15 things to do in Cambridge that will give you goosebumps
Cambridge is one of the most beautiful places in the UK and with so many amazing sights available it can leave visitors spoilt for choice. From iconic historic buildings dating back over 1000 years to sites of stunning natural beauty, a day trip to Cambridge truly has something for everyone with every interest catered for.
The huge variety of things to do in Cambridge means that there are always new places to discover and new things to learn. Whether you are planning your day trip to Cambridge or living locally and needing inspiration, here are our top things to do in Cambridge.
Explore King's College Chapel
Of all the top things to do in Cambridge, exploring King’s College and its Chapel is the most popular activity. For seasoned locals and visitors alike, its sheer scale and beauty never fails to generate Goosebumps and a real sense of wonder. There are many iconic places to visit in Cambridgeshire, but King's College Chapel is a true showstopper. It is the one place that warrants closer examination above all others.
Full tours of the Chapel are available and are a great way to soak up its awe-inspiring beauty and to appreciate the many treasures on display. These include the stunning original stained-glass windows dating back to the 16th century, the Rood screen gifted to Anne Boleyn by King Henry VIII and the world’s largest fan vaulted ceiling.
For the most breath-taking perspective on King's College Chapel, punting in Cambridge perfectly demonstrates why it is one of the most beautiful places in the UK. The natural beauty of the backs in Cambridge provides a perfect backdrop to the stunning architecture on display.
Take a dip in the Lido
A weather conditional entry but a trip to the Lido is one of the things to do in Cambridge that we guarantee will give you Goosebumps. The Lido is unheated but does warm up nicely once the sun has done its work - wetsuits optional! The Lido is on Jesus Green and is one of the longest outdoor swimming pools in Europe at 100 yards in length. It has been delighting local residents since opening in 1923 and is open from May to September.
On a sunny day, taking a dip in the Lido is one of the top things to do in Cambridge and is not to be missed. If you are a fan of open water, then the best college in Cambridge to visit is Emmanuel College. Its duck ponds and open-air swimming pool in the Fellows Garden date back to 1690.
Climb the tower at Great St Mary’s Church
Great St Mary’s Church is one of the most impressive places to visit in Cambridgeshire and is right in the heart of the city centre. One of 18 Catholic Churches in Cambridge, the building dates to the 15th century. Over the years it has been visited by Richard III, Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell to name but a few.
The tower was added to the Church in 1608 and if you can manage climbing to the top, it provides one of the best views of Cambridge available. At 123 steps, depending on your level of fitness, it is possibly one of the most exhausting things to do in Cambridge. However, once you are at the top, your rewards are a spectacular 360-degree view of the city, making it well worth the effort!
Enjoy punting in Cambridge
Punting in Cambridge is an unforgettable experience and one that always figures highly as one of the top things to do in Cambridge. For local residents and visitors alike, punting in Cambridge provides a unique perspective on the city as you glide through history. Taking charge of your own punt adds to the experience although for the less adventurous, you can always sit back and let someone else do the work for you.
Punting provides access to some of the most beautiful places to see in Cambridge. These include the Bridge of Sighs, the Mathematical Bridge, the Wren Library, King’s College Chapel not to mention the University gardens and grounds. For a more tranquil experience, you can punt upriver to the pretty village of Grantchester and moor up to enjoy a picnic or treat yourself to a pub lunch. As an experience, punting in Cambridge is hard to beat. Just make sure you don’t fall in - one thing we guarantee you won't do on our virtual punting tour of Cambridge!
Discover Cambridge on 2 wheels
Cambridge is known as Cycle City and has the highest proportion of cyclists in the UK. There are so many beautiful places to see in Cambridge and avoiding cyclists while under their spell is one of the biggest challenges you will face on your day trip to Cambridge. With this in mind, if you can't beat them, join them so why not hire a bike to enjoy the city from another perspective.
With plenty of cycle lanes available, the city is as easy to navigate on two wheels as it is on foot. Download our free map which as well as serving as a self guided walking tour of Cambridge, will allow you to plan your cycling route. The map provides the best walking route for Cambridge but can also be utilised for cycling with all main streets outlined. For those visiting Cambridge, cycling around the city is a joyful experience and is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Cambridge today.
