Gliding down the River Cam, getting fascinated by the serenity the environment offers, your mind gets tranquilized and you feel as if you have stepped back in time into an old Dickens novel.

Read our punting guide on everything you need to know before punting in Cambridge

A Brief History of Naming of Cambridge

Around the 12th century, Cambridge was found around the area of Castle Mount and it became the head of navigation of the then called River Granta. Cambridge soon became an important trading port thus arising a need for a bridge. It was at this time the Norwich architect Arthur Browne built the Great Bridge called the Magdalene Bridge. The bridge is a single span of cast iron bridge terminating in ashlar piers and surmounted by an iron railing. The Great Bridge was the only bridge crossing the Granta at that time, and people used to call it ‘Grentebrige’, ‘Cantebrigge’ in accordance with the name of the river, Granta. The name did not become ‘Cambridge’ until much later. By that time, the town was called ‘Cambridge’, this gave the bridge its name, ‘Cambridge’ and the assumption was that the river must therefore be ‘Cam’, and so that was what it became.

The River Cam

Cambridge is on the River Cam which has a total distance of approximately 40 miles from Cambridge to the sea. The River Cam is the main river flowing in Eastern England. After leaving Cambridge, the river flows north and east into the Great Ouse to the south of Ely at Pope’s Corner. It is the Great Ouse that connects the Cam to the North Sea at King’s Lynn. It is the Great Ouse that connects England’s canal system via the Midlevel Navigations and the River Nene. Thus, the River Cam runs for around 43 miles from Debden in Essex to its confluence with Great Ouse.
It plays a vital role in Cambridge’s life. Not just famous for punting, people spend their free time at riverside parks, bars and restaurants.

Punting in Cambridge

The boat on the river Cam popularly known as a punt is long, narrow flat-bottomed and squared at both ends. It is designed for its use in shallow water and is propelled with a long pole. It generally has seating for 4 adults and a fifth person stands at the rear and he propels the boat with the pole. Punts are commonly used on inland waters chiefly for recreation. Not just in Cambridge, but also in Oxford, Canterbury and Kent in the UK, punts are commonly seen. Although a Punt seems similar to the Venetian Gondola, they are different in many aspects. Unlike a punt, a Gondola has an oar for propagation instead of the pole and is structurally different from the former too.

Originated from the word punt, Punting is the act of gliding smoothly along the river on a punt and enjoying the eye-catching view. The one who drives the punt by standing on it and propelling the pole is called a Punter. Every punting tour company in Cambridge offers the service of a Punter who is not just a Chauffeur but also is omniscient in the history of Cambridge. Punting is not an easy task as it appears. It needs high skill and hence it is always advisable to opt for a Chauffeured Punt.

Punting in Cambridge is an indelible adventure of gliding through the famous College Backs in the heart of the city. You ought to witness the architectural excellences of 7 riverside colleges, including Magdalene, St John’s, Trinity, Trinity Hall, Clare, King’s and Queen’s College, during your punting trip. And if you are in a chauffeured punt, the punter would explain the compelling history of Cambridge and its Universities.

Discover the charm of the River Cam and enchant the aroma of the daffodils and cherry blossoms by hopping into a punt and appreciating the serene environment!

Places to Punt in Cambridge

There are two places to punt in Cambridge. The most popular one is at the Backs of Cambridge; here you’ll trip by glancing at the Bridge of Sighs, the Mathematical Bridge and the King’s College. This exhibits the architectural masterpieces at Cambridge.

The other place is Grantchester; a quieter and serene place. If you are planning to enjoy the beauty of the environment by punting yourself, then Grantchester is the right place to do it. You can even stop at a riverside pub for a dine.

The Backs of Cambridge

The Cambridge Backs is an area to the east of Queen’s Road in the city of Cambridge. Located at central Cambridge along the banks of the River Cam, the scenic route of the Backs covers some of the most famous and prestigious colleges that together form the Cambridge University. The Back’s and King’s College has been rated as one of the top ten views in England by the National Trust.

The name Backs actually refers to the backs of the colleges. The Backs has seven Cambridge University Colleges situated in its area. Punting from north to south, we see :

  • Magdalene College
  • St John’s College
  • Trinity College
  • Clare College
  • King’s College
  • Queen’s College

The Back provides phenomenal views throughout the year and will be covered with a blanket of daffodils, cherry blossoms, and crocuses during the spring.

In the heart of hectic medieval city of Cambridge, Backs thrives to be an area of absolute serene and idyllic. Wide open spaces, cattles grazed in well manicured lawns, gleaming old architectural masterpieces, tranquil river banks where people choose to relax during the summer months are the characteristics of Cambridge Backs.

