Best Places to Visit in Cambridge
Cambridge is world-renowned for its university and claims to have one of the highest concentrations of preserved historic buildings anywhere in England. Much of the architectural splendor is centered around Cambridge’s 31 colleges, each with a rich heritage.
The first of these “schools” were founded in the 12th century by immigrant scholars from Paris, and the first academy, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284.
Cambridge was an important Norman stronghold long before the University was founded. Although its castle was short-lived (Castle Hill can still be seen near Shire Hall and offers great views of the city), the city remains an important market town to this day. Market Hill was originally Cambridge’s former wool trading post and still houses the city’s busy market.
Despite its romantic medieval character, Cambridge is a thoroughly modern city that hosts a variety of excellent cultural events throughout the year. These include the Midsummer Fair (800 years old and held at the same location in Midsummer Park), the famous Cambridge Folk Festival (one of Europe’s largest and oldest festivals) and a world-class film festival.
It’s also popular for its many green spaces, including the 25-acre Parker Field, known as the birthplace of modern football, and Victorian Christ Field, known for its beautiful ornamental trees and flower beds.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Cambridge and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Cambridge
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Cambridge:
1. King’s College
King’s College was founded in 1441 by Henry VI and is the oldest Royal Endowment and is well worth a visit for its expansive lawns stretching over the river and King’s Bridge. Here you will enjoy views of the various university campuses along the Backs river.
Distinguished alumni include author Horace Walpole, poet Rupert Brook, and economist Lord Keynes. A must-see is King’s College Chapel. Famous for its 12-section vertical interiors and stunning fan cases designed by John Wastell (1515), it is a must-see in Cambridge.
Also worth seeing: beautiful carvings on windows and walls; magnificent 16th-century stained glass windows; ornately carved 16th-century wooden organ curtains and choir stalls; and Rubens’ altar The Adoration of the Magi (1634). Warm Tips: If you’re visiting during the semester, be sure to join Evensong to hear the world-renowned King’s College Choir perform.
Address: Cambridge King’s Parade
Official website: www.kings.cam.ac.uk
2. Queen’s College
Queen’s College was founded in 1448 by Andrew Docter under the patronage of Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, and was rebuilt in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s wife. It has the most complete collection of medieval buildings of any of Cambridge’s colleges, including the grand gates that led to the First Court, which was red-bricked when the school was founded.
Other attractions at Queens College include the Wooden Mathematical Bridge. The 1902 reconstruction of the building, which leads through the glass to the beautiful University Gardens, got its name because it was built without nails, based on meticulous calculations to support its solidity.
Also worth seeing are the Convent Court (1460) and the Presidential Cabinet – a handsome half-timbered building – and the Pump Court of the Erasmus Tower, above the room where Erasmus taught Greek, occupied at the time (1511-1514).
The Walnut Tree Courtyard (1618) and the Erasmus Building, as well as the Monk’s Courtyard (1961) and the Victorian Church (1891), are also worth seeing.
Address: Silver Street, Cambridge
Official website: www.queens.cam.ac.uk
3. St. Mary’s and Round Church
Mary the Great is both a parish church and a collegiate church. Built in the 15th century, it has a beautiful interior and its galleries were added in 1739, where college sermons of great scholars attracted large congregations. Built in 1608, the tower is famous for its Cambridge landscape.
The little St Mary’s Church is also worth a visit. Known as Little St Mary’s, this Anglican parish church is known for its many beautiful stained glass windows.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, better known as the Rotunda, is one of only four surviving Norman round churches in England. The rectangular altar was built in 1131 and added in the 15th century.
Another notable church is the Gothic Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the UK, built in 1885 and featuring a rare statue of the Virgin Mary.
Location: Senate Hill, Cambridge
Official website: www.gsm.cam.ac.uk
4. Trinity College
Trinity College was founded in 1546 by the VIII. It was formed by Henry from the merger of several former colleges, including Michael House College and King’s Hall. Outside of King Edward’s Gate (1418), some of the old King’s Hall buildings are still recognizable.
Trinity Great Court is the largest courthouse in Cambridge and was built around 1600. A passage leads to Neville’s Court (1614), with its chapel and statues of eminent scholars. The Wren Library, designed and added later by renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren, is known for its old oak bookcases and fine linden wood carvings.
