Date of Publication: 01 April 2020
Rated as the 3rd most cultural city for students, it’s no surprise that there’s a whole host of things to see and do when visiting Cambridge. If you’re joining us on one of our summer courses soon and wondering ‘what can I see when I visit Cambridge?’ we’ve narrowed down our top 12 must-see sites! Check them out below!
1. Cambridge University Botanic Gardens (CUBG)
Covering 40 acres of parkland and boasting a plant collection of over 8,000 species, the Botanic Gardens provides resources including plant material, horticultural expertise and facilities to research workers and lecturers.
Aside from that, the CUBG also provides a beautiful place of tranquility for everybody to enjoy, with glasshouses, chronological beds, rock gardens, mature trees and even a lake to enjoy.
The gardens are open every day throughout the year, except for their Christmas closure. During the spring and summer, gardens are open every day from 11:00am – 3:00pm, offering the perfect afternoon stroll.
2. The University of Cambridge (Tour)
There are so many beautiful colleges that make up the University of Cambridge – 31 to be exact. A university tour is the perfect way to visit a few and learn all about them! Run by local knowledge guides, they’ll walk you around some of the most prominent colleges – such as Kings, Corpus Christi and Pembroke College – explaining their history and offering insider information.
If you join us on one of our Cambridge summer courses, you will be joined by our group of dedicated on-course staff, many of whom will be students at the University of Cambridge. During your free time, they’ll be happy to walk you around their colleges, and some others that you may wish to see. Just remember to pack your comfy shoes to adventure around the city!
3. Kettle’s Yard Art Gallery
If you’re an art enthusiast, then Kettle’s Yard is a must-see for your trip to Cambridge. Set in a quaint and beautiful historic house, Kettle’s Yard is the University of Cambridge’s official modern and contemporary art gallery.
Based on Castle Street, near to the Castle Mound and the dining quarter on Bridge Street, it’s just a 10 minute walk from our Fitzwilliam College and Sidney Sussex College accommodation. Open every Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-5pm, the site recently underwent a redevelopment and now offers a larger selection of exhibitions, an education wing and a lovely cafe – definitely worth the visit!
4. The Corpus Clock
We’ve spoken before about the iconic Corpus Clock, and it really is one of the most distinctive public monuments in Cambridge. Fairly new compared to the rest of Cambridge’s historic attractions, the clock was officially revealed and inaugurated in 2008 by physicist Stephen Hawking. The clock features a gold plated face, with an extraordinary monster that sits atop – the Chronophage – that devours each minute that passes as it snaps its jaws shut.
The clock sits on the corner at the junction of Bene’t Street and Trumpington Street, looking out to the popular King’s Parade. If you can, try to visit at night, when the clock is lit by blue LEDs, where it stands out amongst bustling central Cambridge.
5. Fitzwilliam Museum
Close to Corpus Clock, and a perfect follow on of your tour of Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam Museum is located on Trumpington Street, and is the official art and antiques museum of the University of Cambridge.
Displaying over half a million pieces of art, the museum offers an impressive collection that spans from 2500 BC to the present day. The building itself is one of the most iconic in Cambridge, with a neoclassical facade and distinct standing columns. Just a short walk away from the central colleges and the River Cam, it’s the perfect place to escape on a rainy day or during the hot summer heat.
6. King’s College Chapel
King’s College Chapel is an iconic building, instantly recognisable as you step onto the popular King’s Parade street. Playing an essential role at the University of Cambridge, King’s College Chapel is the place where new students matriculate, and where fellows are invited and admitted to the University of Cambridge.
Aside from this, the Chapel also hosts daily services and is particularly popular amongst tourists in December where they pre-record television services for Christmas and Easter, as well as perform a variety of carols and programmes to audiences. If you can, try and pop along for the 5.30pm Evensong which happens almost daily, and enjoy the setting sun through the stained-glass windows as you participate in the musical service.
The Chapel is open to the public for admission, with varying opening times throughout the year, and tickets are available to purchase at the Visitor Centre. If you want to learn more about King’s College Chapel before your visit, why not take a look at our History of King’s College Chapel blog.
