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As someone who has had the pleasure of living in the enchanting city of Cambridge, UK, I can’t wait to share my personal bucket list with you!
This city is steeped in history, teeming with academic prowess, and bursting with undeniable charm. Around every corner is a new cultural adventure and it is hard not to be constantly inspired!
My Bucket List Review of Visiting Cambridge, England
|My Overall Rating
|Who Needs to Add This to Their Bucket List?
|History buffs or scholars looking
to see an influential English city
|Best Time to Go
|September or October
|Easy to Moderate: lots of walking
|Yes, in most places
If you need more information about the categories of this table, please check out the Bucket List Reviews guide.
Before we start, it is very common for people to travel to Cambridge from London. You can either take a direct train from King’s Cross or go on a day trip like mentioned below:
Go Punting on the River Cam
No Cambridge bucket list is complete without a serene punting tour down the iconic River Cam.
Whether you choose to propel the punt yourself or hire a chauffeur, gliding along the river is an enchanting experience. You’ll pass beneath the city’s ancient bridges and marvel at the stunning architectural marvels of the College ‘Backs’.
With that being said, this timeless tradition offers a unique perspective of Cambridge that is as educational as it is picturesque. Definitely a must-do for any adventurer exploring Cambridge!
If you are interested in punting in Cambridge (which you should be), you can go on a guided tour below:
Marvel at King’s College Chapel
Next on your Cambridge bucket list should be the awe-inspiring King’s College Chapel. This is a symbol of the city’s rich history and academic excellence. This architectural masterpiece, completed in 1544, is renowned for its intricate fan-vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and impeccable acoustics.
Moreover, it houses Rubens’ “The Adoration of the Magi,” a painting that attracts art enthusiasts from around the world.
Exploring King’s College Chapel offers a harmonious blend of history, architecture, and music that leaves you marveling at the cultural wealth of Cambridge.
But tourists beware, when I visited Cambridge again in 2023, the entire thing was undergoing renovations and I could barely see any of it!
You can normally combine King’s College with several other Cambridge colleges in a tour like below:
Sit in the chair where Watson and Crick announced the discovery of DNA
Next on the list, step into The Eagle Pub, a quirky, seemingly unassuming establishment that holds a pivotal place in scientific history.
It was here that James Watson and Francis Crick, two Cambridge University scholars, announced their groundbreaking discovery of DNA’s double helix structure in 1953.
This pub, affectionately known as the ‘RAF bar‘, provides an immersive glimpse into the past. As you sip your pint, don’t forget to look around and marvel at the decades of RAF and USAF memorabilia. This includes the names of World War II airmen inscribed on the ceiling.
A visit to The Eagle is a must, blending history, science, and a unique pub experience into one.
You can go there by yourself or go on a tour and see other Cambridge sights as well:
See St John’s College
If you are looking for a less-known but equally as beautiful college, then St. John’s College should be your next bucket list stop!
St. John’s College is an emblem of Cambridge’s illustrious academic heritage and a must-visit for your bucket list. This college is a visual delight with its stunning architectural blend of medieval and modern design.
Its sprawling gardens, known as ‘The Backs’, provide a tranquil space to relax and soak in the scenery.
Don’t forget to explore the college library, a haven for book lovers. Immersing yourself in the scholarly atmosphere of St. John’s College truly epitomizes the Cambridge experience!
Bonus Tip: Anyone over 16 is allowed to use the Cambridge University libraries. The university states that you can make your reservation online or in person. I did get an official library card, but that was a lengthier process. And each time I had to use a locker and carry my belongings or use a clear bag.
If you really want to make the most of your time in Cambridge and see the majority of the college, I would recommend a private tour that is customizable to your interests like the one below:
See the Bridge of Sighs
I mentioned this briefly in the last section. But, it is so cool and so famous that it deserves its own shout-out!
Located within the prestigious St John’s College, the Bridge of Sighs is a covered bridge is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Lined with intricate stone carvings and framed by its beautiful arched windows, it spans the tranquil River Cam and offers a stunning view of the surroundings.
Not to be confused with its Venetian namesake, the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge has its own distinct appeal, merging the city’s rich history with a timeless beauty. This is one sight not to miss in your Cambridge explorations!
