The university city of Cambridge is steeped in rich history and tradition. Cambridge draws visitors to the city to admire the jaw dropping architecture, ancient colleges and beautiful riverside. Just wandering around the bustling, atmospheric is memorable enough.
9 Things to do in Cambridge
There are a total of 31 colleges within Cambridge University, but not all of them are open to the public to visit.
1. King’s College Chapel
The incredible looking King’s College Chapel took over a century to build. It was begun in 1446 by Henry VI and is a stunning example of late Gothic architecture. One of its claims to fame is the largest fan vault ceiling in the world. The medieval stained glass windows telling the story of the bible are equally stunning.
Try and be there at Evensong, not only do you get to enter for free, you also get to experience the goose bump inducing choir. It is a magical experience.
2. Trinity College & the Wren Library
A fantastic Cambridge landmark dating back to the 13th century. The house of Isaac Newton is a spectacular site that you really should try and see when in Cambridge. Winne the Pooh fans will enjoy being able to read A A Milne’s manuscript which is held here in the Wren Library within Trinity College.
Side Note: If you are a Winnie the Pooh fan, be sure to check out how you can visit 100 Acre Wood in Sussex, England!
Henry VIII founded Trinity College in 1546, visitors can see the Great Court, Nevile’s Court and the Ante-Chapel. The Wren Library where A A Milne’s manuscript can be found, was designed by the well-known architect, Christopher Wren. There are four statues on the roof representing the studies of Divinity, Law, Physics and Mathematics.
Other works contained within the Wren Library include 1250 medieval scripts, many books from Sir Isaac Newton’s own library and the Capell collection of early Shakespeare editions. The Wren is open to visitors at certain times of the year. Numbers are restricted to 15 people at a time and photography is not allowed.
3. The Centre for Computing History
A unique museum with a huge range of computers from decades past. The Centre for Computing History has interactive activities, with many of the computers working, you are able to use them and some of the games to find out (or remember!) how computers have evolved over the years.
A great trip down memory lane for many.
4. Punting on the River Cam
If you want to try punting, Cambridge is absolutely the place to do it. Not only is it a really fun activity, it is also a great way to see some of the colleges and bridges from an alternative viewpoint known as ‘The Backs.’
Whether you are brave enough to do it yourself, or hire a chauffeur, is entirely up to you. The benefit of a chauffeur, aside from the obvious point of being able to sit back and relax instead of navigating, is that your tour guide will be able to inform you about the history of the River Cam and surrounding area.
There are a number of tour companies offering punting. Try Let’s Go Punting who offer a selection of tours including private, group, evening tours and wine tasting.
5. Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
A short distance from Cambridge is the American Cemetery. It is spread over 30 acres of perfectly manicured hillside to commemorate the 3812 American service men and women who lost their lives during World War II in Britain.
There is a Wall of Remembrance with the names of 5127 soldiers engraved on it, those that have no final resting place. It is a very peaceful and moving place to visit, well worth the detour if you can. Most of those that died did so during the Battle of the Atlantic or the strategic air bombardment of northwest Europe.
In May 2014 a new visitor centre was opened with interactive displays, photographs, films and personal stories to help visitors understand the importance of the campaign.
The Cambridge American Cemetery is located about 3 miles out of Cambridge. The City Sightseeing Tour (mentioned below) stops here on its hop on hop off loop.
6. Church of St Mary the Great
A lovely church next to Kings College. The physical foundations of Great St Mary’s date back to around 1010. Written records show that a church has existed since 1205, 10 years before the Magna Carta was signed. A real highlight of visiting the church is the trip up the tower. Although a small fee is payable to climb it, the views of the surrounding colleges and countryside is not to be missed. The spiral staircase that leads up is quite narrow.
7. The Fitzwilliam Museum
One of Cambridge’s best known museums and one of the finest small museums in the world. With a wide range of 30 exhibits over 2 main floors. The Fitzwilliam Museum is very well laid out with works from Salvador Dali, Poussin, Gainsborough, Degas and many more.
8. Tours in Cambridge
Cambridge Tour Guides – A top rated company offering a variety of walking tours of Cambridge
City Sightseeing – Get around Cambridge on the hop on hop off tour bus. Stopping at 20 stops throughout the city as well as the American Cemetery.
9. Eat and Drink in Cambridge
The Eagle – A traditional pub whose origins date back to 1525, making it one of the oldest in Cambridge. Reportedly the location where Crick and Watson announced their discovery of DNA, during one of their daily lunchtime drinks. The historic pub was also used by RAF and the US 8th Air Force pilots during WW2 with lots of their names and squadron numbers written on the ceiling.
The Maypole – A traditional pub with a high focus on quality, not only with service, but also with food and drink. Serving tasty Italian dishes alongside traditional English food. With many ales, ciders and frequent beer festivals.
Fitzbillies – A popular and well known bakery and café serving delicious pastries and other savoury foods. It is open for coffee, cake and afternoon tea 7 days a week.
In the Area
Anglesey Abbey – A National Trust owned Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working mill, 7 miles east of Cambridge.
Getting To Cambridge From London
Train – Direct trains from London Kings Cross and London Liverpool Street go to Cambridge Station. The actual train station isn’t as close to the city centre as other places, so look out for the Citi1, Citi 3 and Citi 7 services from the station to the centre. If you would rather walk it will take about 30 minutes.
Car – It is about 60 miles from central London to Cambridge. Journey time should be about 90 minutes on the M11. There are 5 Park and Ride sites on the outskirts of the city that offer parking and a frequent bus ride into the centre.