Cambridge — the ancient city of colleges and scholars

Breathtaking views, stunning architecture, and lazy summer afternoons punting on the River Cam.

Cambridge is a beautiful city full of beautiful minds, where mankind first split the atom and discovered the secret to life through DNA.

Cambridge University

Founded in 1209 by scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townsfolk, Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world.

31 constituent colleges with over 100 academic departments have educated scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Francis Bacon and Bertrand Russell, economists like Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes, poets like Lord Byron and John Milton, and no less than 95 Nobel laureates and 15 British prime ministers.

Peterhouse was Cambridge’s first college, founded by the Bishop of Ely in 1284.

Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Peterhouse, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Founded in 1326, Clare College is the second-oldest college

Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Clair College is known for its beautiful gardens on “The Backs”—the back of the colleges that overlook the River Cam.

The Scholars' Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s
The Scholars’ Garden, Clare College, Cambridge. Credit Ed g2s

Among the highest in academic performance, Pembroke is Cambridge’s third-oldest college and one of its largest.

Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Croquet at Pembroke College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Housing a Victorian neo-gothic clock tower, the college library has an original copy of the first encyclopaedia to contain printed diagrams.

Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Pembroke College Library and Clocktower, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley's Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Ridley’s Walk, Pembroke College, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

No less than ten Nobel Prize winners, seven prime ministers, and twelve archbishops were educated at St John’s College.

English Romantic poet William Wordsworth studied here, as did slavery abolitionists William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson.

St John's College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College & Bridge of Sighs. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John's College, Cambridge - First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St John’s College, Cambridge – First Court. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University - Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge University – Senate House. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Gonville & Caius College. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge - President's Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Queens College, Cambridge – President’s Lodge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Chapels and Churches

Taking almost 100 years to complete, King’s College Chapel is one of the greatest examples of Gothic English architecture.

Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog
Side view of Kings College Chapel from inside the college. Credit Dmitry Tonkonog

Seen as a symbol of the city of Cambridge, King’s College Chapel was built in phases during the Wars of the Roses by a succession of English kings.

Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr
Cows graze across the river Cam from Kings Chapel. Credit Alex Brown, flickr

King’s College Chapel houses Peter Paul Rubens 8 ft by 11 ft masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi” from 1617.

Bought in 1959 for a then world-record price, property millionaire Alfred Ernest Allnatt donated it to King’s College Cambridge in 1961.

Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617
Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617

Noted for its splendid acoustics, the world-famous chapel choir sings on most days during term and performs concerts, and makes recordings and broadcasts such as those on Christmas Eve for the BBC.

Interior of King's College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, view of the stained glass windows. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Twenty-four of the twenty-six stained glass windows date from the sixteenth century.

Interior of King's College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Interior of King’s College Chapel, showing the fan ceiling. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Featuring the world’s largest fan vault, this uniquely English design resembles a fan in which the ribs are all of the same curvature and spaced equidistantly.

King's College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
King’s College Chapel Fan Ceiling and Stained Glass. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
The Chapel of St John's College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
The Chapel of St John’s College from across First Court in Cambridge, England. Credit David Iliff
St John's Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
St John’s Chapel interior. Credit David Iliff
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge, by Wren. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Pembroke College Chapel was Sir Christopher Wren’s first architectural project, which his uncle, the Bishop of Ely, asked him to design in 1663.

Wren would become best known for designing St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pembroke College Chapel. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker's Piece. Credit Cmglee
The church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge, England viewed from Parker’s Piece. Credit Cmglee
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

The Bridges of Cambridge

Designed by English architect Henry Hutchinson in 1831, the Bridge of Sighs of St John’s College is probably Cambridge’s best-known bridge and based on a similarly named bridge in Venice.

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist
Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Jean-Christophe Benoist

Connecting two courts of S John’s College, the Bridge of Sighs is one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions and Queen Victoria is said to have loved it more than any other spot in the city.

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Built in 1640, Clair Bridge is the oldest of Cambridge’s current bridges crossing the River Cam.

It is the only remaining bridge from the English Civil War period.

