Not only is the center of education and learning of the UK, Cambridge is also a popular tourist destination. The city of Cambridge has a quaint but no less majestic beauty with its prestigious old universities, winding alleys, and small houses surrounded by the romantic River Cam. In the following blog, I will share my self-sufficient Cambridge city guide. So, is Cambridge worth visiting, what to do in Cambridge, UK and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Cambridge for the first-time? Let’s check out our Cambridge blog (Cambridge travel blog) with the fullest Cambridge travel guide (tourist guide to Cambridge, Cambridge guide, Cambridge tourist guide, ) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Cambridge, England to find out the answer!
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Cambridge is a city with a rich history and culture that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. This beautiful city has a majestic appearance with leading and prestigious universities, many historic churches, countless museums, quaint houses lying peacefully on the corner of a street, a poetic road.
Overview of Cambridge (#cambridge blog)
Cambridge is the central city of Cambridgeshire in the east of England, about 80 km from London. This city has a history of more than 3,500 years and experienced many cruel wars such as the English Civil War (1642–1651), World War II… After the end of the war, Cambridge has developed in the fields of economy, culture, and culture, education. With strong development, this city became the administrative center of Cambridgeshire County, England. At the same time, tourism in Cambridge also attracts many visitors. Now, this city has been a thriving city and developing fully in the fields of economy, culture, especially education.
With the concentration of many prestigious universities across Europe and around the world, Cambridge has become the center of education and learning in the UK. The name Cambridge is no longer strange to many generations of students, because Cambridge is a symbol of top quality education. That is why Cambridge is always among the top academic centers in the UK, as well as in the world. However, before the University of Cambridge was founded, the city of Cambridge had a long history, dating back to the Iron Age.
The development of Silicon Valleys, creative industries and services are also very developed, making Cambridge a key economic region in the southeast of England.
Experiencing many ups and downs of history, the city still retains its ancient medieval look with unique works, including: St Bene’t’s Church, Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Round Church), King’s College Chapel…
Here are some interesting facts that I have gathered about the city of Cambridge:
- In the US state of Massachusetts, there is also a city called Cambridge. However, these two Cambridge cities are not related to each other.
- The first “true” football match (i.e. organized and played according to a specific set of rules) originated in Cambridge. This Cambridge game rule then became the basis for the Football Association to develop the rules for the king sport.
- One of the traditional customs to welcome the new year of Cambridge people is to take a dip in the water of the Cam River.
When to visit? (#cambridge blog)
The climate in the UK is somewhat similar to Vietnam, divided into 3 regions with different climate types. The climate is colder in the north and warmer in the south. The weather is quite erratic beyond any rules. Each region has its own climate characteristics. The climate in Cambridge is quite pleasant due to its proximity to the sea. In summer, the average temperature is between 18-20 °C (degrees Celsius).
Cambridge is known as the city of Universities with many attractions associated with these universities. So you can visit this place at any time of the year, except for the year-end exam season when many places have limited visitors and the atmosphere is less bustling than usual. Especially if you love having fun with students, you should come in the second half of June when students celebrate their holidays after a stressful exam with many as exciting activities as festivals.
Maybe just avoid the year-end exam season, depending on the college, which falls between May and mid-June when colleges are closed. In contrast, in the second half of June when the students celebrate after the exam, Cambridge is always like a festival.
You can go at any time of the year, but in my experience, you should go in summer and autumn. Summer is the period when students have summer vacation, so Cambridge city will be more deserted, less bustling than usual. In particular, at this period when going punting (boating along the river Cam), you will have the opportunity to see the naked six-pack abs men rowing.
Autumn is the time when the trees change the color of their leaves, so not only Cambridge, but also England will be flooded with a symphony of fall foliage. From yellow, orange to red combined with ancient architecture makes everyone flutter. However, traveling to Cambridge in the fall is also quite unlucky because this period is rarely sunny and rainy.
