A Charming & Historical Walking Tour of Cambridge, England

Updated: November 24, 2019

Cambridge is a beautiful city to visit, especially since it is so easy to come here from London. The historical Cambridge University with its many colleges and traditions form a unique vibe in this college city. Come along with me on a beautiful Cambridge walking tour.

Ever since we lived in Cambridge for an entire month, the city has become our favorite day trip from London. We found spring time absolutely gorgeous with all the flowers and trees blooming. So, come along with me on my favorite Cambridge walking tour.

Favorite Places on my Cambridge Walking Tour

  • Cambridge historical colleges form the main attraction of this college town. Walking down King’s Parade is a beautiful experience.
  • Walking along the backs of the colleges gives you a completely different view of Cambridge’s old center.
  • Going punting along River Cam is a unique experience.
  • Cambridge old churches are scattered all over the city’s center and they are beautiful to visit. One of my favorite quaint English churches is in Cambridge.
  • Strolling through beautiful gardens especially during sunny days during the spring is absolutely stunning.

Walking Tour Map of Cambridge, England
Walking Tour Map of Cambridge, England
Red: see, Blue: walk, Green: if you have more time
See my photos from Cambridge

The easiest way to come from London is book a very convenient day trip from London to Cambridge. This tour will take you to most important attractions and it is perfect especially if you are short on time. Also, if your time is limited in Cambridge you will greatly benefit from taking a very affordable locally conducted tour of Cambridge.

With our map in hand and some comfortable walking shoes let’s start our walking tour of Cambridge.

1. The Round Church

The first stop on our Cambridge walking tour is the Round Church, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Round Church was built by crusaders in the 12th century and is one of the oldest landmarks in Cambridge.

The Round Church is the usual starting spot on any Cambridge walking tour.
The Round Church is the best spot for starting any Cambridge walking tour.
See my photos from Cambridge

One of only four medieval round churches still in use in England, the Round Church is constructed in the Gothic architectural style. The visitor’s center offers exhibits on the history of the city and the church. It is the perfect place to begin our walking tour because of its iconic appearance and central location in the Cambridge city center.

The Round Church is one of the oldest landmarks in Cambridge
The Round Church is one of the oldest landmarks in Cambridge
See my photos from historical Cambridge

From here, we will walk down St. John’s Street, which becomes the famous King’s Parade – the only route in the city that passes by all Cambridge Historical Colleges.

2. Great St Mary’s Church

Get ready for a climb! At the North end of King’s Parade, we will come across Great St Mary’s Church.

Great Saint Mary's Church seen from the market square.
Great Saint Mary’s Church seen from the market square.
See my photos from historical Cambridge

Look up at the imposing stone tower, which houses the bells that have rung out every day for hundreds of years. For a small fee, you can ascend the staircase within the tower and take in sweeping views of the Historical Colleges. We will visit a couple of these later on our Cambridge walking tour.

The church has a close relationship with Cambridge University – in fact, it is still required that undergraduate students live within three miles of the church. Inside, enjoy the quiet atmosphere under wooden beamed ceilings and learn about the church’s two impressive organs.

Cambridge, England - Farmers' Market at Market Hill and panorama of Cambridge seen from Great Saint Mary's Church Tower.
Farmers’ Market at Market Hill and panorama of Cambridge seen from Great Saint Mary’s Church Tower.
See my photos from Cambridge

When you’re ready, continue down King’s Parade and Trumpington Street, pass Silver Street, and turn right on Mill Lane.

3. Sheep’s Green

At the end of Mill Lane you will find yourself on the banks of the River Cam. If you’re in a seafaring mood, you can take a boat tour of the Historical Colleges along the river. You may also hire a punt, kayak, or canoe to explore independently. Then, stroll diagonally through the picturesque Sheep’s Green. You will pass by many small ponds and bridges in this expansive park, and eventually you will arrive on the opposite bank of the river.

Beautiful view of punting boats moored on River Cam.
Beautiful view of punting boats moored on River Cam.
See my photos from Cambridge

Walk north on Queen’s Road, then turn right on Silver Street to find the next stop on our Cambridge walking tour.

4. Mathematical Bridge

After walking east on Silver Street, you will find Queen’s College on your left. Near Queen’s College, there is a view of a small wooden bridge. Although its real name is Wooden Bridge, it is known in Cambridge history as Mathematical Bridge because of its fascinating engineering and construction. There is a popular myth that Isaac Newton built this bridge without using any screws, bolts, or nails. In reality, it was designed and constructed by William Etheredge and James Essex in 1749. It is held together with typical fasteners, but it is famous for its elegant rounded arch shape…even though it is built with only straight planks of wood! You can cross the bridge yourself and explore Queen’s College for £3.50.

The quirky wooden Mathematical Bridge over River Cam is a popular stop on any Cambridge walking tour.
Built in 1749, the wooden Mathematical Bridge over River Cam links two parts of Queen’s College.
See my photos from York

When you’re ready to continue our Cambridge walking tour, head back to the west bank of the river.

