Planning a day trip to Cambridge from London by train? This guide will detail how to get to Cambridge from London, what to do, and how to best plan you time.
London has a number of enticing day trips right around the corner. Windsor Castle, Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, and the Cotswolds are some of the top choices. My last trip to London I decided to visit the University town of Cambridge and it ended up being one of my favorite side trips.
The combination of picturesque streets, long history of scholars and inventions, peaceful greenspace and botanical gardens, and the overall university vibe with students riding their bikes to and from class makes Cambridge a special place.
Cambridge has a distinctly scholarly feel all around…it is the fourth oldest university in the entire world after all and was home to famous names like Charles Darwin, Stephan Hawking, and Sir Isaac Newton. The discoveries made within these ancient walls have shaped the world we know today. Gravity, DNA, the world’s first computing system, Big Bang theory, Laws of Thermodynamics, splitting of the atom…just to name a few.
A Cambridge day trip from London is a nice change of pace from busy London. It’s the perfect place to slow down and enjoy your surroundings whether that be on a punt ride down the river or walking past all 31 colleges and taking in the gorgeous architecture.
If you’re considering a London to Cambridge day trip this guide will tell you everything you need to know including what sights to see and how to plan your time.
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Where is Cambridge?
Cambridge is about 50 miles north of London in the county of Cambridgeshire. It’s most famous for the University of Cambridge, which was founded in 1209. The Cam river flows through the city and there are plenty of parks and green space surrounding the University. This region is actually the driest in the UK averaging about half the rainfall that the rest of the country sees.
How to get to Cambridge: London to Cambridge train
The London to Cambridge train ride is quick and easy. Non-stop service leaves from either Kings Cross or Liverpool Street station. The faster route departs from Kings Cross and takes about 50 minutes with departures every 20 to 30 minutes. Slower routes averaging around 1.5 hours depart from both Kings Cross and Liverpool Street station every 30 to 60 minutes.
Tickets can be found for as cheap as $20 (£16) roundtrip if you buy in advance. Try to book twelve weeks in advance as this is when you will find discount fares. Tickets purchased before twelve weeks tend to be more expensive.
Once you arrive at the Cambridge train station it’s an easy 20 minute walk to the city center. An Uber will cost you around £7 and take 8 minutes if you’re short on time. I walked to and from the station and found it quite enjoyable and safe.
Public buses Citi 1 and Citi 3 run between the train station and the city center. It will take 10 minutes to get to the city center with buses departing every 5 minutes. Tickets are £1 and can be purchased from the bus driver.
How much time to spend in Cambridge
Plan on 4-6 hours for a day trip to Cambridge from London
A London to Cambridge day trip requires a minimum of four hours. Six hours would be ideal to have time for lunch, a coffee break, and time to wander. Cambridge is an especially nice place to relax when the weather is nice with the Cam river, botanical gardens, and other green space surrounding the University. You will see plenty of students lounging outside studying and chatting with friends when the sun is out.
Getting around Cambridge, England
Cambridge is 100% walkable with a compact city center. You can get to pretty much anywhere in 25 minutes or less by foot, including the train station and all the top attractions. I highly recommend walking because the city is beautiful, clean, and well preserved. Half the fun of visiting Cambridge is wandering and taking in the architecture. Google maps is perfect to use for walking directions to get from place to place.
Uber is available outside the train station and in the city center if you prefer not to walk.
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Best things to do
Top sights to visit on a day trip to cambridge from london
University Walking Tour – a guided tour will dive into the long history of Cambridge and ensure you see the main sights in two hours or less. Book the two hour Cambridge University and Kings College Chapel tour with Footprints Tours. This student led tour will take you past the most important buildings and colleges at the University and includes entrance to Kings College. Who better to give you an inside look at the University than a local student? Tours are £25 for adults and £17 for children 12 to 17. Those under 12 are free. Tours are typically offered on Saturday and Sunday at 11:00am and 2:00pm.
