Home to one of the world’s most prestigious universities, leafy Cambridge is also a treat for the eyes thanks to its heritage architecture, centuries-old streets, and the winding River Cam. Whether you’re spending a night in town or organizing a day trip from London, one day is enough time to discover its charms—here’s your perfect plan.
Cambridge University comprises a number of individual colleges—each with its own sterling reputation and architectural glories. Begin your day in town by visiting some of the university's most vaunted corners, from Trinity College (home to dozens of Nobel Prize winners) and St. John’s College (once frequented by William Wordsworth) to King’s College (renowned for its extraordinary chapel and Gothic architecture). Don’t forget to discover the Backs: the verdant parks found behind the colleges. Alternatively, choose a student-led itinerary for a firsthand perspective on what it’s like to follow in the footsteps of world-famous alumni such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Zadie Smith.
Enjoy a sweet energy boost in the form of a sticky Chelsea bun from legendary Cambridge bakery Fitzbillies in between sightseeing stops. Cambridge is a highly walkable city; continue your explorations on foot to discover local landmarks ranging from the Grade I–listed Round Church (which dates to the 12th century) to the neoclassical Senate House. Alternatively, if your legs are beginning to tire, a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour makes it easy to glimpse the city’s historic highlights from the comfort of the upper deck.
It isn’t a trip to Cambridge until you go punting. Flat-bottom river boats that are piloted by long poles, traditional punts offer the perfect way to soak up the River Cam’s lovely scenery, discover new angles on Cambridge’s colleges, learn more about the city’s history and highlights, and even float right under the iconic Bridge of Sighs. Pick an early evening start time to watch the sun set peacefully over Cambridge’s ancient buildings. Afterwards, head to a traditional pub to toast the day’s successes (and enjoy a hearty, post-sightseeing feast).