One: Sidney Sussex College
The famous colleges –the large ones, the grand ones, the exclusive ones— are, well, famous. Almost everybody recognises King’s College, with its vast chapel and its world-renowned choirboys. St John’s, similarly, is large and beautiful; and, as our students can attest, having visited it earlier in the week, it is justly a magnet for tourists.
Sidney Sussex, on the other hand, is small, central, and relatively unobtrusive. Its chapel is quiet and calm, without the soaring frescos and gold-leafed vaulted ceiling of other, flashier, colleges. It is an oasis of serenity in the centre of an often busy Cambridge. And, in addition to its tranquility, it is also of strange historical significance: buried somewhere on the Sidney Sussex site is the decapitated head of Thomas Cromwell, the man who became essentially dictator in Britain after the Civil War. Word on the street says that only three people, at any given time, know exactly where the head is, with the secret being passed down from generation to generation.
Two: Hot Numbers
Cambridge is an impressive place packed with art, beauty, artefacts, and architecture. If you’re not spending a great deal of time in the city, you might well –and rightly— consider getting up slightly earlier and just wandering the streets while it’s quiet, to get a private view of the building’s often stunning exteriors. But whether you are up with the lark or up with— something that gets up later than a lark, you might find yourself feeling slightly tired after a day packed with walking: although Cambridge is not a large town, the different sights worth seeing are certainly spread out. At this point, for many people, Enter Coffee, Stage Right.
Hot Numbers, for coffee connoisseurs, is the place in Cambridge. Famous among students and residents, it is a very hipster venue, though far from unwelcoming. Sitting at a table, you find yourself surrounded by men with immaculate beards and horn-rimmed glasses. Even if you have reservations about beards, glasses, or hipsters in general, the coffee makes it worthwhile— and that’s not even mentioning the live music often being performed.
Fitzbillies is famous in its own right, and has been for some time; but, for those unacquainted with Cambridge and visiting briefly, it deserves mentioning. Cambridge is a town which, though deeply historical and with a lot of individuality –how many towns have thirty-odd colleges, and the chance to punt your way through them?— has badly fallen prey to the ‘cloning’ epidemic. Its high streets contains few eateries that you could not find in dozens of other far less pretty towns, and those searching for an ‘authentic’ experience might struggle.
Here, Fitzbillies can step in. Its Chelsea buns, sticky pastry-cake concoctions filled with currants and slathered in gooey white icing, have become the stuff of Cambridge legend, and to leave the town without eating one would be a minor sin.