Exploring Cambridge: The Historic English University City

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

​I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Cambridge recently.

Cambridge is a historic city in England and home to one of the country’s two leading universities. The other is Oxford and the two are often referred to together as Oxbridge.

Cambridge is a beautiful city and while I’ve visited it a few times before, I’ve only ever been for the day and haven’t had much time to explore.

This time, I had several days there and I wanted to share my travels with you!

Punting along the River Cam
Punting along the River Cam

Punting along the River Cam is one of the few things I had done before, and I was more than happy to do it again. I love the water so if I can ever find a boat trip, I’m happy! You can take a boat out yourself and punt your way along the river, but I’ve never been brave enough to try that. I don’t think my balance is good enough!

The guided punt tours are wonderful because they include information about all of the sights you pass by - and there are several. The stretch of the river that the punts usually go down is called The Backs, because it takes you along the backs of some of the city’s most beautiful and important buildings.

The University of Cambridge is made up of several colleges and many of them back onto the river and can be seen from the punting tour. Former students of the University include Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Turing, Emma Thompson, Prince Charles, Arianna Huffington and Ian McKellen.

I did do some really impressive sightseeing while away, but it wasn’t all high-brow! One night, I went to the cinema and was delighted to discover that the cinema featured fairly small screens, with maybe 50 seats in each, and every single seat was a full reclining leather chair with an individual table for your snacks! It was so relaxing!

King's College, Cambridge
King’s College, Cambridge

This is a view of King’s College from the Church of St Mary the Great.

In this small church, I paid a few pounds to climb all the way up to the roof via 123 tiny, winding stairs. Not the experience for the claustrophobic!

The 360 degree views from the roof were worth the climb, and the hair raising moments when someone tried to climb down as I was climbing up. The steps were barely wide enough for one person never mind two people to safely pass each other!

I snapped this photo which shows King’s College Chapel (right) and the entrance to King’s College itself where the cars are (left). The grass in the middle of the quadrangle is pristine and nobody is allowed to walk on it!

King's College Chapel
King’s College Chapel

King’s College Chapel is open to the public for £9, which allows unlimited returns for a full year.

Alternatively, you can attend the chapel for one of their services which are free of charge.

I did both, paying to visit in the daytime so that I could look around at my leisure and take photographs, and then returning later for the full choir service, which was incredibly moving. Regardless of your religious (or not) views, to be in such an incredible building listening to a full choir of men and boys was a really wonderful experience.

If you do want to go and attend a service at the chapel, arrive early. I arrived around 15-20 minutes before the service began and there was already quite a queue.

If this looks or sounds familiar, Carols from Kings is performed and televised each year at Christmas (here in the UK anyway) and it is performed from King’s College Chapel. If you’re never likely to be able to visit in person, watching or listening to Carols from Kings is definitely worthwhile. This video shows the choir performing much as they were when I visited.

King's College Chapel
King’s College Chapel

Another photo from inside King’s College Chapel, this one showing the intricate design of the roof.

It really was impossible to capture the scale and awe of this building!

Finally, on the way home, I stopped at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial.

This World War II American military war grave cemetery contains almost 4,000 American war dead and features a Wall of the Missing, inscribed with the names of over 5,000 whose bodies were never recovered.

This was an incredibly humbling experience.

The site includes a visitor centre which profiles some of the lost, with photos of them and details about how they died.

There was also a chapel on site and during my visit, the American national anthem played out as I walked the perimeter of the graves. It was quite haunting.

I can’t describe this part of my trip as pleasant, but I’m pleased I visited and paid my respects for those who paid the ultimate price to attempt to secure freedom for the rest of us.

It was certainly a reminder that every day we have is precious.

If you ever get the chance, I would recommend a visit to Cambridge!

Mona x

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