How to get to Cambridge? (#cambridge travel guide)
Cambridge is a small city and does not have a civil airport. The best way is to travel from other major UK cities to Cambridge by train or bus. From London, there are two easiest ways to get to Cambridge, by train or by bus.
The railway system in the UK is operated by many different private lines. Each carrier operates one or several lines but has no national railway company. The easiest way to search for tickets for all lines, we often use www.thetrainline.com. In addition to www.thetrainline.com, the train tickets can be also booked at www.nationalrail.co.uk.
From London, there is a train to Cambridge from King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations. From King’s Cross station there is a direct train, the fastest is about 50 minutes to reach Cambridge. From Liverpool Street, the train takes about an hour and a half. But the tickets from Liverpool Street is much cheaper than from King’s Cross, often half the price. If I search and buy tickets early, I find the tickets from Liverpool Street to Cambridge can be bought for from £7. Usually there is one trip every hour. From Cambridge station to the center, it takes more than 20 minutes to walk.
We chose to take the train to Cambridge from Liverpool Street station. Tickets bought close to the departure date of £11/one-way, it is still much cheaper than going from King’s Cross station.
According to my travel experience, you should take the train because the train has many direct trips to Cambridge and is quieter than the bus.
By bus (#cambridge travel guide)
National Express (www.nationalexpress.com) has bus routes connecting Cambridge with most major cities in the UK, as well as international airports in London such as Luton, Stansted, Heathrow, and Gatwick. In Cambridge, the bus picks up and drops off passengers on Parkside Street, walking to the center takes about 15 minutes. You can refer to the travel time by bus from Cambridge to some other cities: London: Takes 2 hours; Birmingham: It takes 3 hours.
Getting around Cambridge
Cambridge is known as the city of bicycles, so you will rarely see motorized vehicles on the streets.
Moreover, most of Cambridge’s tourist attractions are located in the city center, so it can be easily walked through without using any means of transport.
Another means that anyone must experience is taking a boat on the Cam River (punting). As I said above, in addition to seeing the scenery along the river, you will be able to see the six-pack abs brothers (only in the summer).
If you go with few people, you will have to share the boat, if you go in a large group, you can rent a whole boat. The price for this service ranges from £10 – 25. You can rent a boat at the wharf or book it in advance at the following link.
Where to go & what to do in Cambridge UK? (#cambridge blog)
Visit famous universities
The city of Cambridge is the administrative center of the Cambridgeshire region in eastern England. The city has a relatively small area, only about 40.7 km² and a population of over 125,000 people, but has long been famous as a famous educational and academic center throughout Europe and around the world with prestigious universities and colleges colleges such as University of Cambridge, Cambridge Regional College, Long Road Sixth Form College, Hills Road Sixth Form College…
Among them, the most famous is the University of Cambridge – one of the top schools in the UK and around the world about the quality of training, academy, study… Founded in 1209 and made up of 31 colleges, the University of Cambridge is always ranked among the top 10 universities in the world. Among the colleges of the University of Cambridge system, King’s College is the most prominent in both its spectacular architecture and the quality of education.
Cambridge University is a prestigious university that anyone has heard of. So what does Cambridge University look like outside? Therefore, visiting Cambridge University is a must-see spot that anyone will do when traveling to Cambridge.
The University of Cambridge is made up of a range of different institutions, including 31 member colleges and more than 100 academic departments organized into six schools. University buildings are located throughout the city and around the River Cam. Of these, the area that people visit the most is King’s College. Because King’s College is right in the center and has monumental architecture. If you don’t know, you might even mistake it for a palace.
In addition, you also visit visit Trinity College or St John’s College is not far away. The school, founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, is one of the oldest and largest schools in Cambridge. There is also a Newton apple tree, this apple tree was taken from a branch of the original tree and planted here in memory of the great scientist, mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton – who graduated from Trinity College and had many years of dedication to the University of Cambridge.
Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Address: 1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE, United Kingdom
For those who love nature, you can visit Cambridge University Botanic Garden, a botanical garden of the University of Cambridge about 16 hectares, including an indoor area displaying and growing thousands of plant species from other lands of the world. There are star fruit trees, or wet rice, which are familiar in Asian countries.
