The Top 15 Free Things To Do In Cambridge
For a wealthy, fast-growing city with a strong economy, stable job market, and renowned internationally, Cambridge may seem like an expensive place to visit in the UK. But the opposite is true if you know where to go.
It may not be the first place that would come to mind when looking for a budget-friendly travel destination, but there are actually countless free things to do in Cambridge. From visiting historical sites dating back from the Anglo-Saxon period to touring one of the world's oldest and most prestigious universities, you'll never run out of things to do and discover in the city.
But before going on a relaxing punting tour (this is a boat tour) or visiting any free attraction, make sure you place your bags and other personal items in reliable luggage storage in Cambridge. That way you can go to as many places as you want without worrying about your belongings.
Discover the Wonders of Animal Life at the Museum of Zoology
There’s no doubt visiting the Museum of Zoology is one of the best free things to do in Cambridge, especially if you’re traveling with your family. Located in the heart of the City Centre, the museum features Cambridge’s iconic landmark, a 21-meter long Fin Whale that would’ve weighed eighty tonnes when alive.
The massive specimen will greet you as you enter the Museum of Zoology, and you’ll find tens of thousands of zoological discoveries showcasing the diversity of animal life. It has everything you'll see in the animal kingdom, from marsupials to gigantic manatees. Some of the wonderful treasures the museum holds include specimens discovered by brilliant naturalists like Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin.
Take Photos of the Historical Mathematical Bridge
A famous footbridge across the River Cam, Mathematical Bridge, was first built in 1749 by James Essex and designed by William Etheridge a year before. It has been considered a remarkable feat in mid-18th century architecture, with the implementation of a voussoir arch bridge design in timber. Although it was rebuilt twice, in 1866 and 1905, its original design remained the same.
Besides its unique structure, what makes this bridge popular are the interesting myths and false stories surrounding its construction. One of them is the legend that the builder and architect were former students of Queens' College. There was also speculation that the bridge was designed by Isaac Newton. However, it was later debunked, as Newton died in 1727, and the bridge was built much later.
Whether it’s the design, interesting history, or the stories about this bridge that grab people’s attention, this historic bridge is worth your time. Enjoy a punting tour, get close-up views of stunning sights, and take great photos as you travel under one of the iconic bridges in Cambridge.
Visit The Fitzwilliam Museum
Arguably the most famous museum in Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum will take you across the world, gives you a glimpse of the past, and provide clues about how ancient people lived through its remarkable art collections and historical artifacts. Founded in 1816, the museum currently houses more than half a million works of art in a Grade 1 listed building that boasts beautiful architecture in the heart of Cambridge.
The Museum is owned by Cambridge University and is regarded as its principal museum. Some of its magnificent treasures include Islamic arts, illustrated manuscripts, finely printed books, ancient furniture and clocks, ceramics, antiquities from old Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus, coins and medals, and more.
But the best thing about visiting this Cambridge museum is that it’s completely free. You can find it on Trumpington Street, and you can go to an exhibition and explore its galleries without spending a dime.
Be One With Nature at Wandlebury Country Park
The Wandlebury Country Park provides a paradise for all nature lovers looking for free things to do in Cambridge. This picturesque countryside estate offers eight miles of waymarked trails for a gentle stroll, a den building area, and sixty hectares of woodland and meadows for you to explore. If you're looking for a place to take your kids during school holidays, the park also offers a games field to keep them entertained for hours.
Look out for the park’s natural lawnmowers, the highland cattle grazing on lush meadows, keeping them in good condition for wildlife and blooms. Come and visit at the start of spring to witness the spectacular white and yellow carpet of aconites and snowdrops, and other flowers blossoming throughout the season.
Learn More About the World Famous University
Your trip to Cambridge will not be complete without visiting one of the world's oldest universities. Cambridge University tours provide a one-of-a-kind experience to all guests. You can opt for a relaxing punting cruise or a walking tour led by real experts – the university students – who will take you in and around Cambridge's famous colleges.
Cambridge University consists of 31 colleges, each has a fascinating characteristic, unique history, and notable structure. Although you have to pay to enter the most iconic building, the King’s College, most colleges are open to the public and can be explored for free, including Darwin College, Jesus College, Girton College, Murray Edwards College, Trinity Hall, Gonville and Caius College.
Delve Deep Into the Science Behind Our Planet at Sedgwick Museum
One of the free museums you shouldn't miss when you visit Cambridge is the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, located in Downing street. It houses approximately two million specimens from around the globe, spanning over 4.5 billion years of history of life on Earth. It features rich exhibits and child-friendly exhibitions, making it an interesting museum to explore with your little ones.
If you’re interested in dinosaurs, love geology, and like to witness billions of years of ancient life in one building, this is the place to go. Apart from the workshops, displays, and other annual events, The Sedgwick Museum also has plenty of free activities for individuals and families to enjoy.
Take a Stroll to Cambridge Market Square
Another way to experience the diversity and embrace local culture and the eclectic community in this beautiful city is by taking a trip to Cambridge Market Square. It’s a far cry from what you’ll see in a museum or an art gallery, so it may not be on top of your must-visit list. But it’s fundamental to completing your city adventure.
Stalls have been trading here since the middle ages, and the market has played a crucial role in the growth of the city’s economic wealth. It even made Cambridge the unofficial center of East Anglia, as people from all over the country would come and sell their wares for centuries in Market Square.
