Cambridge offers some of England’s best universities, parks, museums and theatrical productions. It is known for its friendly people, academia, and great student parties. Like Oxford, life here revolves around the university, as does much of its tourism. However, you can find a lot to do here that isn’t related to the university. All in all, Cambridge makes for a good place to spend a couple of days. The city is close to London so it makes for a good day trip from the capital.
Hostel prices – Youth hostels will cost 25 GBP for a dorm night. Private rooms begin around 45 GBP per night.
Budget hotel prices – You can stay in a hotel for about 70 GBP in Cambridge.
Average cost of food – You can eat at a noodle shop for 1 GBP, get a lunch special at an Italian restaurant for 6 GBP, and a deli style restaurant for 5 GBP. Buying your own food will cost you around 40-52 GBP a week at a grocery store. Dinners out will cost between 10-21 GBP. Since it is a student town, you can find a lot of good deals, so be on the lookout.
Transportation costs – Cambridge is pedestrian-friendly, and you shouldn’t have to travel any other way within city limits. If you take the city bus, expect to pay 1-3 GBP per ride and try to have exact change as the bus drivers here seem resistant to handing you correct change. Consider buying an all-day pass for 4.10 GBP.
Money Saving Tips
Attend a lecture – Attending a lecture at the University is well worth it. You can experience what the students do and be immersed in the academic world for an afternoon.
Walk in the parks – The parks are mostly free here, but even the Botanical Garden only costs a small entrance fee. It’s a great way to escape the noise of the busy city and take in some of Cambridge’s scenery.
May Week – This actually takes place in the first half of June, despite its misleading name, and lasts about 10 days. After exams are over, students relax with lots of rowing, open air events, parties and the summer balls. As a tourist you are likely to benefit from lower prices and opportunities to witness lots of free and interesting open air spectacles during May Week.
Top Things to See and Do in Cambridge
Visit the colleges – Cambridge University is beautiful, with buildings dating back hundreds of years. Most of the colleges are worth a look, especially the larger ones. Kings and Queens Colleges arguably have the most beautiful buildings. Colleges are typically closed to visitors during the exam period during the last week of May and first week of June.
Botanical Garden of Cambridge University – If you want to spend a quiet afternoon out, head to the Botanical Gardens. They are beautiful and one of the highlights of a visit. They cost 5 GBP to enter.
Attend a lecture – While some of the lectures are closed for members only, if you research ahead of time, you can visit one that is open to the public.
Walk along the Backs – This is a great place to walk that gives you a scenic tour of the city. You can walk through Kings College and see a collection of stores and shops.
Punting – Punting is the classic Cambridge sport and involves pushing yourself in a wooden boat by propelling the pole against the river’s bottom. There are guided tours which will cost around 12 GBP. You can also rent your own boat and try to punt yourself. Take some food and drinks and spend the day on the river with some friends. Most guided tours are run by students at the famous university, and often they will also give you an insight into what it is like to study in Cambridge and a really personal view of their student home.
ADC Theater – Take in an amateur show at the ADC Theater. It’s the University’s playhouse and offers productions starting at 4 GBP. It offers something different from the normal fare of activities and gives you a way to see the local art scene.
Do a walking tour of Cambridge – Cambridge is just a great place to walk around. If you can’t afford any of the activities, just walk around and enjoy the beauty of the parks, river, and colleges. You can spend 5 GBP on a MP3 audio tour guide from the tourist office.
Visit Great St. Mary’s Church – This is a free church to visit, and worth it for seeing some of the best 15th century English architecture. If you want to go up to the bell tower, admission is 3.90 GBP.
The Fitzwilliam Museum – The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. Some highlights include masterpieces by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso. Best of all? The museum is free.
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival – Every summer, six Shakespeare plays are performed in the gardens of the various colleges. Come early as the good spots fill up quick.
Go rowing – Cambridge is renowned for rowing on the Cam. All colleges and some schools have their own clubs, and there are over half a dozen large ‘town’ clubs. Besides punting, this is the most popular activity in town.
Bike through the city – One of the best ways to explore this university city is by bike. Tours will take you past the college campus, and off the main tourist route. Tours last around two and a half hours and cost 20 GBP.
Visit Angsley Abbey – Less than 7 miles outside of Cambridge, Angsley Abbey is a beautiful manor with peaceful gardens. You can tour the lode mill, the house, and the grounds for 11.60 GBP. It’s a great escape to country life, and gives you a good idea of England’s social history.