The following post is a guide to visiting Cambridge.Read on to learn which Stonehenge tours are best, how to get there on your own, and what is the cost of a visit. Looking for other day-trips outside of London? Check out our posts on visiting Oxford and Windsor Castle.
Famed for being one of the top universities in the world, Cambridge University is located in the university city and county town that goes by the same name. Cambridge is approximately 60 miles north of London, and either a 2 hour drive or 50 minute train ride away. It is also less than 2 hours away from Birmingham and Oxford.
Thanks to it’s convenient location directly north of the city, Cambridge is easily accessible from London. There are several ways to get to Cambridge from London, including by car, train, or coach.
Visitors traveling by car to Cambridge can do so via the M11 or A1. The route is relatively straightforward and perhaps a better option for those hoping to go elsewhere after their time in Cambridge. However, anyone who is traveling directly between London and Cambridge is better suited to take the train, as traffic coming in and out of London is often very heavy.
Taking the train to Cambridge is more than twice as fast as traveling by car. King’s Cross is the station from which most trains depart for Cambridge, though some also leave from Liverpool Street Station. Between the two stations, there are trains departing every 10-15 minutes from 4:00am until midnight.
The length of the journey varies amongst train types, and thus visitors should expect travel time to take anywhere between 50 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Additionally, the cost of the journey also fluctuates. Those travelling during ‘Peak’ hours will pay more than those travelling during ‘Off Peak’ or ‘Super Off Peak’.
Tips for saving money on train tickets:
- Buy ‘Off Peak’ or ‘Super Off Peak’, rather than the standard ‘Peak’ fare.
- Check whether it’s cheaper to depart from certain stations over others. For example, ‘Off Peak’ is never to Cambridge is never offered from King’s Cross because there are a lot of London-Cambridge commuters who use that station.
- Purchase your tickets ahead of time. Buy online by at least midnight the night before, and you’ll save.
- Buy a return ticket rather than 2 one-way tickets. This will massively reduce the overall price of the journey.
- Deliberate over buying an ‘Anytime Return’ ticket before you do so. Oftentimes, an ‘Anytime Return’ is more expensive than an ‘Off Peak Return’. The former means that you can hop on any train at any time when you’re ready to head back to London from Cambridge. However, the latter requires that you only travel during off-peak hours, such as after evening rush hour. ‘Anytime Return’ is much more convenient, but ‘Off Peak’ can be cheaper. Note: Remember that all trains from King’s Cross are ‘Peak’ trains, so if you’re departing from there, you’ll automatically be purchasing an anytime ticket.
- Remember you might be applicable for discounted travel. Students, people between 16-25, and seniors over 60 all qualify for discounted rail cards.
There are also several coach companies that offer services between London and Cambridge. The companies we recommend most are National Express and Megabus, as both have coaches departing from either location every 1-2 hours throughout the day.
The price of the journey varies immensely, depending on how far in advance you purchase your ticket. Tickets purchased within a few days of the journey, for example, can be astronomical, whilst tickets purchased at least a month in advance are often much cheaper than the train.
Cambridge Tour Guides – The highest rated walking tour company of Cambridge on Tripadvisor, Cambridge Tour Guides is a company that organises private or group tours for visitors. As there is no ‘standard’ tour, guests can really design their tour to fit their needs. This company does not offer public tours, so expect the cost to reflect that of a private tour. Reviews for this tour are outstanding and no one should hesitate booking if they’re keen on learning more about the history of Cambridge. TripAdvisor Ranking: 5 stars; 258 reviews.
Another highly rated company, Cambridge Alumni Tours are (unsurprisingly) led by former Cambridge students. This means that guests learn historic facts in addiction to gaining insight into what it’s like to live and study at Cambridge. They offer both public and private tours, and so are a bit more cost friendly. In addition to the walking tours, Cambridge Alumni Tours also offer punting tours. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4.5 stars; 204 reviews.
Footprints Tours is a walking tour company that operates in several UK cities, including London, Oxford, and Bath. Their Cambridge tour is another popular option, which features guides who are trained to add extra personality in their tours. Like Free Tours By Foot, Footprints Tours are ‘name your own price’ so there is no risk in taking the tour. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4.5 stars; 217 reviews.
