Walks index

Tourist Hotspots in Cambridge


A lot of tourists come to Cambridge, and here are the areas that they tend to go to. Cynics might perhaps say that these are the areas to avoid! But that would be unfair. Not only are they pleasant places, with things to see, and opportunities to eat and drink, they are surprisingly good at absorbing large numbers of people, so while busy, they are not uncomfortably crowded. And often you can slip down an alleyway or walk along a road for a few yards, and the crowds drop away.

This page is arranged around three areas. Rather than a linear walk, it describes what can be seen based on an area. There is a scale on the map. A metre is rougly the same as a yard, and half a kilometre is about quarter of a mile.

Things worth looking at are marked in red. Click on them, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures. In the website, click on photos for a bigger version.

Kings Parade
Quayside
Silver Street
transport
Kings Parade Quayside Silver Street area Queens Road coach drop-off point Bus station Railway station

Map of tourist hotspots in Cambridge

Transport

The bus station is marked on the map above, plus the most central of the tourist coach drop-off points (there are others). The railway station is some way from the city centre, along Hills Road (Regent Street continued), but there is a frequent bus service into the centre. Click here for more information about public transport in Cambridge, including Park and Ride. You are advised not to bring your car into Cambridge! Car parking tends to be short-stay parking for shoppers.




Kings Parade

Kings Parade Caius Gate of Honour Great St Mary 3D maps outside Great St Mary The Market Grasshopper clock St Benet church St Benet church Trinity gatehouse St Johns gatehouse The Round Church

Map of Kings Parade area

Kings Parade

The top tourist spot in Cambridge is on Kings Parade, just outside Kings College Chapel. You are not allowed on the grass here, but alongside the road is a low wall, very convenient for sitting on. You can see some people sitting there in the photo. (Click on photo for a larger version.)

Kings College Chapel is about 500 years old. It is impressive outside, but the inside is even more impressive, with the fan valuting of the ceiling, the stone carving round the walls, and the stained glass. If you want to see it, you have to pay, and the entrance is round the back, along Senate House Passage, and Trinity Lane.

Kings Parade

Gonville and Caius Gate of Honour

Halfway down Senate House Passage is the back gate of Gonville and Caius College, built in 1575, with several sundials at the top.

This college has three gates. The front gate is called the Gate of Humility, where new students first enter the college. In the centre of the college students regularly passes through an entrance called the Gate of Virtue. Finally, graduating students pass through the this gate, the Gate of Honour on their way to the neighbouring Senate House to receive their degrees.

The students of Gonville and Caius commonly refer to a fourth gate in the college which contains the access to the toilets, as the Gate of Necessity.

Cambridge University is made up of many different colleges, such as Kings, or Gonville and Caius. Many of them have spendid, gateways, historic and attractive. Click here to find out more about them.

This walk is a collection of things to see round a central area, so now we need to return to the centre again. The paved area at the end of Senate House Passage is called Senate House Hill. This seems like an extraordinary name for this area. Cambridge may be flat, but there is no hill or even slope to this at all! There is a reason, though. Being flat, Cambridge used to be prone to flooding, and so any land slightly higher than the rest would be extremely useful, and might even deserve the name of 'hill'. Over time, the lower ground round got filled in, so now these mounds are no higher than anywhere else. Click here for some more of these Cambridge 'hills'.

This is an important area for the university. The white building on the left is the Senate House, where students receive their degrees.

Senate House Hill

Great St Mary

Opposite the Senate House is the church called Great St Mary. If this seems an odd name, it is because there are two city centre churches called St Mary, so they are referred to as Great St Mary and Little St Mary to distinguish them. Click here for more on Cambridge churches.

Great St Mary is the university church. It defines the centre of Cambridge for the university, so university officers must live within twenty miles of Great St Mary's and undergraduates within three miles.

You can climb the tower of Great St Mary for a good view of Cambridge. There is a fee for this.

Outside Great St Mary's, there are two maps. Since these are 3D, they can be felt as well as looked at, so they can be used by the blind. One map is of the city centre, and the other shows more of Cambridge. There is another one of these maps on Queens Green.

3D map outside Great St Marys 3D map outside Great St Marys

Market

You can walk right round Great St Mary's. At the back of the church, there is Cambridge Market. This operates 7 days a week. It has a range of different stalls, which vary from day to day. But there are always fruit and vegetable stalls, many selling local produce, if available.

The market has always been the centre of Cambridge shopping. Cambridge Guildhall takes up one side, and that is the home of Cambridge City Council. This shows how intertwined the university and the city are. There are many different types of shops all round here, from national chains to shopping malls to small specialised stores to quirky places. And the market, of course! Click here for more on Cambridge shopping.

