What to Do in Cambridge?
Here are the Best Things to Do in Cambridge on a Day Trip
Cambridge is a university-city, known worldwide for its famous universities. Located in the Central-Eastern region of England it belongs to the county of Cambridgeshire (Cambri-sherr). It’s only one hour away from London. The famous River Cam crosses the city giving it an extra charm. The closest airport from Cambridge would be London (Stansted) Airport – STN.
Cambridge is a small city but full of history, culture and arts. The first famous university here was founded in 1209. The university buildings include the King’s College Chapel, the Cavendish Laboratory and the University of Cambridge Library, one of the largest legal-deposit libraries in the world.
The city center is full of historical buildings and large green areas such as Jesus Green, Parker’s Piece and Midsummer Common. Many of its streets in the city center are pedestrian-friendly, its fun to walk the streets because it’s almost like looking back into the medieval times.
Here are some of the best things you can do in Cambridge if you think about doing a 1-day trip (or maybe more? haha) to this city!
1. Market Square
Located in the city centre, this is known as the Market Square where you can find the famous street market. The market has quite a few stalls that sells anything from clothes, handicrafts, fresh products, sweets, a variety of foods and ready-to-eat hot-food…! It’s not a very big market but it’s interesting to check out the stalls, definitely a must do on the list.
2. Views from Great St Mary’s Church
Next to the Market Square would be the St Mary’s Church. As we’ve probably mentioned before, this church belongs to the University of Cambridge and was built in the fifteenth century. Admission to the church is free, but to climb up to the bell tower to enjoy the views, you’ll have to pay £4 (accurate to 2019 rates).
If you wish to climb-up, you’ll have to squeeze through a narrow spiral staircase of about 123-steps. Once you’ve reached the top, you definitely deserve the great views of the city! 🙂
3. City Center Walkabout & Visit the Corpus Clock
Take a stroll through its downtown streets, its like going back into the past. When you walk by King’s Parade Street you will find the famous Corpus Clock. It’s a somewhat a peculiar looking clock comparing to what we used to see because this clock only tells the time ‘once’ in every 5 minutes. The timepiece was invented by John C. Taylor (former member of the university) and was presented to the public in September 2008 by the late famous Physicist, Stephen Hawking.
That giant insect on top of the clock does look like a grasshopper-cricket. Take a closer look when you get there, maybe you have a better idea of what it is, haha.
4. Visit King’s College
Cambridge has several university-colleges, but the famous one is King’s College. Visiting this university is one of the essentials of things to see in Cambridge. It has a section open to the public where you can visit its Gothic chapel and the outer compound where the gardens are located. But… you’d have to pay to enter.
The facade of the building from the outside is already impressive. It’s nothing like today’s modern universities to which we use to see. The gardens inside are perfectly manicured and maintained, overlooking the River Cam.
If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Theory of Everything” from 2014, this place would definitely be ringing all those bells in your memory of the storyline. Its the story of the legendary Stephen Hawking’s life in Cambridge. And yes, you might find some similarities of these buildings to Hogwarts (Harry Potter fans knows best).
5. Walk around “The Backs”
The Backs is a footpath along the Cam River and it’s located at the back of King’s College and the other university buildings. It’s undoubtedly one of the essential things to do in Cambridge. You can walk around where you can see the university from outside without paying, ahha!
Also on the path, you will see some of its bridges such as the Mathematical Bridge. This bridge is built in wood and connects two buildings of Queen’s College.
It was probably called The Backs because, it is the ‘back’ yard of the buildings, literally.
6. Go “Punting”
One of the other popular things in Cambridge (if the weather is good, of course!), is called “Punting”. It’s just a boat ride on the Cam River (similar to gondolas in Venice). That flat-boats are called Punts, hence Punt-ing is actually in past-continuous tense.
Usually the Punter (is there such a word?? lol) who the one that drives the boat would narrate the areas you are passing through. The tour lasts about 50 minutes and the price is about £20/person (price accurate in 2019).
7. Visit St. John’s College
St. John’s College is another Cambridge’s largest and most beautiful colleges to visit (huh so many beautiful places). Ditto, you’d have to pay to enter this as well. The main highlight would be its spectacular facade, chapel, the courtyards, the manicured gardens and its two bridges: Wren Bridge and the famous Bridge of Sighs.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is the most famous and we could say photographed of all Cambridge. But unfortunately you can only see it if you pass inside of this university.
The Bridge of Sighs as the name suggests, was where convicts pass from the court rooms to the prison. When they walk this bridge, they ‘sigh’ about what they’ve done, probably regret their decisions. Source : Uncle Mike of Cambridge (yes, you said that!)
8. Visit Trinity College
It’s been said that Trinity College is the most elite school in Cambridge. The ticket to enter is cheaper than the other schools, but the section opened to the public was also relatively smaller than the rest.
The jewel of Trinity College is its library: Wren Library. This library was highly visited because it holds real treasures. Do note that it only opens to the public during the university period. And opens only for a couple of hours at noon: from 12pm to 2pm from Monday to Friday, and from 10.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays.
Snack Tip: The library can be accessed from the Trinity college by paying the entrance fee, or you can also get there on foot if you walk to the end of Trinity Lane (for the Trinity Games), there’s an entrance to a garden that overlooks the river and the backs. The entrance to the Wren Library is right there. But only 15 people are allowed admission at a time. It totally depend on the queue for you to decide if it’s worth the wait.
9. Visit Jesus Green Park
Adjacent to the Punting boats jetty, that’s where you can find Jesus Green Park.
The River Cam passes through the whole park, coupled with its green esplanades, gives it a special charm. In good weather, the park is ideal for a stop and rest for some snacks. On sunny days it would probably be filled with students and tourists enjoying the park. It also has designated spaces for sports and barbecues.
10. Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum is an impressive museum of art and antiques at the University of Cambridge. It is located on Trumpington Street in front of Fitzwilliam Street in downtown Cambridge.
Founded in 1816, the museum includes one of the best collections of antiques and modern art in Western Europe. Housing more than half a million objects and works of art in its collections, the exhibits in the museum covers world history and art from ancient times to the present. The treasures of the museum include works of art by Monet, Picasso, Rubens, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Van Dyck and Canaletto.
Admission to the public is FREE!! The Opening Hours are Monday through Friday from 10.00am to 5.00pm, and Saturdays from 12.00pm to 5.00pm, closed on Sundays. The museum is quite big and you can easily spend a whole day inside exploring the rooms. Depending on the time you have, decide if you are worth a break or not.
And, for the cherry-on-top, yes, they have a cafe in the museum that serves snacks as well.