Looking for the best things to do in Cambridge, England? Take a stroll through this quaint city’s streets for incredible architecture and rich history.
I loved visiting Cambridge when my brother lived there. This charming English city is a popular day trip from London and is well worth a visit.
After many visits, I’ve compiled this list of the best things to do in Cambridge, whether you’re just here for the day or for a longer visit.
Top Things to Do in Cambridge
1. Visit King’s College Chapel
King’s College Chapel is the iconic building you’ll probably see on all of the Cambridge souvenirs. this is the chapel of King’s College in the University of Cambridge, but it is open to the public.
This chapel is a beautiful example of Perpendicular Gothic English architecture, with large windows and straight vertical and horizontal lines everywhere.
Inside, you’ll be able to see an exhibit on the history of the College, the world’s largest fan vaulted ceiling, and the Adoration of the Magi painting by Peter Paul Rubens.
Outside, you can walk through the wildflower meadow on the back lawn and see the Xu Zhimo stone, commemorating the Chinese romantic poet, in the memorial garden.
2. See the Corpus Clock
The Corpus Clock has been a Cambridge icon since it was unveiled in 2008. Invented and designed by Corpus Christi College alum Dr. John C. Taylor, the gleaming gold clock has no hands or numbers with which to tell the time.
Instead, look for the slits cut into the clock face, which are lit from behind by LEDs. The inner ring represents the hour, the center ring represents the minute, and the outer ring represents the second.
The ripples on the clock represent the Big Bang that formed the universe. On top is the “Chronophage” time-eating monster that resembles a grasshopper. When the hour is struck, a hammer hits a wooden coffin. A Latin inscription beneath the clock reads “The world and its desires pass away”.
3. Go punting on the River Cam
If you only have time for one thing to do in Cambridge, I recommend punting the River Cam.
“Punts” are flat-bottomed boats designed for use on small or shallow rivers. “Punting” is the act of boating on a punt, where the “punter” propels the boat by pushing off the river floor.
Punting has been a popular activity in Cambridge since the early 1900’s, and there are more punts on the River Cam than on any other river in England.
Because the Cam runs through the backs of the colleges (the “College Backs”), it’s a popular activity for tourists who get to experience punting and see the private colleges all at the same time.
Most punting tours last about 1 hour, and you’ll get to see views of King’s College Chapel, the Bridge of Sighs, the dormitories of Trinity college, and the Mathematical Bridge.
4. Have a drink at The Eagle
Duck into The Eagle, a historic pub that has been around since 1667 and has seen some great things.
James Watson and Francis Crick regularly lunched here. In 1953, they announced to fellow pub patrons that they had discovered the structure of DNA.
During WWII, this pub was also a favorite of RAF and American airmen. You can still see where these airmen graffitied the ceiling of the pub.
5. Go shopping in Market Square
There have been markets at the Historic Market Square since the Middle Ages.
Independent traders and crafters still continue to set up stalls here. You can shop for fresh food, ingredients, art, plants, clothes, jewelry, books, music, and more.
Market Square has sellers every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.
6. See the Mathematical Bridge
Stop on Silver Street to get a great view of the Back of Queens College and of Mathematical Bridge.
Mathematical Bridge is so named in part due to a lot of legends misrepresenting the structure as being built by Newton or being put together without screws (neither of which are true). But more likely it’s due to the bridge being made with all straight boards creating an arch.
In other words, Mathematical Bridge was made using math (as if other bridges aren’t built using math!). The official name for the bridge is actually Wooden Bridge.
7. See the Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs was built in 1831, and it links the New Court with the older Third Court of St. John’s College. The bridge is named after the one in Venice, even though they look nothing alike; they only thing they have in common is that they’re covered bridges.
To see the Bridge of Sighs, you’ll either have to pay to enter St. John’s College where you can get a view from Kitchen Bridge. Or you will need to take a punting tour, which offers the best vantage point as you boat beneath the bridge.