Founded in 1831 for the purpose of teaching and research, the Cambridge University Botanical Garden was later opened to the public. Not too far from the city center, you can find a beautiful garden of forty acres where you will find plants from all over the world grown here. This will turn out to be the perfect place to visit when the sun goes down.
The Fitzwilliam Museum (#cambridge blog)
Address: Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RB, United Kingdom
Hours: 10AM–5PM/Monday: Closed
Cambridge is the UK’s second largest city after London in terms of the density of museums per square kilometer. Cambridge has not only many high-class universities but also many museums and galleries such as Fitzwilliam Museum, Imperial War Museum, Cambridge University Botanical Garden,… The best is probably the Fitzwilliam Museum of Art and Antiquities. The Fitzwilliam museum’s collection is second to none at all. The most prominent in the collection can be mentioned works by painters Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne or Picasso… In the UK, most museums are open for free. Almost all faculty has its own vertical museum and is well worth a visit.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the University of Cambridge’s museum of art and archeology. The museum was founded in 1816 and is named after Viscount Fitzwilliam Merrion, who donated his art collection and library to Cambridge University.
The museum has a total of 5 display areas including Antiquities, Applied Arts, Coins and Medals, Manuscripts and Printed Books, and Paintings and Drawings. Among the works featured here, the most famous are The Bridesmaid by John Everett Millais, La Liseuse by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens paintings.
Below is a list of some of other main museums and galleries.
- Kettle’s Yard art gallery (Address: Castle St, Cambridge CB3 0AQ, United Kingdom/Hours: 11AM–5PM; Monday: Closed)
- Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences (Address: University Of Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, United Kingdom/Hours: 10AM–5PM; Sunday: Closed)
University Museum Of Zoology (Address: Downing Pl, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, United Kingdom/Hours: 10AM–4:30PM; Monday: Closed)
- Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Address: Downing St., Cambridge CB2 3DZ, United Kingdom/Hours: 10AM–5PM; Monday: Closed)
If you are interested in science, go to the Sedgwick Earth Science Museum, the Whipple Museum of the History of Science… The museums are all free to enter for visitors.
Cambridge is also host to an annual art festival and a midsummer fair that dates back to the early 16th century.
Attend a lesson at a college of the University of Cambridge
For those who want to take the extra step of immersing themselves in the role of a Cambridge student, they can attend a school presentation. On talks.cam.ac.uk, there is a list of scientific presentations that guests can freely attend. Note that this is not a tourist activity at all, but a real school science activity. So you should only attend if you are really interested.
Enjoy the beautiful nature by the Cam River
There is a relaxing way to explore Cambridge and “lazy” is to drop yourself along the Cam River gently meandering between the majestic ancient buildings located along the banks. From the River Cam, back to the center, we will enter the area with the most beautiful views like on postcards of Cambridge. The area known as “the Backs” – “The back” of the ancient and majestic schools rich in tradition is stretching out in the green space among the lawns that could not be more manicured.
If you want to take boat tour, you can bargain to rent a boat with a rower. The boatman has many people who are Cambridge students who work part-time. If you want more fun and adventure, you can rent a boat by the hour and then rowing by yourself. Cambridge’s signature flat-bottomed “punt” boats are pushed by a person standing at the back of the boat using a pole rather than an oars. Each boat can carry a maximum of 6 people. Two boat rental companies by the hour include Scudamore (founded in 1910 – www.scudamores.com) or Granta Punting Company (www.puntingincambridge.com). Booking the boat in advance online will be cheaper than renting directly at the wharf. Boat rental for an hour is almost £30.
In particular, you will pass by the ancient stone Bridge of Sighs with the traditional architecture of bridges in many European countries.
