Things to Do in Cambridge When You Are on a Relaxed Day Trip
Cambridge University has always sounded to me like an exclusive place reserved only for people who are extraordinary and exceptional.
Like one has to be particularly phenomenal to be allowed to enter through the University’s Trinity Great Gate.
Like one has to be a Stephen Hawking or a Charles Darwin or an Ariana Huffington to even contemplate coming here.
Considering the high pedestal I put Cambridge University on, studying here was never an option for an ordinary being like me. HOWEVER, visiting the University was much easier, it doesn’t require grades or any sort of greatness. I just had to get up and travel to Cambridge. And residing in the UK made that possible so off we planned a day trip to Cambridge University.
I should also mention that we planned this trip as a romantic outing for Mr B’s and my 10th marriage anniversary. I know, I know, romance and Cambridge University do not have much in common. But Mr B and I are bizarre like that[; bursts of nerdism are definitely a turn on in our love.
So last year, right around the time the spring sprung in April, we put on our summer clothes for the first time that year and caught a train to Cambridge.
Our Family’s Travel Vibe – Relaxed
If I have to break down travelling to its elements, I would say that travelling is about being out there and being proactive. It is about seizing the moment and going for it.
AND travelling is also about soaking it in and sitting back. It is about contemplative moods and chill vibes.
Our family’s travel style is a mixture of the above two; however, it is the ‘soaking in and sitting back’ which dominates our trips.
When we travel to a place, we do not rush to tick off a ‘top 10 sights to see’ checklist. Instead, we prefer doing a limited number of activities at a relaxed ‘live in the moment’ kind of pace. Even when we are doing multiple activities within a day, we make sure that we plan them as such so that we always have time in between each of them to relax in a park or roam by the seaside.
And that’s how we planned our day trip to Cambridge. We saw a few of the must-sees and we did some of the must-dos, and yet we enjoyed the sun and the breeze (and even a few drops of rain) the day had bestowed upon us.
So if your travel vibes are just like us, I have a perfect list of things to do in Cambridge when on a relaxed day trip. This list is so laid-back, it has just 3 things on it! Are you ready for it?
#1 Things to do in Cambridge When on a Relaxed Day Trip
Walking Tour of the University
The best way to appreciate a city, especially when you are time bound, is by taking a guided tour. As the size of the University of Cambridge is humble, a walking guided tour is the perfect option to see the hustle and bustle of students at the University up close.
We booked Footprints Tours, a two-hour walking tour guided by an actual Cambridge University student. Footprints’ website had marked this tour as being free of cost and that intrigued us a bit. I mean a two-hour walking tour for NO CHARGE. Was it even possible? The tour had garnered excellent online reviews and so we decided to take a chance.
And aren’t we glad we did! The tour guide looked a little rumpled (or maybe that’s just how a typical University of Cambridge student looks like!) but he was well informed and even funnier. Joel (I hope I am remembering his name correctly) packed all there is to know about Cambridge in 2 hours including titbits that only an insider will know. He kept the conversation light and the pace of the tour was relaxed. Even MissB who was 7 years old at that time stayed engrossed with fun facts about secret societies and rules pertaining to grass at Cambridge.
We were quite pleased with the tour and so even though the tour was free of charge, we left a generous tip for the tour guide.
So my first suggestion about things to do in Cambridge if you are on a laid-back day trip to the University is to book ahead and go for a walking tour of the University.
#2 Things to do in Cambridge When on a Relaxed Day Trip
Cambridge Market Square and River Cam
What’s travelling without eating, huh? So let’s find someplace to eat at the University of Cambridge.
Right in the centre of the University of Cambridge is a marketplace commonly known as Market Square or Market Hill. This colourful open-air market has been trading here since middle ages. The market hosts dozens of stalls every day from 10 am to 4 pm.
You can find lots of knick-knacks or novelty items in this market like books and vinyl, second-hand bikes and even garden plants. As with any marketplace, you can also find good food here. There are food stalls of all different sorts of cuisines and with plenty of vegetarian/vegan options as well.
Take a stroll in the market and figure out what do you want to eat. Or if the food at these stalls doesn’t impress you much, you can check out eating joints surrounding the Market Square.
My suggestion – get your food packed to go and head over to one of the public parks in the area and have a picnic! Beware that green spaces and lawns around the colleges at Cambridge University are not for the public; you won’t be allowed to stand there, let alone picnic. So find a park which doesn’t look like it is part of a college.
We took a walk with our packed food towards the outskirts of the Cambridge city centre. There are a couple of vast meadowlands here known by the name of Coe Fen, Sheep’s Green and Lammas Land. River Cam runs through them making them a perfect spot for sitting down and having a relaxing lunch amidst nature.
If you feel tired from all the wanderings in your walking tour, feel free to lie down in the soft grass and have a power nap.
#3 Things to do in Cambridge When on a Relaxed Day Trip
Punting on River Cam
After having a leisurely lunch and bit of a lie down by the River Cam, you must be quite recharged and ready to explore the University further. However, as you are on a relaxed trip, you can’t rush. So what can be another good way to enjoy Cambridge with chill vibes?
When at Venice you ride a gondola, when in Kerala’s backwaters you ride a houseboat, and when at Cambridge you ride a punt.
Punting is this University’s favourite pastime and is definitely one of those things to do in Cambridge without which your trip might be incomplete.
There are two ways to enjoy punting at Cambridge – you either explore River Cam by hiring a punt and rowing it yourself or you can book a punting tour of the University. Don’t back off reading the word “tour.” A punting tour of Cambridge University is absolutely different from its walking tour.
A punting tour takes you through The Backs (a picturesque stretch alongside River Cam that runs along the back of many of Cambridge’s riverside colleges). Only a few colleges permit tourists to access their college grounds and of course, this access carries a fee. A punting tour is a better way to experience the best of Cambridge’s views to behold.
You can book ahead for a punting tour online. Or here’s my trip. While roaming around Cambridge Market Square or on King’s Parade, you should be able to spot some punting tour operators trying to sell their tour. Try talking to them and politely ask for discounts. I was surprised when without any hassle, we were offered a discount on a punting tour. This discount was attached with tours departing on only certain timings. And since we were on a relaxed trip to Cambridge without any plans to rush around, we were able to accommodate those timings.
Now you know all the things to do in Cambridge when on a relaxed day trip.
I would highly recommend going to Cambridge University if you are visiting the UK or if you are living in the UK and looking for a day trip or weekend trip.
Need more information about visiting Cambridge University? Feel free to ask me in the comments below and I’ll answer in detail!
Read more about travelling in living in the UK here.