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Of all the annual festivals great and small that Cambridge hosts, none are as popular nor culturally significant as the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.  Now in its 32nd season, this outdoor extravaganza runs for 8 weeks until August 24th.  The various venues are only a few minutes’ walk from the Varsity Hotel, making it an ideal base to take in the festival.

City of Education

In a lot of ways Cambridge is like any another old European city.  It boasts a compact core of Medieval-Renaissance era buildings surrounding an open market square.  A far greater number of old churches than the population of the time could possibly have needed.  And many other buildings of beautiful architectural styles simply not found in the New World.

In other ways Cambridge is quite different.  It is far smaller and younger than many another European city, at “only” 800 or so years old.  Though its modern size shouldn’t matter to a tourist since it tends to be the historic centre that is of greatest appeal anyway.  Not so much for the sprawling modern suburbs.

So, many people assume that Cambridge has done the same as so many other old European cities, and made tourism its core business.  This is not the case.  True, tourism is a solid secondary industry for the city.  But the city’s primary business is education – with almost all secondary industries based upon its status as a hub for Academia.  As such the rhythms of the city’s life are largely based around the Academic year.


The only real exception to this rule is during the long summer holiday.  When the city can come out from under the shadow of Academia.  And can make great use of all that the University in particular has helped build.  In the absence of students, the magnificent old buildings of the various colleges and their fantastic grounds can be put to other uses.  Nothing showcases this better than the famous Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.

It’s one thing to insist upon authentic productions of Shakespeare’s plays.  Performed in period dress and avoiding what some describe as “artistic licence” (and others call “vandalism”).  And quite another to perform them in the informal outdoor venues of the College Gardens.  When you combine the setting sun and rising moon with the opportunity for a pre-play picnic, you’ve clearly got something special on your hands.  And tens of thousands of fans around the world agree.

The Varsity Hotel is an excellent base for taking in the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, within easy walking distance of all of its venues.  And while our own lovely open air Roof Terrace can’t compete with the College Gardens in terms of size, it does have one big advantage over them…Cocktails!