With its plethora of museums, shopping centres, restaurants and more, it’s easy to see why Cambridge consistently ranks in the top 10 for tourist destinations in the UK. But with so much choice, where do you start? Fear not: LockHouse is here to give you a helping hand. We’ve put together our tourist mini-series covering all things great to do in Cambridge. From the big name headliners to the hidden gems and more, we’ll be talking all things Cambridge for the next few weeks. And today’s topic, classic things to do in Cambridge.
One of the quintessential Cambridge activities, punting is essentially the Cambridge equivalent of a Venetian gondola, only a bit less glamorous. Relax in the (hopefully) sunshine as you glide along the river, surrounded by the stunning Cambridge architecture and stretches of greenery. You can take a guided tour down the River Cam complete with stories of the colleges and various landmarks as you pass, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can hire the punt to yourself and everyone can have a go at trying to steer the boat. Scudamore’s have a great guide on how to punt. If punting isn’t your thing but you’re still interested in the river, Scudamore’s offer kayak hire as well.
Given Cambridge’s reputation as a university town, it’s not surprising that it has rather a large number of museums! The University’s website boasts nine different museums, but we’re sure there are even more squirrelled away. You probably won’t have time for all of them, so we’ll focus on the most iconic. The Fitzwilliam Museum is undoubtedly the biggest in Cambridge. It has a huge collection of artwork from a wide range of eras, not to mention it often has special collection exhibitions open to the general public. It also hosts an impressive range of events, from talks to music and more. Not far behind is the equally wonderful Kettle’s Yard, just at the bottom of Castle Hill. This museum focuses on the collected works of J.S.Ede, a fan and patron of the arts whilst he was alive. The space was closed for renovation but reopened in February 2019.
Another classic thing to do in Cambridge is visit the beautiful and historic University. The university doesn’t have one specific campus/building to visit, but rather is broken up into colleges that each have their own unique charm. There are thirty-one colleges scattered across Cambridge, with most of them concentrated in the centre. The major ones to visit are Kings College (and with it, its gorgeous Chapel), Trinity, and St John’s. We could probably do an entire article about the different colleges and what they have to offer – and indeed we might in this series, who knows! – but it’s safe to say any of the big ones in central Cambridge are always a firm favourite with tourists.
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens are a little further out of town than some of our other recommendations, but are definitely worth the walk. Expect gorgeous greenery and beautiful plants as you wander around the scenic gardens. The greenhouses boast a huge range of plants and the cafe is simply wonderful. As an added bonus, if you are a die-hard Pokemon Go fan, it’s a fantastic place to pick up grass and water types!
Corpus Playrooms and ADC Theatre
If theatre is your thing, then Cambridge has you covered. The city has a huge range of venues for theatre, live music and all kinds of performances. The two big theatres that are connected with the University specifically are the Corpus Playrooms and the ADC Theatre. These are wonderful places to catch a show at a cheaper rate than your standard ticket, but only if it’s during term time. If the idea of a student production is putting you off, remember that this is a place that produced the likes of Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson, to name a few, over the years. We promise you will not be disappointed.
If you’re getting a little bored of all things University of Cambridge, then we would highly recommend a stroll down Mill Road. A little further out of town, it has a huge range of local business and restaurants, making it a haven for people who prefer venturing off the beaten track. For shopping we recommend Arjuna Wholefoods, which specialises in sustainable and local produce, as well as a wonderful collection of charity shops for a bargain. If you’re peckish you could stop off at Bedouin for some excellent North African cuisine, or Tu Casa if you’re in the mood for tapas. Finish off your evening with a cheeky pint down at the Earl of Beaconsfield or a classy cocktail at 196.
And if after all that excitement you’ve still got some energy, you could always pop into LockHouse Escape Games for a quick escape room. Our rooms take only an hour and are the perfect addition to any holiday itinerary for a Cambridge visit. So those are our top recommendations for classic things to do in Cambridge.