Best Things To Do in Cambridge on a Day Trip

Cambridge holds a special place in my heart, probably because it was one of the very first English cities I have visited when I just moved to the UK. It was a university field trip with my new friends, plus, the weather was surprisingly nice. We had so much fun that my experience brought me back to Cambridge again and again.

Cambridge is a popular destination for a day trip from London and other parts of England. This amazing city, with its colleges dating back over 800 years, is famous for activities such as punting on the River Cam, walking through the historic areas and being in awe of the magnificent architecture on display. It is truly a wonderful city to visit on a bright sunny day.

How to get to Cambridge from London

Cambridge is around 62 miles north of central London and it is easy to get to.

London to Cambridge by Train

One of the easiest ways to travel to Cambridge from London is by taking a train. You can take the fastest train from King’s Cross which takes less than an hour. It is more convenient to buy your ticket online in advance since the queues can be long at Kings Cross station.

If you are in east London, you can take a train from Liverpool Station to Cambridge, but it takes slightly longer. Depending on the train you end up on, your journey can take from an hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and a half. Liverpool is also a busy station, so make sure to book your ticket online.

London to Cambridge by Bus

Taking the bus from London to Cambridge takes a little longer but it is cheaper than the train. You can usually find tickets costing just £15, sometimes they are available at half that price. Journey time very much depends on London’s traffic, but it usually takes around 2 hours. You should book your ticket in advance. You can book it here.

London to Cambridge by Car

Cambridge is only 64 miles away from London. Driving to Cambridge from London is quite straightforward, you need to take the scenic route on the M11. It should take you less than two hours to drive there, but the journey can sometimes take longer because of the traffic in London.

On arriving in Cambridge you have the option of using the Park and Ride scheme, where you park your car in one of the 5 designated car parks on the outskirts of the city and then take the bus to the centre.

London to Cambridge by Tour

One of the best ways to explore Cambridge is to take a guided Cambridge tour from London. This allows you to see the best of the city while avoiding the hassles of driving and public transport. Check the availability here.

If you are interested in exploring Oxford, you can take the Full-Day Tour to Oxford and Cambridge. This tour offers a walking tour around the cities, climbing the tower of the Church of St. Mary the Great in Cambridge and visiting the dining room which was featured in the Harry Potter movies at Christ Church college in Oxford. Check the prices and availability here.

Getting around Cambridge

It is easy to roam around the Cambridge city centre and you can walk to most of the main attractions. But if walking is not an option, you can take the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. You can buy a 24-hour ticket and then get on and off the bus as many times as you want during your visit. Each bus is full of tourist information and the buses stop at the major tourist attractions in the city. Check the prices here.

Top Things to do in Cambridge

Visit Cambridge Colleges and King’s College Chapel

Cambridge is home to the second-largest university in the UK, and without any doubt, Cambridge University is the main attraction in the city. It was founded in the 1220s by students fleeing from Oxford. A rivalry has existed between the two universities since that time.

There are 31 university colleges in Cambridge, many of the older ones date from the 13th and 14th centuries and dominate the layout of the city centre. Among the most famous colleges is King’s College, founded in 1441 by King Henry VI.

He was disappointed by the first efforts to create a college, so he ordered the medieval centre of Cambridge to be cleared to make room for a much grander looking structure. The current college has a largely neo-Gothic style and was built by William Wilkins in the 1820s.

One of Henry VI's surviving buildings is the King’s College Chapel which has been featured on canvas by artists such as Turner and Canaletto as well as three sonnets by Wordsworth. Today, it is best known for its choir with an annual broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Inside the chapel, you can see the world’s largest fan vault ceiling.

Several colleges permit visitors, however, restrictions may be in place during times of exams from April until June. During the summer recess, some colleges charge an entrance fee for visitors and the college grounds are full of tourists. You can book a guided city and university tour which includes visiting the famous King’s College Chapel. Click here to check the prices.

Punting on the River Cam

Punting on the River Cam is one of the top things to do in Cambridge. You can hire your own and try punting yourself, although it is not as easy as it looks.

Most people prefer to sit back, relax and let a professional do the work. The best way to enjoy this activity is through a tour, many former students are employed as operators of the punts and offer their services as a tour guide.

You can take the 45-minute Cambridge: Guided Punting Tour which takes you to the Mathematical Bridge and you will pass under the Bridge of Sighs. While on the tour the guide will tell you some interesting stories about the surroundings. Check prices and availability here.

You can also combine the walking tour with punting and book a 3 hours tour of Cambridge. Click here to check the prices.

Fitzwilliam Museum

If you like antiquities and art, you should visit Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This beautifully constructed 19th-century Neoclassical building hosts several private collections including Egyptian mummies, European ceramics, art from the Far East and Korean ceramics.

There are several 19th and 20th-century paintings and sculptures by British and European artists, including some modern art produced since 1945.

Like many other major museums in the UK, Fitzwilliam Museum is free of charge, however, you need to book your ticket in advance through the official website.

Enjoy the view from the top of St Mary’s Tower

Cambridge has some wonderful churches including St. Benet’s with its Saxon tower, the restored Norman Holy Sepulchre Church, one of only four round churches in England, and St. Edward’s Church. St. Peter’s Chapel is the smallest church in Cambridge and has a long history dating back to the 12th century.

However, the most visited of Cambridge's churches is Great St. Mary’s dating back to the 15th century, also known as St. Mary the Great. One of the fun things to do in Cambridge is to climb the Great St Mary’s tower for the best views across Cambridge. There is a small fee (around £4-5) to climb the tower and it is open every day from 11 am until 5 pm except on Mondays.

Eat cakes and pastries in Fitzbillies

There are many cute cafes and restaurants in Cambridge, but if you are looking for a special place, you should head to Fitzbillies. Without any doubt, Fitzbillies is the most iconic cafe in Cambridge and has been for more than 100 years, and it is famous for its cakes and pastries. If you like Chelsea Buns, you will probably get one of the best ones here in this cafe. They offer vegan Chelsea Bun, too.

Check out Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard is a unique house and the University of Cambridge's modern and contemporary art gallery. It was the home of Jim Ede and Helen Schlapp from 1957 until 1973. Ede was a curator at the Tate Gallery in London and considered himself a friend of the artists. He later acquired the work of some of these artists and this forms the foundation of the works displayed at Kettle’s Yard.

In 1966 the building was given to the University of Cambridge, although the couple continued living there until 1973 when they moved to Edinburgh upon their retirement. Every afternoon except Mondays the cottages are open to receive visitors.

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