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8 best things to do in Cambridge

by Marina Fiorenti
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Bridge of Sights, Cambridge

Cambridge, about 88 miles from London, is the county capital of Cambridgeshire and famous for its university environment and rowing races on the River Cam. In this article you can discover the activities not to be missed during a visit to this beautiful city.


The punt is the traditional shallow flat-bottomed boat, manoeuvred with a pole and used to navigate small waterways: originally a cargo boat, it is now used only for leisurely river trips, becoming one of the characteristic images of places like Cambridge and Oxford.

You can choose to rent a boat and drive it yourself, but I won’t recommended it without a minimum of practice because it is not as easy as it sounds. Alternatively you can rely on one of the various associations, often of former students, that organise tours on the river. With a good weather the River Cam can be very busy!

Punting boats, Cambridge
Punting boats, Cambridge

Cambridge Museums

Most of the more than 30 museums in the city are part of the University of Cambridge and some of them are free. You can find all the information to visit them on the Cambridge Museums website. Here is a small taste of what you can see:

  • The Fitzwilliam Museum is the most important museum in Cambridge, as it houses over half a million objects, with an amazing variety of beautiful artefacts and art from all around the world
  • Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a treasure trove of over 8,000 plant species, including nine National Collections and a wonderful arboretum
  • Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collects two million years of human history, one million artefacts and countless amazing stories
  • Museum of Classical Archaeology is dedicated to the gods and heroes of classical era and showcase one of the largest surviving collections of plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues in the world
  • Kettle’s Yard is set in a beautiful and unique house and it’s the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery
  • The Polar Museum explains exploration, science and survival at the extreme ends of the Earth
  • Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is the University’s oldest museum and illustrates the evolution of life in the oceans, on land and in the air, through thousands of fossils of animals and plants
  • Whipple Museum of the History of Science presents a vast array of scientific instruments dating from the Middle Ages to the present day
  • Museum of Zoology displays the diversity of animal life and tells stories of extinction, survival, evolution and exploration. 

Wander around the Markets

Central Square Farmers Market is always very lively and crowded. Many stalls open every day, and lot of them offer excellent international cuisine for a quick meal. On Saturdays All Saints Garden hosts a small craft market that is really delightful.

Tour of the old Colleges

Cambridge is home to 31 Colleges and University where enrolled students live and study. Peterhouse is the oldest college at the University of Cambridge, founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely. Peterhouse is also the smallest college in Cambridge as it has only 270 undergraduates, 125 graduate students and 45 fellows.

Some Colleges, such as King’s College, Queen’s College, Clare College, Trinity College and St. Johns College can be visited for a fee. Others, like Pembroke College and Downing College, are open and you peep inside for free to admire their courtyards and beautiful lawns.

King's College Cambridge
King’s College Cambridge

Attending the Mass in the chapels of the historic colleges

A good idea to see the colleges up close is to attend the Sunday services held in their chapels. The most famous of all is King’s College, whose choir is so famous all over the world that since 1928 the BBC has been broadcasting its Christmas carol concert live on Christmas Eve.

Walking along the Backs

The Backs is the wide green area that stretches along the river bank in the west of Cambridge. The name comes from the fact that from here you can see the back facades of several colleges and two of the city’s most famous bridges: the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge.

Christ's College Cambridge
Christ’s College Cambridge

Visit Imperial War Museum Duxford

The Duxford branch of the Imperial War Museum is located about 8 miles outside Cambridge, but is definitely worth the trip from the city. A former RAF airfield, Duxford played an important role in the defence of Britain during the Battle of Britain.

Now the hangars, some of them dated back to WWII, house one of the most important aviation museums in the world, displaying everything from the biplanes used in WWI to the modern Concorde and Tornado. You can read more about it on the article Visiting Imperial War Museum Duxford (IWM Duxford).

What is your favourite activity to do in Cambridge? Let me know in the comment section.

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