A Literary Tour of Cambridge

Photo of Bethany Currie
16 December 2016

Cambridge is located in the east of England, just a little north of London, and is home to a world-famous and world-class university. Here’s our guide to Cambridge based on its literary legacy, including pubs, libraries, bookshops and meeting places for the city’s literary greats.

The Orchard Tea Garden, Grantchester

Tea Room, Coffee, Steakhouse, British, Vegan, Gluten-free, $$$
Map View
Grantchester | Ⓒ G Travels/Flickr
Once the preferred tearoom of literary greats such as Rupert Brooke, E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, The Orchard Tea Garden is a beautiful place to enjoy a relaxing cup of tea while surrounded by stunning Cambridge countryside. It is located by the river Cam in the village of Grantchester, which before the tearoom existed was also the home of the poet Lord Byron. Today however, the tearoom is a popular spot for people of all backgrounds hoping to enjoy a pleasant afternoon in this historic spot, and perhaps explore the Rupert Brooke Museum that is located on the grounds.

Opening hours: 9.30am-5pm daily

David’s Bookshop

One of the best independent bookshops in Cambridge is David’s Bookshop, located near to the famous King’s College Chapel. It is found in a small, historic side street and is often unnoticed by the crowds of tourists that block the road outside the Chapel, and so is a great spot to spend a peaceful half hour having a browse of what’s on offer. It was founded in 1896 and has remained within the family ever since; it specialises in antique books as well as historic maps and prints.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

Address: 16 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge, England, +44 1223 354 619

The Eagle Pub

Arguably Cambridge’s most famous pub is The Eagle, located right in the centre of the city. The pub is most known for being the location of the announcement of the discovery of DNA by Crick and Watson in 1953, an event that is mentioned in Watson’s book The Double Helix. The pub even makes its own craft beer, called DNA. It is also thought to be the location of a number of performances of various Shakespeare plays, which the Bard is thought to have attended himself. The pub is a historic cultural hub in the city, and is well worth a visit.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-11pm; Sun 9am-10.30pm

Address: 8 Benet Street, Cambridge, England, +44 1223 505 020

Wren Library, Trinity College

Map View
Wren Library
Wren Library | Ⓒ Mihnea Maftei/Flickr
The Wren Library is one of the University’s most famous libraries, and takes its name from its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is free to visit and contains a number of original manuscripts, editions and rare collections, some dating from as early as the year 1250. Other highlights include original works by Sir Isaac Newton and A.A. Milne. There is also a statue of Lord Byron, once a student of Trinity College.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-2pm; Sat 10.30am-12.30pm

Tour the Colleges

No visit to Cambridge would be complete without a tour around some of the world-renowned colleges. While the colleges are worth visiting for their history and architecture alone, most colleges have literary connections and it is worth looking up any favourite authors and literary figures before visiting to see which college they attended. Some examples includes William Wordsworth at St John’s, Isaac Newton and Bertrand Russell at Trinity, Charles Darwin at Christ’s, and Salman Rushdie at King’s. Some colleges require a small admission fee, but many are free to enter. Life at Cambridge University had a great effect on many literary figures and shaped the work they were to produce, so seeing the colleges where they studied is fascinating.

Cambridge | Ⓒ Howard Chalkley/Flickr

Cambridge Literary Festival

One of the best ways to experience literature in the beautiful surroundings of Cambridge is to attend the Cambridge Literary Festival. The festival is held annually in both the spring and autumn, at various locations around the University. Speakers include authors, television personalities, journalists, politicians, and academics, who all speak on various themes in the wider area of the literature world.

King’s College Chapel | Ⓒ Silvia Maggi/Flickr

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