When you are choosing the top five pubs of Cambridge, UK, your major problem is what to leave out, as this fair student city is full of excellent hostelries, each with their own unique atmosphere.
So for those of you in a hurry, I have sifted out what may well be the top five, but of course it’s all a matter of opinion …
1. The Eagle
First up is one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge, namely The Eagle, on Benet St, which dates back to the 16th century, being owned by one of the colleges, Corpus Christi, since 1525. The Eagle is popular with tourists, students and locals alike, and so it can get pretty crowded – but that’s a sure sign of a good pub!
The Eagle has a fascinating interior, which reflects its history – take a look in the RAF bar, which has the signatures of British and American airmen of World War II on its ceiling. The pub was also apparently a favorite haunt for Francis Crick and James Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA.
As well as serving Greene King’s IPA and Abbott ales, the pub also does a guest beer which varies from day to day, and there is a good menu with a variety of traditional pub food.
Probably the only problem you will find with the Eagle is getting a seat, so be sure to get there early!
2. Elm Tree
Now if real ale is your thing, then you will love the small, but popular, Elm Tree on Orchard Street. Highly rated among beer aficionados, The Elm Tree has a selection of traditionally brewed beers on no less than ten hand pumps, and so this venue is very good if you like to sample a variety of real ales. Not only that, but The Elm Tree also does continental beers, and some rare American beers.
The Elm Tree does freshly prepared, locally sourced food, and also does barbecues on certain nights, with home made beef and veggie burgers.
If you are a fan of jazz too, then you may well enjoy the Elm Tree’s live jazz offerings of Jazz Jam Mondays and Swinging Sundays.
So, for imbibing, good grub, and music, The Elm Tree really has it all.
3. The Free Press
Housed in a very small building on the quiet back street known as Prospect Row, is the charming, wooden-floored pub known as The Free Press. Over 120 years old, this pub was once the home of a printing press, and its walls are decorated with old newspapers, as well as the rowing paraphernalia of various university rowing teams. In the winter, you can feel really cozy there, as a roaring fire is lit in the open hearth.
But probably the real piece de resistance of the Free Press is its amazing lack of background noise – no piped music, no beeping games machines, and mobile phones are banned.
There are usually five beers on tap – including Greene King, Ruddles, and a guest ale which is changed regularly. The freshly prepared home-cooked food is good value for money, and the service is highly rated too.
So if you want to enjoy your beer in a relatively quiet atmosphere, this is a good pub to choose.
4. The Baron of Beef
With its colorful flower baskets, The Baron of Beef on Bridge Street catches your eye straight away, and the location in the centre of town is convenient for those out sightseeing. Greene King beer is served, and there is a good menu of traditional pub grub, which can be eaten inside, or on the pleasant outdoor patio.
The interior of the pub is one long room, a bar stretching the length of it, with tables at each end, and a wide open social mingling space in the middle. During the daytime the pub is relatively quiet, and ideal for having your pub meal, but in the evening it gets decidedly more vivacious, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, then winding down a little with a pub quiz on Sunday nights to test your brainpower. The bar staff are praised for their friendliness, and there is even the occasional live band on.
So for a lively night out in the town centre, the Baron of Beef is the place.
5. The Cambridge Blue
The Cambridge Blue on Gwydir Street is a friendly pub, believed to date as far back as 1874, and as well as serving draught real ales such as Hobson’s Choice and Woodeforde’s, they do the German draught, Erdinger Weissbier. Additionally, the Cambridge Blue has a list of bottled beers from all over the world that will make your mouth water – you can pick from a variety of Western and Eastern European, Australian, American, and African bottled beers, and they even do Turkish Efes beer. There is also an impressive malt whisky list.
The pub has a menu of standard English pub fayre, which can be eaten in the comfortable dining room inside, or in the pub’s pleasant beer garden. The garden is great for families, and the Blue has been praised by visitors for its child-friendliness.
The Blue is another pub that tries to cut down on background noise, with a lack of piped music, and a mobile phone ban.
So the Cambridge Blue is a great choice for those with children who want to eat, as well as for those who like to try different beers or whiskies.
So there we have it. These are five of the very best Cambridge pubs. However Cambridge has many more fine pubs besides – spend a week or two there, and I am sure you will discover your very own top five.
Photo of the Baron of Beef pub, Cambridge, UK originally posted by Andrew Stawarz