Explore the Beauty and History of The University of Cambridge, England

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Are you looking for a day trip from London?

Why not explore Cambridge.

Only one hour by train from London, Cambridge is one of the best places to visit in England, for its beauty, history and famous university. And be prepared to start early as there is so much to see and explore in Cambridge.

Would you like to stay longer in Cambridge?

If yes, have you ever considered house sitting?

We were lucky enough to have a house sitting assignment for the month of July was in the lovely little nearby village of Great Shelford. This small leafy village is only 7 km away from the historic city centre of Cambridge, England.

And because we had spent time in Cambridge previously, we were eager to spend more quality time exploring the must-sees of Cambridge historical city.

To learn more about house sitting as a travel lifestyle, check out Go House Sitting for more information. When in England we use Trusted Housesitters.

You can check out their website below with a 20% discount on your subscription.

Explore the Beauty and History of Cambridge, England

We have put together some of the top things to do in Cambridge for a day trip or a weekend get-away.

If you are planning a day trip from London to Cambridge and need a walking guide, head to our friends at Walkli.com for our Explore Cambridge walking path.

Do you need to hire a car?

We have used and can recommend Europcar

Probably because the process to make a booking online is easy with a choice of cars and prices. Just remember to take a form of identification to collect the car.


But First a Brief History of Cambridge

Cambridge is a beautiful city steeped in so much history. Most of us would probably associate the city with the University of Cambridge, considered to be one of the top five universities in the world.

But Cambridge is much older than the university as there are signs of Bronze Age and Roman settlements.

Under the Viking rule, Cambridge became an important trading center with the first town charters granted in the 12th century. However, the city status was not conferred until 1951.

We discovered that the name of the city simply means “Bridge over the River Cam.”

So what makes the beauty and history of the University of Cambridge England a special place to visit. Let’s take a look.

  • Famous Colleges of Cambridge
  • Punting on the River Cam
  • Medieval Churches of Cambridge
  • Visit Cambridge Museums
  • Bridges over the River Cam


Cambridge University

The city is world-famous as a result of the University of Cambridge and its 31 colleges.

Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s third-oldest surviving university.

We visited the oldest university in England at Oxford also a city worth visiting.

And did you know? The world’s oldest continually operating university is The University of Karueein, founded in 859 in Fes, Morocco.

You can learn more about the history of the university by clicking the link University of Cambridge.


Four Famous Colleges of Cambridge, England

1. Peterhouse

Grass Square surrounded by a building
The Square of Peterhouse, Cambridge

Peterhouse is the oldest college of Cambridge University, founded in 1284. It is also one of the smallest colleges with just 273 undergraduates.

We thought it was one of the most beautiful colleges to visit.

2. Trinity College

Two storey building with towers
The approach to Trinity College, Cambridge

Trinity College is the largest college in Cambridge with around 700 undergraduates and also the richest college.

The Alumni of Trinity includes these famous people of Sir Isaac Newton, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and HRH Prince Charles.

Make sure you keep an eye out for a direct descendant of the apple tree, said to have inspired Newton’s Law of Gravity.


3. St Johns College

Two storey building with towers
The gate of St John’s College, Cambridge

St Johns College was established in 1511. The college’s alumni include the winners of 10 Nobel Prizes, seven prime ministers and twelve archbishops of various countries, two princes, and three Saints.

Wow, that’s impressive.

4. King’s College

High view of an old stone bulding
King’s College and the King’s College Chapel

The famous King’s College was founded in 1441 by Henry VI. However, due to wars and his death in 1471, the project to complete the college ceased until 1508.

It was Henry VII (Henry VI’s nephew) who continued his Uncle’s project.

The magnificent King’s College Chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture.


Enjoy Punting on the River Cam

Explore the Beauty, History and University of Cambridge England
Punting on the River Cam

A trip to Cambridge is not complete without a punt on the River Cam, so build in time for a cruise during your day.

Prices range from £15 on a punt of 12 people, to over £100 for a private 45-minute cruise. Students will approach you with deals as you visit Cambridge.

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Clare Bridge was built in 1640

Churches of Cambridge, England

Great St Mary’s Church

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Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge

If you are feeling fit, then a climb up the 123 steps of Great St Mary’s Church to the viewing platform is well worth a visit.

At the top of the church tower, you will have great views over Cambridge, especially of King’s College. And of the colourful market below.

We learned there has been a church on this site since 1205, but the first church was destroyed by fire. The church you see today was constructed between 1478 and 1519, with the tower finished later, in 1608.

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Market Square, Cambridge from Great St Mary’s Church Tower

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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The Round Church, Cambridge

You can’t but help stop and star at this unique church shape.

Universally known as The Round Church, it was built around 1130 and is one of only four medieval round churches still in use in England.


Visit Museums in Cambridge

The Polar Museum in Cambridge

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Inside the Polar Museum, Cambridge

The Polar Museum forms part of the Scott Polar Research Institute. The museum was opened to commemorate the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions achieving the South Pole in 1912.

If you are into all things Polar it is worth a visit. The museum is free and quite small so it won’t take you long to have a look around.


Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge

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The Fitzwilliam Museum

The museum was founded in 1816 and is the university’s arts and antiquities museum.

The entrance is free and the collections are very diverse and extensive. When you venture inside you will find paintings by Turner and Monet, as well as Egyptian and Roman artifacts.

And also remember to look up at the stunning architecture and detail of the ceilings.


Four Bridges over the River Cam

1. Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge

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Mathematical Bridge

An interesting name for a bridge. 

Mathematical Bridge is a wooden pedestrian bridge first built in 1749 and then again in 1866 and 1905. However, the bridge you see today has kept the same overall design. 

Legend has it Isaac Newton built the bridge from nothing else but wood. No nuts, no bolts, just to illustrate the principles and properties of force and gravity. 

However, Newton died in 1727 well before the bridge was actually built by James Essex the Younger, with pins at the joints.


2. Garret Hostel Bridge, Cambridge

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The view from Garret Hostel Bridge with the Clare Bridge in view

There have been 8 bridges on the site of the Garret Hostel Bridge.

Why? Probably because it is the bridge to use as the crossing point from The Backs into the city. And it’s here you are almost certain to see people punting up and down this stretch of the river.


3. Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge

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Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge

Magdalene Bridge, built-in 1823 can be busy depending on the time of the day.

We loved this spot, as you can take the riverside path that leads to Jesus Green. Or hop on board a punt from one of the several companies who operate from here.


4. Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

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The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

When trying to find the Bridge of Sighs, it is probably best seen from a punt.

You will find the Bridge of Sighs at St John’s College where it crosses the river between the college’s Third Court and New Court. This wonderful covered bridge was built in 1831.


Explore Cambridge from London

Visiting Cambridge is only an hour by train from London making it a great weekend get-away.

The pedestrian-friendly precinct and cycleways provide you with plenty of options to explore this beautiful city.

Although this is a quick overview of what to do in Cambridge, we hope it will inspire you to book your visit soon.

To learn more about what is on in Cambridge, here is a link to the Cambridge Tourist Information.