7. Fitzbillies Cafe
Founded in 1920 by two sons – Ernest and Arthur Mason – of the local baker ‘Ticker Mason,’ Fitzbillies first became popular for their finely decorated cakes and their very popular Chelsea buns. Quickly becoming the cake-shop of choice for university students and townsfolk, today Fitzbillies offers a sit-down cafe service, with a selection of delectable cakes and home-roasted coffees to choose from.
With two branches, one on Trumpington Street, and the other on Bridge Street, the cafe is within easy walking distance of many of the must-see sites on this list. When you visit, take a look at the worn gold lettering on the shop fronts. These are the original ‘E. & A. Mason’ initials that were put up when Ernest and Arthur Mason first purchased the shop. Oh, and of course – don’t forget to try the Chelsea buns!
8. The Mathematical Bridge
The Mathematical Bridge is part of Queens’ College, connecting the old and new parts of the college together. One of the most recognisable features of Cambridge’s colleges, it has been impressively constructed entirely by straight-segmented timbers, whilst still presenting an arched shape.
Unfortunately the Mathematical Bridge is a little tricky to access; you’ll either need to purchase admission to go into Queens College, or – and our preferred option – board a punt and take a trip up the River Cam for the best views.
If you’re interested in learning more about the bridge before your visit, we recommend taking a look at our blog post which looks at its history and remarkable construction.
9. Market Square
Market Square is pretty central in its location, conveniently close to the Grand Arcade shopping centre where it is surrounded by some of Cambridge’s most popular shops and best restaurants and cafes.
From Monday to Saturday, Cambridge’s Market Square is full of a wide variety of delectable foods and goods, including fresh health foods, clothes and jewellery, books, vinyls, bikes and garden plants!
If you love to shop local, then you should try to visit the market on a Sunday, where it celebrates local business, selling organic produce from local farmers and arts and crafts from some of the region’s most talented workers.
10. The Bridge of Sighs
You may be thinking – isn’t’ there a Bridge of Sighs in Venice? And in Oxford? Well, yes, there is also, rather confusingly, a Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge. Remarkably, no one really knows why they all share the same name, as they have very little architecturally in common beyond the fact that they are all covered. Nevertheless, this Grade 1 listed bridge is one of Cambridge’s main attractions, having allegedly been Queen Victoria’s most favourite spot in the city!
Just like the Mathematical Bridge, we believe that the Bridge of Sighs is best enjoyed by punt on the River Cam, though you can of course purchase a ticket into St John’s College and view from one of the adjacent bridges – the college in which it connects over the river.
11. The River Cam
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, then taking a punting trip along the River Cam is the perfect way to while away an hour or more. The experts say that the best way to explore Cambridge and its colleges is by punt, and we certainly agree. Gliding along the college backs, you’ll get to see various monuments mentioned in this article, including Kings College Chapel, Queens’ College and the Mathematical Bridge, St John’s College and its Bridge of Sighs.
We recommend going early evening if possible, as it’s usually a little less busy. There’s blankets available on the punts and the sunset makes a perfect backdrop to the stunning architecture.
Already applied and joining us in Cambridge next summer? Part of your time with us will include a late afternoon punting trip, so you don’t need to worry about squeezing it into your itinerary!
12. Scott Polar Research Institute Museum (SPRI)
Established in 1920, the Scott Polar Research Institute is part of the University of Cambridge’s centre of excellence in the study of the Arctic and Antarctic. Housing an extensive archive of collections which shed light on the areas, as well as the importance of polar exploration, their mission is to enhance the world’s understanding of the polar regions.
The Polar Museum is open 10am-4pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 12pm-4pm on Sundays. Admission to the museum is free, and it can be found on Lensfield Road – just south of the Fitzwilliam Museum on Trumpington Street.
Have we left you eager to visit Cambridge? Take a look at what available summer courses we have to offer in this historic city and you could be soaking up these must-see sites very soon!