CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND: I love visiting university towns…big or small, and when it’s a place like Cambridge, you can never say NO to that. Cambridge is mainly known for world’s one of the most-renowned universities – University of Cambridge. It was founded in the 13th century and since then it has produced many famous alumni like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, John Milton, Queen Margaret of Denmark, Lord Byron, and hundreds more.
The city is about 50 miles north of London. And public transportation being so awesome in England, no one should have any problem getting a train from the capital. Cambridge is a city with green open spaces, fascinating Gothic university buildings, busy students, and peaceful River Cam. This is considered as England’s most unspoiled countryside with many places for leisure walks.
TIME of TRAVEL: We were in London in the summer of 2014. That was the first time we took Euro-Star train from Brussels to London that goes underneath the English Channel. It was a one and half hour journey and by the late afternoon, voila…we were in St. Pancreas Train Station in London. First few days we covered London City and all the good stuff there. Then we headed to my aunts/uncles-in-laws’ place in Woolwich. They planned this delighting trip to Cambridge for us per our request. The town was a bit quiet since most of the students were gone for the summer holidays.
EATING and SHOPPING: We didn’t come across too many restaurants in Cambridge, I’m sure they were there…we weren’t just looking properly. Because, my aunts-in-law brought lunch from home and we had a little picnic in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. There was a restaurant/café where we sat outside surrounded by lush green trees and small fountains in the distance.
There were some cool shops near King’s College. But we reached there at the end of our trip and everything was already closed by then.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent a whole day in Cambridge. Of course you need more time to explore this historic yet trendy university town. There are plenty of historic churches, interesting museums, and relaxing gardens for all ages.
1) CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY BOTANIC GARDEN: This was a one great day out for our family and an essential for any garden lover. This heritage-listed Botanic Garden was originally conceived by Professor John Henslow, the mentor and teacher of Charles Darwin. It has been open to the public since 1846. The garden’s plant collections today number over 8000 species from all over the world, all neatly displayed amongst the finest arboretum in the region. The 40 acres of beautifully-landscaped gardens and glasshouses offer year-round interest and seasonal inspiration. In the glasshouse, you can discover the plants of mountains, from cactus to tropical rainforests, and arid lands. The Winter Garden is the original master class in gardening for winter interest. The best part is that the garden is designed for both year-round interest and seasonal inspiration.
The garden is a natural classroom if you have kids. My girls got backpacks from the ticket office that contained everything a budding naturalist might need, like notepad, pencil, magnifying glass, jar, tweezers, and etc…kept them quite busy for the whole trip.
Admission is £4.50 per adult and children under 16 years of age are free. The garden is less than a mile from the city center and a short walk from the train station. Although cycle parking is available, car parking was a bit hard for us.
2) PUNTING on CAM RIVER: Punting on River Cam is a must when you are in Cambridge. It’s a traditional way to relax and get around few campuses of University of Cambridge. The water is very shallow here and our guide/punter pushed a long wooden pole against the bottom of the river and took us around on a long boat. It was a pleasant ride no doubt. I don’t remember the cost exactly, but I think, it was something like £20 for an hour ride for maximum 4 adults.
3) KING’S COLLEGE and CHAPEL: We saw mixture of styles in architecture here, since colleges of University of Cambridge were built over many centuries. Most of these buildings/colleges are worth a look. We only visited King’s College and Chapel but if you have spare time try visiting Queen’s college, Trinity College, St. John’s College, St. Catherine’s College, and University Library.
Since we had very little time, we only roamed around King’s College. This is one of the most visited spots in Cambridge. This portion of the university was built by King Henry VI in 1441. Construction of the chapel started in 1446 and took about a century to finish. This chapel is considered as a greatest example of Gothic English architecture and an iconic landmark of Cambridge. The chapel was already closed for the day when we arrived there but at least got to see its grand exterior and famous towers. The choir of King’s College Chapel is supposed to be very well-reputed too, but…next time.
We walked around the large ground of King’s College close to the sunset time and enjoyed looking over medieval architecture taking the footsteps of many famous people who once came here as students and contributed so much to the world we live in now.