Guide to Cambridge (Town)

Cambridge is the mother of all college towns. It’s ancient–as exhibited by the round church (pictured below). It’s bustling–there were about a million Chinese tourists clogging the streets. It’s jam-packed with things to do, see, and eat.

Founded in 1209 and granted a royal charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after Oxford, founded in1096/1167) and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.

Cambridge Town
The Round Church (or, technically, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is not only the oldest building in Cambridge, but it’s a stunning example of what the Romans were able to accomplish 2,000 years ago.

It’s £3.50 for admission, £1 for students, free for Cambridge residents and children under 12–and totally worth it (though we got in free because we arrived 10 minutes before they closed). The stained glass is miraculous and, like I said, it’s the oldest building in an extremely old city–which is not surprising since most cities centered around the nearest church. As my professor would say, “head for the nearest spires and you’ll find a few treasures.”

There are 31 colleges that form the University of Cambridge. Each college has its own faculty, dean, crest, and rules. Peterhouse College is the oldest. Trinity College, which has a few doppelgangers (one in Oxford, one in Dublin, and one in Connecticut), is the richest with over a million dollars in their coiffeurs. Murray Edwards, Newnham, and Lucy Cavendish Colleges admit only women–yay for women’s colleges (#Brenau)!

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Cambridge has beautiful churches and chapels in abundance, as each college has their own. One of my favorites was St. Michael’s Chapel, where we ate at the Michaelhouse Café inside.


The most dominant church is Great St. Mary’s. If you happen to be in town around 5:30 on any given Sunday, be sure to stop in for the Evensong service–a classic Anglican choral performance that’s totally free to the public.

Founded in 1209 and granted a royal charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after Oxford, founded in1096/1167) and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.

Cambridge Town (1)

I’m not sure you can even say you’ve been to Cambridge if you didn’t go punting.

Pictured above is the famous Bridge of Sighs, which has a twin in Oxford and in Venice. According to our bridge-expert/guide/punter, the legend is that in Venice, the bridge led to the executioner’s block after being sentenced and the condemned would sigh at the sight. Of course, in Cambridge, the folklore is that the building on the other side is where you get your exam results.


Cambridge Town (2)
Note: This was a mock prospective student guide to Brenau University’s Cambridge program, so there is no “page 17.”

Most colleges will let you tour them, especially the chapels. In fact, on our way to a late brunch at Café Rouge after our Windsor, Bath, & Stonehenge excursion, we found the usual road blocked for construction so we went through Clare College. The gate clerk took pity on us and only charged us £2.5 instead of £5 each. Unfortunately, they were holding a wedding in the chapel so we couldn’t go in, but the fellows’ garden was lovely and right beside the river.


One library in particular that is worth visiting is St. John’s College Old Library (as opposed to the Working Library). The Old Library is a two-story, 17th-century building and houses the College’s special collections, which may be consulted in the Rare Books Reading Room. Past exhibitions have included Wordsworth’s handwritten manuscripts of  poetry and first editions of his most popular books. The Old Library and Rare Books Reading Room are open Mon-Fri 9:00-1:00 and 2:00-5:00. Individuals wishing to tour the Old Library need to arrange an appointment with the Special Collections Librarian in advance.


The Wren Library at Trinity College is another great place to hit up. It’s open Mon-Fri 9:00–5:00. It houses 1250 medieval manuscripts, Sir Isaac Newton’s own library, and two of alum A. A. Milne’s manuscripts: Winnie-the-Pooh (currently on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum) and The House at Pooh Corner. Both A. A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin Milne studied at Trinity.

Who else is excited to see Goodbye Christopher Robin and the 2018-slated live-action Disney film Christopher Robin?

And, of course, there’s always the Fitzwilliam Museum (right across from Fitzbillies). Unfortunately, you won’t find Mr. Darcy of Pemberley here, but the architecture alone could satisfy many an Austen fan. The best part though? Admission is totally free, like most museums in Britain, though donations are welcome. It’s open Tues-Sat 10:00-7:00.

One thought on “Guide to Cambridge (Town)

  1. Pingback: Month Eleven (Status Report) – Partial Disclosure

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