Wander around Cambridge
Home to the prestidgeous Cambridge University, the city of Cambridge is an academic haven with beautiful architecture and stunning scenery.
Located about an hour outside of London, Cambridge is an academic home to brilliant minds such as Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and even considered Steven Hawking one of it's professors. The university itself consists of dozens of colleges which visitors are welcome to visit and explore.
WHEN TO GO:
As a university city, Cambridge revolves around exam periods. While the students have exams, visitors are not permitted on the college grounds.
January-March- Going in the winter it will be cold, be wary of holidays that affect the opening times ie. Easter, New Years Day, etc.
April-June- Exam period, the colleges are closed for visiting.
July-October- Warmer months means there are more outdoor festivals and events held. Check here for a list of events around the city. Also you can enjoy a little punt ride around the city. Don't worry about finding them, people wander around the city asking if you want a punt ride, I was literally asked 6 times.
November-December- The winter months get much colder and although beautiful, can be a bit much for all the walking and exploring outside.
Attractions: College Visits, Bridge of Sighs, Punts, Museum
Great Information PDF (with hours of colleges and more) provided by Cambridge Visitors Center.
Getting to Cambridge from London is fairly simple with trains leaving every hour from King's Cross and Liverpool Station. Once you are there, Cambridge is a pretty compact city, but, like Oxford, it is a city of bicycles. There is a bit of a hike (think 15- 20 minutes) from the train station to the city center so it's up to you whether you want to walk, take a cab, bus, or rent a bike. If the weather is nice it is enjoyable to take in all the different architecture, however if it is miserable, it's not a great experience.... which is why I would really try to go on a sunny day.
The city is really cute, but their main draw is the university and the colleges. The visitors center offers a few walking tours that I was unable to participate in, however I did visit a few of the different colleges.
Queens College- Set back on the River Cam, Queen's college isn't as imposing as Kings or St. Johns, but it has its own unique beauty. When we stumbled upon this, we were able to visit the tiny library that is usually closed to public, in addition the beautiful church. Additionally, at Queens you are able to walk into the BEAUTIFUL Old Hall, walk outside the old timbered building and over the mathmatical bridge. Enjoyed the walk and the admission was so little I think it was one of the only worth it colleges.
St. John's College- Home to the Bridge of Sighs, St. John's college also has a lovely church and grounds. However when you pay to enter you can only see the church than may exit to see the bridge of sighs (something that people traveling from the backs may also do for free). Honestly not worth the admission.
Trinity College- A cute college that is the largest in Cambridge, it also has the famous Wren library that has original works of Winnie the Pooh, Shakespeare editions, and more. Just note that in order to access the Library you have to exit the main campus and walk down into this tiny gate then walk along the side of the building. Even then, the Wren library has limited hours (from 12 to 2) and is also FREE to the public so you may access that on its own.
The Backs - A completely free way to get a good glimpse at the Kings, Queens, St. Johns, and Trinity Colleges, The Backs is a slang for the back of the colleges, and it runs along the Cam (the river/stream thing). You can walk along the backs and enjoy the view of the college campuses (and the bridge of Sighs) for free.
Things I wish I did:
King's College & Kings College Chapel- Founded by King Henry the 6th, and one of the most beautiful college chapels in the country, King's college is full of history and beautiful architecture, and unfortunately due to my stellar timing, was closed when I went to visit in March.
Ely Cathedral- This Cathedral is actually located outside of Cambridge in a town called Ely. The next stop past Cambridge, the town of Ely is supposed to be lovely with the cathedral being its crowning jewel.
Punting- Despite being asked 6 times if I wanted a cute guy to row me around in a boat, I declined due to the rain and cold weather. Had the weather been nicer, I would have loved a proper tour around the university with a nice guy (shirtless maybe?) giving me a mini history lesson.
ABOUT THE MUSEUMS:
In addition to having many colleges, Cambridge is also home to many museums dedicated to art and science. The key ones noted are the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Polar Research Institute Museum. As I was only there for a few hours I only had time to visit a few of the colleges. Regretfully, I didn't prioritize the museums, so if you go, use the contact form and let me know what you thought of the museums.
COLLEGIATE LIFE AT CAMBRIDGE:
Cambridge is a beautiful place to be... but not during inclement weather. Just like Oxford, when visiting the colleges (and paying the entrance fee), if you don't have a tour, you are typically restricted to the outsides of the colleges and the churches (if you are lucky). The streets and buildings are picturesque and provide a nice day of walking around. There are many little side cobblestone streets lined with plenty of shops and some restaurants. Also, there is a major market full of food stalls and different odds and ends located across Kings College (behind St. Mary's church) that is a solid stop for lunch while you are exploring and shopping.
OVERALL, Cambridge really is a beautiful, walkable city for exploring. It is full of fun cobblestone alleys and beautiful campuses to explore during a nice day, BUT I wouldn't make the journey over during inclement weather or when the schools are closed, or you are in for a limited, dreary day.