One of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit in Cambridge is to go for a stroll around the centre of town when the lights have been put up and everything is just feeling a bit more Christmassy. We’re lucky to have some lovely independent shops in Cambridge selling some great homeware finds, take a walk down some of the quieter streets and you’re sure to find sweet little shops full of trinkets and treasures.
Buying your Christmas presents can be a little bit traumatic, especially if you’ve got a big list to work with, and sometimes it’s all too easy to do your shopping online from the comfort of your sofa, but if you’re looking for something a little bit special, for a few lucky loved ones, there’s nothing better than gifting them something unique that they wouldn’t be able to find themselves. I spent the day going around some fantastic independent shops in Cambridge, and found some wonderful gift ideas to inspire you.
If you nip past the market and over to Peas Hill there lies Ark, whose tag line is ‘gifts for interesting people’, and they sure did hit the nail on the head. The shop is full of beautiful colours and textures, it’s like falling into the middle of a treasure chest, with all sorts of goodies to explore. The first thing that caught my eye was a beautiful display of carrot tree ornaments. If you’re not into the usual Christmas motifs, having your Christmas tree sport a few festive veggies may be just want you need!
And spotted on the other side of the store, where these fabulous glittery snail ornaments, which are perfect if you like your Christmas decorations with a sense of humour.
There is all sorts in Ark that would make wonderful gift ideas, as well as some light-hearted stocking fillers. These mugs have some unusual designs on them, so if you know someone who loves a cup of tea, but isn’t really into the whole cutesy vibe, then a few of these might be a great gift this Christmas.
If you’re looking for something to display across a window sill, mantelpiece, or perhaps you need a few adorable stocking fillers, Ark have some lovely pewter animal figurines in stock. They’re a fun little present and a great way to *almost* follow through on your child’s wish for a pet for Christmas.
After Peas Hill if you nip round the corner you’ll find yourself on Bene’t Street, where you can find two terrific shops, Podarok and Cambridge Contemporary Crafts. Podarok, which has a sister shop in Oxford, is full to the brim of quirky and exciting homewares, accessories and jewellery. Something I spotted in the corner of the store was a warm and welcoming lantern display. The lanterns would make great bedside table lamps, and with a range of different designs you’ll be sure to find the perfect lantern for someone.
Just by the lanterns was this little fella just waiting to be bought. The smoke glass effect gives the quirky design a sophisticated edge. It would make a great gift for someone with a cheeky sense of humour when it comes to their home.
Likewise are these rather wacky lampshades, their colourful designs make them hard to miss, they’d be the perfect finishing touch to a kid’s bedroom (or a playful adult!) The shade in the top left-hand corner is absolutely stunning, the wintery landscape would make an excellent Christmas gift.
Just across the street from Podarok is the wonderful Cambridge Contemporary Crafts, with a huge collection of handmade crafts that are perfect gifts if you need something really special and unique. Made by artists all over the UK there is a wonderfully eclectic range of styles and pieces, from big to small. I first thing that I spotted in the window from the outside were these little dainty vases with gold heart shaped rims. They’d make such a sweet gift for anyone really, a partner, sister, daughter, or even yourself, if you simply can’t resist.
In the back of the shop are some beautiful plates by the artist Clare Nichols. The bird designs are truly a unique look, the detail shows how much thought and time has gone into these pieces, and the gold rim is the perfect finishing touch. If you’re in need of a gift that is equally as special as the person you’re giving it to then one of these plates may be just the thing.
Neil Tregear is another artist featured in the gallery, he specialises in hand thrown stoneware, and uses the landscapes of the Isle of Wight as his design influence. These flying bird vases are the ideal piece to accompany a beautiful bouquet of flowers, or some Pussy Willow for a wintery look.
If you stroll down King’s Parade, you become rather spoiled, with a breath-taking view of King’s College on one side and a lovely collection of shops and cafes on the other it’s a real treat. About half way down is Nomads, bursting at the seams with gorgeous items from the Middle East and Asia. The ceilings are littered with these wonderful paper lanterns, but this embossed, nine point star steals the show.
Just a little further down King’s Parade is the ever wonderful Byard Art. From exciting paintings and sculptures to smaller intricate items that were made for gift giving, there is a whole range of items to get enthralled by at Byard Art. I love these little leafy paper bowls, that come in either small or large.
Green Street is a little walk away but once you’re there, you’re in the company of some wonderful shops. Catesby’s is a really favourite here at Angel + Blume. The shop is filled with gorgeous, sophisticated items that are almost too tempting. These paired bowls are so sweet, in fact I walked away with my own set!
This pestle and mortar they have in the back room, is a perfect gift for anyone with has a flair for style and a love for cooking, when not in use the kitchenware looks almost like a piece of art.
There are all sorts of wonderful pieces of ceramics in the shop, it’s almost hard to pick a favourite!
A few shops down from Catesby’s is Homestuff with History, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s almost like rooting through a car boot sale, except someone has already done the hard work for you and picked out the most interesting pieces. Their cabinet of little glass bottles is not only full of great things to buy, but styling inspiration at the same time! In fact I couldn’t resist grabbing myself a few little bottles for a shelving unit.
Upstairs, is another load of treasures, including this impressive collection of tins, a perfect gift for someone who loves a bit a vintage gem.
Over on one of the shelving display was this cheeky jester statue, which would look great mixed into a few other ornaments in a display cabinets, or perhaps peeping out of the bushes in your garden.
Cambridge is full of exciting, sweet shops that have all you need to get the ones you love something special this season, now all you need to do is resist the urge to keep all the goodies for yourself!