What to Do in Cambridge
In this post, we will provide a selection of interesting activities you can enjoy in Cambridge. We will also include a list of free, family-friendly and nighttime attractions you may want to visit.
- Top 10
- Free Things to Do
- Nighttime Activities
- Restaurants and Food
- How to Get to Cambridge
- Other Day Trips from London
TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO
This section will cover the ten most popular attractions to experience while you’re in Cambridge.
Although some of the following activities are free, family-friendly, or fun after dark, our sections on those subjects will include even more great ideas that you may want to consider.
1) Visit a Museum
There are a lot of interesting museums in Cambridge which cover a variety of different subjects including archaeology, artwork, nature and more.
Whether you want to learn more about these topics or see notable exhibits and artifacts, you may want to consider visiting one of the following locations:
- Fitzwilliam Museum
- Museum of Zoology
- Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
- Whipple Museum of the History of Science
- Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
Each of these museums offers free admission, making this one of the most affordable activities in Cambridge.
TIP: For more activities that won’t cost you anything to enjoy, please read our free things to do in Cambridge section.
2) Go on a Punting Tour
The River Cam goes through the heart of Cambridge, passing many notable and historic sites along the way, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that one of the best ways to see this city is by boat.
Thankfully, there are a lot of punting tours you can take which cover a lot of popular landmarks such as the Bridge of Sighs, the University of Cambridge, Trinity College, St. John’s College and more.
For those who don’t know, a punt is a small boat which typically seats 1-6 people comfortably; your guide will use a large pole to push the boat down the river at a leisurely pace.
This is both a fun and relaxing way to discover the area, and you can learn more about it in the punting tours section of our Cambridge tours post.
3) See the University of Cambridge & Other Historic Colleges
The most notable school in this city is undoubtedly the University of Cambridge, which is known for its abundance of famous and historic alumni.
In addition to serving as the university where scientists such as Charles Darwin and Alan Turing got their education, Cambridge is also home to several historic sites and landmarks.
Aside from the University of Cambridge, there are also several notable colleges in the area with their own historic sites to see and experience.
If you’re interested in doing a little more sightseeing, keep an eye out for the following locations:
- King’s College
- Queen’s College
- St. John’s College
- Christ’s College
- Trinity College
NOTE: Many of these sites are covered on a variety of tours through the city. Check our post about Cambridge guided tours for more information.
4) Get An Overview of the City
There are several different tours you can take in Cambridge, and while some can serve as an excellent overview of the city, others focus more on specific subjects and schools in the area.
If you’re looking for an overview that will cover several different sites throughout this college town, you may want to consider a hop-on-hop-off bus tour instead.
This service offers 19 stops including sites such as the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge American Cemetery & Memorial, Queen’s College and more.
The nice thing about this tour is that you can hop off at any stop you want, spend some time taking a look around, and hop back on at your leisure to continue your trip around Cambridge.
Tickets are reasonably priced and they last for an entire day, giving you a lot of time to explore the city at your own pace.
For additional details, check our post covering Cambridge bus tours.
5) Discover the Churches of Cambridge
There are several notable and historic churches in this city, and they all have incredible architectural features that everyone can enjoy.
Whether you’re interested in the history of these locations or you just want to see how they were designed, no trip to Cambridge is complete without at least checking out a few of the following locations:
- The Round Church (Holy Sepulchre)
- St. Andrew the Great Church
- Great St. Mary’s Church
- Holy Trinity Church
- King’s College Chapel
While some of these locations are free to visit, others will charge a small fee for entry or special access to certain areas.
TIP: Discounted admission to the Round Church is included with the Cambridge bus tour.
6) Take a Walking Tour
If you want to see and learn more about the historic landmarks and attractions in this city, a Cambridge walking tour may be in order.
There are several different types of walking tours available in this area, including some that are actually led by alumni of the University of Cambridge!
This is a great way to discover the history behind all of the colleges, universities and other sites in the area, and most tours only take 1 ½ – 2 hours to complete.
Ticket prices depend on the type of tour you choose, but there are plenty of affordable options available.
For additional details about this activity, please read our post about guided tours in Cambridge.
7) Grab a Drink at The Eagle
You might not think of an old pub as being particularly noteworthy, but you have to remember that this is a college town.
Some of the most famous Cambridge alumni would visit The Eagle after class to relax, and as a result, this is actually the site of a few historic moments.
One of the most notable examples came when Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson had discovered “the secret of life” – DNA.
The Eagle Pub was also a favorite among WW2 soldiers and airmen who began the practice of burning their names and nicknames into the ceiling. This graffiti has been well preserved and you can still see it to this day!