My favorite way to see both the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge (see next section) is through a punting tour:
Witness the Mathematical Bridge at Queens College
Boasting a unique design and intriguing history, the Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ College is a must-see for your Cambridge bucket list.
This architectural marvel, built in 1749, is known for its sophisticated wooden design that appears to be an arc made from straight timbers.
Ironically, the bridge’s mathematical precision and engineering prowess have sparked many myths. The most enduring being that it was designed by Sir Isaac Newton and constructed without any screws or bolts.
While this is a myth, it doesn’t diminish the charm and appeal of this iconic Cambridge landmark.
Crossing the Mathematical Bridge offers captivating views of the River Cam and Queens’ College. It is a perfect addition to your Cambridge adventure.
As I have previously mentioned, I think the best way to see these iconic Cambridge bridges is via a punting tour:
Grab something to eat in Cambridge Market Square
Embarking on any Cambridge bucket list adventure, your first stop should unquestionably be the vibrant Cambridge Market Square.
Nestled in the heart of the city, this bustling marketplace is a symphony of sights, sounds, and tantalizing aromas.
From fresh local produce and artisan bread to the most exquisite international cuisine, the food stalls here offer a culinary journey that is second to none.
And it’s not just food – it offers an eclectic mix of stalls selling vintage clothes, rare books, handmade crafts, and more.
Sometimes there are even vintage stalls in the Corn Exchange or in a nearby building! One time, I bought a pocket mirror at a vintage market from World War II.
Watch a Rowing Competition
Rowing is integral to the sportive culture of Cambridge. Witnessing a spirited rowing competition should unquestionably be a part of your Cambridge bucket list.
The River Cam provides a great arena for such races, especially during the legendary ‘Bumps‘ races. This is where multi-boat competitions create an atmosphere of infectious excitement.
Crowds line the banks, cheering on their favorite college teams with enthusiasm.
The most intense sporting events I have been to in my life was a rowing race against Oxford!
Climb to the top of Great St. Mary’s Church
For an unrivaled view of the city, climbing to the top of the Great St. Mary’s Church is a must-do on your Cambridge bucket list.
This historic church, situated in the heart of the city, allows you to clamber up to its towering spire, offering a phenomenal panoramic view of the iconic Cambridge skyline.
It’s a bit of a workout, but the bird’s eye perspective on the cluster of colleges, the River Cam, and the beautiful cityscape is well worth the effort.
Just make sure you don’t have any fear of heights.
Many walking tours include Great St. Mary’s Church, like the one I’ve mentioned below. Depending on the tour, you might have to climb it on your own though.
Grab a Pizza at Salisbury Arms
If you are looking for a great pizza and to get out of the touristy area of Cambridge, Salisbury Arms is perfect for you!
Every Monday, my friends from uni and I would go grab a 2 for 1 pizza at this charming pub! This tradition was one of my fondest memories in uni and this pub has housed many memories for me.
Salisbury Arms is just outside of the city center and is more of a hub for local students than tourists.
Plus, the pizza and atmosphere is amazing! I wouldn’t miss it, especially if you are there on a Monday.
Relax at Parker’s Piece
Parker’s Piece is an unmissable stop in your Cambridge adventure. In fact, I would walk it almost everyday to Uni!
This popular green space serves as an oasis of tranquility amidst the bustling city life. It sprawls over 25 acres in the heart of the city,
Here, you can lie back on the lush grass, enjoy a picnic, or even join in a friendly game of cricket or football if you’re feeling energetic.
The park is dotted with historic monuments and framed by leafy trees, creating a picturesque setting for relaxation or leisurely strolls.
A visit to Parker’s Piece is the perfect way to unwind and connect with nature. This makes it a charming addition to your Cambridge bucket list.
Visit The Round Church
Continuing your Cambridge bucket list adventure, ensure to pay a visit to The Round Church. This is one of the oldest and most iconic buildings in Cambridge.
Built in 1130, its unusual circular design makes it a distinct building in Cambridge. It was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This was over 75 years before the founding of the University.
Therefore, a visit to The Round Church promises an enriching journey into the city’s medieval past that is sure to mesmerize history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike!
