The medieval city of Cambridge is the perfect destination to while away the hours on a lazy summer’s day. Stroll along the winding, cobbled streets, explore the colleges of the world-renowned university and glide along the waters of the River Cam on a punting trip.
But no such jaunt is complete without also frequenting some of the eclectic pubs and bars throughout Cambridge. Here is our selection of some of the best watering holes to sup delicious tipples, people-watch to your heart’s content and absorb the rarefied atmosphere that pervades one of the most beautiful cities in England.
This historic coaching inn dates back to the 16th century and the grade 11 listed building is thought to be the oldest surviving pub in Cambridge. The Eagle has long been a thinking hub for the city’s leading intellectuals and in 1953, it became known as the birthplace of the secret of life when two scientists Francis Crick and James Watson announced in the pub that they had discovered the double helix structure of DNA. A plaque commemorates the achievement of The Eagle’s famous patrons. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the RAF BAR and gaze at the ceiling covered with the graffiti of World War 11 airmen. Like many pubs in Cambridge, the Eagle is also thought to be haunted. During a fire that raged in the upper part of the building over 300 years ago, a barmaid is said to have lost her life when she was unable to open a window. Ever since the window is kept open, with staff reporting a feeling of suffocation if the window is ever closed.
8 Benet Street, Cambridge CB2 3QN
Earl of Beaconsfield
Tucked away on a corner of edgy Mill Road, this charmingly unassuming pub has become a thriving music venue with live sessions four nights a week from musicians throughout the country. In particular, it has long been a firm favourite among fans of traditional Irish music. The pub offers a good range of ales, wines and cider, and if you’re peckish, a decent selection of stone baked pizza. The Earl of Beaconsfield has a strong community feel with a swap library and a billiards room. A suntrap beer garden offers the perfect excuse to bask in the sunshine with a cool pint. On quieter evenings, the venue is an ideal spot for a cosy candlelit chat after a wander through Mill Road’s quirky mix of delis, vintage clothes shops and international food stores.
133 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 3AA
If you’re feeling hungry and a tad adventurous, this backstreet pub in Cambridge is well worth a wander outside of the city centre. Here, you can find something a little different than the usual pub fare with The Geldart’s signature meat dishes on “hot rocks”. Speciality main meals are served on granite squares heated to a very high temperature and presented at your table. Menu options range from chicken and pork to the more exotic choices of crocodile, kangaroo, ostrich and zebra. The pub has a good selection of ales, wines and spirits and hosts regular live music sessions. It also features exhibitions by local artists, creating a quirky, bohemian vibe that makes The Geldart beloved by cultured types and hipsters as well as committed carnivores.
1 Ainsworth St, Cambridge CB1 2PF
The Cambridge Brew House
With a quirky, distinctive décor and its own microbrewery, this stylish venue has quickly become a stand-out gem on the city’s thriving gastro pub scene. As you would expect, there is an impressive choice of cask ales to satisfy even the most discerning taste buds, including three of its own beers. The menu offers a good selection of British tapas-style dishes as well as sharing platters. Notable dishes include the scotch egg, pork cheek and goats cheese on toast, and shepherd’s pie croquettes. Be sure to come early on sunny days to grab a coveted table on the small outdoor terrace.
1 King St, Cambridge CB1 1LH
Located just off Market Square and under the cobbles of the well-heeled Rose Crescent Street, this Mediterranean-style, subterranean bar boasts delicious and fairly priced cocktails and tapas. Try mixed paella and mussels in chorizo broth washed down with a delicious Mai Tai. After sunset, the cafe-restaurant transforms into a nightlife hotspot with live music and DJs. Neon Moon’s monthly cabaret with its mix of quirky performers and award-winning acts has become a regular Thursday night fixture. Bar Raza also offers a range of cocktail-making workshops.
4-6 Rose Crescent, Cambridge CB2 3LL
The Free Press
Named after a temperance movement newspaper that lasted for just one edition, this landmark establishment has endured considerably longer to become an iconic part of Cambridge’s pub scene for more than a century. The distinctive interior of the Free Press is decorated with local pictures, historic newspapers and printing block cases containing knick-knacks. During winter, you can shelter from the cold in the enticingly cosy snug complete with a roaring fire, while the courtyard offers an idyllic retreat from the crowded city centre during summertime. Food is freshly prepared using locally sourced produce. A seasonal menu is available but popular staples include hand-pressed burgers, beer-battered fish and chips and scotch eggs. Four-legged friends are welcome and snacks for dogs are available.
7 Prospect Row, Cambridge CB1 1DU
Located in the heart of the city, the Mitre is a traditional British pub dating back to 1754. Standing on the site of two former inns, the Blackmoor’s Head and The Cock and Magpie, the pub has been recently revamped with a stylish new interior and a modern contemporary feel. As well as offering an impressive range of cask ales, The Mitre is a premier destination in Cambridge for gin aficionados with a fine selection of modern and aromatic tipples. The menu fare is classic pub grub and it’s justly renowned for its excellent fish and chips. Family-friendly, the Mitre offers colouring pages and crayons to keep little ones out of mischief so adults can savour an atmospheric drink with a hearty meal.
17 Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UF