the colleges aren’t going anywhere. It’s a guarantee. They have been standing tall for decades, centuries even, and when you’ve seen a couple, you’ve sort of seen them all. Blasphemy? Not really. They are gorgeous academic institutions that should be celebrated, but you can do that… from the outside, learn about them… from the outside, appreciate their impressive architecture…from the outside. Save the whole “walking through the halls” bit for a rainy day.
In fact, if this is your first time, and you are here for just a day, and there is even a remote chance you will return, then the museums spread across the city can wait too. Be it the Fitzwilliam Museum, The Imperial War Museum, The Polar Museum or the Cambridge University Museum, all are interesting places to visit and definitely educational in their own rights, but you can easily skip a couple to instead immerse yourself into the vibe of the city that comes alive on beautiful sunny days.
Which also includes partaking in a British essential experience. The tradition of Afternoon Tea is an integral part of life here, and quite honestly, with such tasty delights included, it’s hard to skip, especially for a food lover like myself. So, from drinking a rejuvenating cuppa to biting into mini-sandwiches, scones, and cakes, tea time in Cambridge is exceptional.
Once replenished, head on out and enjoy the gardens surrounding the Colleges. The oh-so-pretty flowers blooming, trees giving shade, rolling green grass sort of parks where it is almost mandatory to have a picnic. Provided it is allowed to “Stay on the Grass”. And no, not THAT kind of grass, HA HA! I get it, you are so hilarious.
Enough about the grass, there’s also an abundance of flora and fauna to keep you occupied, but even if botanical names of plants don’t fascinate you, the exquisiteness of the natural beauty is tremendously soothing to the eyes, and you’ve only got to be human to appreciate it all.
Of course, like any quaint British town, you must explore the streets of Cambridge for its delightful cafes and local shops (in addition to the high-street brands and souvenir stalls). If you are a little nerdy and bookish, as I am, then a visit to the Cambridge University Press Bookshop should be on your shopping list. But, if you just want to really chill out, then head to one of the bars by the river for a quick drink or two.
Cambridge is picture perfect. Now, one of my many regrets in life has been that I am artistically challenged, ‘cause if I were not, then the city would be my muse, and nothing would pleasure me more than to sit under a tree, set up my easel, and paint away the beautiful scenes that would play out in front of my eyes. Buildings with enchanting arches, the reflections in the water disturbed by the ripples whenever a boat would pass, and of course the people who add character to the very nature of the city.
However, the one “excursion” you must partake in, when in the city, especially on a bright sunny day, is taking a ride in a Punt, that “long flat-bottomed boat, with square ends, propelled with a long pole”, which can be found-a-plenty floating on the River Cam.
I must confess, I did lie a little right at the start. There is a bit of gamble involved in taking a boat ride because every now and then it capsizes. Usually, it is the poor punter who ends up in the water, much before he/she lets any one of their customers get wet, but I was informed that there have been cases where one moment everyone is enjoying the local scenery and the next they are taking a refreshing dip in the river.
I’m scaring you more than I should. It’s perfectly safe, so don’t worry because a leisurely ride in a punt is a must do when in Cambridge.
For the adventurous souls out there, and to some extent suicidal individuals, you can hire a boat and be your own punter. However, it does get crowded and if you don’t know where you are going or end up in the wrong direction, well, remember what I told you about taking a dip in the river, so best if you come without bathing that day.
For a more relaxed individual, let the professionals do their job. By doing this, you will also be helping the local student population as most of them work as boat-men and women to earn extra cash.
During the high tourist season, students can be found spread across the main touristy areas enticing you to take a punt, so to speak. Bargain with them because we were initially quoted £10 per person and £5 for my then 2-year old daughter, but eventually ended up paying £7 p/p and my daughter went for free. Also, do not feel bad about it, as, by bargaining, all that you are doing is providing these young minds with the kind of business acumen that only real-life situations can provide. I mean if they would have figured out we are outsiders and that we have a young enthusiastic child with us, they’d know that we would have even paid double for the ride. If you are in Cambridge and reading this, let this be a lesson to you.
If you luck out with a good punter like we did, he/she will also be your source of entertainment and information, giving you an inside, well technically outside, look at the city’s colleges and their rivalries and friendships. What you can do in the end is give a tip for your punter provided you enjoyed your little boat ride (although it is not expected).
There you have it, folks. Make it a day trip from London, or come and stay for a weekend in the town, but if you are looking for a laid-back, relaxing, gently swaying time in Cambridge, remember, sometimes it pays to take a punt.
Haha you know that despite living most of my life in UK and having many friends and family go to the university I’ve never been to Cambridge! If I do go though, I will definitely take a punt on the Cam. Looks like fun!
I totally feel teleported to olden day England when reading your post on Cambridge. It looks so beautiful and I am in love with the architecture. I think I would enjoy this experience – good to know its best to try and bargain with them, especially during the high season time. Seems like a great way to explore Cambridge.
