26 Unique & Fun Things to do in Cambridge, England

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There are some places in England that can command a vivid image with just their name alone. Cambridge, famed for its historic university, is one such place.

Imposing colleges. Scholarly tweed. Narrow longboats gliding effortlessly along the river.

These were all the dreamy visuals I had in my head for years, and when I finally got to see it for myself, I was beside myself to find out Cambridge is every bit as beautiful as I’d always imagined… although a lot more modern perhaps, and less sepia-toned than my dream sequence.

Perhaps most surprising of all however was the number of sights and things to do. Like in neighbouring Oxford, there’s a myriad of fun Cambridge activities to nerd out on, from ogling epic chapels and snooping around museums to discovering hidden portals whimsically scattered across the city.

So, read on for a list of unique and fun things to do in Cambridge, England. I think this list may just have you Googling Cambridge student applications.

Save this list of Things to Do in Cambridge for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Admire King’s College Chapel

There are more than 31 different colleges making up the university city of Cambridge. Still, one of the most popular to visit is King’s College and the stunning chapel inside ranks high on any list of Cambridge attractions.

King’s College Chapel is absolutely mesmerizing, with beautiful stained glass windows and the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world. First constructed in the 15th century, this chapel is also a fantastic example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture, for any architecture buffs out there!

There are a series of informative displays within the chapel to tell you more about this stunning building’s history, which is also the oldest building on the King’s College grounds. You can even attend a service here for the full experience, complete with awesome choral performances.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: You need to book tickets to King’s College if you want to explore the chapel and college grounds. Tickets cost 10 GBP for adults (if you book online) and 8 GBP for children.

2. Sail Under the Bridge of Sighs

There are a number of fun activities in Cambridge to take part in, but easily the most popular is going punting on the River Cam, which also enables you to sail under the Bridge of Sighs!

As part of St John’s College, the only way you can get up close to this pretty bridge is by visiting the college (which costs money) or via a punting tour, which also costs money but also allows you to see many impressive Cambridge sights from the water.

This Bridge of Sighs was modelled after the famous bridge of the same name in Venice, and connects two parts of St John’s College for students and faculty members. It’s one of the most photographed buildings in Cambridge, which isn’t surprising at all once you see it for yourself.

Constructed in 1831 in the Gothic Revival style, this gorgeous bridge is now a Grade I Listed building and a must-see while you’re in Cambridge.

3. Marvel at the Mathematical Bridge

There are actually two unique bridges to choose from if you’re looking for cool things to see in Cambridge, and the second one is the puzzling Mathematical Bridge that connects two sections of Queen’s College.

What makes this bridge so interesting is that it was apparently designed so that if it needed fixing, a single plank could be extracted (and later replaced) without causing any issues to the rest of the construction.

The original design dates back to the mid-18th century, although the bridge you can see today was rebuilt in 1905. Either way, it’s one of Cambridge’s most unique sights, and well worth a quick look.

4. Get the Best View at Great Saint Mary’s

One of the top things to do in Cambridge is to climb up top of Great Saint Mary’s church for incredible views across the city. Views that will make you physically pained that you don’t live here.

Parts of Great Saint Mary’s date as far back as the year 1010 and it became the Cambridge University Church when scholars arrived from Oxford in 1209. Much of the original church was destroyed in a fire in 1290 but it was rebuilt from 1478 onwards.

The interior of Great St Mary’s is well worth a visit to see the two impressive organs and beautiful stained glass windows, but make sure you climb the 123 steps to the top of the tower for 360-degree views of Cambridge. That’s the real starring attraction here.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: Admission to the Tower costs 6 GBP per adult, and the last entry for climbers is 30 minutes before closing time.

5. See the Beautiful St John’s College Chapel

St John’s College is another Cambridge University College that contains a stunning chapel and this one is a must-visit if you plan on exploring one of the largest colleges in the city.

