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Free Things to do in Cambridge

Wednesday 18 January 2023

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Are you looking to explore somewhere new, but not spend a fortune doing it? Well, Cambridge is an excellent choice. This small but perfectly formed city welcomes thousands of tourists from across the globe every year. But it needn’t be an expensive day out, because Cambridge is bursting with free things to do, nestled around every corner.

The great thing about Cambridge is that it’s small and compact, meaning that once you get there, you can walk round and explore really cheaply.

Best of all, you can take a whole variety of CrossCountry trains directly to Cambridge train station from all over the UK. Explore routes here. In order to save more money, why not book your tickets in advance and check out our cheap tickets page?

Discover Cambridge University

The first thing on any list of things to do in Cambridge is completely free: explore the colleges. Enjoy the amazing architecture from the outside, or if they happen to be open walk through to see the quiet, hallowed insides. There are hidden gems inside some of the colleges, like the famous Mathematical Bridge in Queen’s College. 

When: 9:30am-5pm

Where: All over the city centre

The Mathematical Bridge in Queen’s College, Cambridge is a favourite thing to see because of it’s complicated wooden design, which is curved but made only from straight lines. It’s also free to see!

The Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum may look like the beautiful colleges around it, but it’s actually a fascinating museum stuffed with the most interesting and diverse exhibitions. Whether you’re interested in Art or the art of war, there’ll be something for you to see here. Take the U bus from the train station or take a 20-minute walk.

When: 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5pm Sunday. Closed Mondays.

Where: Behind Peterhouse College

Cambridge American Cemetery & Memorial

It might take a little time to get out to the Cambridge American Cemetery; it’s about 15 minutes out of the city centre, away from the station. However, it’s worth it to enjoy this beautiful, calm and affecting green space. To reach the cemetery, take the 1 Citi-bus followed by the 4 Citi-bus, changing at Jesus College.

When: 9am-5pm

Where: North West of Cambridge city centre, near Madingley

The curved lines of white crosses against the green grass at the American Cemetery and Memorial make for a moving but also calming experience.

Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard is an often-overlooked house and art gallery which is completely free to explore. There’s loads to see and do, with frequent activities, as well as the permanent exhibitions. Plus, you can enjoy a wonderful gift shop and café. To get there, simply take the 'A the busway' bus to The Busway Shire Hall, taking around 17 minutes.

When: 11am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday

Where: Near Magdalene Collage

The Backs

Many of the picture postcard photographs of the architectural triumphs of the Cambridge Colleges are taken from the backs. Basically, what we’re saying is, if you’re looking for that shot for Instagram, this is where to come. You’re welcome! Start at Queen's College, and walk along for a beautiful view.

When: Any time

Where: Along the River Cam

The architectural delights of Cambridge colleges seen over the water from the backs makes for the perfect picture, and a great free thing to do in Cambridge.

University Museum of Zoology

Cambridge is absolutely packed with amazing museums which are hidden in plain sight, tucked in between the colleges. The University Museum of Zoology is a particular favourite with families, with loads of cool animals, plenty of activities and fascinating exhibits.

When: 10am-4:30pm Tuesday-Saturday, 12-4:30pm Sunday. Closed Monday.

Where: Downing Place, city centre

Listen to Evensong at a college chapel

Evensong in a College Chapel is an experience that is just about unique to Cambridge. Luckily, most of the time, it’s free to walk in and enjoy some truly world-class music from the outstanding music scholars. Jesus College is a popular choice, but check on the college websites to find one!

When: Check with individual chapels

Where: All over the city, at college chapels

There are few places where you can hear music in quite as impressive surroundings as in King’s College Chapel with its incredible high vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, and dark wooden choral seating.

Affordable Places to Eat in Cambridge

  • The Eagle - The Eagle is the perfect low-key place to grab a pint and some traditional pub grub, but it also doubles as a free thing to do. You'll find graffiti from American Servicemen posted in Cambridge during the Second World War. It's also where Watson and Crick announced they had discovered DNA.
  • Mill Road - The Mill Road area of Cambridge isn't as touristy as the city centre, and as such it's a great place to find amazing, off-the-beaten-track cafes and restaurants selling great dishes from all over the world. Settle down in a cafe to people-watch or try anything from North African to Japanese cuisine.
  • Earl of Beaconsfield, Mill Road - one option right on Mill Road is this traditional pub, which also doubles a a free activity. The local watering hole frequently hosts live music nights, meaning that for the price of a pint and a plate of chips, you can enjoy local talent.
  • Cambridge Market Square - Cambridge is a bustling international city, and nowhere is this more evident than at the outdoor market. Explore the stalls and discover tasty treats from across the globe, with loads of options for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Grantchester -  A trip out to Grantchester is both a fun, free activity and a great way to find somewhere to grab a bite to eat. This chocolate box village just outside of Cambridge is everything you want the British countryside to be: quaint and Instagram-read, but also with a couple of decent pubs.

With a range of free things to do in Cambridge, it is most definitely an option for a budget-conscious traveller. Whenever you would like to visit, remember that you can buy an Advance ticket to Cambridge via our Train Tickets app.

Written by Julia

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