Cambridge is not known as a bastion of academic greatness for nothing and its’ University colleges are the dominant force in this small Cambridge shire city. In fact, Cambridge is so small you could get round all the colleges in one afternoon, but if there’s just one you should see, head for King’s College and King’s College Chapel - resplendent in Gothic architecture.
Pristine college lawns sweep majestically down to the River Cam, which are over-reached by a set of charming bridges including the Bridge of Sighs – where many a college student no doubt felt wistful - or the Mathematical Bridge, perhaps sought out for algebraic inspiration. Once you’ve done a spot of sightseeing, a wander around Cambridge’s second hand book stores will fill an afternoon pleasantly, or even a punt on the River Cam – stripy boater not compulsory.
During a trip to Cambridge you may well be amused to find bowler hatted college porters still waiting on their gowned and privileged superiors. But along with a strong sense of tradition, Cambridge has its feet firmly stuck in not only the present, but the future, with the city touted as becoming a ‘world center of advanced technology’, by Bill Gates, no less.
Cambridge’s Top 10
10.You could pop Peterhouse College in your pocket it’s so small. Founded in 1284 - a tiny piece of history at your disposal.
5.Magdalene College Wins the most chauvinistic of all Cambridge Colleges award. Managed to keep women out until 1988!
9.The ‘Backs’ is the place to head for when the sun shines. Parklands behind the colleges and great for photo ops.
4.Emmanuel College was the University college John Harvard studied in before he decided to break out and found his own.
8.The Franciscan Church of St Benet is the oldest structure in the county.
3.The Fitzwilliam Museum One of the oldest museums in the UK and home to Egyptian, Roman and Greek artifacts.
7.Great St Mary’s is worth the climb. 123 steps in all to get some wonderful views.
2.Trinity College Henry VII was the founder and his statue now holds a chair leg rather than his scepter.
6.The Eagle Pub Crick and Watson used to sup here. Wonder if all they talked was DNA?
1.Christ’s College John Milton and Charles Darwin studied within its hallowed walls.
- Great St Mary's – A fine example of 15th-century architecture.
- St Benet's – A beautiful 11th-century church found hidden away along a Cambridge lane.
- King's College and King's College Chapel – One of Cambridge’s most-visited attractions.
- All Saints – Located on Jesus Lane, this 19th-century church features a highly ornate interior.
- St Andrew's – An impressive church with medieval paintings around the chancel arch.
Cambridge Art & Culture
- Fitzwilliam Museum – This art museum is home to five departments.
- Kettle's Yard – This house features a fine collection of art. It also presents contemporary music concerts.
- Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences – This old museum is packed with fossils.
- University Museum of Zoology – This museum displays the structural diversity and evolutionary of the animal kingdom.
- Whipple Museum of the History of Science – This popular museum displays a preeminent collection of scientific instruments and models.
- King's Parade – Home to numerous souvenir and gift shops.
- Burleigh Street – Countless charity shops are to be found here.
- Grafton Centre – All the expected high-street shops are to be found in this shopping centre.
- Lion Yard – This shopping centre is home to some of the most well-known retail stores.
- Primavera – This store is home to high-quality modern arts and crafts.
Gay & Lesbian Cambridge
- Five Bells – Located on Newmarket Road, this popular gay pub serves up a variety of delicious drinks.
- Man on the Moon – This alternative music venue is the place to enjoy live bands and DJs.
- Dot Cotton Club – This popular lesbian and gay nightclub attracts thousands of clubbers each month.
- Kite Club – A support group/social club for young gay and lesbian Cambridge tourists and residents.
- Sister Act – A group for lesbian and bisexual women in Cambridge to come together and enjoy social activities.
- The Backs – The gardens of Clare, Trinity and St John's Colleges are the perfect location to take a walk on a pleasant day.
- Botanic Garden of Cambridge University – A relaxing way in which to whittle away a few hours. The garden is home to 10,000 plant species.
