A day out in Cambridge

Excursions outside London, Gardens and green spaces, Museums & stately homes, Shopping

Dive into British history on a day trip to Cambridge, home to the UK’s second oldest university and some of the country’s most spectacular architecture. Just 45 minutes or so by train from Kings Cross, Cambridge is one of our most popular day trips from London.  Avoid the crowds and visit in early Spring while the streets are relatively tourist-free. These are some of our favourite things to do.

Tongue Twisters

A visit to Cambridge shows just how hard English pronunciation can be!  Several of the colleges have names that even British people struggle with.

Why is Gonville & Caius pronounced Gonville & Keys? It’s all down to former student and Fellow, Dr John Caius. After studying medicine in Padua, Italy, he decided to Latinise the spelling – but retain the sound – of his original surname Keys.

And what about Magdalene College, pronounced Maudlyn? In fact, in the earliest documents, the name of the College is clearly spelt as pronounced, ‘Maudleyn’. This changed in 1542 when the College was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.

Pick a college

Choose from a total of over 30 colleges. Start with the show-stopping King’s, St John’s and Trinity Colleges. Watch out for the admission charges (between £3-£10) at these larger, more prestigious colleges. Entry to some of the smaller colleges is free: we love Pembroke College where you can wander round the grounds and visit the Chapel, or Peterhouse which is Cambridge’s oldest college (1284) and one of its smallest.

River views and punting

Get some of the best views of the city from its bridges. Go punting on the river Cam to see the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge and the main façade of several of the colleges. Choose from countless companies which offer punting tours year-round, from around £16 per person.

Museums and exhibitions

Cambridge’s Fitzwillliam museum is one of the East of England’s most visited free attractions and it’s easy to see why. Browse a vast range of Collections, from Greek & Roman art to Ceramics & Glass, and from jewellery to sculpture.

If you’re visiting Cambridge with kids, pop into the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences to swot up up on dinosaurs and fossil facts on a 4.5 billion year walk back through time.

More kids’ activities

Keep energy levels up with a picnic by the river or a visit to Fitzbillies, Cambridge’s oldest bakery. Stop by for brunch, afternoon tea or just for one of their ultra-sticky Chelsea buns.

The Cambridge University Botanic Garden, a mile or so outside town, is a lovely spot for all the family. The Garden was founded by Professor John Henslow, Charles Darwin’s mentor. Explore the 40-acre gardens with their 8000 plant species, fountains, an arboretum and glasshouses containing plants from far and wide.

Shopping in the city

Choose from several shopping areas and a great selection of shops.  Start off with the quirky food stalls (ostrich burger anyone?), vintage clothes and gifts in cobbled Market Square then stroll past the independent shops along Rose Crescent, Trinity and King Street.  The more familiar high street brands such as The White Company, Hollister and John Lewis are all situated in Grand Arcade, the city’s newest shopping centre.