I felt relaxed just looking at those photos of the punters on the river. I can imagine it would be even better in person. And having been to the UK a few times (unfortunately not Cambridge) you’re right about the weather. If it’s nice out then take advantage while you can.
This place looks like a dream! As with many, I grew up hearing the words, “Cambridge University”, but never actually put an image to the words. It looks so old school and the architecture is lovely. I’d love to visit.
A punt is definitely a quintessential English pastime, and Cambridge is the perfect place to do it. Your photos really make me miss summer, especially seeing the sunshine. A real summer treat in Cambridge!
As usul, I love the flow in your post. I also don’t get the frenzy about the Cambridge schools and museums. Not that it’s bad, it’s just too over hyped. Glad to read there is someone who would rather have the outside than the inside like me. There is so much to see and do outside the schools and museums. Taking a punt ride is so one of them and I look forward to it. Now I can visit Cambridge and get the best of my time and feel ‘normal.’ Thanks for the post, it was a nice read
I am a bit of a book nerd, so I would love to go to the Cambridge Unversity Press Bookshop… then buy a book… then head to the park… lay on the grass (the real grass! haha!) and read 😀 Assuming I catch a sunny day of course
As Cambridge is famous for best universities, it is always on my list. But you have given me a good idea to take a ount and tour around. Through punt, you have discovered many green patches, narrow alleys of Cambridge, short tunnels and bridges and students relaxing by the river. The ride must be so poetic. I loved all your photographs, specially that under small tunnel one, in black and white.
I had no idea Cambridge is located on the water. I’d love to take a boat ride and see the beautiful greenery and architecture from the water. I can only imagine going to school here and getting to see these picturesque view every day.
Wow Cambridge looks so pretty… like los tin time don’t you think? I also like your retro touch on your photos, it enhances the effect even more. I would love to visit, especially in spring and take a punt.
Nicole Anderson| Camping for Women
You have painted the perfect picture of Cambridge for me. I have put it in my list to “go and see” when I am next in the U.K, I didn’t realize it was om the water. Beautiful photographs illustrate the old and the new. I will absolutely be “taking a punt” and coming to stay a few days in Cambridge.
Jenn and Ed Coleman
If there was one thing I learned from my time in Cambridge it’s the proper definition of taking a punt. Being a Yank, I always reckoned it back to American Football but it’s really and idiom about a high risk, high reward play in rugby. Actually, I’ve never been to Cambridge but I did find that in the Oxford Dictionary so that has to count for something.
Taking a punt seems like the quintessential way to spend a quintessential day (other than the over abundance of sunshine) in an absolutely beautiful place. I love how green and picturesque everything is. This is being filed away in my book of dreams for travelling the English Countryside.
All I know about punting is related to football! So you got me interested right away. And then you didn’t get to it until the middle. My daughter lived in London for a year and in Newcastle for two and got married in Scotland so we had plenty of chances to visit every nook and cranny of the UK. But I missed Cambridge! So I have a darn good reason to go back!
Reading this article just made me realise that I’ve never been to Cambridge. I feel like because we are sometimes so “familiar” with places we feel like we’ve already been there, even though we haven’t. Your cheerful snaps just gave me reality check haha. Thanks for the tips. I’d definitely like to visit the Cambridge University Press Bookshop when I “finally” get there. Thanks for inspiring me.
I have been to Cambridge before but this activity never struck me. Thanks for putting it on my ‘to-do’ list. Taking a ride in a Punt on the River Cam is just my kind of activity.
I am a bad Brit who hasn’t actually been to cambridge! It’s on my bucket list though, a pun looks like a great way to explore!
Cambridge looks like an absolutely stunning town, like something stright out of a movie! I would probably have so much fun exploring the cafes and shops, as well as the gardens and the awesome canals! Your writing style is amazing too, I felt like you were talking to me as a friend and felt like I was there! Thanks for a great read.
Hahaha! Indeed you’re ‘Cambridge Return’!
Having a picnic on a sunny day on the grass is definitely an English thing to do. I’ve done that in my backyard as well as Greenwich park! Lolz.
Don’t worry. You’re not artistically challenged. Photography is an art!!!
I have been to Cambridge, but unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of the town as I was working at one of the annual festivals (in fact, I think I was there twice but … you know, festivals! So I don’t remember a lot). I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there to explore the city and take a punt on the river 🙂
Culture and Couture (@CoutureCulture_)
I LOVE Cambridge but unfortunately have only been able to visit once (on a work trip), and we visited the university and had a picnic in the park, but it’s on my top list of places to visit this year. Your photos are stunning, thanks for sharing! xoxo
Constance @ The Adventures of Panda Bear
Being an American, I’ve only thought of “punting” as something you do in what we call, football. But you have enlightened me and it definitely looks like something I would want to try in Cambridge. I still have yet to visit Cambridge but it looks like you can easily spend a relaxing afternoon drifting down the river 🙂
Sam the Writer
I have been to Cambridge as a tourist a few times, but years ago, when you are there a lot to study you do get a little beauty blind. Thank you for the wonderful and engaging – not to mention aesthetic – post 🙂