Are you looking for the best things to do in Cambridge? Just like you, we were eager to explore this historic university city for ourselves and uncover the famous attractions. We’ve assembled a list of some of the top things to do in Cambridge so you can experience the city, just like we did…
Cambridge is known worldwide for its prestigious university and is full of history, impressive architecture and beautiful scenery. The main attraction here is simply wandering around on foot. Read on for a list of the top attractions, with a sprinkle of our own recommendations.
Punting on the River Cam
The number one thing to do in Cambridge is punting on the River Cam. It’s a great way to see the historic bridges on the narrow river and you have scenic views throughout, no matter the season! If you’re unfamiliar with what punting is, you essentially sit down in a long, narrow boat and the punt navigator stands up, pushing the boat along the river with one long oar. It’s a romantic activity for couples and fun for families or friends too!
You can book a punting tour in advance, rent your own punt or similar turn up to one of the riverbank activity centres and pay on the day. Cambridge is famous for it!
Visit the Cambridge University Campus
Another one of the best things to do in Cambridge is a tour around the iconic Cambridge University campus. The Uni is one of the most prestigious educational facilities on the planet! The whole city lives and breathes university life. Many famous musicians, scientists and business gurus have come out of Cambridge and it’s a cool place to discover during your stay. Walk through the main campus marvelling at the old buildings, step inside the old library or read a book on a bench and embrace campus life.
Go for a long walk by the riverside
What we loved most about Cambridge was simply walking by the riverside in the north of the city. The river surroundings are idyllic… You have rowing teams gearing up for training sessions, locals going for a run, tourists enjoying punting and a relaxed atmosphere to spend your day. It’s particularly charming on a sunny day! We recommend starting your walk at the university campus and walking all the way to Jesus Green park.
Visit a museum – Fitzwilliam Museum & Centre for Computing History
For museum fans visiting Cambridge, there are two that we recommend. The Fitzwilliam Museum is the top-rated in the city. It’s said to be one of the best museums in Europe for arts and antiques, currently showcasing work from Monet, Picasso, Rubens, Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt. Those names alone will have art fans eager to visit.
The Centre for Computing History on the other hand is a far more modern museum, displaying the advancement of computer technology in the past century. It’s a small, specialist museum that will appeal to anyone with an interest in computers. It’s located just outside the city centre.
Peer inside the Kings College Chapel
King’s College Chapel is British history at its best! It’s arguably the most impressive building in the city and it’s worth visiting Cambridge just to have a glance inside. It boasts grand stone designs that were handcrafted by the freemasons, some of the finest Italian wood carvings in the country and has an interior and exterior that are awe inspiring. If you love old buildings with a rich history, a walking tour of King College Chapel should be at the top of your list.
See the famous Sir Isaac Newton apple tree
The apple tree attraction just outside of Trinity College is a monument to the famous discovery of gravity by Isaac Newton (when an apple fell out of the tree and hit him on the head). Whilst the tree isn’t the actual tree that Isaac sat under, it’s replaced every time it dies and serves as a memory of this famous story in the city of Cambridge. See the historic apple tree for yourself and take some pictures.
Wander through the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens
Both Oxford and Cambridge University have their own beautifully maintained botanical gardens. Having been to both, we’re really not sure which ones we like best! Pay a small entrance fee for access to this neatly organised collection of flower beds, greenhouses, manicured hedges and walkways. It’s a nice place to spend a morning or afternoon, enjoying a picnic with a view or a walk with pleasant scenery. Aim to spend around an hour and a half exploring the gardens.
Visit the many famous bridges – Mechanical Bridge & The Bridge of Sighs
As the River Cam winds throughout Cambridge City centre, it needs plenty of bridges for access to the north and western sides of town. Some of these bridges are structurally brilliant and a great site to see themselves! The best bridges to uncover in Cambridge include:
The Bridge of Sighs: This 19th century bridge sits on the Cambridge University Campus and most punting tours pass under it. It’s said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite spot in the city.
Mathematical Bridge: This uniquely designed wooden bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Southern England and a must-see for any visit. It’s located right next to the student halls of Cambridge University.
Pay tribute at Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
An unusual but important thing to do in Cambridge for anyone is a stop by the American Cemetery Memorial. This vast remembrance site is dedicated to all of the US soldiers that travelled over to Europe in WWII to support the allied forces. It’s a moving and peaceful place to visit that opens your mind to the sacrifice that took place. The memorial is located just outside of the city centre so you’ll need to catch a taxi or drive there.
Enjoy a cocktail with a view on the rooftop of the Varsity Hotel
Retreat to the rooftops for a relaxed drink with an amazing view! A drink at Varsity Hotel’s rooftop bar is best enjoyed whilst the sun shines or just before sunset. We recommend booking a table in advance to secure a space on the rooftop, which can get busy when the weather is nice. Visit their website here to check out the drink’s menu and book a table.
Explore the shops and restaurants of the city centre
For those that have seen all of the sights that Cambridge has to offer, why not browse the local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants? You’ll find everything from high street fashion chains to local gift shops and specialist clothing and homeware boutiques. Grand Arcade shopping centre is the place to go for high street shopping, whilst the shops of The Grafton have more independent retailers. For eating out, you’re spoilt for choice!
Grab lunch at Market Square
Market Square is a small, central hub in the city centre, where many shops, cafes and restaurants are only a short walk away. It’s the living and breathing heart of the city and is usually full of market stalls. Sample cheap but delicious street food from around the world or try some British favourites such as pastries and cakey treats. There’s always something new at the market and we highly recommending grabbing lunch there and eating it by the river.
Pro-tip: Look for the food stalls with the longest queues – they’re usually the best!
Have a picnic at Jesus Green park
Retreat from the hustle and bustle of the centre for a stroll along the river and some relaxation in Jesus Green park. It’s an excellent place for a picnic, game of sports or relaxation in the sun. During the summer, there’s even an outdoor swimming pool that’s open to the public! We recommend resting at Jesus Green after a busy morning of sightseeing.
That concludes a list of the best things to do in Cambridge! Plan a visit to this historic city for yourself and get a feel of Uni life. It’s one of the top cities in the UK for history and culture, but also offers beautiful scenery, excellent food and drinks and charming boutique hotels. Speaking of hotels, check out our recommendations on where to stay below…
Where to stay in Cambridge
If you’re looking for a central and top-rated place to stay whilst visiting Cambridge, check out our suggestions for every budget below. It’s a small city so everything is walking distance if you book a hotel in the city centre.
The Varsity Hotel & Spa
VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5
Arguably the best hotel in town, the Varsity Hotel’s rooftop bar appeared in our list of the best things to do in Cambridge. The hotel is also a great place to stay! Rooms at the Varsity are a touch of class, with high end furnishings, roll top baths and mesmerising views of Cambridge. It also boasts a spa area and excellent restaurant.
Hotel Du Vin Cambridge
View on Booking.com | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5
Our personal favourite place to stay is the small and homely Hotel Du Vin. It’s a chain that bears distinct décor, with high ceilings, wooden beams and romantic finishing touches. Each of its rooms are individually named and designed. Be sure to check out special stay and dine offers before you book – their on-site French bistro is the perfect place to start your evening.
ibis Cambridge Central Station Hotel
VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5