Many visitors to the UK are interested in going to Oxford or Cambridge to see the famous Universities and their surrounding towns. Either one is easily accessible by the National Rail train line and is perfect for a day trip from London. Since many of my family members live in or near Oxford and have attended Oxford University (including my British grandfather who I absolutely treasured), I can’t make an unbiased call on which to do if you only have time for one… The long standing rivalry between Oxford & Cambridge means that I’d have to advocate for Oxford on principal alone.
That being said, there are many merits to visiting Cambridge, especially if its a quick day trip – one being that the river Cam flows through the city center. That is the highlight of the itinerary I’ve described below.
ITINERARY: ONE DAY IN CAMBRIDGE
Getting there: The train from London’s King’s Cross station is 45 minutes and shouldn’t cost more than £23 return. Once in Cambridge, consider renting a bike from Station Cycles next to the station. Cambridge has a small college town feel that’s easy to navigate your way around. It is a straight shot from the station toward the center, about a mile long walk/bike ride.
In Cambridge: the quaint college town is worth spending some time exploring. The Grand Arcade Shopping Center is a good landmark, you’ll know you’re in the center if you see it. Check out the smaller boutiques and try some food from one of the food trucks lining the area. Many of the streets are closed to pedestrians.
The main attraction: get on the river! Take a punting tour – a 45 minute boat ride that is a great way to see Cambridge University since the colleges are positioned along the river. You can take out your own punting boat (and you’ll see many students who do), but I recommend a guided tour. The boat operators will tell you stories about the colleges and a bit about Cambridge’s history. We went with Scudamores punting, but you’ll see operators lined up and could go with whoever offers the best price (and has a tour leaving when you’re ready). Stop by Cambridge Wine Merchants on 32 Bridge Street to stock up before you go – cigars, wine, beer or whatever you fancy to enhance the experience.
Tip: Don’t go on a rainy day. But, you don’t necessarily need to save this for warm weather. We went on a cool, sunny day in February and wrapped up in the wool blankets that they provided.