St John’s College was founded in 1511, although the chapel as it appears today was constructed between 1866 and 1869. There was actually an even older chapel from the 13th century on this site before Sir George Gilbert Scott designed the current chapel, which was inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

If you go inside you will see incredible stained-glass windows along with some wood panelling that was salvaged from the medieval chapel. It’s free to attend a service here but if you just want to come in for a look then you will need to purchase a ticket which costs 11 GBP for adults.

6. Learn About the Area at the Museum of Cambridge

If you want to discover more about the history of Cambridge and wider Cambridgeshire area then you should definitely visit the Museum of Cambridge.

This fascinating museum is located in a 16th-century former coaching inn, which is now a Grade II listed building. The museum also used to be called the Cambridge & County Folk Museum, so there’s still a nice focus on local nostalgic history, with many almost mundane items on display to show how people have lived in the area from the 1700s onwards.

While some of the displays focus on items such as vintage sewing machines and vacuums there are also some really interesting exhibits on local legends such as mole people!

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: Unlike many other Cambridge museums the Museum of Cambridge is not part of the university and therefore isn’t completely free to visit. It’s open seven days a week from 10am until 5pm (until 4pm on Sundays) and costs 6 GBP for adults. It’s free for children under the age of 16.

7. Spot Newton’s Apple Tree

Everyone knows the story of how Isaac Newton ‘discovered’ the laws of gravity when an apple fell off a tree and bonked him on the head, but did you know there’s a relative of that actual tree in Cambridge?

Isaac Newton attended Cambridge in 1661 but had to return to his childhood home in Lincolnshire when the plague broke out. The original apple tree is still located at his old home of Woolsthorpe Manor, but there’s an offshoot of that tree now growing outside Trinity College’s Great Gate, to the delight of many snap-happy tourists.

While you can’t walk onto the grass to get up close and personal with this tree, it still makes for a unique Cambridge photo opp!

8. Visit the Unique Round Church

One of the more unique things to do in Cambridge is to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of only four surviving round churches in England.

This church is also the second-oldest of all the buildings in Cambridge (St Bene’t’s Church is the oldest) and its round shape was inspired by the Circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and is believed to be on the site where Jesus was buried.

All four of England’s remaining round churches were built after the First Crusade of 1097, probably after the Crusaders saw Constantine’s original and came home inspired to make their own.

There’s a visitor centre inside the church where you can learn more about the building and its history. I admit the admission fee is quite steep, given the small size of the church, but if you’re interested in the church’s unique design and the history of Cambridge, then this is definitely a neat historical thing to do while exploring the city.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Round Church Visitor Centre is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am until 5pm. Entry costs 12 GBP for adults and it’s free for children under 13.

9. Enjoy Art at Kettle’s Yard

One of the best places to enjoy art and culture in Cambridge is Kettle’s Yard – a very cool art gallery that was once the home of Jim Ede, a former curator at the Tate.

Jim and his wife Helen converted four small cottages into one house where Ede displayed his personal collection of art and even gave visitors personal tours every afternoon. The Edes donated the house and art collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966.

Today the site displays a permanent collection of art as well as rotating exhibitions, and a robust calendar of live music events to enjoy.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: Kettle’s Yard is open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am until 5pm. Entry is free, but you must book a free ticket in advance of your visit. 

10. Search for Cambridge’s Tiny Doors

Looking for something super quirky to do in Cambridge? Why not seek out portals to other worlds?

No – I haven’t lost it. I mean, maybe a little, but what I’m talking about here is a very real Cambridge activity that was one of my favourite things I did on my recent trip.

Scattered around Cambridge, you’ll find tiny doors which can be found hidden in the city’s most obscure nooks and crannies.

Also known as Dinky Doors, these quirky little sculptures started popping up around Cambridge in 2019 as a way to “defend against the daily onslaught of miserable miserableness.”

If you go to the website you can buy a guide to find all 14 doors that are currently dotted through the city, or you can just try to find them by yourself.

My favourites were definitely the two below: a tiny version of 10 Downing Street with purple tentacles bursting out and the steampunk teleport-o-matic which is hidden between two red telephone boxes!

11. Find the Cool Corpus Clock

One of the coolest things to see in Cambridge is the Corpus Clock, also known as the Grasshopper Clock, that’s located on the exterior of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College.

The clock face is made from a 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel disk and shows the time with slits that are backlit by LEDs, rather than the hands and numerals usually used on clocks.

Sitting on top is a sculpture of a Chronophage (Greek for time-eater) which actually moves its mouth and sometimes blinks, only adding to the weird factor.

This amazing clock was unveiled in 2008 by the renowned physicist (and Cambridge University alumna) Stephen Hawking. Make sure you stop by to check it out!

12. Admire Famous Art at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Keep scrolling this outrageously nerdy article, and you’ll soon see that there’s no shortage of museums to visit in Cambridge.

The most famous one however is probably the almighty Fitzwilliam Museum, an ideal destination if you want to see art by some of the biggest names in the business.

Founded in 1816 by Richard FitzWilliam (7th Viscount FitzWilliam), it’s home to one of the best collections of modern art and antiquities in western Europe.

Some of the magnificent pieces you can see include work by Van Gogh, Monet, Rubens, and Van Dyck, along with fascinating temporary exhibits throughout the year.

It’s not only art on display here though, there are also some great galleries showing armour from around the world (including armour for horses!), sculptures from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, as well as pottery and gorgeous fans.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Fitzwilliam Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am until 5pm and on Sundays (and Bank Holidays) from midday until 5pm. Entry is free.

13. Spot Famous Graves at Ascension Parish Burial Ground

Okay, it might seem a bit morbid to have a graveyard as a place to visit but hear me out!

The Ascension Parish Burial Ground is actually a really lovely and peaceful, rather overgrown graveyard that’s the final resting place for a number of notable University of Cambridge academics, including three Nobel Prize winners.

Some of the graves you’ll spot here belong to Sir John Cockcroft (who split the atom), Sir Frederick Gowland (who first identified the existence of vitamins) and Charlotte Scott (the first British woman to get a doctoral degree). Also, while Charles Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, two of his sons, two daughters-in-law and one of his granddaughters are buried here.

It’s also a rather ‘hidden’ spot in Cambridge, you can’t see it from any of the surrounding roads and it feels very remote once you’re surrounded by the trees and old headstones… so if you’re looking for something truly offbeat to do in Cambridge, this is it.

14. Go Shopping (and Eating) at Market Square

If you need a bit of retail therapy, or perhaps some culinary therapy, then head to Cambridge’s market square in the middle of town.

Unbeknownst to many, Cambridge was a market city before it became a university city, with stalls trading here since the Middle Ages.

Today the market is open nearly every day of the year (excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day) selling all manner of art, plants, clothes, books, music, and more.

This is also an excellent spot for lunch, with plenty of food and drink stalls to sample, plus it’s all quite affordable. The market is open from 10am until 4pm and makes for a fun alternative to all the academic sights!

15. Frolic in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens

If you enjoy prancing around pretty gardens as much as I do then you’ll probably agree that visiting the Botanic Gardens is one of the best things to do in Cambridge.

The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is used by the University’s Plant Sciences Department for teaching and research, but it’s also open for visitors to explore plant collections from around the world.

Spread out over 40 acres (16 hectares) there are some very interesting displays, such as carnivorous plants in the greenhouses, along with beautiful areas to relax.

In summer the lavender collection is delightful and in autumn the colours are incredible, but pretty much any time of year is nice to visit. There’s an on-site garden café to enjoy as well, although a highlight for many is the pretty water fountain located outside the greenhouses.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is open every day from 10am but closing times vary depending on the season (usually 4pm in winter, 6pm in summer and 5pm in October). Adult tickets cost 8 GBP while children under the age of 16 can visit for free.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

16. Explore Mill Road

While most visitors to Cambridge come to see the historic university sights, if you want to get a feel for the more local side of the city, head to Mill Road.

Mill Road is quite a long road, extending from the city centre out towards the train station and it’s a popular residential neighbourhood.

Also sometimes called “the Notting Hill of Cambridge” there are many excellent vintage shops, bougie cafés and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world.

Have a wander down Mill Road if you’re looking for some good coffee, window shopping or a good meal!

17. Have a Pint at The Eagle

While there are also some pubs on Mill Road, the most famous pub in Cambridge is The Eagle, located just around the corner from King’s College and the Corpus Clock.

Dating back to the 14th century, the Eagle has long been a popular watering hole for university staff and students. Francis Crick and James Watson, who discovered the DNA double helix in 1953, even made the announcement of their groundbreaking discovery at this pub – and there’s a golden plaque on the wall at the table where this apparently happened.

During WWII, hundreds of RAF pilots also left their mark by burning graffiti into the ceiling, which you can also see in the section of the pub where the DNA helix plaque is located. To get here, walk all the way to the back of the pub past the courtyard.

18. Play Old Games at the Centre for Computing History

There are many excellent museums in Cambridge, but one of the most fun is the Centre for Computing History.

This museum is all about the Information Age, the period which started in the 20th century and is also called the Digital Age or Computer Age. If you remember the days before computers this is a total blast from the past, with vintage computers, game consoles, manuals, magazines and other computer-related things on display.

Of course, the best part is being able to actually play some of the old computer and video games, from Pong to Ms Pacman and Pokemon. This would also be a great spot if you’re visiting Cambridge with kids, particularly if they’ve never before seen floppy disks or discmans!

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Centre for Computing History is open Wednesday – Sunday from 10am until 5pm during term time, and seven days a week during school holidays. Entry costs 10 GBP for adults and 7 GBP for children between 5 and 16.

19. See Cool Animals at the Museum of Zoology

Any list of the best free things to do in Cambridge includes a visit to some (or all) of the university museums spread throughout the city.

And if you like seeing dinosaur skeletons or other animal exhibits, then the Museum of Zoology is a great choice!

Many of the animal specimens on display here were collected by Charles Darwin himself and there are also plenty of animal skeletons to see, including plenty of dinosaurs.

One of the most amazing is the full-size finback whale skeleton hanging over the main entrance hall, but you could easily spend hours seeing examples of animals from all over the world.

If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the rest of Cambridge you can also download a very cool “Cambridge Urban Safari Trail” from the museum website.

This self-guided tour will take you to many of the main sites in Cambridge but with a focus on the numerous real and mythological animals that can be found on buildings all over the place.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: As part of the University of Cambridge’s museum consortium, the Museum of Zoology is free to visit. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 4.30pm and on Sundays from midday until 4.30pm.

20. Learn About Geology at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

While you might not think a museum about rocks would be interesting, you’re missing out if you don’t visit the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Not only is this the oldest museum in Cambridge, but it houses a huge collection of rocks, minerals, fossils and even meteorite specimens in a beautiful location.

Along with the geological items you might expect, I found the first geological map of the UK to be quite interesting, along with a number of dinosaur skeletons.

If you’re a total nerd who also thinks “geology rocks”, then you will be sure to love it here!

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is open Monday – Friday from 10am to 1pm and then 2pm – 5pm, as well as 10am-4pm on Saturdays. Entry is free.

21. Nerd Out at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Continuing our long list of nerdy things to do in Cambridge, I need to mention the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Hidden away in a university building, this museum showcases all sorts of interesting items that show how science has been studied through the ages, with an eclectic collection divided into numerous rooms and floors, from old scientific instruments and models to pictures, prints, photographs, books, and more.

The collection boasts a number of cool highlights, from Darwin’s microscope to one of the world’s first astrolabes.

My personal highlight however? The Victorian Parlour upstairs decorated with all sorts of unique globes. Take a wild guess why.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Whipple Museum of the History of Science is open Monday – Friday from 12.30pm until 4.30pm. Entry is free.

22. Marvel at Beautiful Antiquities at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

If you’re more interested in human history than animals and rocks, head to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, also called MAA.

(Like I said, Cambridge really has a museum for everyone).

This museum is particularly interesting if you want to know more about the local history of Cambridge, with the main hall dedicated to local archaeology and artefacts.

There are also archaeological and ethnographic artefacts from around the world on display, including items from Polynesia, Asia, New Zealand and Australia – such as four Gweagal Spears which can be traced back to James Cook’s first voyage to the South Pacific and a huge Maori Totem Pole from New Zealand.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am until 5pm and on Sundays from midday until 5pm. Entry is free.

23. Find Out About Robert Scott at the Scott Polar Research Institute

Captain Robert Scott was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who unfortunately died on his return journey from the South Pole in Antarctica in 1912.

The Scott Polar Research Institute is a sub-department of Cambridge University’s Department of Geography which also contains a Polar Museum that’s well worth visiting. Inside this museum are a number of items relating to research in the polar regions of both Antarctica and the Arctic.

Some of the most interesting items on display include Scott’s final letters and the folding camera he used at the South Pole, although there are also other items about polar history, exploration, science, art and Arctic cultures.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am until 4pm. Entry is free.

24. Marvel at Colourful Statues at the Museum of Classical Archaeology

The Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology is part of the university’s Faculty of Classics and is filled with plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture.

The fact that the statues and sculptures are not original doesn’t make them any less interesting though, as most of them date to the 18th century and are historical objects in their own right.

Visiting this museum is a great way to see some very famous statues without needing to feel icky about them being stolen from their place of origin.

It’s located a little bit out of the city centre in a rather nondescript building, and you may even find you’re the only one there! But if you want to do some drawing or just admire famous statues such as Laocoön and His Sons you shouldn’t miss it.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Museum of Classical Archaeology is open Tuesday – Friday from 10am until 5pm and on Saturdays (during term time only) from 2pm until 5pm. Entry is free.

25. Be Amazed at the Cambridge Museum of Technology

The last museum on this list isn’t part of the university museums (so it’s not free) but it is still really cool!

The Cambridge Museum of Technology is focused on industrial engineering and technology, housed inside a former sewage pumping and waste destructor station with a tall chimney stack dominating the skyline.

Visiting this museum lets you see a different side to Cambridge than that of the university buildings, as it is all about the industries that have made up the city’s heritage.

There are a number of interesting audio-visual displays, hands-on exhibits and fun activities for children inside the museum.

PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Cambridge Museum of Technology is only open on weekends between 10.30am and 4pm. Adult tickets cost 5 GBP and tickets for children between 5 and 18 are 3 GBP.

26. Visit The Pickerel Inn

Lastly, if you’ve finally found that you’ve run out of stuff to do in Cambridge (or you’re just tired from ogling museums and need a break), why not stop at the Pickerel Inn for a drink?

The Pickerel Inn is the oldest pub in Cambridge, first licensed in 1608, although it has been modernised quite a bit since then. There are still some beautiful exposed beams and dark wooden detailing to give you a bit of the old atmosphere though.

This is an excellent spot for some traditional British pub grub, with classics such as fish and chips or pie and mash.

I also had one of the best pints of Guinness I’ve experienced outside of Ireland here, so make sure you at least get a drink! Our hotel bartender recommended this spot as the “best pub in Cambridge”, and while I need to do some more research before confirming that bold claim, it’s definitely a spot I can vouch for.

Did I miss any of your favourite things to do in Cambridge?

Let me know in the comments so I can add more Cambridge recommendations to my list!

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