Visit the Cambridge Colleges
A day trip to Cambridge is not complete unless you have wandered around a Cambridge College and with 31 to choose from, you are truly spoilt for choice. A walking tour in Cambridge is a great way to view the Colleges with many of them near to each other. You don’t even have to go inside the Colleges to appreciate their splendour. The architecture, college gates and immaculately manicured gardens are all openly on display and visible from the pavements.
If you need help planning your own walking tour in Cambridge, then why not download our free map of the city. It highlights the best walking route for Cambridge, the best places to see in Cambridge and provides a map of the Cambridge colleges.
Many of the colleges and their grounds are open to visitors, global pandemic notwithstanding, with limited entry between April and June due to exams taking place. Deciding which is the best college in Cambridge to visit is highly subjective with each College able to make a compelling case.
The most popular are King's College, St John’s College and Trinity College. Each has their own unique history and enchanting experience to offer. You can also gain a unique perspective on 8 University Colleges by going punting in Cambridge. This allows you to take in the natural beauty of the backs in Cambridge as you glide through the stunning university gardens.
Choose your favourite bridge
There are many incredible places to see in Cambridge, none more so than its famous bridges which fascinate visitors and locals alike. The best way to appreciate the bridges on offer is by going punting in Cambridge with 8 bridges available to view en route. The 2 most popular bridges are of course the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge.
The Bridge of Sighs is in the grounds of St John's College and is a big reason why many consider St John's to be the best college in Cambridge to visit. Well-known for its striking Neo-Gothic stonework, the Bridge of Sighs famously inspired Queen Victoria to declare that it was her favourite view in Cambridge.
Explore the green open spaces
If beautiful gardens and green open spaces are your thing then you will have no shortage of free things to do in Cambridge. There are many Cambridge gardens and green open spaces to enjoy. Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and Parker's Piece are all perfectly situated for play and relaxation in between sightseeing activities.
Just outside the city centre is the Botanic Garden. This is the most popular of all the Cambridge gardens and offers an ocean of tranquillity amongst the city streets. Across 40 acres of calming woodland, the Botanic Garden is home to many beautiful gardens and glasshouses, packed with flowers and plants from all over the world.
All these Cambridge gardens and green spaces are marked on our free map which also provides the best walking route for Cambridge. A walking tour in Cambridge adds to the abundantly green feel of the city with many of the Cambridge College entrances and their lawns openly visible as you walk the city streets.
Visit the Wren Library at Trinity College
To visit the Wren Library is to enjoy a magnificent picture postcard setting on the backs of Cambridge. The building was designed in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren, one of 3 he designed in Cambridge and it is a great monument to him. Punting in Cambridge provides a spectacular view of the Wren Library. As you float by on the river Cam, it allows you to appreciate the scale and beauty of the architecture in its entirety.
One of the first flood-proof buildings in the UK, the Wren Library is home to over 70,000 priceless books and manuscripts published before 1820. These include a first edition of Newton’s “Principia Mathematica”, Milton’s poems in his own handwriting, works of Shakespeare, one of the earliest versions of the Kings James bible in the country, the original manuscript of AA Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” and a walking stick and lock of hair from one of its most famous students, Sir Isaac Newton. Visiting the Wren Library is one of the most rewarding things to do in Cambridge. However, some time management is required with the library only open to the public between 12-2pm every weekday.
Visit a Museum
There are 10 museums in Cambridge to visit and they offer a huge breadth of exhibits dating back 4.5 billion years. 8 of the museums in Cambridge are owned by the University with most of them near to each other in the city centre. Some of the items you can enjoy include Roman and Anglo-Saxon artefacts, Darwin’s scientific instruments, Scott’s expedition papers, a Jurassic dinosaur skeleton and priceless works of art.
One of the most popular museums in Cambridge is the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. This houses a raft of scientific artefacts including those owned by Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton among others. Also worth visiting are the Museum of Zoology which owns over 2 million specimens across the whole animal kingdom, notably a 21 metre long Fin Whale which greets visitors on arrival; and the oldest University Museum, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences which focuses on geology and features rocks and minerals going back 4.5 billion years.
However, of all the museums in Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam Museum is the one that stands out. If you only have time to visit one Museum on your day trip to Cambridge, then it has to be the Fitzwilliam Museum, one of the finest regional museums in Europe. The outside of the museum has been compared to the Parthenon in Athens and with its imposing neo-Classical edifice and monumental columns, it is easy to see why.
