Visiting Cambridge – A City Guide
Cram thousands of brilliant minds into a historic university town and you get Cambridge, a city with a famous academic heritage, a thriving tech industry and a buzzing arts scene. The River Cam winds through the compact city centre, where you’ll find imposing university buildings and intriguing cobbled alleyways at every turn.
Cambridge: city layout
Cambridge’s attractions are largely concentrated around the city centre. The city’s heart, Market Square, fills with stalls every day. The oldest university colleges, such as King’s College and Trinity College, stand nearby, beside the River Cam.
Mill Road is packed with restaurants and leads eastwards from the centre towards residential Cherry Hinton, a well-connected neighbourhood within easy reach of Cambridge Station and Cambridge Airport.
The area north of the centre is a hub of industry and technology. The high-tech electronics and biotechnology companies at the innovative Cambridge Science Park and Cambridge Business Park have led to the city’s nickname, ‘Silicon Fen’.
Top attractions in Cambridge
Immense King’s College is one of the university’s emblems – look out for the intricate stonework and vivid stained glass windows of King’s College Chapel. Punting along the Backs, where colleges including Trinity and St. John’s back onto the river, provides an unrivalled view of King’s grounds. The route in the opposite direction, towards the village of Grantchester, weaves through leafy countryside.
South of the centre, Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a great spot for a picnic among blossoming flowers in warmer months. When temperatures drop, the exotic plants in the greenhouses remain in bloom.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Cambridge
Cambridge is compact, so the city’s points of interest are within easy reach whether you choose to stay close to the centre or in a quiet suburb. Hotels in Cambridge cater to all kinds of trip, whether you’re visiting on business, a weekend break or a family getaway.
Cherry Hinton combines proximity to the centre with a quiet, residential atmosphere. Cambridge Station and Cambridge Airport (CBG) are conveniently close by, and London is an hour away by train. You’ll find restaurants and entertainment nearby at Cambridge Leisure Park.
Are you visiting on business? The leafy area north of the city is Cambridge’s epicentre of industry and technology. Cambridge Science Park and Cambridge Business Park are both located here.
For a peaceful stay, choose a hotel in Duxford. It’s easy to explore Cambridge and the surrounding region from this quiet village base, and it even has its own Imperial War Museum.
Eating Out in Cambridge
There’s plenty of budget dining in student-friendly Cambridge, as well as Michelin-starred restaurants if you’re planning a special night out. You can sample typical British dishes at countless pubs and restaurants, and there’s global cuisine galore thanks to the city’s international community.
The centre is packed with restaurants, particularly around Market Street, Bene’t Street and the Corn Exchange, where local eateries stand alongside established chains. Hot crepes, tasty falafel and aromatic dim sum are dished up at stalls around Market Square at lunchtime.
Casual, independent eateries offering good value meals can be found along Mill Road. Regent Street is also brimming with restaurants, but has a more mainstream vibe, with some well-known brands and upscale options.
International fare is served in a cosmopolitan setting on the riverbanks at the Quayside.
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Shopping in Cambridge
Cambridge has market stalls, quirky independent shops, high-street favourites and a large shopping centre all within walking distance of one another. In fact, it’s hard to find a street in the centre that isn’t great for shopping.
Market Square is open all week, but really comes to life at weekends, when locals and visitors come to browse the stalls and buy fresh produce, secondhand clothes, souvenirs and antiques.
The city’s main streets such as Sidney Street, St. Andrew’s Street, Petty Cury, Market Street and their offshoots are lined with shops. Much of this area is pedestrianised, and you’ll find well-known brands alongside independent bookshops, artisanal food stores and one-off boutiques.
Cambridge’s main shopping centre is the Grand Arcade. The glass-roofed complex is home to high-street brands and department stores selling clothing, homewares and electronics.
Best independent shops in Cambridge
Culture & Nightlife in Cambridge
There’s a wealth of culture on offer in Cambridge. The University manages several museums in the city centre and there are annual science, art and food festivals.
The cluster of museums around Pembroke Street focuses on scientific discovery. Nearby, the grand Fitzwilliam Museum houses a vast collection of Egyptian antiquities and decorative arts.
Student theatre, West End productions and renowned musicians all regularly take to the stage. The Cambridge Arts Theatre shows Shakespearean drama, musicals and large-scale productions, and the nearby Cambridge Corn Exchange hosts live rock and pop music, opera and dance.
Nights out in Cambridge are a civilised affair, involving drinks at the bars lining Regent Street and Downing Street, or at traditional pubs scattered across the city. The clubbing scene isn’t big, but a there’s a handful of student-filled night clubs dotted around the centre. Fez is a small but popular venue known for its top-quality music. Regular DJ club nights and live shows are held at Cambridge Junction.
The best free museums in Cambridge
Visiting Cambridge with a Family
There’s plenty to keep curious young minds occupied in Cambridge. Museums and performing arts venues ensure that kids are catered for with special shows and interactive exhibits. Along with many central green spaces for picnics and outdoor games, you get a city that’s ideal for family trips.
Rainy days are a great opportunity to check out some of the city’s kid-friendly museums. Little ones can look out for dinosaurs and creepy crawlies at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, or delve into hands-on exhibits at the Cambridge Science Centre.
Keep the whole family happy at Cambridge Leisure Park, which has a cinema, a bowling alley and several family-friendly restaurants.
Family-friendly parks in Cambridge