Scenery of the famous river Cam on a sunny day | Photo by Gabriel Murad via 123RF.

Scenery of the famous river Cam on a sunny day | Photo by Gabriel Murad via 123RF. ()

Full of bustling students, tree-lined streets and home to amazing discoveries that have altered the course of history and science, Cambridge is a quintessential collegiate town less than 50 miles from central London. Located smack-dab between RAF Alconbury and RAF Lakenheath/Mildenhall, it’s no wonder many U.S. service personnel make Cambridge their home for the duration of their tour. Admittedly, it’s one of my favorite places to get lost in. Here’s a list of 10 things to check out on your visit to this fantastic city.

  1. Fitzwilliam Museum. This impressive museum is home to a vast array of antiquities, artifacts and an impressive collection of art, including works from Rubens, Monet and Matisse. Original musical compositions from maestros such as Handel, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven are on display. Literary drafts and manuscripts from Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Brontë can also be viewed. As with most museums in the U.K., the Fitzwilliam is free to visitors.

  2. The Eagle. This public house holds a special place in history. During World War II (WWII), American servicemembers would stop in for a rousing night of shenanigans in the RAF bar. You can find messages emblazoned in wax from said members as well as stickers from various units and squadrons from around the globe. A decade later, on Feb. 28, 1953, scientists James Crick and Francis Watson announced to the world the discovery of the building blocks in genetics — the DNA double helix.

  3. King’s College Chapel. Built in the 15th century, the jaw-dropping grandeur of King’s College Chapel is a must-visit. Most of the building is the original architecture as it was spared during the British Civil War and also escaped with little to no damage during WWII. Ornate stained-glass windows line the cavernous nave. Because of the excellent acoustics in the chapel, you can often hear choirs and music students practicing throughout the year. There is a small admission fee.

  4. Centre for Computing History. Computer aficionados unite! This museum delves into the history behind computing in a fun and interactive way. Offering workshops and demonstrations, students can learn coding and more. There is plenty of memorabilia and vintage systems for visitors to try out. 

  5. Cambridge foodPark. The heavenly aroma of sizzling meat, sweet treats and so much more await at the Cambridge foodPark. The regular food truck rally offers delectable foods such as bao sandwiches with pork belly, banh mi bowls, churros, pizza and plenty more. Be sure to check out their schedule and which locations around the city they’ll be at, as it is subject to change.

  6. Cambridge Market Square. Situated in the city center near the Grand Arcade and shopping district is Cambridge Market Square. With vendors hawking goods such as souvenirs, shirts and old vinyl records, you’ll find a treasure trove of items at good prices. Stop in for freshly baked goods, farm-direct produce and delicious food stalls.

  7. Bridge of Sighs. Known as one of Queen Victoria’s favorite haunts in the city, the Bridge of Sighs is a beautifully detailed, Gothic Revivalist covered bridge spanning the River Cam. Built in 1831, this marked the first expansion of the university to the opposing side of the river.

  8. Punting. One of the best ways to tour Cambridge is to punt along the River Cam. Although the weather can be a bit challenging, punting is offered year-round. Knowledgeable guides (often college students) navigate along the water, while you take in the amazing architecture along the riverbank. There are a plethora of private companies for hire.

  9. Cambridge Brew House. One of my favorite spots to grab a pint is Cambridge Brewing Company. Hiding just off the main shopping area, this brewhouse brews its own beer and offers a fantastic variety of traditional cask ales as well as imported and domestic IPAs, lagers and stouts. Pop in for a Sunday roast and a pint. You’ll be glad you did.

  10. Churchill Archives Centre. While more of a research library than museum, the Churchill Archives Centre houses more than 3,000 papers and original documents from Sir Winston Churchill. Over the years, other important political figures (including former prime ministers Lady Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major) have had their papers and works added to the collection.

Cambridge is a wonderful day trip outside of London and a great spot to wander and discover. With so much to see and do, you’ll definitely want to visit again.

The best stories from EUROPE, in your inbox

Sign up to receive travel tips, local event details, restaurant reviews, recipes, community news, and more every week from Stripes Europe.

Sign Up Now