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Set on the banks of the River Ouse, Ely was founded in 673AD by the East Anglian Princess, Eltheldreda. Centuries past, Ely had a tiny population sustained by peat extraction, eel fishing and wildfowling. Today it is a cosmopolitan, bustling market town, steeped in history and which has retained its traditional charm despite the widespread development throughout the region.

The joy of Ely is that it has got houses for sale at prices around a third cheaper than those in Cambridge plus tons of character to boot. Blessed with winding streets, pretty cottages and plenty of open green space, Ely is a community-minded place. Whilst it has always been a destination for daytrippers, with its ancient history, world-famous cathedral and reputation as home to Oliver Cromwell, this medieval city is now a bijou centre for the well-heeled Cambridgeshire population, looking to get more for their money in terms of house prices and a more relaxed vibe than Cambridge itself. The coronavirus pandemic brought with it a number of London house buyers, amazed by the beauty of the place and its value for money, and these new residents have helped to underpin the demand for a raft of new bars, restaurants, shops and even a brand-new leisure complex with a cinema and swimming pool. Ely is small enough to be explored on foot taking in the city's historic streets with stunning views at every turn. Here we look at why you should consider moving to Ely.



What to do in Ely

Ely market is something to behold, selling everything from continental food to bric-a-brac, to dinosaur fossils found in Fens. It has been at the heart of Ely’s community for some 800 years, and has three markets a week, as well as a Farmer’s Market twice a month.

Ely Cathedral is one of England’s most beautiful and largest cathedrals. It dominates the skyline for miles and is home to the only national museum dedicated to stained glass. It also has an annual flower festival.

Ely Marina is regarded as a local beauty spot. There are multiple cafes, restaurants, art galleries and antique shops as well as plenty of space on the river to relax and watch the boats go by.

Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely and his former house is open to the public. Recreating what 17th century life would have looked like, Oliver Cromwell's house is a great place to visit.

When it comes to sports, the Ely Outdoor Sports Association offers rugby, hockey and tennis. There is also Fresh, a new hub for fitness and dance classes, offering barre, pilates, yoga and HIIT, all set in purpose-built dance studios along with a coffee shop. There are also two golf courses, a cricket club and various football teams for all ages.

Where to eat in Ely

First stop, check out the Silver Oak coffee truck, which serves next level coffee on the market square. The people behind Silver Oak also run The Bagel Bar, just off of the market square which is hugely popular.

The Old Fire Engine House is a traditional restaurant and art gallery, which has been in operation since 1968. It offers lunch, afternoon tea and dinner all accompanied by an extensive wine list. Others which are well worth checking out include The Almonry, which has fabulous views from its enviable spot right next to Ely cathedral, The Poets House for fine dining and The Royal Standard for a decent steak. Another hidden gem is The Prince Albert pub, on Silver Street, which is a former officer’s mess.

Ely has more than its fair share of traditional pubs, with one of the best being The Drayman’s Son, an epic micropub with tons of character and great beer.

Where to shop in Ely

Ely is a beacon for independent businesses. With relatively affordable rents, Ely’s ancient shops within the city centre are quickly snapped up by some brilliant start-ups. One of our favourites is The Eel Catcher’s Daughter, which is a cutesy gift shop with costume jewellery and homewares, mainly from local designers.

The Bake Shop is definitely worth a visit, packed with fresh bread, coffee and pastries as well as unusual deli options, including cheeses and natural wines.

Waterside Antiques is a real find. It’s the largest antiques centre in East Anglia, set in a maltings building dating from the late 1760s, with more than 65 antiques dealers in operation.

Jubilee Gardens

For the little ones in Ely

Ely has a host of baby and toddler groups, including Wriggletots, a popular music and movement class for pre-schoolers. The city is also packed with parks, including Cherry Hill Park and Jubliee Gardens, both of which are accessible from the city centre. Ely Country Park is also a great draw, with a fabulous play area and it's connected to Roswell Pits Nature Reserve. Horse riding lessons are available at nearby Old Tiger Stables

Kings School

Schools in Ely

When it comes to education, Ely has a number of good schools, including the Isle of Ely Primary School. It is also home to King’s Ely, a famous independent school, which counts a number of MPs and sports personalities among its alumni.

Ouse river

In the country

Ely itself is an island in the middle of The Fens. The Fens, for those who haven't visited it before, is broadly made up of open landscapes and countryside, covering a vast area of 200 square miles between Peterborough and Cambridge. It is an area blessed with big skies and unbeatable sunsets, with a landscape latticed with rivers and drainage channels. 

The countryside is peppered with pretty, traditional villages, many of which are set along the multiple riverbanks, with independent pubs and shops. Some of the most popular villages are Stretham, Wilburton, Haddenham and Little Downham, where houses on offer include everything from chocolate box thatched cottages to Victorian and Edwardian homes as well as vast Georgian piles.

Also within easy reach is Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, the oldest reserve on the National Trust’s roster. This is one of Europe’s most important wetlands, with over 9000 species of wildlife recorded on site. It also has grazing Highland cattle and Konik ponies, as well as tons of special days out for children.

Quayside Ely

Commuting from Ely

Ely mainline station has services into London Kings Cross in 1 hour 10 minutes and Cambridge is accessible by train in only 15 minutes.

Image of property in Ely

Property prices in Ely

The average house price in Ely is £356,490, according to Rightmove.

On average, a detached city centre property in Ely would start from around £500,000, whilst a smaller semi-detached or terraced home could be bought from £300,000 upwards. Some of the largest, most historic homes in Ely can cost up to £1 million.

The average rental price in Ely is currently £965 per calendar month. 

Ely Catherdral

Buying or renting a house in Ely

For anyone looking to buy or rent a property in Ely, it is worth considering whether they would rather live in the historic city centre, which tends to offer smaller, charming properties, or opt for one of the new build homes coming to market outside of the centre which offer more space. Cheffins sells and lets a combination of period properties throughout Ely and the surrounding villages and new build homes on behalf of some of the region’s most successful property developers. For more information on Ely, or to view the properties on the market with Cheffins in Ely and the surrounding area, click here.

Make an enquiry

Our Ely estate agent office specialises in property for sale ranging from city centre homes to village properties, new developments and houses with land.