Best things to do in Cambridge over the winter break

Here’s a list of things to keep you entertained if you’re staying in Cambridge over the winter break


Almost everyone I know (including myself) is heading back home once Michaelmas ends – but there’s obviously going to be exceptions. Some international students face the prospect of heinous-sounding COVID quarantine policies if they head home. Others may just want to spend more time living in the gorgeous city of Cambridge.

In your social circle, there’s bound to be someone else who’s staying in Cambridge over the break. Even if they’re a friend of a friend, reach out, and do one of the things on this list with them!

Explore bits of the city you haven’t yet explored

A pretty bit of Cambridge (guess where) on a warm autumn afternoon. Image credits: Akrit Agarwal

By this point, you’ve spent at least two months in Cambridge, and you probably know the area around your college and department/faculty decently well (or not) – but have you done any actual exploring? With how much work we have, I’d be very impressed if you said you had.

Personally, as a student at a hill college, I’d say I’ve got a pretty good grasp of where things are towards Cambridge’s north and its city centre. But I almost never travel further south than Emmanuel, and areas like Mill Road are almost completely foreign to me.

Over the winter break, you’ll finally be free to traipse around town as a resident of Cambridge. Go shopping at the Grafton Centre – they’ve got quite a few thrift shops that sell some lovely stuff. Check out Castle Mound – it’s a tiny “hill” on Castle hill that makes for a great spot to sit as you watch the sunset.

A cow at Midsummer Common. Image credits: Bilyana Tomova

And if you’ve never been out east towards Stourbridge Common or the Ditton Meadows, head over there for a picnic! A fun bonus is the opportunity to see some pets. Every single time I’ve been there, I’ve come across an adorably small dog sprinting around the field in hot pursuit of some toy or animal.

I’ve also seen cows there as late as November – so if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how much you like cows), you could spot one for yourself.

Visit colleges you haven’t yet visited

Image credits: Matilda Head

There are 31 colleges. I’ve only visited 13 of them. While the specifics of which colleges you’ve yet to visit obviously vary from person to person, chances are some of you have never been to Girton (neither have I). It’s a four-kilometre walk from the city centre.

When asked why Girton was worth visiting, one student pointed to its “very significant history” as the first college in Cambridge to offer women degrees. The same student also mentioned that Girton had “an indoor heated, grade II listed swimming pool.” Another simply said Girton was worth visiting “because it’s the best college.”

Have you crossed the Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ College yet? I’ve been assured that the novelty wears off quite quickly by my friends at Queens’ – but having walked over it only once, I don’t believe that.

There’s also a special charm in walking through Cambridge in the late evening if you can put up with the cold. I love walking past Newton’s Apple Tree on Trinity Street after dark. It looks so Victorian and old-timey, especially after it’s rained or when it’s foggy. Trinity Lane and the Senate House Passage too – it’s like stepping back in time.

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Obviously, for safety’s sake, please don’t go alone! Take a friend with you AND let someone know where you’re going. Cambridge is a safe city, yes, but you’re not obligated to test that hypothesis yourself.

Check out Cambridge’s museums

From the Fitzwilliam Museum. Image credits: Vedika Mandapati

Cambridge – unsurprisingly – has lots of museums. I’ve only been to the Fitzwilliam Museum myself, but I’ve heard wonderful things about quite a few other museums.

The Fitzwilliam Museum is stunning. If you like art, they’ve got watercolours and drawings by big names (Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Leonardo). They also have an extensive collection of sculptures as well as ceramics from the Islamic world. Asian art, including jade, bronzes, metalwork from China, Korea, and Japan, also has a place in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

It would be impossible to concisely list everything of note there. Spend at least a day there.

The Museum of Archaeology and Archaeology, for one, is currently exhibiting “an astonishing collection of African artwork” from early 20th-century West Africa. Simultaneously, a set of videos about anti-colonialism in Africa play.

The Museum also welcomes “feedback and suggestions” in relation to “identifying images or data that cause offence or harm,” as it characterizes its own catalogue as including “historic descriptions and representations that are factually inaccurate, racist and otherwise inappropriate.”

A museum slightly closer to the hill colleges is the Museum of Cambridge, which seeks to “share the extraordinary stories of the people of Cambridgeshire.” This Sunday (December 5), it’s even hosting a walking tour of Cambridge’s alleyways and side streets to tell “stories of beer, brothels, and boatmen!”

Leave Cambridge

Cambridge’s lovely train station. Image credits: Sunil060902 on Wikimedia Commons via the Creative Commons Licence

Cambridge is great, but it’s not particularly large! Past a certain point, you just run out of things to do – so if you’re bored, leave the city! Fortunately, London’s just over an hour away by train, and there’s plenty to do there.

You could always just spend the entirety of the break in your room, too. There’s no compulsion to go out to do any of the things on the list – or visit Cambridge’s own winter wonderland. But chances are doing nothing will grow stale after a couple of weeks. When that happens, hopefully, this list comes in handy!

Feature image credits: George Ellison

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