5. Walk The Backs

A large portion of the remainder of our walking tour of Cambridge will take place along The Backs, a scenic tree-lined path that follows the back sides of the Historical Colleges. The Backs is flanked by the colleges’ huge lawns, which have been well-preserved for centuries as a popular green space. As you walk, listen for the nearby murmuring of the River Cam. Keep to your right, and cross King’s College Bridge when you reach it. Here, you arrive at the magnificent King’s College, a marvel of Gothic English architecture. Notable alumni include mathematician Alan Turing and author Zadie Smith. Wander the grounds if you like, then continue to our next stop.

Beautiful back view of King's College and its Chapel.
Beautiful back view of King’s College and its Chapel.
See my photos from York

6. King’s College Chapel

King’s College was not built in a day – in fact, it was not even built in seventy years. Construction on the chapel began in 1446, and was still incomplete when King Henry VIII was coronated in 1509. The chapel was finally completed in 1531 with the installation of vivid stained glass windows. Construction of the chapel took place during the Wars of the Roses, which is part of the reason it took so long. Inside, look up at the intricate, lacy ceilings. Walk along the bold black and white marble floor to the altar, where you can view The Adoration of the Magi by well-known Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens.

King's College Chapel and The Old Schools seen from Saint Mary's Church Tower.
King’s College Chapel and The Old Schools seen from Saint Mary’s Church Tower.
See my photos from York

If you’re planning to come to Cambridge, make sure you checkout the official King’s College website for the best information about visiting this beautiful chapel.

When you’ve had your fill of the chapel’s stunning architecture and history, exit King’s College and head towards Clare College, just to the west on the bank of the river. There are two stops left on the Cambridge walking tour.

7. Fellows’ Garden at Clare College

Just across the river from Clare College is the sprawling green expanse of the Fellows’ Garden. The garden was designed by Nevill Willmer, a professor of History at Cambridge. Willmer’s interest in color theory paid off in the beautiful flora of the garden.

People punting on River Cam next to Clare College.
People punting on River Cam next to Clare College.
See my photos from Cambridge

It is a particularly special place to visit in the spring, when bright sunlight illuminates hundreds of colorful flowers. A small admission fee allows you to wander the garden at your leisure and engage in scholarly thought – or just enjoy the scenery.

The walkway to Clare College is lined up with blooming tulips in the spring.
The walkway to Clare College is lined up with blooming tulips in the spring.
See my photos from York

Return to the King’s Backs walking path and head north to the final stop on our Cambridge walking tour.

8. St John’s College

The small admission cost to enter the grounds of St John’s college is an excellent value. With entry, you are free to explore the many buildings (called courts) of the college, which are full of attractions. Start with the Bridge of Sighs, a charming bridge that connects Third Court and New Court.

The covered bridge of sighs at St. John's college seen from a boat
The covered bridge of sighs at St. John’s college seen from a boat
See my photos from Cambridge

This bridge is modeled after the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, and the stone arches and delicate glass windows evoke a romantic Italian atmosphere. Continue the Cambridge walking tour at the College Chapel, where you can view many significant artworks and pieces of history from St John’s. These include statues of notable alumni, such as William Wilberforce, one of a group of influential British slave abolitionists. Other St John’s alumni include Romantic poet William Wordsworth and science fiction author Douglas Adams.

Interior of the beautiful chapel of Saint John's College.
Interior of the beautiful chapel of Saint John’s College.
See my photos from historical Cambridge

In St John’s college, you will experience some of the most notable historic landmarks in Cambridge. If you are planning to visit, make sure you checkout St John’s visitor information website.

Is it worth visiting Cambridge, England?

Absolutely! Cambridge has become my favorite day trip from London. With its small historical center and idyllic River Cam location, Cambridge is beautiful to visit especially during spring.

My Best Resources for Planning your trip to Cambridge

Find budget hotels in Cambridge. With close to 500 properties in the area you can easily find a great place to stay. I recommend staying at the affordable Arundel House Hotel for its excellent location and beautiful setting. For a more refined place you can enjoy The Gonvile Hotel on the southern side of Cambrige’s historical center.

Coming from London? Book a very convenient day trip from London to Cambridge. This tour will take you to most important attractions and it is perfect especially if you are short on time.

Parking at the Round Church is the best place for starting your Cambridge walking tour.  Parking structures have very narrow parking spots in England, so be careful about driving in England and go slowly.

SMART Travel Planning Course
  • Plan your own trips efficiently and with confidence.
  • Learn money saving techniques that will help you stretch your travel budget further.
  • Learn to use simple online tools to keep everything organized and easily accessible.
Click for more info...
Subscribe to my newsletter and get your free Smart Travel Kit. Learn how to maximize your money, photography and electronics while traveling, plus practical destination guides delivered to your inbox for free.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.