Clare Bridge reflected - Cambridge. Credit bvi4092
Clare Bridge reflected – Cambridge. Credit bvi4092

Crafted from a single block of limestone, carved to give the appearance of masonry, Kitchen or Wren Bridge is the second-oldest bridge and was built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren.

Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville
Kitchen or Wren Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Darren Glanville

Connecting two parts of Queen’s College, Mathematical Bridge is a wooden footbridge built in 1749.

Built entirely of straight timbers, its sophisticated engineering design gives it a curved appearance.

Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Punting Under Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by English architect James Essex who built portions of many colleges in Cambridge, Trinity Bridge is a triple-arched stone road bridge completed in 1765.

Cambridge - Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge – Trinity College Bridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Punting on the River Cam

For beautiful picture postcard views of elegant bridges, green lawns, and graceful willows, what better way to while away an afternoon than punting along the River Cam as it passes through a stretch known as “the Backs” where several colleges back onto the river.

Punting past Trinity College Wren Library. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr
Punting past Trinity College Wren Library. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge, flickr

Designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water, punts are flat-bottomed boats with a square-cut bow propelled by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Backs, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalen College, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting on the River Cam, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge
Punting Cambridge. Credit Scudamore’s Punting Cambridge

Parks and Gardens

Leafy green spaces abound in Cambridge, ranging from “the Backs”, which is the name given to the gardens by the river behind various colleges, to larger parks like Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Jesus Green, Cambridge, England. Credit Ardfren
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Claire College Gardens. Credit Ardfern
Stourbridge Common - footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck
Stourbridge Common – footpath along the River Cam. Credit mattbuck

Framed by mature trees and shrubs, the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden comprises diverse, superbly landscaped settings.

University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
University Botanic Garden, Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Shops, Pubs, and Restaurants

Cambridge has the best of both worlds for those who love to shop.

All the popular brand names can be found in the Grand Arcade on St Andrew’s Street, but venture down the older streets and you’ll discover long-established boutiques, bookshops, and jewellers nestled inside grand Georgian townhouses and half-timbered Elizabethan buildings.

Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
Shops in Trinity Street, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

How about this little gem of an Edwardian-era Art Nouveau fronted shop?

Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ
Art Nouveau shop on Green Street, Cambridge. Credit Fæ

Restaurants and pubs are equally at home in gorgeous old structures like the La Tasca Spanish tapas restaurant on Bridge Street.

Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Tudor building on Bridge Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Old buildings in Magdalene Street, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Rose Crescent is one of several pedestrianized streets connecting to Cambridge’s market square.

Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Rose Crescent, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Operating since Saxon times, the outdoor marketplace has dozens of pretty stalls selling everything from local produce to works from some of the region’s most talented artists, craftsmen, potters, sculptors, and photographers.

Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge market. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841
Cambridge Market Place by Frederick MacKenzie, 1841

History and culture are never far away in Cambridge.

Stop for a pint at The Eagle pub where Nobel prize winners Crick and Watson sketched the structure of DNA on a napkin.

The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
The Eagle Pub, Cambridge. Credit Andy Oxford
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
Fort St George pub, Cambridge. Credit Wheeltapper
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub
The County Arms, Cambridge. Credit The Wub

The Champion of the Thames pub’s name derives from an oarsman who won a sculling race on the Thames before moving to Cambridge in 1860.

Requesting that all his mail be addressed to ‘The Champion of the River Thames, King Street, Cambridge’, the rowing connection continues thanks to the pub’s sponsorship of the “Champion of the Thames” rowing club.

The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
The Champion of the Thames pub, Cambridge. Credit William M. Connolley
Café Rouge - Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Café Rouge – Cambridge. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The Cycle-friendly City

Cambridge is the most bicycle-friendly city in the UK.

Relatively flat and boasting over 80 miles of cycle lanes and routes, cycling is the easiest and most eco-friendly way to enjoy the beautiful architecture and open spaces of Cambridge.

Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky
Bicycle friendly Cambridge. Credit Oscar Arky

In Cambridge, bicycles vastly outnumber cars.

Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Bicycles outside Cambridge railway station, England. Credit Rept0n1x
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Read more:
The Divergent Paths of British and American English

10 of the Best Things To Do in the City of Bath

Calke Abbey — An English Country House Frozen in Time

Close