- Jesus Green – An extensive piece of parkland located adjacent to Midsummer Common. The green is home to tennis courts and an outdoor swimming pool.
- Parker's Piece – One of the most well-known open spaces Cambridge has to offer.
- Christ's Pieces – Located in the city centre, this Victorian-style park features ornamental shrub beds.
- Watch the Cambridge United F.C. play football at the Abbey Stadium.
- Catch the Cambridge City F.C. at the City Ground.
- Enjoy watching the University of Cambridge's cricket club at their home ground, Fenner's.
- Check out the skills of the Cambridge R.U.F.C. at their home ground, West Renault Park.
- Watch the Cambridge University Real Tennis club at their Real Tennis court and check out the future stars of the tennis world.
Prepare to sup up to 120 real ales at the popular Cambridge Beer Festival in May, all to be downed with some fine food from the many stalls.
The Rag Carnival Procession takes place in central Cambridge in February. Colorful student high jinks.
Get your cream and sugar at the ready for the Cambridge Strawberry Fair in June on Midsummer Common.
The College June Bumps takes place in mid June. Cambridge University boat teams take to the River Cam to compete – and bump into each other presumably.
The Cambridge Film Festival is a July event – the city is taken over by film fanatics at a number of venues across the city.
Pop in the Park is held at Parker’s Piece, Cambridge. A fun event with a funfair, stalls, and live music.
The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is a ‘must do’ one, but buy tickets early for this July event because it gets sold out quickly.
Singing on the River Who doesn’t enjoy a sing song? Listen to some beautiful music during the summer evenings in June on the King’s College River Bank.
Cambridge Music Festival is an annual November event featuring live music and concerts at a number of city venues.
Cambridge Firework Celebrations and Funfair in November gives folk the chance to commemorate the doomed attempt to blow up Parliament all those years ago.
When to Go
Cambridge’s climate is in line with the English climate in general, with generally moderate temperatures throughout the year and four seasons to experience. There are likely to be many sunny days in the summer months, perfect for sightseeing.
During the summer months of July and August temperatures are likely to peak around 22°C, and in winter temps drop to an average of 4°C or so. Snow is rare, but Cambridge does see plenty of frosts.
Cambridge has its fair share of rain, in common with the rest of the UK, so come prepared with waterproofs aplenty.
How to Get There
Cambridge is close to Stansted Airport and benefits from a regular bus service from the airport into Drummer Street Bus Station.
There are good railway connections between Cambridge and the rest of the country. Trains run every 30 minutes into London St Pancras and Liverpool Street stations, with a journey time of around 45 minutes.
National Express operates a frequent intercity service with prices starting very low for those who don’t mind traveling at off peak times.
Walk down any street in Cambridge and chances are you’ll bump into someone brainy, this being a bastion of academic greatness. University colleges dominate this small city –it’s possible to get round all of them in an afternoon – but the first one to head for has to be King’s College. Its magnificent Kings’ College Chapel is a triumph of Gothic architecture.
Perfectly manicured college lawns, known as the ‘Backs’ sweep down to the River Cam, where a series of quaint historical bridges connect the banks. Get wistful on the Bridge of Sighs, or perplexed on the Mathematical Bridge. Alternatively, wander around Cambridge’s quirky second hand bookshops while trying to avoid the cyclists who continually battle with cars for control of the roads.
Tradition abounds here. Bowler hatted college porters still wait on the university gowned and gifted – an odd throwback to a past age. However there’s also a futuristic side to Cambridge. Since the 90s it’s become a ‘silicon fen’, or choice of location for many high tech firms. Bill Gates has set up a research centre here, and, according to the ultra geek who rarely gets it wrong, Cambridge is to become the new ‘world centre of advanced technology’.