The Round Church and so much more can be seen on walking and punting tours if you would rather go with a guide:
Stroll Along The Backs
“The Backs” is a picturesque stretch in Cambridge. This term refers to the serene area where several colleges of the University of Cambridge back onto the River Cam.
As you stroll along the paths, you will be treated to scenic vistas of stately university buildings, beautifully manicured lawns, and iconic bridges. Just don’t be tempted to walk on the grass!
It is especially breathtaking in the spring, when all of the flowers are in bloom, creating a spectacular landscape.
One year, it even snowed and it was positively picturesque to see the snow-lined colleges.
Overall, this peaceful walk offers a unique Cambridge experience that beautifully encapsulates the city’s charm and heritage.
Learn about the Spooky Side of Cambridge
Want something a bit more out of the ordinary? You could go on a ghost tour that talks about the darker side of Cambridge!
If you have a city founded in 875, there is bound to be some bone chilling history to sink your teeth into. And no–I’m not talking about the plumbing in my old house, but that was very scary.
From haunted bookshops, to floating horses, to ghost sightings of historical figures, the hairs on the back of your neck might just stand up!
Plus, it is a fun way to learn about Cambridge’s history and see the iconic sights.
Visit one of the many museums in Cambridge
Dive into the rich tapestry of art and culture at one of the many museums in Cambridge!
The Fitzwilliam Museum, for example, is a cornerstone of your Cambridge bucket list. Housing an impressive collection of art, antiquities, and archaeological artifacts, it invites visitors on a journey through centuries of creativity.
Then, you could venture to The Polar Museum, a niche treasure that provides a unique perspective on polar exploration and research. Its display of historical artifacts, maps, and photographs transports you to the icy extremes of our planet.
This is a college town overflowing with students and discovery! It is only natural that the museums are worth a visit if you love learning too!
You can go on your own or do a typical hop-on hop-off bus. For example, the one below stops at the Fitzwilliam Museum:
Take a walk through Llama’s Land
When in Cambridge, a visit to Llama’s Land is a delightful detour from the traditional tourist path.
Outside of the city centre, this vast expanse of green parks, water, and trees is a beautiful retreat from the bustling city.
This was one of my favorite places to go for a run since it was close to where I lived. It perfectly captures a taste of the English countryside, without having to go very far.
Just watch out for the swans–one bit me once!
Smell the flowers at Cambridge University Botanical Garden
The Cambridge University Botanical Garden is an oasis of tranquility and natural beauty that definitely deserves a spot on your Cambridge bucket list. It’s a verdant space brimming with a diverse array of plants from across the globe.
From the mesmerizing scents of the rose garden to the call of the tropical rainforest house, there’s always a new world to explore with each visit.
The Botanical Garden truly is a celebration of the wonders of nature, offering an unforgettable escape from the hustle of city life.
Watch a gig or show at Cambridge Junction
Cambridge Junction is a vibrant hub of creativity and culture that may be a non-negotiable on your Cambridge bucket list.
This popular entertainment venue hosts an eclectic mix of live music, comedy, and theatre performances, providing a platform for both up and coming talent and established artists.
Once I enjoyed a comedian performance there and I definitely did not get made fun of for being American.
The ambiance is electric, the crowds are energetic, and the performances are top-notch, promising an unforgettable night out in Cambridge.
Get a drink at the Maypole
The Maypole is a classic watering hole in Cambridge that deserves a spot on your bucket list. In the heart of the city, this family-run pub is beloved for its welcoming ambiance and vast selection of beers and ales.
Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or simply enjoy a casual pint, the Maypole offers an authentic British pub experience. It does, unexpectedly for a pub, offer some incredible Italian food!
Its cozy interior and friendly staff add to its charm, making it a perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring Cambridge.
Rent a Bike
The city is renowned for its cycling culture. It offers an extensive network of bike lanes and picturesque paths that make it a cyclist’s dream.
Whether you’re pedaling alongside the River Cam or navigating the charming city streets, biking is a wonderfully leisurely way to soak in the city’s historic beauty.
Numerous rental shops around town provide affordable options, ensuring that everyone can enjoy this quintessential Cambridge experience. It’s not just a mode of transport – it’s a way of life here!
