5 Cool Cafés in Cambridge, U.K.

Cambridge, the British city famous for its university, is a beautiful, vibrant small town full of cafés. Here is a short list of specialty-coffee shops to visit on a daily adventure to explore the city.

BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Cambridge, U.K.—slightly smaller in population than its rival city, Oxford—is perfect for wandering cobblestone streets, looking for the next exciting thing to do. Whether you’re taking a traditional punt ride on the river, admiring the masterpieces of modern art in Kettle’s Yard, or visiting the university’s various buildings, there is plenty to do in the city. On a busy day, you will definitely want to stop at times to rest (and enjoy some coffee).

Here are five special cafés on a short itinerary that will take you from Central Station to the beautiful Round Church.

Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters (Dale’s Brewery, Gwydir St.)

Just a 10-minute walk from the train station, the original location of Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters is the perfect place to grab your first delicious coffee of the day, along with some tasty brunch offerings.

Housed in a former Victorian brewery, the café (and the roaster itself) takes its name from a vanished record store on nearby Mill Road. An artsy vibe still fills the place, with communal tables where students and tourists share not only the space but also their personal stories, to the beat of a jazz soundtrack in heavy rotation. Cozy and warm, Hot Numbers is the perfect place to stop on the way back to the station, especially on Sunday afternoons when it offers a series of live music events.

The outside of Stir Bakery, situated on a corner.
Stir Bakery offers delicious pastries and slow-fermented breads, along with coffee from Assembly Coffee of Brixton. Photo by Tanya Nanetti.

Espresso Library (East Road)

Ten more minutes and it’s already time to visit another delightful coffee shop, the Espresso Library.

Near the beautiful Parker’s Piece—a green space considered by many to be the birthplace of modern soccer rules, now always crowded with people playing cricket and rugby, or simply enjoying a sunny day—the Espresso Library is an interesting multi-use space focused on creating a community of people eager to share their passions.

Specialty coffee, cycling, art history, chess, nutritious food … the Espresso Library is that and more. With large tables outside perfect for studying or deciding on the next stop on the itinerary (if the weather is pleasant) and a large indoor space for shelter in case of sudden rain, stop here before continuing to explore—you won’t regret it.

A wooden sign describing a Brazilian coffee at Waterstones Café.
Waterstones Café offers coffee from Union Hand Roasted Coffee from London. Photo by Tanya Nanetti.

Union Hand Roasted Coffee at Waterstones Café (Sidney’s Street)

A pleasant quarter-hour walk will take you to downtown Cambridge, with its charming historic buildings, churches, and monuments. But the central area surrounding Market Street and Sidney Street is also the place to be for shopping, with artisan boutiques and major brand names, clothing stores, and bookstores.

While searching for books, we discovered with some surprise that the local Waterstones (Britain’s most famous chain of bookstores) offers Brazilian coffee in its cafeteria. This coffee is roasted especially for them by Union Hand Roasted Coffee, one of Britain’s first specialty-coffee roasters, founded in London more than two decades ago. It’s a great place to grab a double espresso and sit in one of the cafeteria’s comfortable chairs, thinking about what new book you’ll take home.

Stir Bakery (Green Street)

Just around the corner, another sign announcing specialty coffees easily catches your eye: It’s the delightful Stir Bakery, a local operation with five locations around town (two coffee shops and three bakeries). Stir Bakery serves delicious slow-fermented breads made from natural ingredients, cakes, and pastries, and delicious coffees roasted by Assembly Coffee, an independent roastery based in Brixton, London.

The Green Street location, more focused on baked goods, still offers delicious takeout coffees, a perfect match for delicious peanut-butter cookies and artisan scones.

A small latte and a cinnamon bun from Bould Brothers.
Treats from Bould Brothers Coffee, which serves their own roasts as well as coffee from guest roasters from Europe. Photo by Tanya Nanetti.

Bould Brothers Coffee (Round Church Street)

The last stop on our daily caffeinated journey in Cambridge is Bould Brothers Coffee, in its beautiful original location on Round Church Street. Two brothers, Max and Alex, opened this café to bring fantastic coffee to the city. They serve their own roasted coffee, along with guest coffees from some of Europe’s best roasters (at the time of our visit, Manhattan Coffee Roasters in Rotterdam, the Netherlands). The café is a cozy little nook perfect for resting from the day’s fatigue. If it’s too crowded, just grab a cup to go and sit on the little stone wall in front of the pretty Round Church to people-watch and enjoy the end of the afternoon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.

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