If you need a tour during the weekdays take a look at Cambridge Alumni Tours, which is also led by students and alumni. The walking tour is 1.5 hours and stops at all the main colleges. Tickets are £25 for adults, £12 for children 3 to 12, and £15 for students 13 to 17. You might get lucky and find discounted tickets online which has happened the last few times I’ve visited the website. Tour times are usually 11:00am and 1:00pm with an additional time slot at 3:00pm during tourist season.
Consider booking a private tour if you have specific colleges you would like to spend time at.
A walking tour of the University will dive into the famous alumni, their discoveries and inventions, and give an inside look at life as a student here. This is a must during a day trip to Cambridge from London and will help you appreciate the history or this city and how the discoveries within these colleges have shaped the world we know today.
Check out these other walking tours!
Kings College Chapel – one of the most impressive and iconic buildings in Cambridge. Kings College Chapel is a must visit, even on the speediest itineraries. If your walking tour does not include entrance be sure to get tickets to view the largest fan vaulted ceiling in the world, colorful stained glass, and overall stunning architecture.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the King’s College visitor center. £9 for adults, £6 for children 12 to 17 and students, and free for children under 11. Be sure to check the opening times before your visit. If you can, try to attend an Evensong service. Entrance is free as this is a religious service. The choral service is around 45 minutes and takes place at 5:30pm on the weekdays and 10:30am and 3:30pm on Sundays during school term.
Punting on River Cam – a day trip to Cambridge from London is not complete without a punting experience. Punts, the flat-bottomed boats you’ll see lining the Cam river, are a popular past time with locals, tourists and students. You can rent a punt yourself, which means you will have to learn how to maneuver the boat with a long pole…not easy.
The more enjoyable option is to book a shared or private tour where you have a chauffeur that not only does all the work and allows you to relax but will also explain the sights as you pass them. Almost all tours will take you under the Bridge or Sighs, Mathematical Bridge, and the “backs” of several colleges.
There are a number of companies to choose from for a punting tour or to rent a punt. Try to do your research and book your tour in advance as tickets are usually cheaper this way than purchasing the day of from a ticket kiosk on the river.
Additional punting tours:
Cambridge Punt Company has both private and shared punt rides. Tours are 45 minutes and prices range from £80 to £200 for private tours and £10 to £20 per adult for the shared tours. You can buy tickets online in advance or the day of at the tickets kiosks by the river.
If you just can’t resist trying your hand at punting, rent a punt from Scudamore’s. £44.95 will get you a punt for 90 minutes if booked online in advance. You can rent a punt the day of from the kiosk for slightly more at £49.50. A total of six people, including the punter, are allowed on the punt.
Fitzwilliam Museum – if you’re a fan of museums, the Fitzwilliam Museum is worth a quick stop. It’s basically a mini British Museum with over half a million artifacts, masterpieces, and works of art. Best of all, it’s free! Visit 10:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12:00pm to 5:00pm on Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Great St. Mary’s Church – climb up 123 steps to see sweeping views of Cambridge. Take a peak at the bells on your way up. These bells have been chiming to announce weddings, funerals, church services, and University lectures since 1303. Tickets are £5 and can be purchased at the church gift shop. Walk three minutes from St. Mary’s to take a quick look at the quirky Corpus Clock.
Chelsea Buns at Fitzbillies – last but not least, a day trip to Cambridge from London is not complete without indulging in the famously gooey Chelsea Buns. Fitzbillies is famous for them and is basically an institution in Cambridge. Similar to a cinnamon roll, but much better in my opinion, will currants inside the swirls, and a healthy serving cinnamon gooey goodness.
I hope this guide helps you plan your day trip to Cambridge from London. The minimal travel time, non-stop train service, and walkability of Cambridge makes this an easy and worthwhile day trip. If you have a day open on your London itinerary and want to experience a historic university town, this is a great choice!
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