Cambridge is home to spectacular architecture, historic landmarks and wonderful festivals. As the home of the University of Cambridge, the small city of 130,000 people, some 80 km north of London, has a worldwide reputation for academic prowess. The university dates back to 1209, when a student faction split from Oxford to form a rival institution. Brilliant and prolific campus landmarks remain the principal tourist draw in Cambridge today, from the Old Court of Peterhouse to Trinity College Chapel, Great Court and St. John's College Chapel.
Great St. Mary's Church is the University Church of the University of Cambridge and dates back to the late 15th century. With a fine interior to explore, the church is one of the pre-eminent symbols of the city. The Backs and Clare College are two other points of interest, as are annual events like the Cambridge Film Festival, Midsummer Fair and Cambridge Folk Festival.
Cambridge’s Top 10
10. Punting on the River Cam How frightfully English. Lazy so and sos can get a chauffeur.
5. The Church of St Benet The oldest building in the county – a Franciscan church with Saxon Tower.
9. Great St Mary’s Offers fab views from the tower, only you have to climb its 123 steps first.
4. Trinity College Set up by Henry VIII ,whose statue now holds a chair leg instead of a sceptre (students – eh!)
8. The Fitzwilliam Museum One of the first art museums in the UK houses Egyptian, Greek and Roman works.
3. Christ’s College Saw the likes of Charles Darwin and John Milton within its hallowed walls.
7. The Eagle Pub Imagine eavesdropping on Crick and Watson, the founders of DNA, who liked to have a natter and a pint here.
2. Emmanuel College Features a plaque dedicated to John Harvard before he left to found some obscure American University.
6. Magdalene College Managed to bar women until 1988, when students wore black armbands. Wonder what became of the enlightened alumni? Judges? Politicians?
1. Queen’s College Has exquisite medieval courtyards, and cloisters and Erasmus stayed here in 1515.
The Rag Carnival Procession, a popular student festival, takes place in February in central Cambridge.
The Cambridge Beer Festival in late May takes place at Jesus Green. More than 120 real ales to sup as well as English wines and plenty of local food stalls. What’s not to like?
The Cambridge Strawberry Fair heralds the arrival of early summer, held at Midsummer Common.
College June Bumps In mid June, watch the Cambridge University boat teams compete on the River Cam.
Singing on the River Enjoy a blissful summer evening in Cambridge at the mid June outdoor concerts on the King’s College River Bank.
If there’s one event to book a trip around, make it this one. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival starts in early July in the University College Gardens. More than 25,000 came last time.
The Cambridge Film Festival, also held July in venues across the city, is one of the best in the UK.
Pop into the Park and enjoy Pop in the Park. A July event held at Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, for live music, funfairs, film screenings, stalls and fireworks.
Cambridge Firework Celebrations and Funfair General festivities in commemoration of the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, at Midsummer Common in November
The Cambridge Music Festival takes place in mid November with live musical events and concerts held across the city.
When to Go
• The climate in Cambridge is typical of English weather and can be unpredictable, although mainly mild. Summer sees many fine sunny days – perfect for a punt on the river. While spring is a great time to come to see the snowdrops and daffodils in Cambridge’s many parks and gardens.
• Winter temperatures are on average around the 4°C mark, however there is always the risk of frost and sub zero temps. The summer sees temps of up to 22°C, but the UK does occasionally have sweltering summers with temps as high as 30°C and above.
• Rainfall is no higher than average for the UK, with spring showers always a high possibility.
• Stansted Airport is the closest airport to Cambridge, and a regular bus service runs from Drummer Street Bus Station at a cost of £9.70.
• Cambridge has good railway connections to the rest of the UK with trains running every 30 minutes from London St Pancras and Liverpool Street stations – a journey of 45 minutes to an hour.
• National Express runs frequent coaches between Cambridge and most other UK cities – and prices start at just a few pounds for those willing to travel during unsociable hours.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
Cambridge has a temperate climate, with mild conditions throughout the year.
- Winter (December to February) 1-8°C
- Spring (March to May) 3-17°C
- Summer (June to September) 10-22°C
- Fall (October to November) 4-15°C
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