Across 30 galleries, the Fitzwilliam is home to a staggering collection of over half a million artefacts, sculptures and antiquities from all around the world as well as works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Constable, Rembrandt, Renoir and Van Gogh. We have spent many an afternoon here getting lost and exploring its many treasures. With no charge for admission, the Fitzwilliam Museum is one of the best free things to do in Cambridge today.
Break for coffee and a sticky bun
Every sightseeing adventure needs a break for re-fuelling and your day trip to Cambridge is no exception. What better place to take stock and re-charge than by experiencing the delights of 2 Cambridge institutions - one recently established, the other 100 years old this year.
Fitzbillies has been catering to the taste buds of students, locals and tourists alike since 1920 with its Fitzbillies Chelsea bun world famous. Bould Brothers is a more recent addition to Cambridge but already has a burgeoning reputation for its superb coffees and cakes. Both are conveniently located across the city centre and are on the most popular routes for a walking tour in Cambridge making it easy to make a pit stop.
Explore the backs in CambridgePunting in Cambridge and the backs are intrinsically linked but the backs deserve their own special mention. To explore the backs in Cambridge is to experience one of the top views available in all of England. They are reason enough on their own to book a day trip to Cambridge and they never fail to inspire even the most seasoned visitor. The manicured grounds of the colleges perfectly compliment the stunning architecture on display and they are one of the most popular places to visit in Cambridgeshire.
You can explore the backs in Cambridge on foot, by bike or by canoe but by doing so is to deny yourself the opportunity of experiencing why punting in Cambridge is such a magical experience. By punting, you will enjoy unbroken views of some of the most breath-taking places to see in Cambridge. These include the Wren Library, St John’s College New Court, King’s College Chapel and some of the most beautiful Cambridge gardens. If you are not able to make it in person, then we can help. Our virtual punting tour of Cambridge allows you to experience one of the most beautiful places in the UK from the comfort of your sofa.
Visit the Corpus Clock
The Corpus Clock was unveiled to the public in September 2008 by Stephen Hawking and standing in front of it and becoming bewitched by its workings is one of the most popular free things to do in Cambridge today. The clock was invented by Dr John Taylor, a former student of Corpus Christi College Cambridge. Made of 24 carat gold, it was voted one of Time Magazines Best Inventions of 2008.
The clock features one of the most terrifying characters of Cambridge, the “Chronophage” or time-eater. This serves as a reminder of the inevitable passing of time. Described as both “hypnotically beautiful and deeply disturbing”, the Corpus Clock contrasts nicely with the many historic places to see in Cambridge and is well worth a visit.
The Old Cavendish Laboratory and Eagle Pub
The Old Cavendish Laboratory has been home to many profound scientific achievements. These have revolutionised mankind’s understanding of our world. Visiting this site provides the opportunity to re-trace the footsteps of the 22 Nobel Prize winners and many famous scientists who studied there and to appreciate the significance of their achievements. Established in 1874, key milestones include the discovery of the electron in 1897 by Sir Joseph Thomson, the discovery of the neutron in 1932 by James Chadwick and also in 1932, it is where Ernest Rutherford and his team split the atom.
The Old Cavendish Laboratory was also where Francis Crick and James Watson cracked the DNA code in the 1950s. They famously announced their discovery at the Eagle pub. This is one of the most iconic places to visit in Cambridgeshire and is conveniently located round the corner. You can toast their many achievements with a drink of “Eagle’s DNA” and the pub is a popular resting spot for many a walking tour in Cambridge. The pub is also notable for the graffiti scorched on the ceiling by American and RAF airmen who frequented the pub during World War Two. Every day trip to Cambridge needs a place to relax and recuperate and The Eagle provides a great spot to do this.
Enjoy a guided punting and walking tour in Cambridge
Make sure you get full value from your day trip to Cambridge by enjoying a punting and walking tour in Cambridge accompanied by a local tour guide. They will make sure you experience the very best places to see in Cambridge and bring them to life in their full historical context. If you would rather enjoy your day trip to Cambridge without being tied down to a guided schedule, then explore at your own pace with our virtual tour.
As well as providing a city break experience from afar, you can use our tour to plan your day trip to Cambridge in advance. You can also use as a self guided walking tour once you have arrived. You can track your route by downloading our free map. This highlights the best walking route for Cambridge, the best places to see in Cambridge and includes a map of the Cambridge Colleges. Our Cambridge tour guides provide expert commentary throughout to make sure you get full value from your tour.