Needless to say, there are far better reasons to visit The Eagle than just grabbing a pint – although that is also a great idea!
NOTE: This location is open late, so if you’re in town after dark, you might want to drop by and take a look. For more fun after the sun goes down, check our section on things to do at night in Cambridge.
8) Visit the Wren Library
Named after the famous architect who designed it, the Wren Library of Trinity College is filled with more than just books.
In addition to various medieval manuscripts, this location also houses such artifacts as a lock of Isaac Newton’s hair and his walking stick.
If you’re coming with the family, make sure to stop in and see the original manuscript for A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh!
The Wren Library is open to the public for only a short period each weekday from 12 pm – 2 pm, so it will be important to plan your day around this activity.
Learn more about the Wren Library and what you can expect to see here.
TIP: For more family-friendly ideas, make sure to check our section about things to do with kids in Cambridge.
9) Explore Anglesey Abbey
Located just outside of Cambridge, this unique mansion features a lot of interesting activities and attractions.
In addition to all of the artwork and tapestries inside, there are also gardens surrounding Anglesey Abbey with more than 114 acres of parkland.
There is also a Wildlife Discovery Area for children and youth where they can learn about various bugs, birds and more. They also offer a Flower Forecast to let you know what will be in bloom during your visit!
If you come during the winter, you may also have the opportunity to enjoy their Winter Lights program which illuminates sites such as the Silver Birch Grove and the Winter Garden.
- Individual Tickets: £15.80/Adults | £7.90/Children
- Family Tickets (2 Adults + 2 Children): £39.50
- Family Tickets (1 Adult + 3 Children): £23.70
- Availability: Daily (hours vary by season)
- Included with National Trust Touring Pass
- Learn more about Anglesey Abbey.
10) Go Shopping at the Grand Arcade
If you’ve got some free time once you’re done seeing all of the historic sites, consider heading to the Grand Arcade for a bit of shopping.
There are a lot of popular stores at this shopping mall and several great restaurants nearby where you can grab a bite to eat as well.
Whether you’re looking for some new clothes or you want to get a treat for yourself, this is a great place to shop around while you’re in Cambridge.
Not interested in a shopping mall? Head to the Cambridge Market Square only a few blocks away for an outdoor market with plenty of souvenirs and snacks to purchase from local vendors!
NOTE: To find out more about the best places to eat, check our section covering restaurants and food in Cambridge.
FREE THINGS TO DO
This section will go into greater detail about some of the best free activities and attractions in Cambridge.
If you’re looking for even more things to do, don’t forget to check our other sections for ideas like going to a free museum, visiting the Wren Library, seeing the historic colleges or going inside some of the free churches.
Take a Free Walking Tour
In addition to all the paid tours you can take through this city, there is also at least one Cambridge walking tour that won’t cost a thing.
Footprints offers a pay-what-you-want tour which covers a lot of different subjects and locations including King’s College and Trinity Hall.
With a duration of around 2 hours, you should have plenty of time to see and learn about a majority of the notable landmarks in Cambridge.
This guided walk around the city is available twice per day at 11:00 am and 14:00 (2 pm).
Learn more about this opportunity on our post covering Cambridge walking tours.
Go For a Walk Around the Backs
Several of the most notable colleges and universities in Cambridge are lined up directly alongside the River Cam, which is just one reason why it’s so fun to go on a punt through the city.
Even if you don’t feel like taking a punting tour, you can still enjoy this beautiful area simply by taking a walk around the “Backs” of these schools.
The Backs are actually considered a high-grade historic park connecting St. John’s Trinity, Trinity Hall, Clare, King’s College, and Queen’s College.
Visitors will find a nice gravel path which threads through all the lawns alongside the river, making it easy to enjoy all the scenery.
Best of all, this activity won’t cost you a thing!
See the Famous Bridges
While you’re walking along The Backs, you’ll pass several bridges connecting both sides of the river, and some of them are actually quite historic sites!
One of the most notable examples is the Mathematical Bridge outside Queen’s College. This wooden bridge was constructed without the need for nails, relying solely on specific equations to ensure its strength.
If you find yourself behind St. John’s College, you’ll have an opportunity to see the Bridge of Sighs. Named after another covered bridge in Venice, this was reportedly Queen Victoria’s favorite spot in Cambridge.
While you’re near this college, you may want to visit Kitchen Bridge as well. This is the second oldest bridge in Cambridge, and it was built according to the designs of Christopher Wren – the architect behind Wren Library!
These are just a few of the more notable bridges in Cambridge, but you’ll see many more as you walk along the River Cam.