The Grantchester

Located at a short distance from the center of Cambridge, this village is not just notable for its serene, but for a small village, its brains. There are a lot of Nobel Prize Winners from Grantchester, many of whom worked at Cambridge University earlier. The Grantchester has got a medieval church and a few thatched cottages. The pool in Grantchester where Lord Byron is popular over the nation.

Tourist Attractions In Cambridge

Even Though Cambridge is globally famous for its prestigious University, that is not all it has. Cambridge claims to have one of the highest concentrations of preserved historic buildings anywhere in the United Kingdom. A greater percentage of the history, tradition and architectural masterpiece is contributed by the 31 colleges of Cambridge University.

Immigrant scholars from Paris established schools in the 12th century. And they founded the first college, Peterhouse in 1284.

Cambridge was an eminent Norman fortification before the University came into existence. Castle Mound, which can still be seen near Shire Hall imparts greater ambiance to the city. Cambridge is an important market town till date. Being the center of Cambridge’s ancient wool trade, Market Hill still continues to be one of the busy marketplaces in the city.

Although Cambridge is popular for its romantic medieval character, it is actually a modern town that always updates with the latest trends and thus hosts a variety of top-notch cultural events throughout the year. The cultural activities include the 800 year old Midsummer Fair that is still held in the same location on Midsummer Common, the famous Cambridge Folk Festival, and a world-class film festival.

Cambridge is well known for its numerous green spaces which include the 25 acres Parker’s Piece and Victorian era’s Christ’s Pieces. Parker’s Piece is esteemed as the birthplace of modern football and Christ’s Pieces is notable for its stunning ornamental trees and flowerbeds.

But above all, the most red-lettered memory Cambridge can ever provide you would be its exclusive punting experience. Punting through the River Cam should be the Top 1 priority in your Bucket List as gliding through the heart of the city offers astonishing and incredible views.

Here is a list of the 14 best tourist attractions in Cambridge, although there are numerous fascinating spots all over the city

Kings College and King’s College Chapel

The college has a huge expanse of lawn that extends down the river and King’s Bridge. The choir from the King’s College Chapel is a refreshment for your mind.

Queen’s College and the Mathematical Bridge

The college possess the most complete medieval buildings of Cambridge University. The magnificent gateway leading to the red brick First Court and the masterpiece Mathematical Bridge are a never to miss tourist spots.

Cambridge University Botanical Garden

With more than 8000 species of plants to exhibits, this is an absolute wonder for then garden enthusiasts.

Great St Mary’s Church and the Round Church

This spot which is both a Parish and University church, has a 1608 built tower which adds to view of Cambridge.

Trinity College

It has the largest court in Cambridge, the Trinity Court.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

This most famous museum with a masterpiece of architecture contains a speechless collection of illuminated manuscripts, English and Chinese pottery, and Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities.

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens, and Lode Mill

Known as the house of fine arts and furnishing, the breathtaking home contains numerous tapestries.

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Contains innumerous collection of prehistoric material and artifacts collected from all around the world.

Peterhouse College

The oldest college of Cambridge

Pembroke College

The Pembroke Chapel is famous as architect Wren’s first work. The college grounds and Chapel are good tourist destinations.

Corpus Christi College

The college library possess a collection of valuable manuscript. The college has made summer accommodations available for tourists.

St. John’s College

It is a fine example of Tudor architecture. Almost every rooms in this building possess splendid architectural excellences.

Museums of Cambridge, Technology, and Science

This museum is popular for exhibiting displays that focus on almost all everyday products of local people of 18th to 20th century.

National Horse Racing Museum

It provides a memorable visit for the horse fans by exhibiting products related to the history of the “sport of kings”.

A trip to Cambridge can be a wonderful experience for both locals and tourists alike. The Cambridge Day trip is a treasure trove of historical sites, beautiful streets, and historic buildings. With the best transport links from central London, you can try punting along the River Cam across the world-famous Cambridge University Colleges in less than an hour. Among all the tourist attractions in Cambridge, Punting in Cambridge is one of the most popular pastimes of the medieval and present era.

A Brief History of Cambridge

Although Cambridge has been a major trading center since Roman times, the city gained prominence in the Middle Ages when the famous university was founded. The University of Cambridge, one of the most famous centers of learning in the world, was founded in 1209. Some scholars at Oxford University fled after a dispute with the city residents. The University and its beautiful college buildings are now the heart of the city. It is a place where scholars cycle through the streets, relax by the river and spend some quality time with their families.

Famous Tourist Attractions in Cambridge

Cambridge is a small city and easy to get around. You have to walk half an hour to get to town by train. Let’s get acquainted with the major tourist attractions in Cambridge.

Tower at Great St. Mary’s

Start your Cambridge sightseeing by climbing the 123 steps of the tower at the 800-year-old Great St. Mary’s Church opposite King’s College. The view above King’s College Chapel is the best in Cambridge, extending across the colleges and the Cam River.