It's open seven days a week and hosts a craft market on Sundays, featuring works from local craftspeople, potters, and artists. It's also an incredible place to buy traditional souvenirs, yummy street foods, and locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
View the City from Above at the Castle Hill
Located north of the city center, Castle Hill is close to other must-see attractions in Cambridge, including the Kettle’s Yard, which boasts an excellent collection of modern art located on Castle Street. Although the hill is not a big climb you can still make an easy hike of it, and you’ll marvel at the stunning view of the city and surrounding countryside. Even the King's College can be seen from there! It's also a great place for a picnic or watching the beautiful sunset.
Don’t expect to see a castle, or you’ll be disappointed. Although the castle was neglected and disappeared, and all that remains is the earth motte, the green grassy mound has played a critical role in the city's history.
Check Out Trinity College's Wren Library
Historians, bookworms, and geeks will find a true wonderland in Wren Library. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1676, the Wren Library in Trinity College was completed in 1695 and now holds more than 70,000 books. These include books from Isaac Newton's library, the Capell collection of early Shakespeare editions, A. A. Milne’s original Winnie the Pooh manuscripts, and the 18th century English literature from the Rothschild collection.
There’s no arguing that researching in an old, historic library is one of the best free things to do in Cambridge. Since it’s still a working library, you can only visit during certain times. It is open two hours a day, six days a week, from Monday to Friday from noon to 2 pm, and from 10:30 to 12:30 on Saturdays.
Stop by the Cambridge American Cemetery
It may not be the first place you'll think of when looking for free things to do in Cambridge, but if you're in town, a visit to the Cambridge American Cemetery is worth your time. The memorial site, covering 30.5 acres, was donated by Cambridge University and was chosen in 1948 as a permanent resting place for fallen American WW2 servicemen and women.
The cemetery is one of 14 permanent American WW2 military cemeteries that the American Battle Monuments Commission built on foreign soil. It contains the remains of 3,811 war dead and 5,127 names recorded on the Walls of the Missing.
Celebrate World Culture at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Exploring the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MMA) should definitely be on your list of free things to do in Cambridge. Located in Downing St. near Cambridge Station, MMA is part of Cambridge University, working closely with other university museums. Hundreds of thousands of years of humanity's history are in its care, including collections of prehistoric materials and artifacts obtained from around the globe.
Like other Cambridge museums, the MMA allows its visitors to have a glimpse of what the world was like and what ancient people valued through their works of art. It features exhibits related to archaeology, ancient costume and textiles, and world cultures. It’s a public museum, so it’s free entry. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sundays from 12 noon to 5 pm.
Discover The Backs of Cambridge
If the ticket prices of entering the colleges are too much for you, why don’t you explore the Cambridge Backs instead? Of course, the experience and sights will be different from actually going into the colleges of the University of Cambridge. Still, it’s worth your time with shimmering waters and spectacular green spaces, from which you can enjoy the scenic views of the University’s historical halls and buildings.
The Cambridge Backs refers to the backs of the colleges, a landscaped area running along the River Cam. These colleges include the famous King’s College, Queens’ College, Trinity Hall, Clare College, St. Johns College, Magdalene College, and Trinity College. During spring, vibrant crocuses and daffodils cover the riverbanks, which are truly magnificent sights to behold.
Have a Relaxing Afternoon at Jesus Green
Leave all your troubles behind and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at Jesus Green. It is located north of the town, surrounded by the River Cam, Jesus College, and Victoria Avenue. It’s a popular picnic area and serves as a center of activity for locals and visitors, especially in the warmer months.
This open parkland grass area offers a perfect respite from the pressures of school or work. Here, you can play tennis or swim in Jesus Green Lido, one of the few remaining lidos in the country built in the 1920s and 1930s. There’s also a railway-themed play area for children, a skate park, a barbecue area, and table tennis that’s completely free.
Attend Evensong at King’s College Chapel or St. John’s Chapel
It doesn’t matter how great or little your faith is or whether you’re a choir music fan or not. Each week, the King’s College chapel and St. John’s chapel are transformed by music, providing everyone an opportunity for meditation and quiet reflection while listening to enchanting choral music.
Although visitor access is limited to the chapel only, and you’ll have to pay to tour the building, it’s still a wonderful experience to be at King’s College for free. If you visit Cambridge during the winter months, be sure to stop by and hear evensong at King's College. The performance is world-class that BBC broadcasts the iconic choir's Christmas eve service, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, during Christmas to the country and the world.
Have a Good Time at The Eagle Pub
It is a free attraction unless, of course, you order from the menu and spend money. But whether you're buying or not, a trip to the Eagle Pub is worth your time. It originally opened as The Eagle and Child in 1667, and became the local pub of Cambridge University staff.
This famous pub is brimming in history, which is a big draw to tourists and locals. It's also where these university scientists, Francis Crick and James Watson, announced that they've found 'the secret of life,' which was the DNA's double helix structure.
Things To Do in Cambridge for Free
There's no shortage of activities to enjoy and places to explore in Cambridge. Whether you're traveling with friends or going solo, your holiday will be full of learning, discovery, and fun without breaking your bank account.
Wherever you go, you'll be surrounded by historic university buildings that are awe-inspiring to see and lovely places to stroll. You can also visit as part of a tour or plan your own adventure and get lost in this beautiful city.