London is great; we can all agree on that. Yet, it’s the sort of complicated love that demands you get away from the object of your affection every once in a while. A week on a sun-scorched beach would be ideal; however, for those of us who haven’t been blessed with endless financial resources, day-trips are the perfect solution to the I-need-a-break-but-I-have-no-money dilemma, and if you’re considering a quick out of town excursion, look no further than Cambridge. Steeped in history, abounding in magnificent architecture, charming alleys, indie boutiques and only an hour away from London – what more could you possibly wish for? Here’s a couple of not to be missed spots in England’s brainy capital.
King’s College Cambridge
Having visited both Oxford and Cambridge, I’m ambivalent about the colleges’ visitor policy. For those who live and study there, it must feel a little bit like a zoo, with a constant stream of tourists treading the grounds of these venerable institutions and curiously eyeing the occasional resident, a specimen of the intellectual breed that is an Oxbridge student caught in their natural habitat. I find the discrepancy between the colleges’ residential aspect and their status as (paid) tourist attractions tricky to negotiate. Nevertheless, King’s College is well worth a visit - the ticket gives you access to the college grounds (that is, a manicured lawn you can’t step on unless accompanied by a Senior Member of the College) and the chapel which prides itself on the largest fan vault in the world, and some prime examples of medieval stained glass - an impressive feat of architecture indeed.
Entry: £6 pounds (concession), £9 (adults)
Cambridge Market, Market Square
Frankly, Cambridge Market has none of the quirkiness of Camden nor the olfactory overload of Borough: it’s a market in the most conventional sense of the word rather than an Instagram hotspot, which – although slightly underwhelming for a spoiled Londoner – is actually quite refreshing. What I particularly appreciate about it is its local feel. Forget throngs of tourists elbowing their way to the stalls, phones at the ready; although it certainly attracts visitors, Cambridge Market feels much more like a place where you’d casually pick up some veg for dinner. If you’re a vintage enthusiast, there is a great selection of second-hand books and a wonderful stall selling gorgeous pre-loved coats and Nordic jumpers at fairly reasonable prices.
This one, admittedly, made it onto the list by coincidence: I happened to walk past it and wandered in only because of the irresistible announcement “Free admission” that screamed at me in bold letters. Kettle’s Yard, as it turned out, is an intriguing hybrid of historic house and art gallery. Originally the abode of an art collector Jim Ede and his wife Helen, it remains virtually unchanged from its days as a family home, and every decorative arrangement of stones (of which there are many) has been meticulously preserved as Ede would have had it, making the house not just a display of modern art, but also a consummate exercise in interior design. As soon as you go upstairs, the unassuming entrance hall transforms into a succession of airy, spacious rooms, furnished and decorated with real flair, which somehow manage to appear both stripped-down and eclectic. The distinction between the domestic and exhibition spaces is blurred by the fact that you’re encouraged to sit down in armchairs dotted around the place, to be able to fully appreciate Ede’s painstaking conception, specifically designed to be approached from different angles. It’s possibly one of the most unique art galleries I’ve ever been to, and I can’t recommend it enough.