In this section, we will provide details about some of the most interesting things to do at night in Cambridge.
If you’re looking for even more activities and attractions, don’t forget to check our other sections for ideas such as visiting the Eagle pub, special events at Anglesey Abbey, seeing the Corpus Clock, and more.
Take a Ghost Tour
With a history dating back several centuries, Cambridge is home to several disturbing tales and reports of hauntings.
If you have an interest in the paranormal, supernatural or true crime stories, you may want to consider taking a Cambridge ghost tour.
There is currently one company offering three tours, each covering a different side of the city. While some are only an hour long, others last up to 2 hours and include more information.
The best part about these haunted tours is that you can take them at almost any time you want and they actually recommend starting at 7 pm or later!
For more information about this activity, make sure to read our post which includes details about Cambridge ghost tours.
See a Musical or Live Performance
There are a few different theatres in Cambridge and they each offer some pretty interesting productions throughout the year. Needless to say, each of these locations provides shows after dark!
Cambridge Arts Theatre is one of the most popular options, and they routinely offer popular shows such as The Girl On The Train, The Lady Vanishes, The Lovely Bones and more.
Alternatively, you may also want to look at Cambridge Junction for a variety of musical performances, family shows, stand-up comedy and more.
The Cambridge Corn Exchange also offers a wide variety of performing arts including live music, stand-up comedy, family shows, musicals and more.
If you’d rather see a movie, head to the Arts Picture House just down the street from the Grand Arcade.
Visit a Graveyard After Dark
There are a handful of cemeteries in and around Cambridge, and even though some of them close their gates at sunset, others are open 24 hours!
If you’re looking for a spooky activity and you don’t feel like taking a tour, consider visiting one of the following locations.
- Mill Road Cemetery
- Histon Road Cemetery
In addition to the fact that several historic people have been buried in these graveyards, they are also listed as either city wildlife sites or parks and gardens of special historic interest.
With gravestones dating back hundreds of years, each cemetery is also an excellent place to see sculptures and other forms of art from various periods.
TIP: Neither of these sites are well-lit, so it will be necessary to bring a flashlight if you plan to come after the sun goes down. This could also be a great activity at sunset.
THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS
The following section will discuss a few of the more popular family-friendly activities you can enjoy in Cambridge.
Check our other sections for even more fun attractions and things to do with children such as exploring Anglesey Abbey, visiting a free museum, seeing the manuscript for Winnie the Pooh at the Wren Library and more.
Go to the Botanic Garden
In addition to serving as the home of a prestigious school, Cambridge University also has one of the biggest and most beautiful gardens in England.
Several family activities are held throughout the year and there is a trail full of prehistoric plants for children to hunt down.
During the summer, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden provides free guided tours every weekend.
Although entry isn’t free for adults, all children and youth under 16 will be given free admission to the garden.
Tickets are £6 for adults and £5.50 for seniors & students. The garden opens at 10:00 am every morning and closes up at 16:00 (4 pm) during the winter, 17:00 (5 pm) throughout the spring and 18:00 (6 pm) in the summer.
See the Corpus Clock
Located on the front of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, this clock has an interesting design that older kids may enjoy.
Sitting atop the clock is an insect that appears to actually eat the passing time as it goes by. There are no hands or numbers to help you tell the time – instead, three rings of LEDs give you the hours, minutes and seconds.
Although it may be a little too creepy for some younger visitors, it could actually be exciting for older kids to see the hour strike, as chains begin to rattle and a hammer hits a wooden coffin.
This could also be a fun nighttime activity; some visitors indicate that the insect looks even more menacing after dark!
Go to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Although we’ve already listed this in our top 10 section, it’s worth pointing out that this is one of the best museums for kids in all of Cambridge.
Aside from being the oldest museum in the city, it’s also home to an impressive collection of fossils including dinosaur skeletons – including a T-rex skull!
The Sedgwick Museum is also home to 2,000 rock samples gathered by Charles Darwin, making this a great location to learn more about the planet on which we all live.
This location is open from 10 am – 5 pm every weekday, but they close up an hour earlier on Saturday and they are closed on Sunday.
RESTAURANTS AND FOOD
In addition to historic sites like The Eagle Pub, there are several other great locations where you can grab a bite to eat or something to drink in Cambridge. This section will provide a lost or restaurants you may want to visit while you’re in the area.
- Krispy Kreme
- Millie’s Cookies
- Arepa’s Station
- Honest Burgers
- The Senate Bar
- The Olive Grove
- Yippee Noodle Bar
- Galleria Restaurant
- Riverside Restaurant
- The Cambridge Chop House
- The Riverbar Steakhouse and Grill