Trinity College has more ex-members than any other college. These included statesmen Austin Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin and Nehru; poets and writers such as George Herbert and Edward Fitzgerald; philosopher Bertrand Russell; and the scientist Isaac Russell Newton. Edward VII and George VI also attended Trinity College.
Enjoy beautiful views of the Back from the bridge over Glass from New Court or King’s Court. A magnificent lime street leads to the university campus.
Location: Trinity College, Cambridge
Official website: www.trin.cam.ac.uk
5. The Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge’s most famous museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum should be on everyone’s must-see tourist attractions list. This architectural masterpiece contains a large collection of British ceramics and porcelain, as well as Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, as well as illustrated manuscripts.
The beautiful gallery includes works by Hogarth, Gainsborough and Turner, as well as Impressionist and Dutch Baroque masters such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Rubens. There is also a great cafe and gift shop on site.
Address: Trumpton Street, Cambridge
Official website: www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk
6. Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill
Although built in the 12th century, Anglesey Abbey was renovated in 1926 and is known as the home of fine art and furnishings. Now a National Trust property, this magnificent home contains many tapestries of Gobelin, Soho and Anglesey, among others. There is also an art collection by Constable that includes the opening of the Waterloo Bridge.
Be sure to take time to enjoy the surrounding gardens and 114-acre park. Among these impressive areas are the Wildlife Discovery Area and Lime Tree Lookout, where young visitors can observe birds and insects in their natural habitat. Next, visit the historic watermill, Lode Mill, to see the millstones in action. Be sure to check the attraction’s website for news about special events.
Address: Lode Quy Road, Cambridge
Official website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey-gardens-and-lode-mill
7. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Developed by Cambridge University in 1884, the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology houses a large collection of prehistoric materials and artifacts related to social anthropology. Collections come from all over the world, including works from Africa and the East, with a predominance of visual and classical art.
The Pacific Collection, which draws largely from Cook’s discoveries, and other research projects by leading British anthropologists are particularly noteworthy. Regular educational sessions are held for children and adults throughout the year (see their website for details).
Be sure to visit the Sedgwick Geosciences Museum. This fascinating museum houses the university’s geological collection, which includes nearly 2 million minerals, rocks, and fossils. Highlights include the numerous meteorite specimens, as well as the Beagle fossil and rock collection collected by Charles Darwin between 1831 and 1836. The museum also offers a variety of family activities and programs for children.
Also of interest is the recently renovated University Museum of Zoology. Highlights of this recently renovated Cambridge attraction include a wealth of scientifically important zoological material.
Address: Downing Street, Cambridge
Official website: www.maa.cam.ac.uk
8. Peterhouse College
Peterhouse is Cambridge’s oldest (and one of the smallest) college and was founded in 1284. The historic hall and warehouse on the south side of the Old Courthouse is the oldest original building dating from the 13th century. Among those who read here were Cardinal Beaufort, the chemist Henry Cavendish, and the poet Thomas Gray.
Be sure to visit Peterhouse Chapel, which has been the focus of the college for over 700 years. The stained glass windows (imported from Munich in the 1850s) and the 17th-century altar window are worth seeing. For a truly memorable experience, ask Peterhouse to rent a summer residence.
Address: Trumpton Street, Cambridge
Official website: www.pet.cam.ac.uk/
9. Pembroke College
Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by the Countess of Pembroke, but a lot has changed since then. The chapel (1665), famous for the first work of architect Christopher Wren, was expanded in 1881.
Pembroke produced many bishops and poets, notably Edmund Spenser (1552-99). Reformed Bishop Nicholas Ridley was cremated in Oxford, where politician William Pitt received his diploma. A visit usually includes visiting the grounds and the chapel.
Address: Trumpton Street, Cambridge
Official website: www.pem.cam.ac.uk
10. Corpus Christi College
Corpus Christi College was founded “by citizens for citizens” in 1352. Its oldest part, the Old Court, dates back to 1377, although it has been restored. Notable features include the library, which contains a number of valuable manuscripts (1550) collected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker.
St. John’s, the original college church famous for its late Saxon tower. Bennett Church is also noteworthy.
Playwrights Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) and John Fletcher (1579-1625) were among the college’s most famous graduates. The college is suitable for summer accommodation and has become a popular venue for events such as weddings.
Address: Cambridge King’s Parade
Official website: www.corpus.cam.ac.uk
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