Cambridge. The name evokes unforgettable images of a prestigious university, the grand architecture of British colleges, a storied conflict with Oxford, the beauty and the calm of the tree-lined Backs and the River Cam, the bustle of bicycling students on King's Parade, and the extraordinary vivacity of its research and literature. In this Cambridge Tour, a four-hour day trip from London, we'll explore Cambridge's history, architecture, landscape and world-class art in the company of a historian, putting the university into the context of the intellectual history that is has so fundamentally shaped.
- Cambridge tour led by local expert
- Explore the hallowed grounds of one of the world's most famous universities
- A day trip from London
Day Trip from London
After taking the train from London to Cambridge, we will meet our docent at the station and commence our tour with one of the most iconic buildings in town.
Our walk starts from the Fitzwilliam Museum, a magnificent building dating from the mid-nineteenth century that houses an internationally-renowned collection of European paintings including works by Titian, Tintoretto, Vermeer, and Reynolds. The collection boasts drawings and prints, as well as fine furniture and sculpture, antiquities, coins, medals, manuscripts, and printed books. Fantastic in its own right, we'll use this as a backdrop to discuss the founding of Cambridge and its medieval origins before diving into the campus.
As we perambulate along Trumpington Street, our exploration may take us in myriad directions depending on the interests of the group and the proclivities of our guide. Typical routes include a visit to Peterhouse College, which was founded in 1284, its original hall and the windows by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Ford Madox Brown. We will probably also visit Pembroke College, with its chapel—the first work of architect Christopher Wren and a fantastic bookend to our popular St. Paul's Cathedral Tour
Because our focus will bridge history and aesthetics, we often include Queens' College, with its absolutely beautiful medieval Old Court, home to the chapel, library, and dining hall, along with the eighteenth-century sun and moon dial (one of few in the world) and the “Mathematical Bridge," an 18th century engineering marvel. Finally we may stop by King College, founded in 1441, and its chapel, the icon of the city of Cambridge and a real masterpiece of English architecture, with its fan-vaulted ceiling and Rubens' famous altarpiece, "The Adoration of the Magi."
Scholars and Traders
When the first scholars arrived in 1209, Cambridge was already a flourishing market community that had grown from a Roman fort in the first century BC to a Saxon settlement during the Middle Ages and finally to a Norman stronghold. We'll gain a better appreciation of this visiting the little Anglo-Saxon St. Bene't's Church, which contains the oldest tower in the county.
Want to pick a side? Take our Oxford Tour
and decide for yourself which is better.
Walking onto Trinity Street we will enter Trinity College, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and St. John's College, with its School of Pythagoras and its neo-Gothic Bridge of Sighs—two iconic emblems of Cambridge. And, too, one absolutely cannot miss the chance to get into the Round Church, which was built in 1130 and remains the oldest Norman building in the country.
An Open End
To finish, we will visit a truly special place full of charm, The Kettle Yard. It was once the home of the late Helen and Jim Ede, who was a curator of the Tate Gallery. Here, nothing is labelled, and you are free to wander into the rooms, sit down, and read one of Ede's books or to stop and look at one of the Constantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, or Ben Nicholson works housed here. We'll leave with a better understanding of Cambridge, its history and traditions, and the desire to explore more.
Where are we meeting our guide?
You will meet your guide in Cambridge, at the train station, however, if you are booking a private tour and are staying in Cambridge, we can arrange for a different meeting point. Trains leave from both London Liverpool Street Station and Kings Cross Station and run pretty frequently. The journey ranges between 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on the train. Tickets can be bought online ahead of time or at the station. Online tickets and schedules are available at: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/
Do we go inside the venues or just see them from the outside?
You will go inside colleges and other sites. We will purchase tickets at the time of the visit.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this tour good for kids?
Yes! We have some excellent family friendly docents who can appeal to the learning styles of children. Please book privately if you have children under 13. Feel free to provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. This way we can match you with the best possible docent.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
We cover about 2.5 miles during the walk. There are plenty of opportunities to sit down and rest, but please let us know if you have any concerns.