This company offers customised private tours that seek to reveal a different side of Cambridge. For example, though they lead standard, historic tours, See Cambridge Differently also encourages guests to request more niche tours, such as ones that are focused on science or literature. No public tours offered. TripAdvisor Ranking 5 stars; 73 reviews.
Obviously not your standard tour, Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost tours divulge the paranormal history of Cambridge. There are three signature tours including: Haunted Cambridge Tour, Colleges and Corpses Tour, and the Wickedness and Witches Tour. Again, reviews are very favourable, with none dropping below 4 stars. TripAdvisor Ranking: 5 stars; 39 reviews.
Punting tours are extremely popular, as the River Cam runs through the heart of the university city and thus offers beautiful views of the surrounding buildings. As the #1 tourist activity in Cambridge, punting on the river is a must for many first time visitors!
Lets Go Punting – The highest ranked tour in Cambridge, Let’s Go Punting offers public and private punting tours of the city. At 45 minutes long, the amount of information is inevitably less than what might find on a walking tour. However, the views are unmatched! Though most people opt to participate in the summer months, this company also offer winter tours that come with blankets and mulled wine! TripAdvisor Ranking: 5 stars; 917 reviews.
Scudamore’s Punting Company – Not quite as highly ranked as Lets Go Punting, Scudamore’s still ranks well for its punting tours around Cambridge. Some visitors warn about the price, stating that the managers often negotiate the rate according to the customer so that some pay twice as much as others. Still, the quality of information is commended. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4.5 stars; 719 reviews.
Go Punting Cambridge – Not to be confused with the first company on our list, this company is a small punting tour operator offering private tours at a reasonable price. For an additional charge, guests can request champagne or canapés to be served during their ride. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4.5 stars; 66 reviews.
Trinity Punts – The quality of the tour is ranked high, but reviewers consistently complain about the poor customer service with this company. Boats only depart if they are full, so expect to wait around for other guests if you arrive as a smaller party. They don’t currently have a website. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4.5 stars; 92 reviews.
Bus tours are a fine option for those who are less mobile. However, all other visitors should opt for a walking or punting tour, as Cambridge is very small and best experienced on foot or boat.
City Sightseeing Cambridge – An international tour bus company, City Sightseeing also leads a hop-on, hop-off Cambridge tour. A full loop of the tour lasts 80 minutes, and buses arrive at each stop every 20 minutes. TripAdvisor Ranking: 4 stars; 97 reviews.
In addition to taking a tour and going punting on the river, there are many other things to do and see in Cambridge. Here’s are some of our favourites:
Fitzwilliam Museum – An arts and antiques museum that features the works of many famous artists including Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Money, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Picasso, amongst many others.
- Cost: FREE!
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00, Sundays & Bank Holidays: 12:00 – 17:00
Cambridge University Botanic Garden – Covering roughly 40 acres, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden was first opened in 1846 by Professor John Stevens Henslow (the mentor of Charles Darwin).
- Cost: Standard adult: £5.00; standard concession: £4.50
- Hours: Open daily at 10:00am
University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – This museum features pieces from around the world that spans 2 million years of human history. There are over 1 million artefacts included in the collection, and many different exhibitions and lectures throughout the year.
- Cost: FREE!
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10:30am – 4:30pm; Sunday: 12:00am – 4.30pm
The most popular sites in Cambridge are the historic colleges that comprise the university city. Most tours will discuss some of the colleges, but if you would like to go inside, expect to pay an additional fee. Though each college something unique to offer, the ones most often visited are:
King’s College – Completed in 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII, King’s is one of the most beautiful colleges at Cambridge. Additionally, King’s College Chapel is a gothic masterpiece and well worth a visit. To learn more about ticket prices and opening hours, see the Chapel’s website.
St. John’s College – Another popular tourist site, St. John’s College is world renowned for its famous alumni. It also features a stunning chapel that can be visited. Learn about hours and ticket prices here.
Queens’ College – Queen’s is one of the largest and oldest colleges at Cambridge. The most visited part of the college is the mathematical bridge, which is a wooden footbridge made up of tangential members.
Holy Sepulchre (the Round Church) – A round, medieval church in Cambridge — one of four still in use in England today.