City guide: What to do in Cambridge

March 7, 2023

Surrounded by flat countryside, Cambridge is an island of stunning architecture, rich history, and home to one of the oldest universities in the world. You will find medieval colleges sandwiched between cobbled streets and pastures. It lays claim to the birthplace of IVF, as well as Personal Computing in the UK. Plus 13 British Prime Ministers and 98 Nobel Prize winners have studied here. But it's not all academia and science. Comedy and theatre are alive here too. In fact, Rowan Atkinson (you know, Mr Bean!) and the Monty Python team all hit the stage here. There’s also a thriving food and drink scene with plenty of excellent cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from. It’s compact, accessible and ideal for a city break, family holiday or romantic getaway.

Cambridge at twilight

What to do in Cambridge with the kids

Visit the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences. Cambridge’s oldest museum is a 4.5 billion-year walk back through time. It has more than 2 million fossils, minerals and rocks. This includes replicas of a complete Iguanodon skeleton and Tyrannosaurus rex skull. There's also a 500-million-year-old trilobite on display. Little ones will also enjoy the colouring stations, twilight trail and puzzle areas.

The Centre for Computing History is home to interactive exhibitions and workshops on the history of PCs and video game consoles. Exhibits include 13,000 video games, with some dating back to the 60s. In fact, they have games from Pong to Pokémon, so there's something for all ages.

There’s more to bats than vampires and villains. Join a 90-minute Wildlife Trust Bat Safari on a punt down the River Cam at dusk. These adventures run from May to September and your guides will teach you all about different bat species and their behaviour. You’ll also get to use electronic bat detectors. These convert the bats’ sonar signals into audible frequencies.

If little ones still have energy to burn then Clip ’N Climb is worth visiting. It’s suitable for kids of 4 years and up and perfect for climbing wall novices or more experienced climbers. There are 20 climbing challenges including the Speed Wall, the Stairway to Heaven, and surprises like the Vertical Drop Slide.

What to do in Cambridge as a couple

Cambridge is about learning right? Well, the team at Cambridge Gin Laboratory make the history and mysteries of gin chemistry fun and interactive. They provide gin masterclasses where you can mix, create and even bottle your own creations.

For something a little more intimate, delve into Hidden Rooms where the basement hides an exclusive cocktail lounge. You can sign up for cocktail-making classes, take a dance workshop, or hang out with a cocktail or two.

If fresh air, freedom and exploration are more your style then why not hire a tandem bike with your other half? Blue Yonder Tandem Hire (Circe Cycles) do daily rentals and will also deliver your bike to you anywhere in Cambridge.

Or you may want to cosy up outside and enjoy some big-screen magic. Enchanted Cinema offers a mix of current blockbusters and classic films. They pop up in different locations with deckchairs, light installations and a tasty popcorn stand.

cycling in cambridge

What to do in Cambridge with friends

After a busy day, why not unwind with some down-to-earth food and fun? The Tivoli offers a mix of British pub food and street food in a delightful converted cinema. There’s a shuffleboard basement, two crazy golf courses, and a roof terrace to enjoy river views with a drink.

For the more competitive, the Lockhouse will challenge you to escape the tomb, defuse the bomb or save the world. All within an hour. Are you game? You need five friends and a sense of adventure. You will hunt for clues, solve puzzles and, with luck, make your escape. Perfect for friends and families.

What better way to explore Cambridge than on two wheels? It’s compact, pan-flat, and very bike friendly. Plus, there are several good bike hire outfits if you need to rent. These include Rutland Cycling, Outspoken Cycles and City Cycle Hire. And when you need refuelling, park your steeds outside the Old Bicycle Shop. It's rumoured to have been the oldest bicycle shop in England. These days it’s the place to grab a coffee, brunch, or dinner and drinks. The food is fresh, locally sourced and they have tasty vegetarian and vegan options.

For a thrilling night out, take a walk after dark and hunt for ghosts, ghouls and good tales. Cambridge Alumni Tours, led by current and ex-students, will walk you through supernatural stories and the darker side of Cambridge. Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, will guide you around the haunted sites with a ghost hunter, a witch or a magician. Creepy Cambridge will entertain you with chilling tales, show you the hangman’s house and take you down one of England’s most haunted streets.

What we like to do in Cambridge

A must-see is the Fitzwilliam Museum, especially if you love fine art and antiquities. There are 30 galleries across two main levels. On display are around half a million items including Roman, Egyptian and Greek relics. You’ll find dazzling paintings by Michelangelo, Rubens, Constable, Gainsborough and more. Some call it the finest small museum in Europe.

Visit the Polar Museum and learn about expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. It has an extensive collection of items - including clothing, maps, and journals - from polar greats like Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen. Young ones can even try on some polar clothing.

If shade and green spaces aren’t enough to cool down on a hot summer's day, then head to the Jesus Green Lido. All you need is a towel and your bathers. Chill out, clock up a few laps, or just float all your cares away.

Then, enjoy a quiet drink at The Eagle pub which first opened in 1667. It's famous for RAF fighter pilots who would unwind between sorties during the Battle of Britain. It's also notable as the place where the world first heard about the discovery of DNA. You can also discover great pub food including delicious fish and chips.

Trinity College Cambridge

What not to miss in Cambridge

No visit to Cambridge is complete without visiting some of the 31 handsome colleges. Those topping the must-see lists are King’s, Trinity, St John’s and Queen’s. Kings College is popular for its gothic 16th-century Chapel, with its impressive stained-glass windows and Ruben’s masterpiece. Time it well, and you can hear the world-famous choir, which dates back to the 15th century. Trinity College, founded by Henry VIII, has a Great Court surrounded by impressive halls and spires, plus the superb Wren Library. St John's College, is split by the River Cam but connected by the regal Bridge of Sighs. Six Prime Ministers studied here, as did poets and authors. Queen's College, with elegant courtyards also stretches along both banks. Joining both sides is the very photogenic Mathematical Bridge.

Whether you love a good walk or not, a must-do is to take a relaxing amble along The Backs. These landscaped gardens, parks and lush pastures spill down the banks of the lazy Cam. You will find spring flowers, amazing views of the colleges, and plenty of wildlife. For more greenery, pop down to the Botanic Gardens. It boasts 40 acres of paths, garden beds and 8,000 plant species.

Cambridge and punting go hand in paddle. It’s also a great way to enjoy a different view of the colleges and green spaces that make Cambridge so charming. For the adventurous hire your own punt - but be warned it’s trickier than it seems. Alternatively, take a chauffeured punt. This is a relaxing way to enjoy the River Cam, the picturesque scenery and learn about the University from very knowledgeable guides. Scudamore’s Punts and Cambridge Chauffeur Punts both offer guided services to the ‘Backs’, and beyond to Grantchester.

With your curiosity fed, hunt out Fitzbillies, a Cambridge institution. They're famed for their sticky Chelsea buns and cream teas. Another local delight is the Pint Shop Scotch Egg. But if you want a quintessentially British cream tea in gorgeous surroundings, then your next stop should be The Orchard Tea Gardens, located in picturesque Grantchester. It's a short bike ride, a leisurely punt trip or a pleasant walk from Cambridge.

Where to stay in Cambridge

Cambridge may be compact but Pass the Keys has a wide range of options for your family, group or romantic holiday. We have spacious 3-bed homes and roomy apartments with balconies. We also have bright boutique flats and cosy garden studios.

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