Address: Queens’ College, Silver St, Cambridge CB3 9ET, United Kingdom
The wooden bridge “Mathematical Bridge” located on the campus of Queens’ College has an interesting anecdote. Legend has it that the bridge was designed by Newton, and he calculated that only using the force of timbers against each other to build the bridge without the need for any nails. After that, the curious students dismantled the bridge to study and never rebuilt it again as original. However, the fact that the bridge was built a few decades after Newton died and the other story is certainly just a legend to increase Newton’s genius. School entrance fee is £3/person.
Although it looks “rustic” and somewhat primitive than other bridges, the Mathematical Bridge is the most famous, because of the following reasons:
The first is because of the structure, the bridge is only built by joining wood panels together without using screws, snails or modern materials at all. Second, according to some locals, the Mathematical Bridge is a product of the famous scientist Isaac Newton. The work was built as a clear demonstration of his theories of physics.
The Bridge of Sighs
Address: St John’s College, St John’s St, Cambridge CB2 1TP, United Kingdom
Another interesting thing is that there is also a Bridge of Sighs here which is similar in Venice! This bridge, located at St John’s College of the University of Cambridge, was built in 1831 and spans the River Cam. It is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, although they have little in common architecturally beyond the fact that they both have roofs. There is also a similar bridge in Oxford, but not across the river like in Cambridge but connect two buildings.
In addition to the Mathematical Bridge, there is another famous bridge spanning the River Cam, the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy because of the similarity in design.
To let you know, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the favorite places of later Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew while he was studying at University of Cambridge.
Address: 58 Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1RH, United Kingdom
Hours: Open 24 hours
The Corpus Clock (or Grasshopper clock) is a large sculptural clock located outside the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge.
Although it is a clock, the Corpus clock does not have hands or numbers like a regular clock, but only a large pendulum, on top of which is a statue of a grasshopper. This grasshopper is portrayed as a time-eater, devouring every second that passes. So this watch was born with a profound meaning that reminds everyone to appreciate time.
Beautiful churches from the Middle Ages (#cambridge guide)
Today, the city of Cambridge still retains its ancient medieval look along with remarkable architectural works such as: St Bene’t’s Church is a Saxon-style religious architecture built in the 10th century. The restored Church of the Holy Sepulchre (The Round Church) as mentioned above has impressive beauty and is one of the four circular Norman churches in England.
King’s College Chapel converges the quintessence and artistic values of the Western Renaissance. Designed in the Gothic style with a fan-shaped curved roof, this chapel has a very giant space and is recognized as the King’s Chapel.
Over the years of development, Cambridge still retains the ancient beauty of unique architectural works such as St Bene’t’s Church, Holy Sepulchre Church or King’s College Chapel.
St Bene’t’s Church is the oldest church in Cambridge. Built in the 10th century, the church has religious architecture in the Saxon style.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Round Church, is one of four medieval churches. Bearing the mark of history, the church is made entirely of stone and attracts people to stop to admire.
Church of St Mary the Great, located at the University of Cambridge, holds a sacred and important role for both the school and the city. This is a unique architectural work dating back to the early 19th century. This is a place not to be missed. Admiring the stained glass panes, climbing the steps to the top of the tower and taking in the panoramic view of the city is something you should try when you visit this Church of Saint Mary.
Hop on / hop bus sightseeing tour
We bought a double decker sightseeing bus ticket to get the fastest panoramic view of the city. The tour will last 90 minutes (if you stay on the bus). If you’re not too bothered about exploring the WOII American cemetery, located outside of Cambridge, I wouldn’t recommend taking the Cambridge sightseeing bus. The city is quite small and you can easily walk to every corner of it.
Bikebus Explorer (#cambridge blog)
If you like cycling, then I recommend you try the BikeBus Explorer service. This is a bus service that pulls a rack with a bicycle on it. This simply means that you can ride your bike here and then put it on the rack and enjoy the tour bus, this is very convenient. Buses leave the station four times a day, and will take you to Wimpole Hall in southeastern Cambridge, as well as villages with a rich history and mysterious woods.
