Here’s a taste of what you can experience in the world-famous university city less than an hour from London.
Take the train to the east of England and explore a city built on brains, beautiful architecture and an indie spirit that goes well beyond the gowns.
This article will cover:
Things to do in Cambridge
Punting in Cambridge
Things to do near Cambridge
Places to eat in Cambridge
Places to stay in Cambridge
With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks.
Have brunch at Fitzbillies
This Cambridge institution has been dishing out the city’s best Chelsea buns since 1921. See what all the fuss is about with a syrupy Chelsea bun, or go for a more brain-friendly brekkie such as smashed avo on toast. The original Trumpington Street branch is all art nouveau dark wood and golden lettering.
You could easily while away your 24 hours just roaming the University’s colleges. Don’t! If you’re wondering what to do in Cambridge, join a bike tour and let them show you the best bits. As well the colleges, the 2hr30 tour points out the best King’s College Chapel selfie spot.
This place has been called “the finest small museum in Europe”, but to locals it’s simply the “Fitz”. The line between museum and art gallery is fine. The collections are important, and exquisitely beautiful, with artworks by the likes of Rembrandt and Munch alongside items such as autograph music by Handel and Purcell.
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunchtime, local street food traders set up shop across Cambridge. On Fridays they’re near Mill Road, and you can stuff yourself full of everything from buttermilk fried chicken burgers, wood-fired pizza, churros and ice cream. Look out for their night markets too.
More than 8,000 plant species from all over the world are crammed into the Gardens’ 40 acres. It’s expertly planned so there’s something to see all year round, which is nothing more than you’d expect from its founder, John Steven Henslow – he was Charles Darwin’s mentor, after all. Even the winter garden is a riot of colourful stems.
Locals cite this as the ‘real’ Cambridge, with not a gown in sight. You’ll find some of the city’s best indie cafes, pubs, thrift stores, book shops and vintage finds. Stock up on vinyl and caffeine at Relevant, or see if there’s live music to accompany your brew at Hot Numbers Coffee.
No matter what your beliefs, you’ll get goosebumps when you hear choral evensong in King’s College Chapel. It’s sung by scholars destined for pro choirs and the opera so the standard is as high as the awesome fan-vault ceiling – which just happens to be the largest in the world.
Pop into The Eagle for a pint – the Eagle DNA feels right – and lap up the history. This 16th-century pub is where Francis Crick announced he and James Watson had discovered the DNA double helix, in 1953. Check out the graffiti from World War II airmen in the RAF bar too.
Visit the city without setting foot on a punt and you’ll raise a few eyebrows – and not in a good way. Punting is one of the most popular things to do in Cambridge but you can beat the crowds with an evening punt and see the college Backs bathed in pink evening light.
Steak & Honour’s ridiculously popular burgers just got a permanent home – one of the most exciting restaurants in Cambridge. Join the queue (always a good sign) for faultless no-fuss, no-frills burgers, then head to Novi for cocktails with all the trimmings on the living roof terrace.
Slap-bang amongst the colleges and next to the River Cam, The Varsity’s roof terrace is a solid bet for views of Cambridge’s spires and turrets. Bedrooms in the new building are suitably techy yet comfy. There’s a spa, gym and one of the best restaurants in Cambridge in the attached 17th-century brewery.
Walk, cycle or even punt along the River Cam to Grantchester. There, take afternoon tea in the Orchard Tea Garden where war poet Brooke did much the same – admittedly with EM Forster, Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell for company though!