Cambridge is such a wonderfully diverse and historic city. It is also an iconic city when you consider the university buildings, the figures in history who have walked the streets and the places to see and do. You really will have no problem filling your time here. Here is our compilation of the best things to do in Cambridge. We share our local knowledge for the perfect day trip to Cambridge, including all the things you really should not miss.
1. Go Punting:
Punting is synonymous with Cambridge isn’t it? It is a great way to see the backs of the University colleges in the city too. Punting is a very popular romantic date, hen party or celebration choice. You have choices for where and how you wish to punt. Perhaps you would like to book a chauffeured punt so that you can sit back and relax? You are able to punt yourself if you fancy driving and can take a picnic and really make it an event. Punt tours can be booked during the day and into the evening- another excuse to take something fizzy on board with you! The cheapest option for punt tours is to take the shared punt option, costing around £8-10 per person. Hiring a whole punt will cost you around £40 but can accommodate 5-12 people so great for larger groups. There are also options that include food. Find out more about punting in Cambridge here.
2. Book e-tickets for Cambridge Literary festival:
Cambridge Literary Festival took its offering online during lockdown in 2020 and we thoroughly enjoyed listening to Matt Haig discuss his (then) new release, The Midnight Library from the comfort of our own home with a glass of wine! This Spring, the online festival is back with events to inspire adults and children alike and celebrate wonderful literature. Get involved and book the Cambridge Literary Festival 2021 online here. Writers this Spring include; Maggie O’Farrell, Grace Dent, Douglas Stuart and the wonderful children’s author Julia Donaldson.
3. Walk and see the city:
Cambridge is such a beautiful, historic city so finding interesting places to walk is easy here. Stay central and wander the cobbled streets, stumbling upon the iconic university colleges. The backs are stunning and not to be missed, particularly when in bloom in spring. The surrounding countryside is also breathtaking so perfect for a peaceful and scenic walk out of the city. From the city, walk riverside towards Clayhithe, or to Granchester where you can stop for an afternoon tea at the Orchard tea Gardens or one of the quality pubs. Dog walkers may also wish to stop at a dog friendly pub on their walk. More ideas for walking in Cambridge here.
4. Tour the University buildings:
Cambridge University has been home to Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Rosalind Franklin, Sir David Attenborough, and many more amazing minds. You can see the university buildings by walking in the city or, as previously mentioned, by punting. King’s College Chapel is a must see when in the city. Details of the university buildings and how to organise visiting Cambridge University here. You may choose to take a guided walking tour to learn about the history of the buildings as you walk. For an alternative kind of tour, how about a Cambridge ghost tour? This also takes you to the university buildings but tells the spooky tales of scholars past. Keen runners can also see the sights by taking part in the Cambridge Half Marathon which tours the University streets and beyond.
5. Hop on and off the bus:
The hop-on hop-off bus guides you through the city landmarks and their history and is a particularly good way to see the Cambridge highlights. The route includes 19 stops so you can hop on and off as you please to take in the university buildings, museums, traditional streets and more.
6. Eat out:
There are so many excellent restaurants in Cambridge so go hungry and squeeze in as much as possible. From a top quality burger, pizza or sandwich, to a leisurely afternoon tea, this city will deliver. Cambridge even has a completely plant based burger restaurant. Be sure to catch Cambridge’s wonderful street food- find the Food Parks locations here. Thirsty is also a great place to catch a truck and have a lovely drink. Foodies will love a visit to 2 Michelin star restaurant Midsummer House or one of the other wonderful Cambridge restaurants for a tasting menu. Fancy a drink? The Pint Shop is excellent, as are the great views of the city from the Varsity Rooftop Terrace.
7. Buy Fitzbillies Chelsea buns:
Iconic Fitzbillies has been in the city since 1920 and their Chelsea buns are amazing! Sticky, sweet and utterly delicious, they are a must try. You can get these buns beautifully wrapped to take home as gifts but be warned, once you have tasted them they might not last that long!
8. Get Ice- cream:
Jack’s Gelato is a must try destination whatever the weather. Try some of their inventive flavoured gelatos and sorbets, for example Chelsea bun (yes, the Fitzbillies ones!), chocolate truffle cake, poached pear, marmalade, cinnamon toast, alongside the more traditional flavours. Jack started out on his bike and has taken Cambridge by storm, now spoiling the city with two shops.
9. Go to the Eat Cambridge food festival:
The Eat Cambridge food festival happens each May and lasts for two weeks. During this time, you will find special events and restaurant offers to get involved in and enjoy. The festival is organised and run by volunteers and showcases the best of the independent Cambridge food scene. Take a look at the calendar and find your choice of pop up supper clubs, street food, food fairs, tasting events, talks and demos, and cookery lessons.
10. Cycle the city:
You will find copious amounts of people cycling in Cambridge as it is such a great way to get around and see the city. Enjoy the beautiful architecture and take in plenty of fresh air. You can find an interactive cycle route map of Cambridge here. There are plenty of places to hire bikes in Cambridge and park up if you are visiting the city. Alternatively, try an e-scooter! Now available to hire and taking you around the city at up to 10 mph. What fun.
11.Go to a football match:
Football fans will enjoy a trip to watch a game at the Abbey stadium home of Cambridge United. Currently flying high in League two, the stadium is just a short stroll or bus ride from the city centre so easy to access. This small traditional football ground generates a great atmosphere and is a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
12. Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum:
The Fitzwilliam Museum has collections of amazing artefacts, paintings and works of art. The exhibitions change regularly, so even those who have been before enjoy a return visit. A recent exhibition was Feast and Fast which presented the history and culture of food and eating. A great day out for all of the family and city centre based so east to get to. Free entrance too!
