What is the first thing that comes to your mind when Cambridge is mentioned? Many people would think of the prestigious University in England, and they have all the good reasons to relate to this centuries-old educational edifice. However, there is more to Cambridge than just its University.
Cambridge is steeped in history with a charming atmosphere, intellectual legacy, and beautiful landscapes that make it a magnet for tourists, students, and scholars alike. In this article, we will tell you what to expect when you visit this city, nestled along the banks of the tranquil River Cam in Cambridgeshire.
With its world-famous University at the heart of its identity, Cambridge is also celebrated for its picturesque architecture, characterised by stunning medieval and historic buildings. Beyond academia, the city is also known for its scenic River Cam, where punting is a popular pastime.
As you wander its cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter a tapestry of historic colleges, magnificent gardens, and a vibrant community, making it such an inspiring destination for those in pursuit of knowledge and cultural exploration.
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What to Expect?
Cambridge’s rich history, vibrant cultural scene, and stunning architecture make it a city full of attractions and things to explore. Whether you’re interested in academia, arts, or the natural world, Cambridge has something to offer every visitor. Here are some of the most notable attractions in the city.
The University of Cambridge
Established in 1209, the University of Cambridge is one of the world’s most renowned and oldest educational institutions. We are talking about a rich history that can be traced back to the 13th century. Yup, it is that old!
Such a storied past of the University is also reflected in its architecture. Visiting the campus, you will see that firsthand. The University boasts an array of stunning and historic buildings, many of which serve as landmarks. King’s College Chapel, Trinity College, St John’s College, the Wren Library, and the Mathematical Bridge are just a few examples of the architectural marvels that grace the campus—quite something for a university!
A picturesque area along the River Cam, the Backs provides beautiful views of the various college gardens and bridges in Cambridge. This green space is known for its serene ambience and provides a retreat from the bustling city life.
Strolling along the Backs, you will be mesmerised by the architectural splendour of the historic colleges with their grand facades and neatly manicured lawns. The river itself is often dotted with punts, adding to the charm of this idyllic scene.
This stretch of land runs along the rear of the riverside colleges of the University of Cambridge, and that’s why it was named “Backs”. You can also enjoy other iconic views from the Backs, such as the elegant bridges and spires of the University’s renowned colleges reflected in the peaceful waters of the River Cam.
You can also go punting along the river —such a beloved activity, where visitors can rent a punt (a flat-bottomed boat) and be guided by a punt chauffeur along the tranquil river while learning about the history and legends associated with the colleges and the Backs.
The Backs are also the best place to relax on the well-maintained lawns, enjoying the view of the historic buildings. Whether you’re a student or a visitor, a leisurely walk along the Backs is a must-do activity in Cambridge.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
We are still in the heart of Cambridge, particularly at the Fitzwilliam Museum. We very much recommend that you visit this masterpiece. Why? Well, read on; there is good news coming your way.
Established in 1816 and named after its founder, Richard Fitzwilliam, this museum is part of the University of Cambridge. It is well known for its vast collection of art and antiquities that feature works from different cultures and time periods.
Fitzwilliam boasts diverse and impressive holdings that span over five millennia of human history. It showcases treasures from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and beyond, as well as an incredible array of European paintings, decorative arts, and musical instruments.
An art enthusiast? This place will leave you with butterflies in your stomach with its paintings, sculptures, ceramics, antiquities, manuscripts, textiles, and rare books. The museum’s art collection is particularly notable, featuring works by renowned artists such as Titian, Vermeer, Canaletto, Gainsborough, and Monet, among many others. Such a rich resource!
The museum’s building is a masterpiece in itself. It features a neoclassical facade and an elegant interior with a stunning central dome. The architecture adds to the visitor’s experience, creating an environment that complements the artworks and artefacts on display.
Cambridge Botanic Garden
Established in 1762, this garden is an oasis in the centre of the city. It is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, spanning over 40 acres of meticulously landscaped grounds.
The garden boasts a varied collection of plants from all corners of the globe, showcasing a rich tapestry of flora, from rare and exotic species to native British plants. With its well-maintained glasshouses, rock gardens, and themed plant beds, the Cambridge Botanic Garden offers a delightful and educational experience for nature enthusiasts and botanists.
It is the go-to place for unwinding and relaxation and the go-to place for research and conservation. It is seen as a cherished institution in the city’s cultural and scientific landscape.
Throughout the year, the garden hosts numerous events, exhibitions, and activities that cater to a wide range of interests. These events often focus on themes related to plant science, horticulture, and environmental conservation.
This is the part all shopaholics have been waiting for. Welcome to Cambridge’s busy Market Square, the city’s commercial heart! You can explore various stalls selling local produce, crafts, clothing, and more. The market is a vibrant place to experience the local culture and find unique items.
Market Square is a living testament to the intertwining of history and modern life, tradition and innovation, and culture and commerce. The market offers a delightful blend of cultural, culinary, and retail experiences.
The square is surrounded by centuries-old architecture, such as the striking Great St. Mary’s Church, which stands proudly at its western end, and the imposing Senate House of the University of Cambridge.
Here, you can also find a plethora of open-air markets and plenty of shops and cafes. Market Square is also a reflection of the city’s academic heritage, often hosting open-air lectures, debates, and artistic performances. This intellectual and cultural vitality adds a unique dimension to the square’s appeal.
Market Square is not just a physical space but a cultural melting pot where the past meets the present, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Cambridge’s rich heritage.
Not that far away; just a short walk or bike ride from Cambridge, the charming village of Grantchester welcomes visitors seeking a quintessentially English rural experience, just a stone’s throw away from the vibrant city.
The River Cam is a prominent feature here, meandering through the village and offering good opportunities for people to go punting or kayaking along its gentle waters while taking in the lush green surroundings and historic bridges.
The village is famous for its thatched-roof cottages and lovely tea gardens that made a favourite spot for famous writers like Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf. You can find solitude here, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Who knows, you might get intellectually inspired as well!
Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks along the meadows where cows graze peacefully. They can also explore the picturesque cottages, the Norman church, and quaint tea rooms. The Orchard Tea Garden, established in 1897, is one of the oldest and most famous tea gardens in the region.
The village also hosts an annual Grantchester Apple and Cider Festival, celebrating the region’s apple orchards and showcasing a variety of apple-related products, including cider, jams, and pies. Such a yummy experience!
The Wren Library
Located within Trinity College, this library is a repository of knowledge and a symbol of architectural elegance. Designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1695, the library stands as a masterpiece of classical architecture, with its striking, domed reading room at the heart of the building.
The Wren Library houses a vast and precious collection of rare books, manuscripts, and other literary treasures, including the original manuscript of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Bookworms, where are you?
The Wren Library is not only a testament to the enduring pursuit of learning but also a testament to the enduring beauty of architectural design, making it a cultural and academic jewel within the University of Cambridge.
The Library is a fine example of classical architecture, featuring a striking combination of Greek and Roman elements. The building is characterised by its elegant, neoclassical façade, with tall, arched windows and a prominent pediment. The interior of the library is equally impressive, featuring a beautiful, ornate wooden ceiling and bookshelves filled with antique volumes. Imagine enjoying the company of a book in such a classical reading room!
Cambridge is an unparalleled destination for tourists looking for a harmonious blend of history, culture, and academic excellence. With its iconic University, stunning architecture, lush green spaces, and a rich tapestry of museums, libraries, and historical sites, this charming city offers a unique and enriching experience for travellers of all backgrounds. From the tranquil banks of the River Cam to the vibrant streets filled with diverse cuisines, Cambridge beckons visitors to explore its timeless charm.