Cambridge for First-Timers

Photo by John Lord

Local knowledge goes a long way when it comes to exploring this great city of learning

Save to my Account


The historic city of Cambridge is very easy on the eye with its college buildings, churches and streetscapes. If you only have a day you can see the highlights, but plan to stay longer to feel the pace of this famous seat of learning and to visit places including Ely, nearby.

Booking an Official Guided Walking Tour of Cambridge or a private tour is a good way to see the colleges as each has a different visitor policy. Watch out for bicycles as you wander.

Market Hill is the central market square in Cambridge and a place of trading since the Middle Ages. Markets are still held daily and the surrounding streets including Market Street, St Mary’s Passage, St Mary’s Street, Peas Hill, Petty Cury and Rose Crescent are fascinating both for their architecture, shopping and café/bar culture.

Coffee shops and tearooms are everywhere – Auntie’s Tea Room off Market Square, Patisserie Valerie are two favourite tea rooms and Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street, the oldest craft bakery,  is particularly famous for its Chelsea buns – even more so since Stephen Fry tweeted that they were ‘unmatched anywhere’. Rhode Island is an American-inspired tea-house-fusion eatery with the added attraction of cross platform club nights, entertainment, events, film and new creative talent.

Visit some of Cambridge University’s 31 colleges to see features such as the chapel at King’s College founded in 1441 and home to the famous choir. Queen’s College has a famous ‘moon dial’, which can be used to tell the time by the sun and the moon. More gems include The Old Court at Corpus Christi, Pembroke and Emmanuel Colleges, the Wren Library of Trinity, and the covered Bridge of Sighs at St John’s College.

The University’s museums and collections open to the public include the Fitzwilliam Museum, Botanic Garden, Kettle’s Yard, Polar Museum and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

===> Explore more local itineraries via the RELATED links below.

Drop into All Saints Church opposite Jesus College, it has a colourfully decorated interior with almost every surface painted, gilded, stencilled or otherwise with stained-glass windows by designers including William Morris and Charles KempeThe Round Church is one of the city’s oldest, dating from the 1100s.

Soak up the history, enjoy the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, glide along the River Cam on a chauffeured punt tour in time-honoured tradition and take time out at the many cafes and pubs to sit, relax and admire the view. There’s great shopping, arts and culture – check what’s on at the Arts Theatre and the Corn Exchange. Cambridge also has many festivals

Day Out In Ely

Located just 15 miles from Cambridge, Ely is a perfect one-day or short break destination. Ely is easily accessed by road via the A10 or A142 off the A14. There is also a centrally located railway station, with good links to the rest of the region, which makes Ely also ideally situated to use as a base whilst visiting Cambridge, Newmarket, Norwich or the Norfolk Coast.


The Magnificent Ely Cathedral
The first port of call for any visitor to Ely today will almost certainly be the cathedral. This imposing structure towers across the fens for miles around. Dominating the skyline, is one of England’s most beautiful and largest cathedrals. Known locally as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ it is famous for its unique Octagon tower, which when lit can be seen from tens of miles away. The cathedral is also home to the only national museum dedicated to stained glass.

Time for retail therapy
For those looking for something a little different, the city abounds with the sort of small, independent shops which you thought no longer existed, and there are many gift shops, craft shops, bookshops, antique shops and art galleries where you can while away many a happy hour.

For those who love a bargain, Ely holds three different sorts of markets, from the award winning Farmers Market on the second and fourth Saturday of every month to the regular Thursday General Market and Saturday Craft and Collectables market.


Oliver Cromwell’s House
Ely’s most famous historical resident was of course Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell’s House is the only remaining house used by Cromwell with the exception of Hampton Court Palace in London. Cromwell lived with his family in Ely for just over ten years and the house provides an evocative insight into 17th century life. Audio tours bring the story of this fascinating building to life.

Stroll along the Waterside
The City’s beautiful waterside is a hot spot for tourists and hosts a variety of musical entertainment to suit all tastes.

Ely’s riverside is also a favourite setting for visitors wishing to relax, take a boat trip, browse through shops and galleries, enjoy afternoon tea or simply watch the activity on the river.  The Great Ouse River is a natural magnet for visitors to Ely and the long riverside frontage is a great place to watch the world – and a host of aquatic birds – go by.

Itinerary courtesy of Visit Cambridge.

At A Glance

Price Range:
Most Suited to:

Comments, Tips & Hints


You need to login to favorite a post.

Need to sign up? Create an account here.

Forgot your password? Reset your password here.