A beautiful city with 1,000 years of history – and a warm, welcoming atmosphere to boot. From touring the age-old colleges to visiting country estates and world-class museums, get more out of your summer with these 10 free, Travelodgical things to do in Cambridge.
1. Explore the world-famous colleges
The 31 colleges that make up Cambridge University are all fascinating in their own right. There’s Jesus College, with its 12th-century chapel, and St John’s, where you’ll find the enchanting Bridge of Sighs. Trinity College has the Wren Library, where you can read the original manuscript of Winnie the Pooh and see Sir Isaac Newton’s walking stick. Grandiose King’s College is arguably the most beautiful – with its soaring chapel, intricate Front Court and palatial Gibbs’ Building.
Most of the colleges are free to visit, with guided tours available. Opening times vary from college to college.
2.Pose for a photo on The Backs
Just a few minutes’ walk from the buzz of King’s Parade, The Backs is a stretch of tranquil parkland that runs alongside the River Cam. Find the right spot and you’ll have an almost 360-degree view of some of Cambridge’s best-known sights, including King’s College Chapel, St John’s New Court and the Mathematical Bridge.
It’s a gorgeous place to picnic, lie in the sun and take a few snaps.
Queen’s Road Cambridge, CB3.
3. Hear evensong at King’s College Chapel
At 5.30pm each day, the chamber of King’s College Chapel – built by Henry VIII – fills with music as King’s Choir perform their evensong. The wide variety of hymns are accompanied by a beautiful gold-plated organ, recently restored, which towers above the congregation. It’s entirely free to the public. The choir are world-class, so it really is not to be missed.
King’s Parade, CB2 1AT. Evensong performed at 5.30pm most weekdays and Saturdays during term time.
4. Walk the grounds of the Wimpole Estate
About half-an-hour’s drive away from the centre of Cambridge is the Wimpole Estate. Owned by the National Trust, there’s an admission fee to enter the house itself (a sprawling mansion dating from 1640), but the parks and gardens are free to explore.
They’re quite spectacular. Visit in June and you’ll see 180,000 flowers blooming in the exotic Pleasure Grounds, and thousands of plants in the Parterre Garden. A highlight is Cobbs Wood – fragrant woodland packed with wildlife, with a lost village beneath it.
Arrington, Royston, Cambridgeshire, SG8 0BW. The park is open every day all year round, from dawn to dusk.
5. Visit the American Cemetery
On a peaceful hillside framed by trees, just outside the city, lie the graves of 3,812 American military personnel. The Cemetery was established in 1956, and most of those buried here died in the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII.
Walk along the great mall, with reflecting pools on either side of you, to best appreciate the beauty of the spot. A memorial at the end of the walk has stained glass windows and a mosaic ceiling. Head to the visitor centre to find out more about America’s involvement in
WWII, with films, personal stories and interactive exhibits.
Coton, Cambridgeshire, CB23 7PH. Open every day 9am – 5pm except December 25th and January 1st.
6. Rifle through the stalls at the Market
An energetic way to spend a Saturday morning, whether you’re looking for handmade cheeses, organic chocolate, breads and pastries, hot food – or in fact clothes, books and DVDs. Cambridge’s market has been going since the middle ages, with no sign of stopping!
It’s held in Market Square every day except Sunday, when there’s a craft market – all knitted teddy bears and pretty handmade greetings cards.
Market Square, CB2 3QJ. Held 10am – 4pm Monday – Saturday.
7. See a chocolate-box village in Grantchester
This teensy, postcard-pretty village is perched on the River Cam, a couple of miles downstream from the city. An English village wrapped around beautiful meadows, complete with 4 cosy, traditional pubs, thatched cottages and winding country lanes.
It’s a pleasant 2-mile walk from the centre of town, or if you fancy being chauffeured, you can take a punting tour from Jesus Lock.
Grantchester High Street, CB3 9NF
8. Be amazed at The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is home to 2 million fossils, minerals and rocks, this interesting museum in the centre of town takes you through 4.5 billion years of history.
There’s plenty to see, from pieces of meteor fallen from space to fossils that tell the story of our evolution. Some of the fossils here were even collected by Charles Darwin himself. Look out for the Iguanodon dinosaurs carved above the entrance porch!
Downing Street, CB2 3EQ. Open 10am – 1pm, 2pm – 5pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm Saturdays, closed Sundays.
9. Visit an Iron Age Hillfort at Wandlebury Country Park
A few miles south of the city, stretch your legs in enchanting mature woodlands and flower-dotted meadows at Wandlebury Country Park. Look out for highland cattle dotted across the hills, with their distinctive honey-hued coats and pointy horns. There are also lots of fun activities to do as a family throughout the park- a great place to occupy the kids in the school holidays.
The icing on the cake, though, is the Iron Age Hillfort, also known as the Wandlebury Ring. Legend has it that if you approach the fort at midnight and call out: ‘Knight to knight, come forth!’ a warrior will appear ready to fight you. We don’t recommend it!
Wandlebury Ring, Gog Magog Hills, CB22 3AE.
10. Walk like an Egyptian at the Fitzwilliam Museum
You could easily mistake the Fitzwilliam Museum for another college, with its towering Roman columns and stately, manicured grounds. But instead of students, this Cambridge landmark is home to a vast number of historical objects, collected over the museum’s 200-year history. The Egyptian gallery is especially memorable, packed with awe-inspiring statues and antiquities. Its centrepiece is the sarcophagus lid of Rameses III.
Trumpington Street, CB2 1RE. Open Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays 12pm – 5pm.