U.K. day trip: Cambridge

by Emily Alvarenga
Stripes Europe

Being stationed at RAF Mildenhall means that you’re centrally located in England. Cambridge is one of England’s most well-known college town and certainly worth a visit. An easy day trip being just 40 minutes from the iconic town includes more than just wandering around the countless universities though. This city is a treasure trove of history and tradition with a picturesque riverside, quaint cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings made famous over the centuries.

The River Cam

Cambridge literally means “bridge over the Cam,” so it’s only right to start your day at the river that runs through the heart of the city. Most of the city’s oldest colleges were built alongside the riverbanks and several renowned bridges, like the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge, connect both sides, which means going on a boat ride is a must! In Cambridge, the boats are called “punts”. Sit back and relax in the punt while your guide tells stories about the city and its famous residents. In the winter, blankets are provided so you can stay warm during the tour.

University of Cambridge

Spend a couple hours wandering around any one of the 31 colleges in Cambridge and experience them as countless scientists, writers and poets have over its 800-year history. Pure talent seems to seep out of the very walls with 90 different Nobel prize winners, including Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawkin, Sylvia Plath and Sir Isaac Newton, having studied here. The three most famous of the colleges are King’s College, St. John’s College and Trinity College. Each charge a small admission fee, but with sights like King’s College Chapel, whose fan-vaulted ceiling is the largest in the world, and Trinity College’s Wren Library, which is home to two of Shakespeare’s first folios, you won’t regret it.

Great St Mary’s Church Bell Tower

If you want the best views of the city, climb the 123 steps of the tower at Great St Mary’s Church opposite of King’s College. It only costs 4 euros to climb the tower, and you get a great leg workout as well as a leaflet, explaining the surrounding buildings you can see from the top. On the way up, you pass the church’s bells, and when they ring, the entire tower shakes! The church itself is impressive with its beautiful stained-glass windows and not one, but two pipe organs, which is rare for a church.

The Backs

If you want a unique view of some of the city’s many colleges, then a walk along the River Cam on the Backs is the perfect choice. This picturesque area is where some of the colleges back onto the river forming a row of gardens and parks that are open to the public. It’s the best way to get a look behind the scenes at many of the colleges and get a taste of what life would be like as a student. On sunny days, it’s a perfect spot to picnic and watch the punts go by.

Cambridge Botanic Gardens

Just down the road from the Fitzwilliam Museum, you can find forty acres of gardens filled with plants from all over the world. Stoll along the pathways linking the different gardens and explore the various collections including gardens like the scented garden, the no watering garden and the winter garden. Then, step into some of the greenhouses, which are home to exotic species of plants from climate areas around the world. If you’re traveling with children, the ticket office hands out explorer backpacks free of charge, which include things like magnifying glasses and mini binoculars, so your kids can better discover the garden’s plants and wildlife.

There is plenty to do and see in Cambridge, but the best thing to do is just wander. It's a small city and very easy to walk around, so put on some comfy shoes and let yourself get lost in its historic streets!

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