Cambridge, whose name comes from the river Cam (which flows through it) is a famous university city located a 2 hours’ drive away from London. The world-renowned University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, but the city is far older and its rich history and numerous cultural venues, make it an ideal week-end destination in England. I decided to go there with my family last Easter and we did not regret it! Here is a guide on the best things to see in Cambridge…
A university city
What is called “University of Cambridge” counts 31 colleges which can be distinguished between the ‘old’ colleges (founded between 1284 and 1596) and the ‘new’ colleges (founded between 1800 and 1977).
Among those colleges, King’s college is world-famous for its Chapel and Choir. Most of them offer incredible facilities to their students including dormitories, chapels, dining halls and classrooms, but also an impressive architecture and always beautiful gardens.
The thing is, if you intend to visit one of Cambridge’s colleges, you will have to book a guided tour in advance (be careful, July and August are so busiest months in the year). If you have not planned your visit though, you can still wander in Cambridge streets and you will be able to soak up the studious atmosphere everywhere anyway…
Most visitors stop by King’s College, Trinity College and St. John’s College, because they are some of the oldest, richest and most prestigious colleges of Cambridge University, but all of them are really worth the visit.
A popular thing to do in Cambridge is booking a punting tour. This will give you the opportunity to see famous colleges from a unique vantage point and learn about Cambridge’s history at the same time.
We were very lucky with the weather when visiting Cambridge and punting on the river was a true delight. We had an amazing vue on the colleges of course, but also discovered the main highlights the river has to offer:
– the Bridge of Sighs (above), which is a covered bridge at St John’s College; it was named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, although they have little architecturally in common except the fact that they are both covered,
– the Mathematical Bridge (below), which is the popular name of a wooden footbridge; although it appears to be an arch, it is composed entirely of straight timbers with a sophisticated engineering design.
You will find many punting companies (online or directly along the river Cam), where you can easily book punting tours. You can opt either for a tour on your own or for a private chauffeured tour with up to 12 people (and you’ll be allowed to bring food and drinks on board). We took the second option and enjoyed a 50 minutes tour discovering Cambridge’s history and architecture along the river.
I very much appreciate wandering in this small city, where you can expect discovering some amazing detail on every street: a vintage store front, a small market, appealing restaurants, unexpected and unusual clocks…
Speaking of clocks, the Corpus Clock is worth a look: it is a large sculptural clock at street level on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. The clock was officially unveiled to the public on 19 September 2008 by Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking.
Sometimes shops have very expressive commercial signs…
I liked the architecture in Cambridge, which counts some specificities including those building tops above, showing this particular chimney design.
The imposing building of the Fitzwilliam Museum hosts a world-class collection of art.
We were stunned by the quality of the collections there and the building itself is very interesting. This is definitely a worth visiting place in Cambridge!
Another good reason to go there: the Fitzwilliam Museum is completely free!
If you have some more time in the city you can add a visit to the Cambridge Botanic Garden or to Kettle’s yard, a renowned Art Gallery.
Where to eat in Cambridge
We did not plan our trip to Cambridge enough and played it by ear when it came to find a good place for lunch.
Once we ended up in the Brown Brasserie and really enjoyed our food there. We also loved the cosy atmosphere there and could let our hair down a bit before continuing to explore the rest of the city.
The second day, as Cambridge was really crowdy, we came to Jamie’s. Contrary to our expectations and despite the delay in being served, the place was great and the food was fresh and good. The restaurant’s central location will be a plus for those who have a busy agenda …
If you are a big fan of the popular Chelsea buns, head to Fitzbillies, the famous bakery that serves the no less famous sticky buns in Cambridge (even if you are not going to Cambridge, deliveries are available all over UK… just to say 🙂 ).
I hope this guide about Cambridge will inspire you. Have a lovely trip there and share your experience on my blog !
To find out more:
The Fizwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Cambridge Botanic Garden
Kettle’s Yard, Art gallery, Cambridge
The Brown Brasserie, Cambridge
Jamie’s restaurant, Cambridge
Fitzbillies bakery, Cambridge