It is said that the Bridge of Sighs was Queen Victoria’s favorite.
8. Visit Newton’s Apple Tree
Sir Isaac Newton is known for discovering gravity, with the story that his discovery came while sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head.
The apple tree in Cambridge outside the main gate of Trinity College isn’t the actual tree (that one is in Newton’s childhood home of Woolsthorpe Manor), but it is a descendent, grafted from the original “Flower of Kent” apple tree.
Newton attended Trinity College at Cambridge University in 1661. Newton’s apple tree was planted here in 1954 to honor the scientist.
You aren’t allowed on the grass to get up close to the tree, but you can still view it at any time and take pictures.
9. Eat a Chelsea Bun at Fitzbillies
The original Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street has been a staple of Cambridge since 1920 when it became the cake-shop of choice for locals.
People would line up for a taste of their Chelsea buns, a currant bun flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon or other mixed spices, and they still do. A smaller, second branch of the bakery opened on Bridge St. in 2016.
10. Climb the Cambridge Castle Mound
William the Conqueror and his Norman conquest of England is the reason for so many castles around the country. And he didn’t leave Cambridge out of his castle-building frenzy. Though there’s not much left of the former stronghold that was Cambridge Castle, you can still admire the site.
On Castle Street, just past The Castle Inn, is the site of Cambridge Castle, now just a mound and some memories.
But a climb to the top of Castle Mound gets you to the highest point in the city and gives you picturesque views of Cambridge.
11. Have a drink at the Cambridge Wine Merchants Wine Bar
Looking for a classy place to sip wines in Cambridge?
At Cambridge Wine Merchants Wine Bar, you can shop wines, beers, and spirits, plus you can have a light lunch of cheese plates, deli platters, scotch eggs, and more along with a glass or bottle of wine while you sit and watch Cambridge city life go by.
Choose from a menu of reds, whites, sparkling, Champagne, rosé, sherry, and even beer, cider, gin, and whisky.
12. Take a University of Cambridge Tour
Take a University of Cambridge Tour to see one of the world’s most famous universities.
On this tour, a university student will guide you around the campus, giving you insider information on Trinity College, King’s College, and Corpus Christi College. You’ll see the historic halls where Sir Isaac Newton, C.S. Lewis, and John Harvard once walked.
You can pay to enter many of the colleges on your own as a visitor, but the best way to see them is definitely on a guided tour!
13. Lakenheath RAF Base
During World War II, RAF Lakenheath served as a decoy airfield while the neighboring Mildenhall airfield was operational. False runway lights and plywood aircraft lured German forces away toward Lakenheath.
Because of this, Lakenheath was bombed on five separate occasions, but Mildenhall was safe.
The U.S. Air Force assumed administrative control of the base in 1951, and now Lakenheath and Mildenhall are the two main U.S. Air Force bases in the UK.
The 48th Fighter Wing that calls Lakenheath its home has flown 18 different aircraft since activating in 1941. The base has three of these 18 — an F-4 Phantom II, an F-111 Aardvark, and an F-15 Eagle — displayed near the Post Office. Another, an F-100 Super Sabre, sits by Gate 1.
Note: The RAF Lakenheath tour program has been suspended for 2024. They hope to resume offering tours at a later date.
Things to Do in Cambridge Map
Ready to explore these top things to do in Cambridge, England? Use the map below to help plan out your trip!
I hope you have a wonderful time seeing all that Cambridge has to offer!
More Things to Do in Cambridge, England
Find even more fun things to see and do in Cambridge. Check out these posts for inspiration:
- Free Things to Do in Cambridge, England
- Visiting Cambridge Castle in Cambridge, England
- Where to Eat in Cambridge, England
- Christmas in Cambridge, England
Ready to visit Cambridge, England? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Cambridge using Booking.com.
- Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.
What are your favorite things to do in Cambridge, England? Let me know in the comments!