Cambridge Day Trip

Cambridge Day Trip: A Guide on How to Spend Your Day

Cambridge, a historic city in eastern England, is renowned for its prestigious university and stunning architecture. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply someone seeking a quintessential British experience, this charming city has something to offer everyone. Being from London, I have done a few day trips to Cambridge and have put this together to help inspire anyone considering doing the same.

Day Trip to Cambridge from London

Cambridge is easily accessible from London, making it a convenient day trip or weekend getaway. The fastest and most convenient way to get there is by train. From London’s King’s Cross or Liverpool Street stations, you can catch a direct train to Cambridge, with the journey taking around an hour. Train tickets aren’t the cheapest in the UK unfortunately, so book ahead if you can.

If you prefer to drive, the journey from central London to Cambridge takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic. However, I recommend taking the train, as parking can be challenging and expensive in the city centre. For cheaper options than the train, that don’t require a car, consider taking a National Express coach.

Cambridge is a very walkable city, as all the major things to see and do are combat in the city centre. We spent the day on foot but you can also rent bicycles to get round quicker.

Best Things to Do During a Cambridge Day Trip

Punting on the River Cam

No visit to Cambridge is complete without experiencing a punt tour along the River Cam. Punting is a quintessential Cambridge activity, where you’ll glide along the tranquil waters and enjoy breathtaking views of the city’s famous colleges and picturesque gardens. Hire a punt and a professional punter (a boat operator) or try your hand at propelling the punt yourself – it’s harder than it looks! We got a private boat and loved being able to learn more about Cambridge.

punting on the river cam

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Escape the bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the tranquil oasis of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. With over 8,000 plant species spread across 40 acres, this garden is a true haven for nature lovers and plant enthusiasts alike. I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with botanic gardens, my favourite probably being Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens. However, the Botanic Gardens at Cambridge are definitely worth a visit. It was roughly 15 minute walk from the city centre and cost about £8 to enter.

Visit the Colleges

Cambridge’s history is inextricably linked to its renowned university, which was founded in 1209, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. Home to 31 colleges, that make up the University of Cambridge, each with its own rich history and stunning architecture. While some colleges require admission tickets, many allow visitors to explore their grounds and courtyards for free. Some key ones we visited were King’s College, to see the incredible Gothic chapel, and Trinity College, where alumni like Isaac Newton and Prince Charles studied.

colleges of cambridge

Fitzwilliam Museum

For art and history enthusiasts, the Fitzwilliam Museum is a must-visit. This impressive museum houses an extensive collection of antiquities, paintings, and sculptures from around the world, spanning centuries of human creativity. Fitzwilliam Museum is free to enter and is open every day except Monday.

The Pubs and Shops!

Cambridge is home to lots of pubs, cosy eateries and cute shops which should definitely be explored during your day trip to Cambridge. On a sunny day, check out one of the many pubs with beer gardens and soak up the lively atmosphere. Or spend time wandering the cobbled and winding streets, browsing the local stores.

King’s College Chapel

The breathtaking King’s College Chapel is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and a true icon of the city. Admire its vaulted ceilings, intricate stone carvings, and stunning stained-glass windows. If you’re visiting around Christmas time, don’t miss the iconic Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service held here.

punting in cambridge

Cambridge FAQs

How far is Cambridge from London?

Cambridge is approximately 50-60 miles from London, depending where you start and end points are. It’s easily accessible by a hour train from the city centres, or by car or coach.

What is the best time to visit Cambridge?

Cambridge is a year-round destination, but the best times to visit are during the spring and summer, when the weather is mild and the gardens are in full bloom. However, keep in mind that these are also the busiest and most expensive periods. It’s also worth visiting in December to enjoy some of the Christmas markets.

Is Cambridge expensive?

Like many popular tourist destinations in the UK, Cambridge can be quite expensive, especially when it comes to accommodation and dining. However, there are budget-friendly options available, such as staying in hostels or Airbnbs and eating at casual cafes and pubs.

How many days should I spend in Cambridge?

You can easily do a day trip to Cambridge, however, I recommend staying for a few days if you have the time. This will allow you to fully experience the city’s charm and visit all the major attractions at a leisurely pace.

Can I visit the Cambridge Colleges without being a student?

Yes, many of the colleges welcome visitors and offer tours or self-guided visits. However, some colleges have restricted access or require purchasing admission tickets, so I’d recommend checking their individual policies beforehand.

Is Cambridge accessible for those with mobility issues?

While many of the historic buildings and cobblestone streets can be challenging for those with mobility issues, there has been efforts to improve accessibility. Most colleges and major attractions offer wheelchair access, and there are accessible punting tours available.

What are the best places to eat and drink in Cambridge?

Cambridge has a vibrant food and drink scene, with options ranging from cosy pubs to Michelin-starred restaurants. Some local favourites include The Eagle (a historic pub where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of DNA), Fitzbillies (famous for its Chelsea buns), and The Anchor (a riverside pub with a lovely outdoor seating area). There a lots of cute streets in Cambridge with hidden gems to discover, so i’d recommend walking around and seeing what takes your fancy.

Cambridge is a brilliant day trip from London, or weekend away, which a range of things to do! If you’re looking for other weekends away in the UK, consider going to Liverpool! Or for day trips in London itself, I always recommend Greenwich.

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