Cambridge is one of the most popular destinations in the UK and a fantastic day trip if you’re living in London. Over 400,000 tourists visit Cambridge every year and there are plenty of good reasons for it. Cambridge is one of the most well-known universities in the world, with famous alumni including Sir Isaac Newton and Steven Hawking. The city of Cambridge is built around the university and colleges, creating a buzzing atmosphere filled with students, beautiful architecture, fascinating history and plenty of places to eat and drink!
The beauty of the town and its proximity to London has made Cambridge an extremely popular destination, resulting in a significant number of tourist traps around Cambridge. So with that in mind, here’s five things you can do in order to have a Cambridge day trip on a budget!
1. Instead of going on a paid tour…go on a free walking tour
Cambridge University has been around since the 13th century and being on a budget shouldn’t be an excuse to not finding out more about its fascinating history when you take a day trip to Cambridge. There are a number of paid tours that you can take through Cambridge, however, one of the best ways to save money is to go on a free walking tour with Footprint Tours. All their tours are run by knowledgeable local guides who will not only take you around to all the main sites in Cambridge but also share fascinating history and amusing anecdotes about the city and university life.
Our guide, Tim, was a PhD student at Cambridge who brought the city to life through his stories and he clearly had a passion for showing people around the city he has called home for a couple of years. While these tours are technically free, please leave a tip at the end if you enjoy the tour as the guides don’t otherwise get paid.
Oh…and be prepared for a number of snide remarks about Oxford!
2. Instead of buying train tickets on the day…buy them in advance
Most tourists that visit Cambridge do so by taking a day trip from London. If you’re living in London and are planning to take this trip in advance, I highly recommend buying train tickets online to save money. An off-peak return ticket from Kings Cross bought at the train station on the day will cost £16.90 return, however, it can cost £7 if you buy your ticket in advance online. The train is the most convenient and fastest way to get to Cambridge but if you want to save a few more pennies, check out National Express for cheap bus tickets if purchased in advance.
3. Instead of going punting…make fun of tourists punting
One of the most popular tourist activities during a Cambridge day trip is to go punting along the River Cam. The cheapest option to go punting is to share a boat with a number of tourists which will cost about £15 per person. You can also rent your own boat for around £30 for the hour. If both these options sound too expensive, follow the lead of local students who sit along the banks of the River Cam and make fun of all the tourists punting who clearly have no idea what they’re doing!
The River Cam is quite narrow so on a warm sunny day when there are a number of boats in the river, there is plenty of carnage to watch as dumbfounded tourists struggle to navigate. The highlight is undoubtedly watching tourists get their poles stuck in the river and then having to paddle backwards to retrieve it. If you’re lucky you might even see someone fall in!
4. Instead of paying to enter colleges…find secret entrances or visit the grounds
There are 31 colleges in Cambridge which are the residential halls of all the students studying in Cambridge. Some of the most famous colleges, including King’s College and Trinity College, are steeped in tradition, making them popular tourist destinations and hence charging admission to visit.
One way to get around this is to just visit the grounds of places like King’s College which lets you get a close look at the colleges without paying admission. Alternatively, for Trinity College, there is a secret entrance to see the colleges by entering through the small gate on Trinity Lane which doesn’t charge admission.
If you do decide to visit the colleges during your Cambridge day trip, please be mindful that these are people’s homes and be respectful. Also during exam season, the colleges are closed to visitors so please respect that and don’t sneak into the colleges!
5. Instead of eating in the pubs…eat cheap Asian food
There is nothing students like more than cheap food and as Cambridge is predominately made up of students, there are a number of cheap restaurants where you can get a bite to eat. In particular, there is some great cheap, tasty and filling Asian food for under £7-10 per meal. I can highly recommend Yippee Noodle Bar which is located in the centre of town and is extremely popular with students.
If you do want to eat at one of the pubs, it’s worth going there during lunch time when a number of pubs often have discounted meals.
A Cambridge day trip is a fascinating day out and certainly doesn’t need to be an expensive if you follow these tips!
Have you been to Cambridge? What is your favourite part of the city? Let us know in the comments below!