Just beware, my friend had her bike stolen 3 times–in fact, is one of the most common crimes in Cambridge!
Dance at Lola Lo nightclub
If I am being honest, I am not much of a nightclub person. However, Lola Lo will always hold some fond college memories!
Lola Lo, or “Lolas” as us students called it, is an enchanting and exotic club that should definitely feature on your Cambridge bucket list if it is your scene.
This Polynesian-themed nightclub offers a unique, vibrant atmosphere perfect for letting your hair down and dancing the night away.
With its tiki decor, delicious tropical cocktails, and a thrilling line-up of resident DJs spinning the latest hits, Lola Lo promises a fun and memorable night out in Cambridge.
Plus, there are several floors in case the music is not your jam. So don your dancing shoes and prepare to be whisked away to a tropical paradise right in the heart of the city!
Appreciate the strange Corpus Clock
The Corpus Clock is an intriguing and must-see attraction on your Cambridge bucket list.
Located on the exterior of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, this unique timepiece, unveiled in 2008, is a marvel of modern engineering and artistry. Its most notable feature is the giant creature, known as the ‘Chronophage’ (time-eater), perched atop the clock, symbolically ‘eating’ time.
It is powered by the grasshopper escapement, an invention of renowned clockmaker John Harrison. It provides an enigmatic representation of time’s relentless, consuming march.
Whether you’re a lover of art, science, or philosophy, the Corpus Clock offers a captivating multidisciplinary spectacle that is uniquely Cambridge.
This can be seen by many walking tours that go through the city center:
Catch a show at the famous ADC Theatre
If you’re visiting Cambridge, a night at the ADC Theatre should certainly be on your bucket list.
Known as the birthplace of many well-known actors, this student-run theatre showcases a diverse range of theatrical performances every night.
From gripping dramas to lively musicals and comedies, there’s always something to captivate your imagination.
The passionate performances, intimate atmosphere, and historic charm of the ADC Theatre create an unforgettable experience that truly encapsulates the vibrant culture of Cambridge.
Eat some Chelsea Buns or brunch at Fizbillies
A trip to Cambridge wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Fitzbillies for a taste of their world-famous Chelsea Buns or a leisurely brunch.
Established in 1920, this historic bakery and café is a culinary landmark, serving up scrumptious treats and hearty meals that have delighted locals and tourists alike for nearly a century.
The Chelsea Buns, covered with sticky, sugary syrup and packed with currants, are truly a mouthwatering delight.
And their brunch menu, full of traditional English favourites and contemporary classics, is the perfect way to start a day of exploring.
It is more on the “touristy” side, but definitely worth a visit if you pass it.
Enjoy the courtyard of Christ’s College
Christ’s College boasts one of the most serene and beautiful courtyards in Cambridge, making it an essential stop on your Cambridge bucket list.
The meticulously maintained lawns, surrounded by charming historical architecture, offer a sense of peace and tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
The courtyard is a splendid spot to sit and revel in the harmonious blend of nature and academia that exemplifies Cambridge.
Go to My Two Favorite Restaurants in Cambridge
These are hidden gems that can only be unveiled by a local! And it is for folks looking for a cheap bite to eat with some spice!
Just across Parker’s Piece, Pepe’s Piri Peri is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant may be unassuming on the outside and inside. But, the food is unreal!
I am not going to lie to you…the chicken and rice with peri-salted chips was my comfort food for those long study nights and exam season!
Next, Noodles Plus is another one of my favorites! It has some of the best soup dumplings in Cambridge. Again, it is really unassuming but it is one of my favorite places to eat in Cambridge, and all of my friends agree!
In conclusion, Cambridge is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty that leaves every visitor captivated.
It will always have a very special place in my heart and be ‘home’.
From its iconic historical landmarks to its vibrant nightlife, delectable cuisine, and scenic bike lanes, there is something for everyone in this charming city.
So whether you’re an avid scholar, a foodie, an adventurer, or simply a curious traveler, your Cambridge bucket list will undoubtedly lead you to experiences that are as enriching as they are unforgettable.
Don’t miss the chance to soak in the iconic Cambridge experiences that make this city truly one of a kind.