1. Ice Skating on Parker's Piece
My first pick of activities in Cambridge at Christmas is to go ice skating at ‘The North Pole’, otherwise known as Parker’s Piece. The square of parkland becomes Cambridge’s own winter wonderland, free to enter and open until 5th January, so there’s lots of time for some winter fun. There are rides and stalls for both adults and children, as well as an alpine-style bar. The main attraction, however, is the clear-roofed ice rink which means you can enjoy views of Cambridge without having to worry about what the weather is doing. Slots are 45 minutes every hour, on the hour, and prices start at £10.50 per child and £12.50 per adult, including skate-hire.
2. Have a Sunday Roast in a Cosy Pub
When you’re done skating in the cold, a Sunday Roast in a traditional English pub is the perfect way to warm up! In England, it’s common to have one big meal on a Sunday afternoon; a ‘roast dinner’, so called as it typically consists of roasted meat – chicken, pork, beef or lamb, with roast potatoes and cooked vegetables. On Christmas Day, we eat a roast dinner too, but this time the meat is usually turkey and it comes with ‘all the trimmings’, which include stuffing, gravy, red cabbage, sometimes cauliflower cheese, and of course, the all-important ‘pigs in blankets’ – chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon which are usually everyone’s favourite bit of the meal! If you want to try this English tradition for yourself, you could eat a Christmas Dinner at a pub or restaurant. Pubs all around Cambridge will be serving up their own versions of the Christmas meal in December; I recommend The Granta, a lovely pub which overlooks the river. A Sunday Roast here is priced at around £10.99 so it won’t break the bank, and after lunch, if you like, you can hire a punt from Granta Punts just below it. The meat at The Granta is on a rotation so it changes every week - If you would prefer to eat beef, I’d suggest The St John’s Chophouse for a roast that won’t disappoint. It’s a 17th Century brick house with exposed beams and wood fireplaces, so it makes the perfect setting for a great Instagram shot too! They also do a vegan nut roast if you’re a non-meat-eater. Remember, it’s not a real English Christmas Dinner unless you get to pull a cracker, as shown in the photo below!
3. Go on a Wintry Walk to Grantchester
Another afternoon in Cambridge this Christmas could be spent taking a wintry walk to Grantchester village. It takes a little under an hour to walk from central Cambridge and it’s a rural village with pastoral scenery perfect for whiling away a few hours. The natural setting is gorgeous to stroll through, and, if you get cold, you can warm up with a hot chocolate in The Red Lion Pub. Grantchester is the setting of the popular British TV show by the same name, so you could look out for some of the sets, like the village church. If you visit in the summer you might even see the actors filming around Cambridge!
4. See a Christmas Pantomime
Fun for all the family would be a trip to see a Christmas pantomime at one of Cambridge’s theatres. This is another English tradition that is popular for those with young children. This year at the ADC theatre, situated next to our school, are putting on ‘Red Riding Hood’. It’s running from 27th November to 7th December, with tickets starting at £11. If you don’t catch that one, from 28th November to 11th January you can watch ‘Cinderella’ at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Tickets for this one are a little more pricey, starting at £17.
5. Mince Pies!
If you’re hungry for a snack amongst all the Christmassy activities, then a mince pie is a good place to start. The mince pie is possibly the most famous Christmas dessert in England, and you will find them in coffee shops all over Cambridge. These are sometimes met with confusion due to being made with ‘mincemeat’, but don’t worry! There is not actually any meat at all in a mince pie, instead, it is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, in a pastry case. If you like them, you should ask for a recipe to take home where you can practise making your own!
6. Christmas Shopping
If you want to do some Christmas shopping while you’re here in Cambridge, you could try visiting the market in the market square. This goes on all year, but vendors will be selling Christmassy products throughout December so make sure to look for some bargains! If you want to do some more upmarket shopping, the quaint shops in the cobbled streets near our premises – Rose Crescent, Trinity Street and Green Street – are filled with luxury items perfect for surprising someone special with at Christmas. And, you can walk underneath the twinkling Christmas lights as you shop!
7. Watch a Christmas Film
If the weather is dampening your mood, try visiting the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse to watch a Christmas film! The Arts is an independent cinema very popular with Cambridge residents, and it shows not only upcoming, but seasonal films. This year they’re playing the new and very much anticipated ‘Last Christmas’. Going to The Arts is a much more personal experience than going to a multiplex cinema, and in doing so you’re supporting a small business.
8. Winter Lights at Anglesey Abbey
If you’re looking for something striking and memorable to do in winter in Cambridge, I’d recommend booking to go to ‘Winter Lights’ at the National Trust estate Anglesey Abbey. The National Trust describe it as ‘a magical mix of light, colour, sound and nature’. The enchanting walk through the lights goes on for a mile, so it’s not too long if you’re bringing children. The lights are on for three weekends starting with the 29th November, and tickets must be booked. If you are interested, check the National Trust website for more information.
9. Christmas Carols
To get in the Christmas mood, you could attend a carol service. The most famous of all is the service that takes place every year on Christmas Eve in Kings College Chapel, arguably the most impressive building in Cambridge. If you want to attend, however, you will need a warm coat, and some patience! There are first come first served tickets, so any member of the public can attend, but while the service starts at 3pm, the gates to the college open between 6.30pm and 7.00, and you will need to be in the queue by this time if you want the chance of seat. If you’re unsuccessful, you can stick around until the doors open at 1.30pm and try for one of the 500 standing room tickets.
10. Have a Snowball Fight on Midsummer Common
This one is weather dependent, but, if we are lucky enough to have snow in Cambridge this Christmas, then a visit to Midsummer Common, a huge expanse of parkland, to have a snowball fight with friends and family would be a guaranteed way to have some fun in the freezing cold!
Merry Christmas from all of us here at ABC Languages Cambridge!
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager