Cambridge (England)

King's College Chapel and punters on the River Cam, seen from The Backs.

Cambridge is a university city in Cambridgeshire in England. It is a city of crocuses and daffodils on the Backs, of green open spaces and cattle grazing only 500 yards from the market square. Cows sometimes wander into the market area, since they are not fenced in. The Cambridge of Brooke, Byron, Newton and Rutherford, of the summer idyll of punts, 'bumps', cool willows and May Balls is worth seeing.


King's Parade in the centre of Cambridge, with the University Senate House on the left and Great St Mary's Church on the right.

Cambridge brings many images to mind: the breathtaking view of King's College Chapel from across the river Cam, the rich intricacy of Gothic architecture, students cycling to lectures, and lazy summer punting on the River Cam.

Cambridge manages to combine its role as an historic city with a world-renowned University and, in more recent years, an internationally acknowledged centre of excellence for technology and science. The University of Cambridge was founded in the 13th century by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. They chose the quiet town of Cambridge as a suitable location for study. In the 17th century Cambridge University educated many of the founders of a (then) minor American university called Harvard, also located in a place called Cambridge (named after the English university). Cambridge University has many famous alumni, including: mathematicians such as Sir Isaac Newton, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and writers such as John Milton and Lord Byron. It was the site of Rutherford's pioneering work in nuclear physics as well as Crick and Watson's DNA work (see the Eagle pub below). Cambridge academics have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other university in the world. The rumour that just one college, Trinity, had more Nobel prize winners than France, however, is false.

The city is surrounded on all sides by heritage villages, towns and ancient monuments (such as Ely, Peterborough and Grantchester), all within easy travelling distance. Like Oxford, Cambridge was spared from the German carpet bombing that devastated many other British cities, and is thus one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the UK

More than 3.5 million visitors come to Cambridge every year to savour the delights of the historic city itself, as well as using it as an ideal base for exploring some of the gentlest (read flattest; good for leisurely walks, poor for hills with viewpoints) and most unspoiled countryside in England.

Get in

Cambridge is a mere 50 mi (80 km) north of London. With good rail services and road communication links, Cambridge is easily accessible, whether travelling by car, or by public transport.

By plane

Cambridge is within easy reach of some but not all of London's international airports.

London Stansted is 30 mi away, for example, has regular bus and rail services into Cambridge. Direct rail services leave every hour from platform 2 (to Birmingham New Street) and take about 35 min with a return fare £12.80. For more frequent services take the Stansted Express to London from platform 1 and change at Bishops's Stortford or Stansted Mountfitchet, taking about 50 min. Note, however, that rail services may be unavailable if your flight arrives Stansted very late or departs very early in the day, and while the airport likes to advertise hourly services, there are some strange gaps in the timetable so check the boards before you buy a ticket, and go to the bus terminal if there is nothing sensible on offer. National Express coaches run between Cambridge and Stansted (including late at night), taking about 55 minutes and costing £11.50. Abacus Airport Cars Cambridge rides there from £40.00 one way.

Luton Airport is best reached by National Express Coach, taking about 1.5 hours and costing £14, but these run only every 2 hours or so.

London Stansted and London Luton airports offer many of the cheapest international flights to be found in Europe, with many of the big low-cost European airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and TUIfly having a hub at one of these two airports.

Heathrow is 90-120 min away by car, depending on traffic. National Express Coaches to and from Heathrow central bus station take around 2.5 h for £25. A less comfortable but cheaper and faster option is to take a train to King's Cross and then use the tube, taking about 2 hours total and costing £22 (less if you have an oyster card). Abacus Airport Cars Cambridge costs £85.00 one way.

Gatwick is the least convenient London airport, being on the opposite side of London: driving necessitates a tour of the M25 London ring road and takes around 3 h by car. It is best reached by train to King's Cross, walk to St. Pancras and train to Gatwick (or by connecting by tube to Victoria and then catching the marginally faster Gatwick Express) with a total journey time around 2 h for fare £28. Abacus Airport Cars Cambridge rides there from £100.00 one way. There is a National Express bus service available, again around 3 h (and that M25 again).

London City Airport is best reached by train to King's Cross, then Underground and Docklands Light Railway across London, for £22 (less if you have an Oyster card). Abacus Airport Cars Cambridge rides there from £77.00 one way.

Cambridge has its own airport - Cambridge International Airport (CBG) - on the eastern outskirts of the city; just 10-minutes from the historic centre. It has a limited number of scheduled flights. CityJet operates twice daily flights to both Amsterdam and Dublin. Etihad Regional (formerly Darwin Airline) operates direct flights to Amsterdam and Verona a couple of times per week. Other flights include a weekly service to Jersey (during the summer) and occasional charter flights to ski/sun destinations.

By train

Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.

Regular trains run from London (King's Cross and Liverpool Street) to Cambridge. The fastest "Cambridge Cruiser" services to and from King's Cross run non-stop and take under 50 min, generally departing at :15 and :45 minutes after the hour. "Semi-fast" services stop at a few intermediate stations and take about 65 min, slower stopping trains may take up to 90 min. Try to avoid taking a train with more than 8 stops between Cambridge and London Kings Cross to avoid the slowest trains. Trains to and from London Liverpool Street, for which cheaper tickets are sometimes available, all take about 75 min. Direct trains from Stansted airport to Cambridge take 35 min (catch trains from Stansted going in the direction of Birmingham). Because Cambridge is one of the main junctions of the East Anglia railway network, trains also run to and from Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and Birmingham. See National Rail for timetable and fare information.

You can buy an overnight Rail and Sail ticket from Cambridge to anywhere in the Netherlands for around GBP80, using the Harwich-Hook of Holland ferry route. Ensure that you choose the correct ticket, but you can find deals that cover the ferry (including a room and bed) and travel between Cambridge to any station in the Netherlands. Departures from Cambridge are at about 7PM; going the other way, you arrive a bit before 10AM. (There are daytime ferries too, but the train timetables mean you can make no train connection.)

The railway station is about 1.2 mi south of the city centre; there are regular buses to town and a taxi rank outside the station. The station has a staffed travel centre, self-service ticket machines (note that many take only European smartchip cards and do not accept cash) and automatic ticket barriers (you need your ticket to get both in and out of the station). Pay attention buying tickets as there is often a queue at the machines and none at the ticket windows. There are also ATMs, several cafes and a bookstore, on the platform accessible only to ticket holders, and a mini-supermarket in the station foyer. Note that the station is very long, with several trains parked end-to-end on the main platform, so you may need to walk a long way between trains if you have a tight connection. Bags can be left at Station Cycles just outside the train station, for a small fee.

By cycle

Cambridge has the highest level of cycle use of any city in the UK.

Cambridge is very accessible by cycle, and the local government encourages sustainable travel (such as walking and cycling). National Cycle Network routes 11 and 51 both pass through the city, and Cambridge is also served with a comprehensive local cycle network. Within the city, cycling is a common means of getting around. Cycles can be rented from a number of outlets, including Station Cycles (located just north of the railway station), Station Cycles' central branch (located on floor -1 of the Grand Arcade shopping centre) and from City Cycle Hire (on the western edge of the city centre, in the suburb of Newnham).

Some quick notes on cycling etiquette: cycling on the pavement (sidewalk) is not generally permitted unless there is a specifically signed shared-use cycle lane; cycling on the road is always allowed, even if a shared-use lane exists (but you may find this annoys car drivers). One-way streets apply to cycles unless there is a cycle lane for travelling in the opposite direction. Respect red traffic lights and always use cycle lights in the dark. If you are caught without lights, you are liable to an on-the-spot fine of £30. Obey the rules even if many others break them.

By car

Parking can be difficult in central Cambridge (the best parking, if you're prepared to pay, is in the Royal Arcade in the centre of town) and the one way street system is extremely confusing. The Council recommends the use of the "Park and Ride" scheme (free parking and a £2.60 return bus fare).

By bus

National Express provides bus links to major cities around the country, including direct services to London Victoria and Birmingham, as well as frequent airport coaches to Luton, Stansted, Heathrow, and Gatwick. National Express coaches depart from Parkside, next to Parker's Piece park, about half a mile from the City Centre. Many services also stop at the Trumpington and Madingley Road Park and Ride sites.

The bus station for shorter-distance buses is on Drummer Street, conveniently located for all the main sights. Stagecoach operate routes from Cambridge to Bedford, Ely, Peterborough (via a connection at Chatteris), Newmarket, Saffron Walden, Bury St Edmunds and Oxford.

Several different bus and coach companies (notably Stagecoach and Whippet Coaches) operate services within Cambridge and the surrounding area, and therefore tickets for one company may not be valid on buses routes operated by other companies. The service is notoriously irregular, and it is best to leave around half as much time again for a journey as the buses are often delayed/cancelled/slow, and if an urgent connection is to be made they are best avoided, especially the "citi" branded buses: walk or take a taxi.

Get around

Cambridge is mostly pedestrian-friendly: most sights can be easily reached on foot and much of the central area is traffic-free. Do note that some of the pavements are shared use between pedestrians and cyclists; this can catch you out unless you watch out for it. Cambridge walking directions can be planned online with the walking route planner. Students and locals often use bikes to get around and hiring a bike is a viable alternative to simply walking.

You can also opt for a hop-on, hop-off open-top sightseeing bus which provides commentary in several languages. The sightseeing bus passes the railway station, American Cemetery, and many of the historic colleges, but as the city centre is pedestrianised, it can approach the more central colleges on only Sundays.

There is little need to use the local bus services unless you are staying in a far-flung area of the city, but they are clean and efficient if you need to. Citi buses cost between £1 and £2 for individual cash fares within Cambridge City (change is given but drivers may refuse large denomination notes), but just tell the driver your destination as you board and take your ticket from the machine. An all-day pass costs £3.70 for Cambridge City and Park and Ride services or £5.20 for the surrounding area.

Cambridge City Council discourages car use. Parking charges are high and the city is home to a system of rising bollards that allow vehicles with appropriate transponders (e.g., taxis, buses, emergency vehicles) through but can cause severe damage to other vehicles tailgating, often to the point of writing them off.

There are many taxi companies in Cambridge. Panther Taxis are the largest taxi company operating 24/7/365. Bookings can also be made via their website; Tel: +44 1223 715715. Camtax claim to be Cambridge's oldest taxi company; Tel: +44 1223 313131. Camcab operate a 24 hour service 365 days a year; Tel: +44 1223 704704.



Focus on Architecture

Cambridge, especially the various colleges and university buildings, is fascinating for people with an interest in architecture. The colleges have been built sporadically over the centuries and the result is a mixture of styles both ancient and modern. Although the modern architecture is sometimes controversial, especially in how the newer buildings (fail to) harmonise with adjacent older buildings, it is in its way as interesting as the older. A tour of the backs (see above) gives the visitor a good feel for the various styles and a few small diversions add to the experience. One obvious landmark is the tower of the University Library. The library was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also built the Bankside Power Station in London that is now the Tate Modern. It does have a very industrial feel to it perhaps because of this. On the far side of the library the curious can see Robinson College, the newest college and built in about 1980 and one of the few pieces of modern architecture in Cambridge that has no notable old buildings nearby. If you prefer to see a blend of old and new, it is worth making the way out to Homerton College, which is fifteen minutes walk on Hills Road. Homerton College is particularly interesting as there are examples of various styles of architecture on-site such as the neo-Georgian buildings at the front of the college and the gothic Victorian hall on the inside of the college. This is an excellent place to take a stroll through the grounds which encompass an old orchard, water features and even a small honey farm, in order to appreciate the architecture from afar.

St John's College and Magdalene College also have a number of architectural treats. As well as the Bridge of Sighs, St John's has buildings in almost every style of architecture starting with the 16th century hall in First Court and ending up with the extremely modern Cripps building. Near the Cripps building there is also the dramatic New Court built in the early 19th century and the School of Pythagoras, one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge which dates from the early 13th century.

Next door Magdalene College - cognoscenti know that Magdalene is accessible from the back of the Cripps building - is quite a contrast. Unlike St John's, which consists mainly of buildings designed originally as college accommodation, Magdalene has converted a number of old half-timbered inns as some of its accommodation. Magdalene also possesses the Lutyens building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the Pepys building. The latter, which houses the Pepys library, has an imposing and almost symmetrical facade and looks completely different from the rear. The ugliest Magdalene building, the 1970s Buckingham Court, is fortunately well hidden, while across the river the Magdalene Quayside development (1990) is an excellent example of how the late century architects appear to have learned subtlety and harmony. Quayside is an excellent place to rent a punt.

The Cambridge 2000 website has a list of 100 buildings that have notable architecture for one reason or another.

Cambridge has a number of interesting modern buildings, for example the Centre for Mathematical Sciences

Cambridge University consists of a number of semi-independent colleges, many central, some up to 3 miles from the town centre (traditionally measured from Great St. Mary's church). The following are a good selection for sightseeing. Most of the colleges within the central area are worth a look, if you have the time.

Some, but not all, colleges charge for entrance. Colleges are typically closed to visitors during the University exam period, at the end of May and the first week of June.

Please remember to be respectful when visiting the colleges. They are students' homes for much of the year, and the workload and pressure at the University can be immense. Do not enter buildings you are not explicitly invited to, do not stare into people's windows, and be polite when taking photographs. Always remember that the colleges' role is first and foremost that of academic institutions; they are not there for tourists, and it is rude to do anything which impedes or inconveniences the people who live and work in them.

Parks and Gardens

Museums and Galleries

The Fitzwilliam Museum


The history of Cambridge is entwined with that of the Church of England. The colleges (see above) all have chapels which can be visited, but town churches also offer a rich insight into the history of the town and university, and are usually free. Even if you aren't interested in places of worship, they are well worth a few minutes attention and are peaceful places to enjoy.

Further afield


Punting is a popular activity in Cambridge




Most lectures are only open to members of the university; however, a variety of public talks and lectures are organised:

There are a large number of summer schools, mostly English language, but also some offering tuition in a wide range of other subjects.


Cambridge University students aren't allowed to work during term-time, so there are often possibilities for bar or waitering work for foreign nationals. Those from outside the EU require a work permit, see the Work section of United Kingdom for more details.

There are also Technology Parks ( ) where lots of hi-tech and bio-tech companies opened their offices.


King's Parade has numerous souvenir shops and gift shops with Cambridge (and London) branded merchandise. Scour the charity shops down Burleigh Street, Regent Street and Mill Road for bargains. Book collectors will find many shops especially Trinity Street. The market square in the centre of town has a general market Monday to Saturday with fruit and vegetables, bread and cakes, books, bicycle repair, tea and coffee, fast food and clothes, and a more arts- and crafts-oriented market on Sunday with pottery, ceramics, prints, clothing, etc. The surrounding streets and the nearby Lion Yard shopping centre have most of the common retail names and many individual shops to cater for most needs. The Grafton Centre has all the usual high-street shops in a mall and surrounding streets.

M&S Simply Food (part of the Marks and Spencer department store chain) have several mini-supermarkets that sell high-quality sandwiches, prepared meals, snacks and other groceries - usually at a high price. The main supermarket in the city centre is Sainsbury's on Sydney St. which stocks a full range of groceries and everyday products as well as alcohol and cigarettes. There are more supermarkets on the edge of town also large Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Waitrose superstores on the edge of the city. Tesco has the best bus connections.



Many pubs in Cambridge also serve good food at reasonable prices, for example the George and Dragon, Carlton Arms, Cambridge Blue, Kingston Arms, Portland Arms, The Zebra and The Mitre among others.





Cambridge has a colossal number of pubs, over 110 at the last count.



You'll also find all the usual coffee chains: Nero's in three central locations on King's Parade, Market Street, and Fitzroy Street, Starbucks on Market Street, Fitzroy Street, inside the Grand Arcade and on Christs Lane, and Costa inside the Grand Arcade Sidney Street and Mill Road.




There are a number of guesthouses on Tenison Road, about 10 minute walk from the train station towards town.


Stay safe

Although Cambridge is one of the safest cities in the UK, you should still use your common-sense at night and be careful in badly-lit areas outside the city centre; Parker's Piece has seen a few cases of mugging, but the situation has greatly improved. It is wise to be on your guard around Regent Street & St Andrew’s Street after midnight with anti-social behaviour due to people leaving pubs and nightclubs. Also, the local homeless are known to be excessive consumers of alcohol so stay clear at them at night.

If you have a bike, keep it locked up to a solid object with a strong lock (preferably a D-lock), as cycle theft is big business. There are cycle parking places with cycle stands to lock you bike to, in several places around the city centre and at the railway station. "Secure" covered cycle parking with CCTV surveillance and cycle stands is available in the lower section of the Park Street car park and at the Grand Arcade cycle park.

The city's police station is on Parkside which is next door to the city's fire station. The opening times of the enquiry office is everyday 8AM-10PM and bank holidays 9AM-5PM. There are a couple of smaller stations in the nearby villages of Histon and Sawston. The opening time of the enquiry office is for Histon, Mondays; 4PM-8PM, Wednesdays to Fridays; 8AM - midday, with Tuesdays, weekends and bank holidays closed. For Sawston, it is Wednesdays to Friday; 1PM-5PM, Mondays, weekends and bank holidays closed. The non-emergency contact number is 101, calls are fixed rate of £0.15 on landlines and mobiles.

The city's Accident and Emergency department (Casualty department) is located at Addenbrooke's Hospital on Hills Road, south of the city centre.


By telephone

The local telephone code for Cambridge is 01223.

By internet

There are many cybercafes in Cambridge and free Wi-Fi is available in many cafes and pubs. The public library in Grand Arcade provides free internet access but you need to register as a library member, which requires TWO proofs of ID, one of your person such as a passport, ID card or photographical driving licence and one of your address such as a utility bill, bank statement or an official letter from a council.




All other gyms are private members only, including:

Places of worship

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.