Published: 28/11/2022Cambridge is magical at Christmas time. Yes, it is incredible all year round, but at Christmas, it is something extra special…something you need to experience yourself to appreciate fully. Walking around the streets as the evenings draw in is enough to kick-start that festive feeling. With the Christmas lights lining the roads and the shop windows full of decorations, even those who claim to be scrooges at this time of year might feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside…they just might not admit it.
When we think of Cambridge, we often think about the summer – cycling around the backs, admiring the colleges, punting with a punnet of strawberries and a bottle of bubbly, and having a picnic by the Mill Pond. The list is endless, but Cambridge is buzzing all year round, especially at Christmas. So, if you live here, work here or are just visiting for a day or weekend, you will not be disappointed. Here’s a quick guide to some of the must-see and do activities during your visit…
At this time of year, the streets of Cambridge are full of festive spirit, especially at the main market on Cambridge’s market square.
The eclectic variety of over 60 independent traders makes it the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping. Whether you are looking for handcrafted Christmas cards or want to indulge in some chocolate delights, there is something here for everyone. The bonus of buying from independent stallholders is the unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else.
On the subject of markets, the annual Mill Road Winter Fair is held on the first Saturday of December, bringing together local businesses, stallholders, musicians, artists and dancers. It is a popular event in our bustling city, and it is obvious why.
Panto – Cambridge Arts Theatre: Dick Whittington
Nothing screams Christmas more than a pantomime. The words ‘he’s behind you’ might not be for everyone, but it certainly tells us that Christmas is here. Watching a panto is a huge festive tradition for many families, and Cambridge Arts Theatre always meets expectations. Undoubtedly, it’s a good bit of harmless – if slightly cheesy - fun!
This year the popular theatre in the city centre is hosting the award-winning performance of Dick Whittington. Like every good pantomime, this has a great cast, lots of singing and dancing, and a little inappropriate humour for the adults. So if you are looking for a bit of escapism for the whole family this Christmas, a pantomime at the Cambridge Arts Theatre should be on your list.
Festive Afternoon Tea in Cambridge
Many of us are foodies in one respect or another. Fortunately, Cambridge is full of restaurants and cafes offering delicious afternoon teas. And at Christmas, a festive alternative is always a must – better still, there is something for every taste and budget here in our diverse city. Fitzbillies, Varsity Hotel and Browns Brasserie are three stand-out venues, but the list is endless; afternoon tea is available on almost every street in Cambridge…take your pick. And don’t forget the bubbles – no afternoon tea is complete without a glass of fizz. Tis the season to be jolly after all.
Christmas Carols on the River
We know that Cambridge is full of beautiful Christmas markets and grottos, but it also offers something that not many other towns can offer…Christmas Carols on the River.
Each year, Let’s Go Punting, in collaboration with the Traditional Punting Company, host an annual charity Christmas carol event which is not to be missed. The St John Evangelist Church Choir sing everyone’s favourite Christmas carols whilst gliding along the River Cam on a chauffeured punt. This hour-long festive tour along the college backs is made a little more special with warm blankets, Christmas lights and your choice of food and drink.
If you get the opportunity to enjoy this starlight choir experience, it will create memories that will stay with you for life. It is something a bit special.
What is further afield..?
If you are happy to venture a bit further out of Cambridge, the list of amazing places to visit continues to grow. Sorry, we aren’t making this easy for anyone.
Ely Cathedral Christmas Food and Gift Fair – Christmas is nothing without a festive fair or market. And Ely is famous for it. The Christmas gift and food fair at Ely Cathedral is recognised as one of the stand-out Christmas fairs in the country and last year attracted around 17,000 visitors…it’s very popular, and understandably so!
Christmas at Wimpole – At Wimpole Farm, you will be transported into a wonderful winter wonderland (that’s a tongue twister!) where you will discover sparkling tunnels of light, giant baubles and trees illuminated in Christmas colours. All the specially chosen illuminations are choreographed to a soundtrack of Christmas tunes, and independent street food vendors serve a delicious selection of tasty treats for the whole family.
Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights – Anglesey Abbey offers an enchanting, magical celebration of the natural world, a beautiful, sensory journey (at night) that brings the gardens of Anglesey Abbey to life in all their full glory. Tucked away in the orchard, you will find a selection of independent traders selling treats galore. It’s magical, but you must grab those gloves and bobble hat.
Let’s wrap this up (see what we did there?)
Christmas is a time of tradition and activities; above anything else, it is about spending precious time with those you love. It is about happiness. Whether you are looking for a classic family activity during the festive period or something a little different, Cambridge should be on your list of places to visit. You could spend a whole morning browsing the treats on the market or maybe take a festive punt down the river…there is no shortage of choice. Make some memories and come and find out exactly why Cambridge is so fabulous at Christmas. Guaranteed, you will be back next year.