Planning a day trip to Cambridge from London by train? This guide will detail how to get to Cambridge, what to do, and how to best plan your time.
London has several enticing day trips right around the corner. Windsor Castle, Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, and the Cotswolds are some of the top choices. On a recent trip to the UK I decided to visit the University town of Cambridge. It ended up being one of my favorite day trips from London.
The combination of picturesque streets, long history of scholars and inventions, peaceful greenspace and botanical gardens, and the overall university vibe 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, Stephen 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, the Laws of Thermodynamics, splitting of the atom…just to name a few.
A day trip to Cambridge 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 day trip to Cambridge, this guide has you covered. I share everything you need to know including what sights to see and how to plan your time.
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 via train
The train ride from London to Cambridge 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 round trip if you buy early. 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 £10 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 £2 and can be purchased from the bus driver.
How much time to spend in Cambridge
Plan on 6 hours for a day trip to Cambridge from London
A day trip to Cambridge requires a minimum of four hours to wander the town and join one quick tour. Six hours would be ideal to have time for a walking tour, punting on the Cam River, lunch, and a coffee break.
Cambridge is an especially enjoyable place to relax when the weather is nice with the Cam River, botanical gardens, and parks/green space surrounding the University.
You'll 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.
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 2 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.
Who better to give you an inside look at the University than a local student? Tours are $25 without Kings College entrance and $40 with entrance. Those under 12 are free. Tours are typically offered daily at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.
Another option is Cambridge Alumni Tours, which is also led by students and alumni. The walking tour is 1.5 hours (2.5 if you choose to include Kings College).
Tickets are $25 for the 1.5 hour tour and $60 for the 2.5 hour tour with Kings College entrance included.
Tour times are usually 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm.
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 of this city and how the discoveries within these colleges have shaped the world we know today.
Kings College Chapel
One of the most impressive and iconic buildings in Cambridge, Kings College Chapel is a must-visit.
Be sure to get tickets (if your walking tour didn't include entrance) 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. £15 for adults and £12 for children 5 to 17 and students.
The choral service is around 45 minutes and takes place at 5:30 pm. Entrance closes at 5:25 pm and it's recommended to arrive at 5:00 pm.
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 pastime 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 who not only does all the work and allows you to relax but will also explain the sights as you pass.
Almost all tours will take you under the Bridge of Sighs, Mathematical Bridge, and the “backs” of several colleges.
Several companies offer guided punting tours:
While you can usually find tickets the day of at kiosks by the riverside, it's cheaper to book ahead of time online.
If you just can’t resist trying your hand at punting, rent a punt from Scudamore’s. Prices range from £38 to £49 for a 90 minute rental. You can rent a punt the day of from the kiosk for slightly more. A total of six people, including the punter, are allowed on the punt.
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 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm 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 peek 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 £7 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 considered an institution in Cambridge. Similar to a cinnamon roll, but much better in my opinion, with currants inside the swirls, and a healthy serving of cinnamon gooey goodness.
I hope this guide helps in planning your day trip to Cambridge from London. The minimal travel time, non-stop train service, and walkability of Cambridge makes for 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!