Cambridge’s most famous pastime (apart from reading loads of books) and one of the best ways to see the city. If you’re not sure what that means, a punt is a type of flat bottomed boat, and punting involves pushing yourself along the river using a long pole to propel yourself. The good news is you don’t even need to work your own arm muscles, just book a guided punt tour of Cambridge through our partner and receive a 10% discount.
Founded in 1209, Cambridge University is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world (Oxford university is the oldest but we don’t want to talk about that). The University itself consists of 31 colleges. No visit to Cambridge is complete without visiting at least King’s College Chapel and the Wren Library of Trinity College.
You can explore many of these on your own, or you can take a walking tour of the Cambridge Colleges, where you will learn from a Cambridge graduate all about life at the colleges, as well as lots of history and information.
Built in the Perpendicular Gothic style of English architecture in the 15th century, King’s College Chapel is a fantastic building that needs to near the top of your to-do list in Cambridge. It has the largest fan vault in the world, spectacular stained-glass windows, and a rood screen that was funded by Henry VIII as part of his wedding celebrations for Anne Boleyn. The chapel is still in active use, and it is the home of the King’s College Chapel choir. It’s possible to visit here and watch both mass and concerts, and the acoustics are excellent.
The Wren library is arguably the most impressive of all the college libraries at Cambridge. It was designed and built for Trinity College by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. The two storey library consists of a single long room. The bookshelves go up to the height of the first floor, above which the huge windows allow light to pour in. This was the first library to be designed with windows large enough to allow for sufficient light in for reading. Inside the library there is a section of display cases containing some of the libraries most notable books and manuscripts. These include Isaac Newton’s first edition of Principia Mathematica, which has Newton’s handwritten notes for the second edition, A.A. Milne’s manuscripts for Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner, and an 8th century copy of the Epistles of St. Paul, to name but a few.
The Fitzwilliam Museum has a wide range of items on display, ranging from 16th century musical manuscripts to paintings by J.M.W Turner, as well as Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, and art from China, Japan and Korea. There’s also an extensive collection of coins. The museum is fairly large with a lot to see, although you can also just visit and take in the highlights if you prefer. Entry is free and it’s closed on Mondays.
The Scott Polar Research Institute, also known as the Polar Museum, is a museum dedicated to the north and south poles of our planet. The Scott Polar Research Institute is named for and in memorial to Captain Robert Scott, often referred to as Scott of the Antarctic. Scott was a British naval officer and explorer who died on an expedition to the South Pole in 1912. As with many of the other museums in our guide to Cambridge, it is a part of the University of Cambridge museums consortium – of which there are eight in total in Cambridge. Each museum has a different focus and content, and they are all worth visiting!
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is where you’re going to come if you want to learn all about geology. Established in 1728, this is the oldest of the University of Cambridge museums, which is appropriate given that the subject matter will take you on a 4.5 billion year journey through the history of the earth!
Covering an area of 40 acres just to the south of the city centre, the Cambridge University Botanical Garden is a lovely place for a stroll. Opened to the public in 1846, today the garden is home to a wide variety of plants and trees, which cover both British and international variants. There are large glasshouses which contain over 3,000 species, as well a a pretty fountain. The garden is open year round, and there are self-guided trails you can take to explore the various collections on display
For 20th century and contemporary art, you’ll want to head to Kettle’s Yard. This is found in the former home of Jim and Helen Ede. The property has been largely left laid out in the informal style of the Ede’s, and much of the art on display is from their art collection. Note that whilst it is free to visit, the house operates a timed ticketing system to manage visitor numbers. These are available from the house itself, or you can book them online up to a month in advance.
The Corpus Clock is an incredible gold plated, 1.5 metre wide time piece and art installation. You’ll find it at the junction of Bene’t Street and Trumpington Street on the side of the Taylor library. It takes the form of a large golden disc, atop which sits a huge grasshopper, which is known as the Chronophage. This is Greek for “time eater”, which is appropriate, as the grasshopper appears to eat the seconds as they tick by.
If you want to get a great view of Cambridge, we recommend heading to Great St. Mary’s Church, where for a small fee you can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city. The church is in the heart of the old part of the city, surrounded by cobbled streets and colleges, and is directly across from Kings College Chapel.
Built in 1749, this famous Grade II listed wooden footbridge is a popular sight in Cambridge. Its unique construction give it the impression of being an arched bridge, but the reality is that it is built entirely from straight timbers. The Mathematical Bridge is in Queen’s College but you can admire it from Silver Street Bridge as well.
Found right in the heart of Cambridge at the Market Square, next to Great St. Mary’s Church is Cambridge Market. An outdoor market has been held in this location in the city since the Middle Ages! Today, there’s a wide variety of products on sale, from books and clothes to food, plants and mobile phone accessories.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, more commonly known as the Round Church, is a 12th century stone built Parish church found in the centre of Cambridge on Round Church street.
The Church is managed by and is the home of Christian Heritage, and is one of only four medieval round churches still in use in England.
You can both sit in the same place where Watson and Crick announced their findings on DNA, and enjoy a tasty lunch. The Eagle is pretty special though, other than it’s connection with Watson and Crick. First, it’s arguably the oldest operating pub in the city, having opened in 1667. It also has a room known as the RAF room, where the graffiti of World War II airmen covers the walls. Classic pub lunch fare in Britain includes dishes like steak and ale pie, fish and chips, gammon steak and eggs, or sausage and mashed potato.