The university city of Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities in Britain. The huge and impressive university buildings are just one of many examples of the magnificent architecture visitors will marvel at when wandering around the city. The River Cam winds through the city and into the surrounding countryside which is perfect for afternoon strolls. There are plenty of great events throughout the year including the Literary Festival in springtime; the Folk Festival and the Comedy Festival in the summer; the Film Festival and the Dragonboat Festival in autumn; and the Mill Road Winter Fair in wintertime.
Things to do and see
College and University Buildings – Visitors should take a walk around the grounds of the different buildings and appreciate the architecture. King’s College and Chapel are probably the most visited, for good reason: they’re iconic landmarks of Cambridge and shouldn’t be missed! Then there is Queen’s College which is located on both sides of the river and is linked by the Mathematical Bridge. St John’s College has the oldest academic building in Cambridge, many beautiful courtyards and its own version of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs.
The Backs – These gardens stretch around the back of many of the colleges and make a lovely stroll while admiring the beautiful buildings.
The Fitzwilliam Museum – This is one of the university museums and has five different departments including antiquities, applied arts, coins and metals, manuscripts and printed books, and drawings and prints. Entry: Free
The Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences – Another university museum, in fact the oldest, displays over a million fossils as well as gemstones, minerals, spiders, and dinosaur bones. Entry: Free
The Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology – Containing important specimens from all over the world, as well as a huge collection of photography. Entry: Free
The River Cam – Take to the water in a rowing boat or learn how to punt, which is using a long pole to move the boat though shallow water. The Cambridge Punting Company offer tours from around US$20 per person.
Backpackers – There aren’t a huge amount of cheap rooms to be found in Cambridge but the YHA Cambridge offers sparkling clean dorms from approx. US$24 a night and is located right next to the train station.
Bed & Breakfast – Lynwood House offers beautiful fresh rooms in a renovated Victorian townhouse, and after eating the breakfast you probably won’t be hungry again for hours. Rooms start from around US$200.
Luxury – If you’re after a grand hotel surrounded by several acres of stunning landscaped gardens then Madingley Hall fits the bill and has rooms from around US$200 including breakfast.
Cambridge is only 50 miles north of London, so visitors can easily fly into one of the London airports (Stanstead is closest) and get a train from there. From Stanstead a flexible return ticket will set you back about US$20. Once in Cambridge it’s really easy to walk everywhere as it’s quite a compact and also flat city, but there are options available:
Buses – There are several different companies that service the Cambridge area including Stagecoach and Whippet but tickets are not mutually accepted so it’s best to check which ones go where before parting with your money. City Sightseeing Cambridge also offers a hop-on hop-off service which conveniently drops off at many of the popular tourist attractions and costs about US$25 for 24 hours of travel, so you can easily stretch it over two days.
Cycle – The best way to get around Cambridge, if not by foot, is to rent a bicycle and join the students in their preferred mode of transport. Station Cycles hire bikes for US$15 a day or US$40 for a week, so it’s not only cheap but also such a fun way to see the city and all the parks.
Taxis – Hail a black cab on the street or call for a private service from Panther Taxis or Camtax which both offer a 24/7 reliable service.
Vegan – For tasty and imaginative vegan fare try Rainbow Café. It’s small and reasonably priced so can get a bit cosy, but that just adds to the atmosphere. Price guide: Budget
British – The Cambridge Chop House serves up wholesome British food with very reasonably-priced lunch and early dinner set menus. It also has a great choice of real ales. Price guide: Mid-range
Seafood – Loch Fyne Fish Restaurant and Oyster Bar is the place in Cambridge to go if you fancy a posh fish dinner. Price guide: Expensive
Luxury – With not only one but two Michelin stars, you can be sure you’re in for a treat at Midsummer House. Price guide: Very expensive
Pub – There are an abundance of pubs to try in Cambridge but a good one is The Castle Inn which is popular with locals, students, and tourists alike. The atmosphere gets really fun and hectic on the weekends and there is also some really good food on offer.
Live Music – The Portland Arms showcases all kinds of talent from solo acts to rock bands to comedy acts. With real ale on tap and great home-cooked food, you’re bound to have a good night.
Club – For student madness try Ballare, Cambridge’s biggest club, with all sorts of different student nights, deals on booze, and entry from around US$8 depending on the night.
Shopping and Markets
Souvenirs – Even the most discerning tourist won’t be able to resist some kind of tacky souvenir to take back home and King’s Parade is the place to get all the mugs, magnets and keyrings you could desire, as well as some classier items.
Books – Wander down Trinity Street for some great old finds in second-hand book stores as well as glossy new ones. Cambridge University Press Bookshop is the oldest in the country, selling books from as far back as 1581.
Cheese – A great place to pick up some delicious and smelly cheese is Cambridge Cheese Company which also has a deli counter.
Market – Head to Market Square (where else?) for stalls selling everything imaginable from Monday to Saturday only.