Being a studious student in childhood, I always dreamed of doing my higher studies from Cambridge or Oxford. So from the time I came to UK, Cambridge and Oxford has been on my go to list to walk on the roads traversed once by Charles Darwin, Issac Newton and many more renowned thinkers… and I felt maybe by taking a walk in those universities, I may just feel like picking up some of my books again. And I am sure it would have actually worked if I had taken this trip a few years back!
But I am still glad that I took this trip…as I was truly mesmerized by just the beauty of the magnificent colleges, and all energized by the young and joyful vibe of the city. All the sightseeing places are so close to each other that it is best to just walk from one place to another and explore the city by yourself on foot.
Here is my itinerary for reference on how best to spend A Day in Cambridge – The Scholars City! :
Cambridge University Botanic Garden
We started our day at 10.00.a.m at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden as it was nearest to the train station and it was indeed worth kicking off the day by strolling the beautiful garden and being greeted by amazingly different plants, some of which I had never seen before! A botanist can surely spend months in this garden and someone like me who loves plants, but not very much into their scientific names will still enjoy spending hours.
The garden offers something for all generations from play areas to benches amidst scented plants. And one should never miss the glass house… it houses plants starting from the pre-historic days to those that survive in all type of weather conditions – aquatic, desert, rain forests, dry etc. And because we went in the summer, we could also witness blooming of carnivorous plants which as per the members of the glass house is a really rare site! Some of the leaves were so huge that I could easily sit or probably even sleep on them!
Cost: £6.30/ adult. Time spent: 1 hour 30 min
Where to book :
From the Botanic Garden to the Fitzwilliam Museum, it is just a 10 min pleasant walk. The museum offers a good blend of some unique historic artifacts starting in the BC to paintings, sculptures, pottery and much more created by artists from 13-14th century. It is pretty huge, and you can easily spend a whole day in the museum if you like to admire all details. I wonder when I die, if anyone will care about my afterlife as the Egyptians did or spend years of efforts carving a tomb for me as the romans!
Guess from one of the pics, the third last weapon from bottom is a gun or an axe ?!
Cost: Free Entry but need pre-booking. Time spent: 1 hour
Where to book :
City Walk – Enjoy Magnificent Colleges – Part 1
As we exited the museum and started walking towards the centre of the city, we walked across some of the most interesting places like:
- Mathematical Bridge (Popular Name) – A popular fable is that the bridge was built by Sir Isaac Newton without the use of nuts or bolts. Various stories relate how at some point in the past, the bridge broke and people attempted to put it back together but were unable to and hence were resorted to adding nuts and bolts.
- Queens College: One of the oldest colleges of the university founded in 1400s
- The Corpus Clock – Situated right at the corner of the road overlooking the King’s college, it has a very dominating visual feature with an animal like a grasshopper / locust on top of it with its mouth open which denotes that it is eating time and blinks in between that denotes a weird satisfaction! It has no hands or numerals but displays the time by opening individual slits in the clock face backlit with blue LEDs; these slits are arranged in three concentric rings displaying hours, minutes, and seconds.
- The Kings College – it faces the city center and clearly looks like a jewelled crown for the city.
- Senate House – Which was formerly used for senate meetings but now for college graduation ceremonies
All the colleges were closed for visitors, so we couldn’t enter them but could definitely admire the architectural beauty!
You can also do a vintage car tour in the city.. check the car out in the image!
Kings College Chapel – Second largest Chapel on Earth!
We were awed by the beauty of the chapel- one of the greatest examples of the Gothic English Architecture! It has the worlds largest fan vaulted ceiling and there is a small exhibition too inside the chapel that shares details on how it was actually built which is very interesting. In addition, outside we could enjoy the beauty of the wildflower meadow and also see very different falling plants at the edges on the back lawn!
Cost: £10/adult or guided tour if available £16/adult . Time spent: 45 min – 1 hour
Where to book:
Lunch at Famous Cambridge Chelsea Bun from Fitzbillies
Famous Cambridge Chelsea Bun from Fitzbillies – It will fall on the way when you walk to the mathematical bridge from the Queens college. The place is usually packed, which we were not aware of and hence hadn’t booked a table. But they also have a small coffee shop just beside it and so we could taste the famous bun with some hot coffee. The bun had a unique cinnamon flavor and is well glazed and dipped in honey giving it a harder outer layer and a very well moist inner layer and it is definitely a must try in Cambridge!
Where to book :
But after our chapel visit, we were quite hungry. We observed that that there were loads of people having their lunch in the Kings college garden with a take away kit.. and taddaaa .. we learn that Cambridge has a market square which is just behind the St Mary’s church opposite to the Senate House. And the best part was that it offers stalls of all cuisines, and now it was more difficult for us to pick and choose from the variety of menus! We finally picked a Japanese and a Turkish dish from 2 different stalls, and both were yumilicious!
Great St Mary’s Church – Offers 360 view of Cambridge city
Great St Mary’s Church is a very simple and peaceful church to visit but also has an attractive feature that one can climb 123 narrow spiral stairs and walk up to the top of the church to get a 360 degree view of the city. Personally I really liked it as it gave me a good top view of most of the big colleges and also an aerial view of the city’s medieval architectural beauty!
Cost : £6/adult . Time spent : 30 min – 1 hour
Where to Book: Tickets to be purchased at the entrance of the church
City Walk – Enjoy Magnificent Colleges – Part 2
There are few more places that I really liked and would be worth mentioning:
- Trinity College: Trinity is renowned for having some of the most distinctive architecture within Cambridge, with its Great Court reputed to be the largest enclosed courtyard in Europe and a home to some of world renowned alumni Issac Newton, Srinivasa Ramanujan and many many more … ( I sooo wish I could enter the college and see it )
- St Johns College: Very similar yet different to the Trinity college. It has a distinctive Great Gate which have the curious creatures known as yales, mythical beasts with elephants’ tails, antelopes’ bodies, goats’ heads, and swivelling horns carved in them. These are also very much evident as wall sculptures in the Kings chapel.
- The Round Church: A very old church build in 1130 inspired by the rotunda in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Punting in Cambridge
And now after walking the whole day, it was time for a relaxing punting tour which is just a 3 min walk away from the Round Church. And I would say though there are other cities in the UK that offer punting, don’t miss the one in Cambridge. They punt along the river Cam and there are innumerable bridges on the river connecting the different colleges which leads to a local belief that is how ‘ Cam-Bridge’ got its name! The views when you punt are breath-taking as most of the above mentioned colleges have their backs to the river Cam and now after the punting experience, I would say the backside of the universities look probably more beautiful than the university gates !
There are many punters and services that offer group, private and chauffeured punting that you can pick and choose from, and the rates are different on different days and seasons. You can book them online as per choice or you can easily book them when you are near the Mathematical bridge for a later time in the day from the counter. You will see many college students trying to learn punting by themselves which is quiet hilarious and for sure they will bump into your punts pretty often !
We also spent some time enjoying the calmness of the river Cam by just sitting on the banks of the river Cam which was also very relaxing. There are also many restaurants at the end of the punting lane near the Jesus Green garden to grab a coffee or few drinks and enjoy the views!
So… that was my day well spent in Cambridge!
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