Great St. Mary’s Church is a parish and university church built in the 15th century. It has an excellent interior and was added to the galleries in 1739. The church, which was founded in 1608, is famous for its views of Cambridge.

King’s college chapel Cambridge

Many people visit Cambridge to see this extraordinary building – King’s College Chapel. When you walk into a large space, you can’t help but be amazed at the world’s largest gothic styled fan vault ceiling.

The light that refracts from the medieval stained glass windows creates an incredibly beautiful light inside the chapel. The chapel is open to the public at different times throughout the year.

Cambridge Punting Tours

Cambridge Punting Tours

Punting is one of the world famous tourist attractions in Cambridge that offers a fabulous boat ride across the River Cam . You can try to navigate the River Cam on your own, but we strongly recommend taking a punting tour in Cambridge. Sit back and relax in the punt while drifting across the River Cam and experience the lush gardens of the university.

Punting tours in Cambridge also allows you to discover the glorious stories of medieval England narrated by your punting guide. A highlight of your punting experience will include the Bridge of Sighs and the Mathematical Bridge, which are the most famous bridges in the city. A cozy ride is guaranteed during the winters as blankets are available during these punts.

Cambridge University Colleges

Most of us have heard a lot about Cambridge University colleges that are famous tourist attractions in Cambridge. Cambridge punting tours across many of the city’s most famous colleges. The 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge are founded in their 800-year old history, each with its unique history, architecture, and story.

Here are some of the most famous Cambridge colleges,

St. John’s college

One of the oldest and most famous colleges in Cambridge, St. John’s was founded in 1509 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Her emblem appears at the main entrance of the college. The buildings are named after the bridge of the same name in Venice. St. John’s College Chapel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and is thought to have been inspired by St. Chapel in Paris.

Trinity college

Trinity College is a renowned learning centre of Cambridge University and is famous for its Great Court, the Ren Library, and distinguished alumni. No less than 32 Nobel laureates attended Trinity as graduates. Prince William Gloucester and Prince Charles were also students of Trinity. Wren Library is one of the best libraries in the world with a rich collection of rare books in the country and is home to the first two folios of Shakespeare.

King’s college

Henry VI established this prestigious institution in the year 1441 near the River Cam. And the entire building faces onto the famed street known as the Kings Parade. You should visit Kings College to explore the spectacular Gothic-styled architecture and the gorgeous stained glass windows. This famed academic building is home to the dynamic Baroque paintings of Peter Paul Reubens that dates back to the 1616’s.

Queen’s college

The Mathematical Bridge, part of the Queen’s College buildings, is the final destination of most of the Punting Tours in Cambridge. It is wrongly attributed as the work of Isaac Newton, but was built after his death. It is one of the most popular landmarks of the city. Queen’s College is one of the oldest colleges in Cambridge, and the Dutch Renaissance scholar Erasmus is an alumni.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

With a massive 40-acre Botanical garden founded in 1831, this park houses a collection of over 8,000 species of plants from around the world. Be sure to spend your time wandering through the glasshouses and sidewalks in the garden, which can be done as part of a guided tour. Afterward, visit the Garden Cafe and the Botanic Garden Shop.

Other Famous Places to Visit in Cambridge

Cambridge is a city steeped in rich history and deep secrets hidden behind every wall. This is a place that needs to be explored with the guidance of experts, so you can fully understand the legacy and its impact on history.

Cambridge punting tour offers tourists the opportunity to explore the 800-year-old historic universities under the guidance of experienced guides.

Stroll along the backs

Your Cambridge tour will not be complete without crossing the River Cam in an area known as “the Backs.” This beautiful place is home to some of the most beautiful colleges in the city, from Magdalene Bridge to Silver Street Bridge. On sunny days it is an excellent tourist attractions in Cambridge for people who love duck watching. You can walk along the path in any weather.

The round church

An important landmark in Cambridge is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (also known as The Round Church), one of the few surviving medieval round churches in England.

Fitzwilliam museum

If you can spare a little more time, a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum is a must. This museum is full of antiquities from ancient times and also includes the artwork of many prolific painters of Europe. There are paintings by Da Vinci, paintings by Rembrandt, and a fascinating collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

National Horse Racing Museum

Since 1174, Newmarket, which is located 13 miles east of Cambridge, has been the center of English horse racing. Horse lovers can visit the National Horse Racing Museum at this gorgeous High Street. Exhibits are associated with the history of the “sport of kings” and are still among the most popular sports in Britain.

All the 31 colleges of the University fill the entire expanse of Cambridge. A cultural adventure in Cambridge that combines riverside strolling and lunch in a proper English pub highlights any trip to England. Most of the places we mentioned here are brimming with beautiful ecosystems and the incredible history of Cambridge. These tourist attractions in Cambridge would be suitable locations for anyone who desires to explore the spectacular destinations of London.