You may also notice small alleyways leading to or from the market. These are fun to wander down. Click here for more on these lanes and passageways.

You now need to return to the front of Kings College Chapel, and carry on walking to Benet Street, where there are some things to see. Or you can find your way there through some of the passageways.

On the corner of Kings Parade and Benet Street, there is a strange modern clock. It belongs to Corpus Christi College, but it is visible from the road. It doesn't look like a clock at all, just a big circle of gold, and a ferocious grasshopper on top. There are no hands or numbers at all. You can (with a bit of effort) tell the time by reading the blue dots on the circle.

There is a type of regulator for clockwork called a grasshopper escapement. The maker of this clock decided to make it into a real grasshopper! Click here for more about the clock.

Grasshopper clock

St Benet church

Benet Street is named after St Benets church. This is short for St Benedict's. This is a very old church. The tower dates dates back to Saxon times, nearly a thousand years old. This makes this, surprisingly, the oldest building in Cambridge. The church is usually open to visit, and there are a couple of old carvings inside.

Click here for more about St Benet church.

Round the back of St Benets, there is the Old Cavenish site (now called the New Museums site). The buildings are rather dull, but here is one of the places where the real work of Cambridge university takes place, with lecture halls and science laboratories.

One of the famous discoveries made in Cambridge was the structure of DNA, by Francis Crick and James Watson, in 1953. They were working in the Old Cavendish site when they made the discovery, and naturally decided to celebrate in the closest pub. This is the Eagle, opposite St Benets church. The story goes that as they entered the pub, Crick announced "We have found the secret of Life."

The Eagle used to be a coaching inn, and if you visit the pub, you can sit outside in the courtyard.

Click here for more about the Eagle, and other references to the discovery of DNA round Cambridge.

The Eagle pub

Return to Kings Parade, walk towards Great St Mary's, and carry on walking. After a bit, on your left, you will see two more impressive college gateways. These belong to Trinity college, and St John's college, and they date back to Tudor times. You might be able to visit either of these colleges (unless they are closed during the exam season), but you have to pay. However, the gateways can be seen from the road.

This is part of the third river walk.

Trinity gatehouse St Johns gatehouse

The Round Church

This is the last building in this group, the Round Church, more properly called Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I'm afraid that it is a bit of a walk from Kings Parade, but it is a charming building, and one of the most famous buildings in Cambridge. It was built around 1130, and the round shape was inspired by the rotunda in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. You can look inside, but may have to pay.

Click here for more about the Round church.




Quayside

Punts Magdalene Bridge Board walk along the River Cam Old houses in Magdalene Street Portugal Place Old houses in bridge Street Round Church

Map of Quayside area

Cambridge is on the River Cam, which is a pretty river, and full of boats. However, Cambridge colleges own most of the river banks in the city centre. There are three public bridges across the river, which give good views, and this area includes one of them - Magdalene Bridge (pronouced 'Maudlin bridge').

This area is called Quayside. Originally, Cambridge was a port, with trading boats bringing goods all the way from the North Sea along the River Ouse. This was where they were unloaded.

The River Cam is still full of boats, but in the Middle river (through the city centre), these are punts. Quayside is one of the main places to hire punts. These are flat bottomed boats which you move by pushing a long pole into the bottom of the river. You have to be standing up to do this, so it is easy to fall in. This makes punting a spectator sport as well!

You can hire your own punt, but there are also chauffeur punts, where an expert does the hard work, and may also give you a guided tour of Cambridge from the river. If you are going to try punting yourself, then it is not a good idea hiring a punt from here (unless early in the morning or out of season) as the river is very narrow, and gets extremely busy. Not a good place to learn punting! I suggest getting a punt from Silver Street area instead, and punting towards Grantchester.

A punt is the best way to see the Backs. These are the backs of the colleges, set in their grounds. It is possible to get glimpses of the Backs from Queens Road - see the third river walk.

Punts at Quayside

Magdalene Bridge

Magdalene Bridge is one of the main river crossings in Cambridge city centre. This bridge was built in 1823, and rebuilt in the same style in 1988. It is very close to the location of the Roman ford (around 40 AD), and the location of the first bridge in Cambridge (probably built by Offa in the 8th century). This was the bridge that gave Cambridge its name.

Please keep an eye out for traffic, especially buses!

View from Magdalene bridge upstream, towards St Johns college.

View from Magdalene bridge

View from Magdalene bridge downstream, towards Quayside.

View from Magdalene bridge

Getting back to Quayside and Magdalene Bridge, you can cross the river on the bridge, and head north, up the hill. This starts as Magdalene Street, and then becomes castle Street.

