Deciding to take a day trip from London to Cambridge was very last minute. At the time, I was reaching the end of my month-long stay in Uxbridge where I had been visiting my boyfriend in the UK. I felt like I wanted to explore one final city before I flew home! We settled on Cambridge because it was the cheapest option and only takes an hour and a half on the train from London. I knew nothing about Cambridge before visiting and I didn’t realize how magical yet historical it would be!!! It’s like the tranquil version of London.
How Long Should You Spend In Cambridge?
I would say that one full day is plenty of time to do all of the main attractions. When we left, we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything! There’s no need to spend money on a room unless you prefer to spread out your activities.
We booked the earliest time slot leaving London and the latest train available on the way back to give us a full day. I wouldn’t recommend spending less than a full day in Cambridge especially if you want to take a punting tour or visit the Cambridge Botanical Gardens (I talk more about these below) these activities take larger chunks of time, so plan accordingly.
Transport For Your Day Trip From London To Cambridge
I used Railway.com to purchase my tickets! I remember paying around $30 round trip. The stations are modern and the insides of the trains are clean and spacious. Seating is first come first serve. A nice feature is that some seats even have tables which would be useful for using a laptop or snacking.
My Findings Tip: If taking the latest train from Cambridge back to London make sure that you give yourself enough time to transfer to different stations though the underground. I know that certain central lines are open 24/7 however, the others stop running at midnight.
Free Activities To Do In Cambridge
Walk Around The Historic College Campuses
My favorites were King’s College, Queen’s College (pictured), and Cambridge University. These are the bigger, more well-known colleges. However, since there are so many other smaller colleges scattered in between you’ll be sure to spot some other others as you’re walking.
Tour Downing College
It’s free to enter all of the college’s associated buildings and it’s less busy than the other colleges in the area. It has a spacious property and gardens throughout.
FUN FACT: You can stay overnight at Downing College. Book a room through University Rooms. Enjoy breakfast in their dining hall the next morning!
Tour Pembroke College
While not as flashy as some of the other colleges, this is another college that also offers free admission.
Visit Market Square
Located in the heart of everything, Market Square is a lively atmosphere featuring street food, clothes, jewelry, fresh fish, produce, more!
Monday-Sunday, 10 am-4 pm
*On Sunday’s they sell organic local produce and local art.
Have a Picnic or Take A Walk Along The Backs
The Backs is a park on the backside of the colleges along River Cam. It’s truly so gorgeous, a must-visit spot, especially if you are not planning on taking a punting tour.
There are nicely paved paths to walk along on either side of the river. We brought some wraps with us and ate them on a bench. It was so serene watching the punting boats go by… until one of the geese came after my food! I ran off and almost lost my phone so keep food away from the geese, haha!
We randomly stumbled upon this museum on our walk and once we found out it was free we figured, why not? The Fitzwilliam showcases over half a million works of art, paintings, and historical artifacts.
Even though admission is free you now have to book a time slot online or over the phone because of COVID.
Walk Though Sheep’s Green Park To Mill Pond
Sheep’s Green Park is an easy walk from the Fitzwilliam Museum. We found this area because this is where our punting tour started. Even if you’re not taking a tour from here you can cross over the Crusoe Bridge and follow the path to Mill Pond. It is such a cute little hidden corner with a couple of shops and restaurants on the water.
Paid Activities to do in Cambridge
Cambridge Botanical Gardens
These gardens were one of, if not the best I’ve ever visited. They were massive and had so many sections, types of plants, flowers, and ponds. The glass greenhouse was one of my favorite parts. It was organized by region and there were hundreds of exotic plants to look at! This is also a prime place to take some photos, as I did!
You can purchase tickets from the Cambridge website. Again, because of COVID, it seems as of now you would need to pre-book before visiting. Just check the website for updates, all current information is on the ticket page.
Go On A Guided Punting Tour
Activity duration: 1 hour with a chauffeured tour
In my opinion, a trip to Cambridge wouldn’t be complete without booking a guided punting tour. It’s such an incredible experience that I wouldn’t hesitate adding it to your UK bucket list! The best part was relaxing while watching people struggle who went without a guide, (jk, jk!). We saw so many people getting stuck! Unless you’re a skilled rower it’s probably not the best idea.
How to visit: Until things are completely back to normal from COVID I’d recommend booking in advance in case the tours are limited. We were approached right outside the train station by a couple of guys from a student-run punting tour service, Granta Moorings Guided Tour. From what I remember we paid around $15 USD.
Usually, I am not one to get excited about guided tours, but our guide was interactive and fun! The information he was giving about the buildings and bridges on our ride was fascinating and I was looking forward to what he would say next.
Walkthough Of The Colleges
A quick google search for which college you’re interested in touring will pull up several options to purchase tickets. Even though we did not go on any college tours tripadvisor.com seems pretty easy to use.
Most Popular College Tours:
Churches & Museums
Visiting churches and museums are typically not at the top of our priority list. Plus, we were able to see some of them from our punting ride so we didn’t feel the need to specifically visit the insides of them. If we were on more than just a day trip from London I’m sure we would have checked some of them out. Below I’ve listed which ones piqued my interest the most.
Museum of Cambridge
Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences
King’s College Chapple
Church of Saint Mary the Great
Where to Dine in Cambridge
Just a little to-go window at the train station. For some reason, they randomly had a really good chai latte!
Brown’s Brasserie and Bar
Because of our casual riverside lunch, Brown’s was the only restaurant we ate at in Cambridge but this spot is one my boyfriend and still talk about frequently. It was a FANTASTIC experience in every way, shape, and form.
Related: 19 Best London Restaurants
It was a perfectly sunny afternoon so we sat on the patio. I was recommended to try Tanqueray No. 10 mixed with the UK’s version of lemonade, it’s bubbly like soda. The gin had notes of vanilla and juniper which I could actually taste, it’s been a favorite liquor ever since! The beet salad with walnuts, herbs, and goat cheese was also spot on. My boyfriend, Daryl loved his ribeye with a hollandaise sauce and If I could travel back in time I would grab the whole pot of these mushroom ravioli! They’re one of my all-time favorite dishes to order!
Since we only ate at one place I thought I’d throw in a couple of other places that temped us!
MillWorks- On Mill Pond
A semi-upscale brasserie known for brunch. We walked inside and there was an actual mill wheel running water through it! It would be a cool dining experience.
The Granta (pictured) – On Mill Pond/The Cam
Pub style food with a terrace overlooking The Cam.
There we have it, my guide for a magical trip from London to Cambridge. I hope this post will make you want to plan a visit if you’re ever close by!
Until Next Time,