Cambridge is probably best known for its university, which lends the place an undeniable energy. The 31 colleges which make up the iconic institution probably represent about half of all the buildings in the city centre. A web of cobbled streets winds through the rest, hosting a good selection of traditional stores and eateries.

    It’s not all history in Cambridge. The innovative minds which have passed through Cambridge University have created a buzzing and industrious city, known as England’s Silicon Valley. Even so, the bicycle remains the favoured method of getting around, so get on your bike and start exploring!

    What are the best things to do in Cambridge?


    The Backs

    Famous buildings and bridges

    • Families
    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo

    Many of the colleges of Cambridge University back onto the River Cam, creating a view unimaginatively known as The Backs. Taking a punt – that most iconic of river transports in English university towns – is a great way to enjoy this view, which features many of the beautiful old buildings of King’s College, Trinity College, and St John’s College. Along the way, you can pass under the Mathematical Bridge (made entirely out of perfectly straight timbers) and the Bridge of Sighs, which has a similar design to the bridge it’s named after in Venice, Italy. Punts are available for rent at Quayside by Magdalene Bridge, among other places.

    Location: Quayside Punting Station Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge CB5 8AB, UK


    King's College Chapel

    One of the world's most famous choirs

    • Couples
    • History

    King’s College Chapel is one of the most famous and popular buildings in Cambridge. If you think the outside is impressive, you’ll be amazed by the interior, with its many beautiful stained glass windows, fan-vault ceiling, and historical artworks. As remarkable as the building is, the chapel choir is arguably even more famous. Attend the evensong service Monday – Saturday at 5.30 pm or Sundays at 10.30 am or 3.30 pm to hear the world-renowned singers and their joyous hymns.

    Location: King's Parade, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 331212


    photo by Tom Thai (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Great St Mary's Church

    See the city from its official centre

    • Budget
    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo

    Great St Mary’s Church is very beautiful both inside and out. Built in the 15th century, it’s worth taking the self-guided tour to see the two organs, the slightly bizarre pulpit on rails, and the impressive stained glass windows. However, it’s the tower which is especially famous. Added in 1608, it gives great views over Cambridge from the official centre of the city, with college buildings to the west and the city streets to the east. Access to the tower costs a small fee and you’ll need to climb 123 steps to get to the top.

    Location: The University Church, Senate House Hill, Cambridge CB2 3PQ, UK

    Open: Monday - Saturday from 10 am to 5.30 pm (4.30 pm in winter), Sundays from 12.15 pm to 5 pm (4 pm in winter)

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 747273


    photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST (CC BY 3.0) modified


    The Fitzwilliam Museum

    One of the most popular free attractions in the east of England

    • Budget
    • History

    The Fitzwilliam Museum is much like London’s British Museum. Not only is it free to enter and look around, but it houses a massive collection of antiquities from around the world inside a beautiful classical building. There are about half a million artworks, manuscripts, statues, coins, weapons – basically anything you can think of which has some historical value. The star attraction is the sarcophagus lid of Ramesses III.

    Location: Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RB, UK

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays from noon to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 332900


    photo by Historyworks (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Market Square

    Pick up some bargains at the daily market

    • Budget
    • Shoppers

    Cambridge Market Square has been a place of trading since the Middle Ages, and it remains a good place to find everything from fresh food to second-hand bicycles. The Sunday market has a more arts-and-crafts feel, but you’ll still find good deals on local produce, too. Being fairly central and surrounded by cafés and restaurants, it’s a good place to get a refreshing start to your day and get a feel for the city.

    Location: Market Hill, Cambridge CB1 0SS, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 4 pm


    photo by Marvinthefish (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    The Round Church

    Iconic architecture and history

    • History
    • Photo

    While the real name of this quaint old building is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – named after the building of the same name in Jerusalem, which it was modelled on – it’s almost always known as The Round Church. There’s no prize for guessing why. First built around 1130, it’s among the oldest buildings in Cambridge and is one of the most iconic. Inside, the church is quite modestly decorated, but there is a small exhibition showing the impact of Christianity throughout history. Coincidentally, the church is surrounded by several excellent sweet shops.

    Location: Round Church Vestry, Bridge St, Cambridge CB2 1UB, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays from 1.30 pm to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 311602


    Cambridge University Botanic Garden

    Find peace among plants from around the world

    • Couples
    • Photo

    Quite far south of the city centre, but conveniently close to the train station, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a beautiful, peaceful place. A small admission fee will give you access to an impressive 40 acres of well-maintained grounds containing over 8,000 different plant species from around the world. There are several seasonal trails, helping you get the best out of your visit at any time of year, but it’s also nice just to wander along the winding paths. Check out the historical greenhouses to the north of the Main Lawn for flowers from the tropics, mountains, and deserts.

    Location: 1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (open till 4 pm from November to January, till 5 pm on February, March and October)

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 336265


    photo by Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CC BY 2.0) modified



    Sweet, sticky and world-renowned

    • History
    • Food

    The deliciously gooey Chelsea buns of Fitzbillies are famous around the world and have been an iconic feature of this cake shop on Trumpington Street since it opened in the 1920s. Still showcasing its traditional style, the café also serves a good brunch and a very popular afternoon tea from 4pm. Being such a famous Cambridge institution, you can expect the store to be busy most days, but there is a smaller second branch on Bridge Street where you can get tasty sandwiches and, of course, those famous Chelsea buns.

    Location: 51-52 Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RG, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 6.30 pm, Sundays from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 352500


    photo by Duncan Hull (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Grand Arcade

    Stylish lifestyle mall

    • Shoppers
    • Luxury

    Grand Arcade boasts more than 60 shops around a John Lewis department store, with a general trend towards high-street fashion and lifestyle brands. It has a bright and airy feel, for a 3-storey indoor mall, thanks to its glass roof and mostly white décor. Top brands include Calvin Klein, Laura Ashley, Ted Baker and many other mostly British designer labels. There’s also a good choice restaurants and coffee shops to choose from.

    Location: St Andrew's St, Cambridge CB2 3BJ, UK

    Open: Monday–Tuesday and Thursday–Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, Wednesdays from 9 am to 8 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 7 pm, Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 302601


    photo by Cmglee (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    The Eagle

    Enjoy a glass of Eagle's DNA

    • History
    • Nightlife

    Cambridge is far from famous for its nightlife, but one particular pub deserves its place in history. What appears to be nothing more than a fairly large but typical English pub with a pleasant beer garden is actually the place where Francis Crick and James Watson announced that they had discovered the structure of DNA in 1953. There’s even a special ale available to commemorate the fact: Eagle’s DNA. You should also check out the RAF bar in the back, where you’ll find graffiti left by Second World War aircrews on the walls and ceilings (those must have been some wild parties!). For even more history, cross the road from The Eagle to St Bene’t’s Church – said to be the oldest building in Cambridge.

    Location: 8 Benet Street, Cambridge CB2 3QN, UK

    Open: Thursday–Saturday from 11 am to midnight, Sunday–Wednesday from 11 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 505020


    photo by Cmglee (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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