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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe

One of the most prestigious institutions of education and the second oldest university in the English-speaking world, Cambridge University has become synonymous with the city’s name, and is inextricably entwined with its cultural identity and heritage.

The university of Darwin, Milton, and Wordsworth has 31 colleges located across the city, all founded between the 13th and 20th centuries, all exuding rich history and fine architecture. The 31 colleges are divided into the distinctions ‘old’ and ‘new’. The 16 ‘old’ colleges were all founded between 1284 and 1596, while the 15 ‘new’ colleges were built between 1800 and 1977.

Most of the colleges are open to the public, as are the chapels and nine museums and collections.

Don’t miss 

The unusual-looking Corpus Clock, also known as the Grasshopper clock, is a large sculptural clock on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. It was unveiled in 2008, funded by an old member of the college, John Taylor. The clock’s face is a 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel disc, but with no hands or numerals.

Recommendations

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Bridge of Sighs

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of the River Cam and the Bridge of Sighs

Queen Victoria was said to have loved this elegant, covered bridge more than any other spot in the city. Straddling the Cam between the Third and New Courts at St. John’s College, it dates back to 1831.

Best for ages 18+

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Corpus Christi College

Cambridge , Cambridgeshire , United Kingdom (UK)

View of Corpus Christi College

Founded in 1352 – and the only college founded by townspeople, Corpus is most famous for its Old Court, which houses some of the oldest buildings in Cambridge, many with their original features.

Best for ages 18+

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King’s College Chapel

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of St. John's College chapel

Perhaps the most famous of all the university buildings is King’s College Chapel, founded in 1441 by King Henry VI. The 12 large stained-glass windows on each side of the chapel are considered some of the finest in the world.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 18+

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Pembroke College

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of Pembroke College

Dating back to 1347, Pembroke’s buildings include one from almost every century since its inception; the college chapel was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, designer of St Pauls.

Best for ages 18+

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Queen’s College

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of Mathematical Bridge and Queen's College

One of the oldest and largest of all the colleges, Queen’s combines medieval and modern architecture, and is surrounded by extensive and beautiful gardens. It is one of only two colleges that straddle the River Cam.

Best for ages 18+

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St John’s College

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of St. John's College courtyard

One of the colleges with the most to see, St. John’s has several Tudor courts with impressive towering entrances, and also offers the opportunity to walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs, while punts glide along the Cam below.

Best for ages 18+

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The Mathematical Bridge

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

View of the mathematical bridge over the River Cam

Originally built in 1749, and rebuilt twice to the exact specifications, this bridge across the Cam looks curved, but is created from entirely straight timbers.

Best for ages 13+

Trinity College Cambridge

Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (UK)

external view of Trinity College

An extraordinary college founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and famous for the galleried walkways that flank the central quad. Sir Isaac Newton was a student, and the library was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Best for ages 18+

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Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Cambridge is easy to navigate, and the rail station is located a fifteen-minute walk from the city centre.

Guided tours are recommended to gain an insight into the rich history here. Visit Cambridge (the tourism authority) has 1-hour, 1.5-hour and 2-hour public walking tours of the Colleges, which will cover the main sites in sufficient detail for most.

Private tours are also available. Tours depart from the Tourist Information Centre seven days a week. If you’re going it alone, plan ahead as opening times and admittance policies vary. The University’s website has a listing of the colleges and their respective websites and contact details.

When to do it

Most of the colleges are open all year round but each have specific opening times for individual areas. If you’re not on a tour, check the college websites for schedules.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Shared | Alumni-Led Cambridge Uni Tour w/opt King's College Entry

Cambridge

Shared | Alumni-Led Cambridge Uni Tour w/opt King's College Entry
A current student or graduate-guide from Cambridge University will take you on a 90-minute enthralling journey through time as we recount to you the colourful story of Cambridge and its famous university while providing an authentic insight into student life.

Price: £20

Min age: 0

Rating 4.85 / 5 [1480 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Cambridge University With Alumni: Optional Kings College Entrance

Cambridge

Cambridge University With Alumni: Optional Kings College Entrance
Enter King’s College! Established by King Henry VI, with successive King’s providing more ambitious additions (hence the name). The chapel has the largest vaulted ceiling in the world and even a Rubens, once the most expensive painting ever purchased. It is easy to see why numerous Kings and Queens have visited, and why your visit cannot be complete without entering! This tour will introduce you to the crucial role of Cambridge in world history and highlight the city’s architectural wonders, with our University guides. On top of this, the tour will enter King’s College! Sites covered include the oldest church in Cambridge (1033), the oldest College (1284) and the laboratory famous for the discovery of DNA. Along with Cambridge landmarks such as the Mathematical Bridge and Senate house where graduation has been held for the past 300 years. Additionally, our student guides will share their experiences of the college system and let you into local secrets.

Price: £20

Min age: 1

Rating 4.82 / 5 [1129 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Shared | Cambridge Alumni-Led Walking & Punting Tour W/ Opt King's College Entry

Cambridge

Shared | Cambridge Alumni-Led Walking & Punting Tour W/ Opt King's College Entry
This combined package has it all. Enjoy a graduate-led walking tour & punting tour showing you the most famous and prestigious Cambridge University colleges and landmarks. Your walking tour is led by Cambridge University students and graduates and your punting tour is guided by professionally trained local guides. You also have the option to enter King's College chapel for the ultimate Cambridge experience!

Price: £60

Min age: 0

Rating 4.70 / 5 [514 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Shared | Cambridge University Punting Tour

Cambridge

Shared | Cambridge University Punting Tour
On this 45-minute shared punting tour in Cambridge your local student-guide will give live commentary as you glide along the River Cam past 8 of the most famous Cambridge colleges from Darwin to Magdelene and 9 bridges from the Mathematical Bridge to the Bridge of Sighs.

Price: £35

Min age: 3

Rating 4.63 / 5 [197 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Private | Alumni-Led Cambridge Uni Tour w/opt Kings College Entry

Cambridge

Private | Alumni-Led Cambridge Uni Tour w/opt Kings College Entry
A Cambridge University graduate or current student-guide will take you on a 90-minute enthralling journey through time as we recount to you the colourful story of Cambridge and its famous university while providing a deep insight into Cambridge student life. This tour is ideal for prospective students and school groups who would like to know what it takes to study at Oxbridge. We aim to provide a guide who has studied the same subject of your interest.

Price: £190

Min age: 0

Rating 4.88 / 5 [136 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Destination guides

1

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Cambridge

Cambridgeshire , United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of historic Cambridge college with green lawn in front

A picturesque, charming city steeped in learning, architecture and history. It’s home to two world-class art museums and one of the world’s oldest and most famous universities.