Plan Your Day Out in Ely
Most visitors to Ely start with the Cathedral. Once an island in the marshes, the city developed around this impressive landmark, so most of the other major attractions fan out around it. It's also just a short walk to the riverside where you'll find a variety of eateries and the region's largest antique centre.
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There's a reasonable range of High Street names in Ely's network of shopping streets, but it's the independents who steal the show. You can spend hours browsing around the many gift shops, craft shops, bookshops, antique shops and art galleries. The Cathedral Gift Shop on the High Street and the Ely Museum Shop at the Old Gaol are both great for souvenirs or presents for your loved ones, and if you fancy a traditional treat, visit Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in Coronation Parade (just a few steps from the Cathedral's huge west door) or the Ely Fudge Shop on the Market Place.
Ely hosts no less than four outdoor markets. The general market on Thursdays has been running since the 12th century and is one of the largest in Cambridgeshire. Every Saturday there's a Craft and Collectables Market, featuring unique arts and crafts, vintage and collectables, bric-a-brac, books and retro artefacts and the weekly Sunday market has an eclectic range of food, flower, craft and vintage stalls. There is also a farmers market on every second Saturday of the month.
Known as the 'Ship of the Fens' because of it unmistakeable profile rising from the stark, flat, marshy landscape, Ely Cathedral is nothing less than an architectural masterpiece. Built from the 11th century onwards, it has a magnificent octagonal shaped tower and the third longest nave in the UK – the same length as the city's High Street. It's also one of the few British cathedrals still to have resident choristers.
Housed in an ancient building that was formerly a private house, a tavern, a registry office and the Bishop's Gaol, this family-friendly museum takes you on a time-travelling trip through the history of the Isle of Ely and the Fens.
Oliver Cromwell's House
The infamous 17th century anti-Royalist military and political leader Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely for ten years. His former family home has been turned into a brilliant interactive museum where you can experience 17th century domestic life.
The Stained Glass Museum
Stained glass has been made in Britain for at least 13 centuries and this fascinating museum (located within the Cathedral) traces its history. The permanent collection features over 125 panels (at eye level for close inspection) and temporary exhibitions are presented regularly.
A former brewery warehouse on the riverside is home for this contemporary art space, which features regularly changing exhibitions throughout the year. The gift shop sells a range of items created by local artists and artisans.
Recently refurbished with the aid of an Arts Council grant, this riverside arts and entertainment venue presents a year-round programme of films and live events. It's close to the Cathedral with stunning views over the Great Ouse marina.
Cherry Hill Park
Set between the historic King's School and the river, this delightful green space has views of the Cathedral and is perfect for a picnic. Less formal than its neighbour, Jubilee Gardens, Cherry Hill Park features classic English rural parkland scattered with many wonderful mature trees.
Opened in 2002 by Prince Philip to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee, this exquisite garden is next to the river with the Cathedral as a backdrop. Beautifully laid out, it has a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, sculptures and a traditional bandstand.
Ely's waterside area is a timeless treasure that brings the countryside into the city. Go for a scenic boat trip or a stroll along the river bank, or take a seat in one of the riverside cafes or restaurants and enjoy the view. You might see the Cambridge University rowing team, who often train on the river between The Maltings and nearby Littleport.
Cafés, Tea Rooms and Coffee Houses
Caffè Nero and Costa are present in the city centre, but when it comes to light refreshments in Ely, the emphasis is definitely on traditional, independent establishments. The Refectory Café at the Cathedral is a favourite spot with visitors, serving a good selection of drinks and snacks, including fair trade tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Alternatively, head for the waterside, where you'll find the award-winning Peacocks, set right on the river. They offer a huge selection of teas from around the world, as well as delicious cakes, sandwiches and light meals. Alternatively, how about afternoon tea and a scenic river cruise aboard the Captain's Table floating restaurant?
Restaurants and Pubs
Ely is a true heaven for foodies and you'll most likely enjoy a distinctive dining experience, whether you choose one of the city centre or riverside eateries. There's everything from French-style haute cuisine to Indian, Chinese and Thai, with many establishments offering a special atmosphere and/or scenic views. One of the unique options is The Almonry, housed in the 13th century undercroft at the Cathedral and famous for its locally sourced, home-cooked food. Or there's the historic Old Fire Engine House just down the road, which combines high-quality cooking with the friendly feel of a family home. There's also a choice of pubs in the city, including The Cutter, a riverside inn which has a cosy, traditional bar and a stylish, contemporary restaurant.
Food To Go
As you'd expect in a city (albeit a small one), Ely has a good choice of places to get take-away food, including fish and chip shops, sandwich bars and pizzerias. If you're there on a Saturday, pop along to the Craft and Collectables Market, where you’ll find a street food aisle with stalls selling all kinds of exotic fare, from Mexican fajitas to Chinese dumplings.
Bike & Go
Explore Ely at your own pace on two wheels. With our brilliant Bike & Go scheme you can hire a bike to pick up from Ely station at a fixed daily charge of just £3.80.
Where To Stay
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