When you visit the United Kingdom, many only see London and don’t realize there are beautiful cities like Cambridge only 45 minutes away! After you see London, this travel guide will show you why Cambridge, England is worth visiting whether for a day or a few days.
On a recent trip, I stayed for a long weekend to explore not only Cambridge University, but also experience the city of Cambridge from the museums to the restaurants.
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Things to do in the Cambridge United Kingdom
Cambridge, UK is a beautiful city steeped in history and academia, and there is no shortage of things to do and see. Here are some of the top things to do in Cambridge:
Visit the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is one of the most prestigious universities in the world and is located in the heart of the city. Take a stroll around the beautiful grounds and gardens of the colleges, including Trinity College, St. John’s College, and King’s College.
The colleges I recommend to visit if you can get a friend to bring you in or if you can purchase entry are below.
- St John’s College is open to the public out of term. During the term, alumni, University members, and CAMcard holders only
- Corpus open to the general public and alumni
- King’s is open to the public as normal, but please check the Opening Times for the most up-to-date information. Alumni can bring up to two guests per CAMCard
- If you want to see other colleges such as Trinity College, which is beautiful, and where King Charles went to college you will need to know a student here. 33 Nobel Prize winners have graduated from here and
If you can get into Trinity College you must see the Wren Library where you can see the notes of Sir Newton himself, as well as the first copy of Winnie the Pooh. If you cannot get inside the college then outside you can see the tree speculated to be where Newton created his theory on gravity.
When you are here do not miss seeing the Wren Library, as well as the chapel, and dining room. This place will make you feel like you are at Hogwarts.
The Wren Library was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Each college is unique and amazing, but King’s College is the most accessible and has the beautiful Kings Chapel where you can see the Choir of Kings College perform. King’s Chapel is the oldest building at Cambridge University. King’s College was founded by Henry the 6th in 1441 and the chapel began construction 5 years later.
Kings Chapel is the main highlight of Kings College. The chapel has the largest fan vault ceilings in the world!
Punting on the River Cam
Punting on the River Cam is a must-do activity when visiting Cambridge. You can rent a punt (a flat-bottomed boat) and navigate your way along the river, passing by the famous Cambridge colleges and landmarks such as the Bridge of Sighs.
When I learned about this Cambridge tradition, I knew I wanted to try it out. While you can rent your own to try it, I opted for the Punting Cambridge with Scudamore.
The guide was very knowledgeable as he punted us along the backside of 7 colleges. During the tour, we glided past Kings College, Queens, St Johns, Trinity, and Clare college. While it was a bit chilly, Scudamore offers blankets, but I think you can sweeten the deal by bringing hot chocolate for your ride.
This is the best way to see and learn more about the colleges that are not open to the general public.
Great St Mary’s Church Tower
At the main University church close to King’s College is the Great St Mary’s Church Tower. Here you can climb to the top for some of the best views of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Climb the 123 steps to the top for 360 views. Hours: Monday–Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday 12 noon–4pm (Sunday varies depending on service times, please check). The last Tower entry is a half-hour before closing.
After visiting the tower check out the cafe Michaelhouse located in a medieval chapel.
Explore the Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge and is home to a vast collection of art and artifacts from around the world. Entrance to the museum is free, and it’s worth spending a few hours browsing the galleries. The museum is open 10 am – 5 pm Tuesday – Saturday and 12 – 5 pm Sundays.
I decided to come here on a whim after grabbing a coffee at Fitzbillies and their famous Chelsea buns. This will warm you up on a cold or gray day.
Walk or cycle along the River Cam
The River Cam is a beautiful waterway that winds its way through the city. Take a stroll or rent a bike and cycle along the riverside paths to enjoy the stunning scenery.
As I took a stroll I was lucky my friend knew some people at the different colleges. I was able to see St Catharine’s, and Trinity College as well. The walk itself is stunning.
Visit the Cambridge Botanic Garden
The Cambridge Botanic Garden is a beautiful 40-acre garden located close to the city center. The garden features a range of plant species from around the world, including tropical plants, succulents, and alpine plants. While I did not have time to do this and it was the winter I think it would be great in the spring or summer.
Explore the historic market square
The market square in Cambridge has been in operation for centuries and is a hub of activity, particularly on market days (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday). You can browse the stalls selling fresh produce, crafts, and souvenirs. Head there between 10 am and 4 pm for the Cambridge Market. My friend was a local and it seems many still grab food from the food stalls here.
Visit the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
7 km away from Cambridge is the Cambridge American Cemetery. It honors the fallen servicemen as well as the sacrifice of over 8,500 Americans who died in operations based out of the UK during World War 2.