13. Soak up more culture with Museums and galleries:
Cambridge has many excellent places of culture to visit. One of our favourites is the small but beautifully formed Kettles Yard gallery. The gallery has a collection of art and also a regularly changing exhibitions of modern art. The American WW2 military cemetery is a favourite with visitors to the city. The 30 acres of land, donated by the University in 1956, contains the remains of 3,811 war dead and another 5,127 names of missing American soldiers on its monument. Other fabulous museums include The Scott Polar Museum, University of Zooology, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Duxford Air Museum, and the Centre for Computing History. Find more about the museums in Cambridge here.
14. Take a trip to the cinema:
Cambridge has three cinemas to choose from. The Vue cinema in the Grafton centre has wonderful reclining leather seats to lay back and enjoy the film. While you are there, enjoy the new and improved food offering in the Grafton Centre food court- be sure to visit Amelie. The Arts Picturehouse is a smaller screen, showing less mainstream films, new releases and classics. The Arts has special feature screenings, for example the dog friendly showings, autism friendly films, OAP sessions and more. A great café within the building too. The third cinema is inside Cambridge Leisure- more about this below.
15. Spend some time at Cambridge Leisure:
If you have children, a trip to Cambridge Leisure will make their day. Close to the station, hop off the train and into the complex for a number of fun activities. What can you do here? Well, you will find the Light Cinema, 28 lanes of ten-pin bowling, karaoke, a gym and The Junction which is where you can catch a gig or event. The Sing Dizzy karaoke is such fun! Hire your private booth, complete with props and wigs, and sing your heart out. The restaurant offering at Cambridge Leisure includes Wagamama, Five Guys, Nandos and more.
16. Climb the Castle Mound:
The Castle Mound, officially known as Cambridge Castle, is a grassy mound that was the site of the Roman town of Duroliponte, originally an Iron Age hill fort. Climb up the mound and enjoy the views over Cambridge. On a clear day you can see for miles.
17. Walk the Gogs:
The Gogs are ridges of low chalk hills to the southeast of Cambridge. Some 163 acres, this is a top choice for walkers wanting beautiful open spaces. See the website for routes and information of parking etc. The Gogs can be accessed from different starting points, for example Stapleford or Great Shelford and by doing this your can incorporate some great food options along the way by visiting the village pubs. Stop off on the way at The Gog Farm Shop which has a top quality butchery and deli to browse. Find something delicious to take home with you! *Parking at the Gog Farm Shop is for customers only*.
18. See the historic Mathematical Bridge:
The mathematical bridge was designed is 1748 and built in 1749 by James Essex. It bridges the river Cam in central Cambridge and has been rebuilt twice since its original build, but to the same design and always from wood. Its sophisticated geometrical engineer deign gives its status and name.
19. Stroll past the Corpus Clock:
The Corpus Clock made its first appearance in 2008 and is a beautiful addition to the city centre. It is located at the junction of Bene’t Street and Trumpington Street, looking out over King’s Parade. The clock was invented, designed and given to Corpus Christi College by Dr John C Taylor OBE FREng (an old fellow of the university). It is intricate and beautiful but some also find the concept of it quite disturbing. It is a reminder that life is constantly passing by as we move towards death. On top of the beautiful clock sits a ‘Chronophage’, meaning ‘time-eater’. The clock is also know as the grasshopper clock due to the creature ‘s grasshopper or locust like appearance.
20. Climb the Church of St Mary’s Tower:
The views over the city from the top of The Church of St Mary the Great’s tower, after a 123 step steep climb, are fabulous. The gothic church, dating back to 1205, is beautiful and gives your spectacular views over Kings college and the University buildings. Most definitely worth a visit and finishing at the Michael House café which serves delicious food.
21. See a show at the Theatre:
Cambridge is home to ADC Theatre and also the Cambridge Arts Theatre, both of which have excellent schedules and will delight culture lovers. You will also find concerts and shows at The Corn Exchange, The Junction and the Mumford Theatre.
22.Wander down Mill Road:
Mill Road has risen in popularity in recent years due to its diverse and cultural food offering. It is home to some wonderful delis, international supermarkets and fabulous restaurants. Try the wonderful vegetarian Vanderlyle, middle eastern Little Petra, the scrumptious cake from Toms, café by day and pizzeria by night Scott’s All Day, Italian Limoncello, and the award winning The Sea Tree fish and chip shop. This list is not exhaustive- there are many more! There are also many long standing pubs within the local streets.
Cambridge has many shopping areas to choose from. For high street shops, head for the City Centre and the Grand Arcade. You will also find wonderful independents in the centre so wander the cobbled streets and enjoy the beautiful university buildings as you pass them. Don’t miss Cambridge Cheese Company and Hill St. Chocolatier, both located on All Saints Passage. Be sure to visit the The Markets for arts and crafts stalls, vintage clothing, artisan foods and drink producers. The Grafton Centre offers larger stores, and has a developing food court upstairs.
24.Be inspired at the Botanical Gardens:
The Botanical Gardens are open to the public with pre-booking only. Tickets will cost you £6-7 and children are free. Wander the beautiful and tranquil gardens to see wonderful trees, flowers and rare plants. The Titam Arum (known as the corpse flower) for example which smell is said to resemble rotting flesh when in bloom. The aroma wafts over the city when flowering- perhaps lucky that flowering is rare and last occurred in 2015 then!
25.Go to Cambridge Beer Festival:
The Cambridge Beer Festival is held during May and November each year. The festival is well attended and showcases real ales, ciders, Perry’s, wines and beers. It also has a brilliant cheese stall. Take in some live music and quality drinks with a festival atmosphere. A fun weekend!
We hope that you have a wonderful trip to our city. Let us know your highlights in the comments below.