There are many nature reserves surrounding the city of Cambridge. You can participate in events and guided walking tours throughout the year and discover the diversity of animals that live within the reserve. There are twelve designated areas around Cambridge, which are used as nature reserves to protect the animals’ natural habitats. You can see the list of nature reserves here.
What and where to eat?
Sausage rolls at the famous Burwash Manor (Address: New Rd, Barton, Cambridge CB23 7EY, United Kingdom/Hours: 10AM–4PM) on New Road in Cambridge. Inside the cake is a piece of fragrant sausage. Surely you will not be disappointed when enjoying this snack. This is a snack that is very popular with students and tourists. If you come to Cambridge without enjoying the sausage roll, it is a regret.
Brownies are made from organic chocolate. You can go to the Gourmet Brownie Company to try this delicious and unforgettable confection.
Steak (#cambridge travel blog)
Steak is a traditional and typical British dish. And in Cambridge too, people here can eat steak anytime, anywhere with the same eagerness as it was the first time.
Some places with famous Cambridge steak are: Rocker’s Steak House, Arbuckles, River Bar Steakhouse & Grill.
Porchetta sandwich of Bread & Meat store is also one of the dishes not to be missed when traveling to Cambridge. Guests can enjoy sandwiches with delicious and attractive meats.
Egg waffle is a delicious dessert served with chocolate and strawberries that will give you a very impressive dining experience.
The best restaurants you should try in Cambridge
Address: 31b Clifton Rd, Cambridge CB1 7EB, United Kingdom
Fitzbillies bakery opened in 1921, is a must-visited place when traveling to Cambrdige. You can find yourself a snack or sip a fragrant cup of tea.
The Orchard Tea Garden
Address: 47 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridge CB3 9ND, United Kingdom
Hours: 10AM–4PM/Monday, Tuesday: Closed
The Orchard Tea Garden is a place imbued with British culture. Established in 1897, The Orchard Tea Garden serves up English teas. This place is famous for its jam-covered cakes. The outdoor setting in this place is also beautiful. Coming to a British city, you still have one thing that can’t be missed in your Cambridge travel experience, which is to visit The Orchard Tea Garden for a cup of afternoon tea at a place that has been serving since 1897. serving delectable teas to world-renowned personalities such as Stephen Fry, Virginia Woolf, Stephen Hawking and Sir David Attenborough,…
When coming to Cambridge, remember to stop at a lovely tea shop to drink a cup of tea and admire the beautiful scenery around.
Bread & Meat
Address: 4 Bene’t St, Cambridge CB2 3QN, United Kingdom
Bread & Meat, as its name suggests, is simply a shop that sells sandwiches with grilled meats. Simple but tasty, crispy baked bread served with crispy roasted pork, oven-baked beef or honey-roasted chicken. The sauce is served with pesto made from basil, if you want more spicy, add green pepper or Mexican jalapeño. A sandwich is under £10, in a central location as crowded with tourists as Cambridge, and according to British prices, the restaurant is at an acceptable level.
Address: Bene’t St, Cambridge CB2 3QN, United Kingdom
Hours: 11AM–12AM/Sunday: 11AM–10:30PM
People come to the Eagle not just for the quality of the food, they come here for its history. The Eagle is a true British pub that has existed for seven centuries in the heart of Cambridge. The shop was the “headquarters” of Anglo-American pilots during World War II before each mission flight, as well as the workers at the nearby Cavendish Laboratory.
It was here, rather than at an international scientific conference, that on February 28, 1953, Watson and Crick stood up to announce that they had discovered the structure of DNA, one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, along with “the secret of life”. We can eat fish and chips with a large pint of beer in a place with so many historical landmarks, but the atmosphere in it is still as simple as it has been for seven centuries.
Bould Brothers Coffee
Address: 16 Round Church St, Cambridge CB5 8AD, United Kingdom
Bould Brothers Coffee located at 16 Round Church St, Cambridge CB5 8AD is a nice little tea/coffee shop located on a romantic street corner. Visiting the shop, you will easily find an interesting corner to enjoy an interesting morning coffee or afternoon tea with delicious pastries.