Visit the Museum of Zoology (Free)
A university town has its’ perks including free admission to museums like the Museum of Zoology. If you are a fan of natural history or Charles Darwin you will want to visit this museum in Cambridge. This museum has the Charles Darwin collection with over 1600 works or things in the collection of Charles Darwin it is the largest in the world.
Charles Darwin embarked on a 5-year voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1831 and some of his notes as well as artifacts from that trip are on display at the Museum of Zoology.
Where to stay in Cambridge, UK?
If you want an all-around luxurious experience as well as a stay in a historic hotel in the center of it all, look no further than the University Arms hotel, a part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
As soon as you walk in you will find an unmistakable aromatherapy scent, and be welcomed by the historic grand entrance of the elegant boutique hotel located right off of Parker’s Piece park.
How to have the best experience at The University Arms?
Get An Aromatherapy Massage at University Arms
If you want a luxurious way to relax during your time in Cambridge be sure to head to the University Arms for an Aroma Therapy Massage. This was by far the perfect way for me to recover after a long travel day and it was so relaxing. I did an hour massage and walked out of there a new woman.
Did I just find the cure for jet lag?
Enjoy a walking tour of Cambridge United Kingdom
The hotel arranges walking tours that leave from the front desk area on Saturdays. A dedicated guide to Cambridge will show you around the city as well as bring you to a college.
My tour guide was so knowledgeable and even led Rick Steve’s around so I felt honored to be on a tour with her. The Cambridge walking tour leaves the hotel every Saturday at 10 am and lasts for 90 minutes.
Another highlight is watching the Corpus Clock, which was placed by the Parker Library. It has the largest grasshopper escarpment in the world, lights up at night, and was inaugurated in 2008. Worth a photo stop.
Get Fancy with a meal at Parkers Tavern and enjoy Jazz night
On the weekends if you are in town check out Parker’s Tavern for dinner and a Jazz night. They have a lively bar as well as a sumptuous menu. They also have a candy bar for kids or 30-year-olds with a sweet tooth. The jazz night occurs every Friday 7:30 pm-10 pm.
Also, if you are looking to have afternoon tea, reserve a spot in the library for a truly English experience.
Explore the restaurants on Regent Street
Cambridge offers many restaurants with a variety of cuisines, but most restaurants I saw were concentrated around Regent Street. Since this is a student town there are also pretty good deals. I enjoyed going to The Grain and Hop store for the modern vibes of an English pub with amazing burgers and English classics like fish and chips.
Prince Regent if you are looking to try visiting an English pub head here. I tried the Steak and Ale pie with mushy peas. There is also a nice beer garden area where many people hang out on a Friday night.
Visit the Old Bicycle Shop if you are looking for something a bit fancier, but be sure to make reservations in advance because this place is popular.
Escape in the Nightlife of this University City
Cambridge, United Kingdom is a student university town and because of that, you can bet the nightlife will be pretty good. If you happen to be here on a weekend during term check out Revolution for a night of dancing. Revolution also has three floors as well as a rooftop. Another place I found to be quite enjoyable with friends is The Cambridge Tap.
If you want to be surrounded by history as you drink or grab a bite check out the Eagle Pub. This is one of the most famous pubs in England and the oldest pub in Cambridge. Here you can sit where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of DNA, and enjoy the history of the walls of the place. Don’t forget to look up for a surprise when you are here!
Afterward, head to Jack’s Gelato for a late-night sweet gelato around the corner.
How many days do you need in Cambridge?
While some people stay for a day trip, I believe staying for a few nights allows you to relax, enjoy the many museums, visit the colleges, as well as take part in life in Cambridge from the restaurants to attempting to punt. More on that later.
I would recommend at least a night, but if you stay where I stayed you may want to stay for a few!
Best Time To Visit Cambridge, United Kingdom
Cambridge is amazing to visit all year round, whether it is summer, or winter with a light dusting of snow you can enjoy the best things to do in Cambridge, UK.
If you do want to visit the colleges, I advise coming during a term and checking the Cambridge University website.
Is traveling to Cambridge, United Kingdom worth it?
In short, I had a wonderful long weekend visiting Cambridge, United Kingdom, and believe it is perfect for solo travelers or if you are looking for a girl’s getaway just outside of London. The history is truly around every corner here, and it is one of the most picturesque cities in the United Kingdom.
There are amazing restaurants, tours, as well as hotels such as the University Arms that make a trip to Cambridge well worth it.
If you have any questions be sure to let me know on Instagram or comment below and I will be sure to answer them!
Read more on my blog about Edinburgh versus Glasgow next if are planning to visit more of Great Britain.