Pint-sized and picturesque, Cambridge has its history built into its very walls, and you can easily fill your time with a one-day visit here. Biking through the city, you can imagine yourself as one of the bespectacled and backpack-bearing University students studying science and literature. After all, the University of Cambridge has produced some of the world’s most influential minds, like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Theoretically, without the University, gravity might not exist (thanks, Isaac). Of course, the colleges look more like gothic cathedrals than typical university buildings. Walk around King’s College to visit the cathedral or stop by Trinity College’s green pastures. People lounge in parks and libraries, on the green spaces, and amid massive shelves of books. Theater and art can be found just around the corner. The Cam River flows through the city as if it were taken out of a painting, bridges spanning the punting patrons. Like its well-known rival Oxford, Cambridge offers old-timey beauty and charm in its quaint streets, well-worth a weekend wander. If you have 24 hours to spend here, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Morning: Check out the Fitzwilliam Museum and take a tour of Cambridge University
Step inside this museum to get lost in rooms of armor, Ancient Egyptian artifacts, and shelf upon shelf of British pottery. But, for real, you might actually get lost: we were stuck wandering through sarcophagi for quite a few minutes in search for the exit. (Pro tip: a guided tour can keep you from walking in circles.) The museum holds similar wares to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, meaning you can easily spend a few hours here and still not see everything. We’d recommend sticking to just a few rooms—the Gayer Anderson room and some of the Matisse and Picasso paintings found upstairs. Of course, you absolutely can’t miss the suits full of armor.
Afterwards, pretend to be a student as you tour Cambridge University. A graduate will guide you as you explore the lush green lawns and impressive buildings of this famed school.
Lunchtime: Grab a slice of pizza to go
Cambridge may not be known for its culinary delights, but one thing it does have is plenty of pizza joints catering to the college crowd. You’re only here for a day, so we recommend snagging a slice or two to go, so you can spend what little time you have here exploring.
Afternoon: Go punting on the River Cam
Poring over old manuscripts in the library, sipping on coffee in a hundreds-of-years-old coffee place, strolling through the colleges of the University—all traditional options for a city steeped in history. But if you’re looking for something a touch more athletic and aquatic, the River Cam holds another option: punting. Yes, England is known for its football, but this type of punting entails paddling down the moss-green river on what looks like a flat canoe. The concept is simple—one person stands on the boat and paddles while the others sit, eat, and drink. Floating along the river, you might just be able to convince yourself you’re a student living in the 1600s. (Maybe that’s just the champagne talking.) For the less athletic, you can take a chauffeur-led tour, or simply watch the people below from a vantage point like the famous Bridge of Sighs.
Evening: Take a self-guided sunset tour
Grab a guidebook and stroll the stunning grounds of Cambridge while snapping plenty of pictures of the picturesque landscapes. The setting sun will bathe the beautiful old buildings in a soft glow, making it the perfect way to end your day in the Cambridge.