In addition to the famous ancient landmarks above, you can also add shopping malls in the city center or on streets such as King’s Parade, Rose Crescent, Trinity Street or the colorful fruit market located between ancient schools… on your must-visit list in Cambridge.
A colorful and impressive fruit market located right in the heart of Cambridge city and surrounded by ancient schools is a place to visit and shop that attracts many tourists. Visitors can shop for a variety of typical fruits of this land and experience the very “Cambridge” style of shopping.
If you are a shopaholic, you will definitely not be able to ignore the small streets that are the main shopping centers in this city such as King’s Parade, Trinity Street and Rose Crescent… Visitors can freely shop for jewelry, souvenirs, book stores and food in these streets.
Where to stay? (#cambridge travel blog)
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Holiday Inn Express Cambridge, an IHG Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- The Varsity Hotel & Spa (Agoda, Booking)
- Gonville Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Travelodge Cambridge Orchard Park (Agoda, Booking)
- Clayton Hotel Cambridge (Agoda, Booking)
- ibis Cambridge Central Station (Agoda, Booking)
- Centennial Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Cambridge Belfry Hotel & Spa (Agoda, Booking)
Suggested Cambridge itinerary
Because the city of Cambridge is quite small and has few attractions, you should only go during the day. And book an early trip (arrival around 9AM) and book a late return trip to maximize your time in Cambridge.
Sights can go in the order of Cambridge University Botanical Garden – Fitzwilliam Museum – Corpus Clock – University of Cambridge – Market Square – Punting on the River Cam (passing through Mathematical and Sighing Bridges).
You can adjust the punting time depending on the actual situation. I went to punting at the end of the day because it was only then that the rain stopped.
Refer to the Cambridge tourist map below to arrange your Cambridge travel itinerary:
Tips & notes
Visitors should note the following things and my tips to make the trip really safe and bring many valuable experiences:
- If you do not know how to arrange your Cambridge travel itinerary, you can refer to the Hop on Hop off bus tour (the tour will take you to the famous attractions in the city). Check out the tour at the following link.
- Book train tickets and bus tickets in advance to buy cheap tickets.
- Do not stay overnight in Cambridge because room rates are not cheap (Cambridge is one of the cities with the highest rent in the UK).
- Cambridge travel experience shows that, you should not be too concerned with where needs to go, what needs to do in this dream city tour, but feel it with all your emotions and senses to have a great trip.
- You should visit London, England first, then move to Cambridge city, it will be very convenient.
- Booking air tickets and hotel rooms (in case you want to spend a night here) should be done early to be more proactive for the trip.
- You need to have a specific itinerary to save time and money for your trip.
- The city of Cambridge is quite safe and very civilized. However, you should also be careful when traveling alone in places that are too crowded.
- Take advantage of the free attractions to save money on the trip.
It’s really a bit of a pity that the day I went to Cambridge, it rained heavily all day, so I couldn’t visit much. However, it must be recognized that no matter how much rain or wind, it cannot hide the beauty of the city of Cambridge. If I have a chance, I will definitely come back to this city.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Cambridge you can refer to
- Cambridge Sightseeing Tour
- Cambridge Highlights Tour
- Cambridge Private Walking Tour
- Oxford University and Cambridge University Day Tour
- Cambridge Shared Traditional Punting Tour
- Oxford and Cambridge Day Trip from London
- Cambridge Ghost Tour
- Cambridge Walking Tour with Chinese-Speaking Guide
- Ely Cathedral Ticket in Cambridge
- Cambridge: Guided Punting Tour
- Cambridge Uni Tour Led By Alumni w/ Optional Kings College
- Cambridge: City and University Tour including King’s College
- City Sightseeing Cambridge: 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
- Cambridge: Student-Guided 50-Minute Punting Tour
- Cambridge: Walking, Punting, & Bus Tour with King’s College
- Cambridge: Guided Shared River Punting Tour
- Cambridge: Guided Historic Walking Tour
Read more UK guide here.