Cambridge: A Travel Guide

The English university town is in a world of its own – and it's magical.

Cambridge, England. Photo: Gareth Johnson

An easy day-trip from London, Cambridge is an incredibly attractive part of the world. 

Situated on the River Cam, the city is dominated by the University of Cambridge which was founded in 1209. It’s the buildings of the university and its associated colleges, libraries, and chapels that create an otherworldly street-scape that's reminiscent of the Harry Potter movies.

How to get there?

Cambridge is only 50 miles (80 kilometres) from London, so if you have access to a car you can drive, but catching the train is a simpler way to travel.

There are two train options, with direct trains departing from either Kings Cross or Liverpool Street stations. The express train from King’s Cross takes forty-five minutes.

When you arrive in Cambridge, you can walk into the historic old town – this takes about 20–30 minutes – or there are buses and taxis available.

The key sights

You'll have to pay an entry fee for pretty much everything worse seeing in Cambridge, but it’s worth it.

One of the top picks is the chapel of King’s College. This is a spectacular example of Gothic architecture from the 16th-century.

There are a huge number of colleges that you can pay to visit and explore. If you only have time for a couple, then start with Trinity College — the largest college of the university. From its unique Tudor gateway to the expansive great court, this sets the standard for what a great educational institution should look like.

The botanic gardens of Cambridge are worth a visit, with over 8,000 species of plants on display. Guided tours are available.

See the city from the water

One of the iconic pastimes while in Cambridge is to go punting on the River Cam. A punt is a small, flat, wooden boat. There are a range of punting operators to choose from, you can either take charge of your own punt, or rely on one of the university students to wield the pole for you, propelling you smoothly along the water.

Punting is not only fun to do, but it’s also one of the best way to see all of the colleges that back on to the river — the attractive stretch of gardens and college courts is referred to as The Backs.

Go for a walk

If you fancy exploring a bit beyond the city, Grantchester meadows is definitely worth checking out. You can wander along, stopping at a pub for a drink or some food, plus there’s the Orchard Tea Gardens. The Grantchester meadows are just to the south of the city of Cambridge – you’ll be wandering through a riverside nature reserve and in Spring this area is awash with wildflowers.

Where to eat

There’s a lot of dining options to choose from while visiting Cambridge — try your best to avoid the overly touristic places and look for some of the traditional pubs that are serving up excellent roasts and favourites such as fish and chips.

  • Aromi: No mini-break is complete without a stop for ice-cream, and it was the long queues outside the ice-cream window of this Italian cafe that led us to Aromi. We opted for a tub of pistachio ice-cream. Freshly made, quality ingredients, and an excellent coffee to go with it.
  • Novi: An attractive restaurant with friendly, professional staff.
  • The Granta: The Granta pub overlooks the water and is conveniently located next to a punt hire, so you can reward yourself with a pint after having successfully navigated the punt traffic on the River Cam.

Where to stay

  • DoubleTree by Hilton – a reliable brand and a great location on the banks of the River Cam.
  • Hotel du Vin – a touch of luxury for a romantic mini-break.
  • Duke House – situated in the heart of the historic old town.
  • The Varsity – a boutique spa hotel located on the River Cam.
  • The Gonville – a high-end accommodation option.

Cambridge, England. Photo: Gareth Johnson

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