Just over the bridge there are a collection of shops in old houses, some dating back to the 16th century. The shops themselves are interesting, and worth browsing. On the other side of the road is Magdalene College.

There are various things to see if you carry on to the top of the hill, including Castle Mound, which has good views out over Cambridge.

This walk is described in detail as the Castle Hill walk.

Old houses on Magdalene Street

Things to see on Magdalene Street.

Carving, Magdalene Street Flower path, Magdalene Street


The last direction to walk is southwards, towards the city centre. You will see a church on your left. This is St Clements. Just beyond the church is a small passageway, called Portugal Place. This is another route, quiet and attractive, to Jesus Green.

St Clements Church Portugal Street

If you carry on walking towards the city centre, there are old buildings on your left, some dating back to the 16th century. This is the start of the third river walk (although you don't see much of the river).

Old buildings in Bridge Street

You will eventually arrive at the southern-most point of this area, the Round Church, which we met above, as the northern-most point of the Kings Parade area.

Round Church




Silver Street area

Coach drop-off area Laundress Green The weir The Anchor The Mill Punts Punts Silver Street bridge Mathematical bridge 3-D map Queens gatehouse Fitzbillies Kings Parade

Map of Silver Street area

This area is close to the most central of the coach drop-off points, In Queens Road. (There are other drop-off points on Chesterton Road and Trumpington Road).

If you start from Queens Road, then walk along Silver Street, and turn left at the end, in order to get to the centre of Cambridge.

However, I suspect that many tourists never get get further than Silver Street bridge! Never mind, this is a pleasant part of Cambridge.

I think you could describe this as the tourist chill-out area of Cambridge, with tourists sitting on top of the weir, or crossing it to picnic on Laundress Green beyond. To get here, cross Silver Street bridge, and turn right down Laundress Lane. The explanation for the name of Laundress Green is that the women who used to do the laundry for the university colleges brought it here, to wash it in the river.

Weir Laundress Green

The explanation of this chilling out is probably due to two popular riverside pubs. They do get very crowded!

The Anchor, on Silver Street
The Anchor

The Mill, next to the weir
The Mill

There are two punt stations here, where you can hire punts. Make sure you choose the right station for where you want to go! The weir stops the punts from travelling between the Middle and Upper river.

Punts for the Middle river (the Backs)
Punts Middle river

Punts for the Upper river (Grantchester)
Punts Upper river

If you want to learn to punt, I suggest that you hire a punt to go towards Grantchester, on the Upper river. You are unlikely to get that far! But it is an attractive trip, through wooded and grass areas. You may be accompanied by dragonflies. More to the point, this part of the river is much less crowded. Start early enough, and you will have the river to yourself - very important when learning to punt!

There are some things to see round here.

The first is Silver Street bridge itself, here seen from the weir. It is not necessarily a tourist attraction in itself, although it can be amusing watching punters trying to get underneath (the punt pole gets in the way...)

Its main importance is that it is one of the few public bridges across the River Cam. So if you want to cross the river in this area, then this is the bridge you use.

But there are also attractive views from the bridge. Upriver (southwards), there is the area that we have been talking about above, Laundress Green. Downriver (northwards), there is Queens College, with the famous Mathematical bridge.

Silver Street bridge

Laundress Green
Laundress Green

Mathematical Bridge
Mathematical Bridge

3D map on Queens Green

If you walk from Silver Street bridge towards Queen Road, there is a path on the right over a grassed area. This includes a 3-D map, which describes the centre of Cambridge. It can be felt as well as seen, so it can be used by the blind.

You can continue with this walk, where you can see the most famous view of Kings College Chapel, some more of the Backs, then cross the river at Garret Hostle Bridge, to walk through the city centre past Tudor college gatehouses to end up at the Round Church. See the third river walk for details.

Starting from Silver Street bridge, walk the other way. There is a lane on the left. Turn down this to see Queens college gatehouse, dating back to Tudor times.

You may be able to visit the college, but it charges for this, and it is not open during exam season.

Queens college gatehouse

Fitzbillies

Feeling peckish? Carry on walking down Silver Street to the end, where you can find Fitzbillies, a famous cake shop. Its Chelsea buns are particularly appreciated!

Its name comes from the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is nearby (turn right at the top of Silver Street).

If you turn left at the top of Silver Street, then you are heading towards the city centre, and more tourist attractions, such as Kings College Chapel. These are described above.

If you would prefer a quiet walk along the river instead, then return to Silver Street bridge, and follow the fourth river walk.

Fourth river walk