Cambridge was absolutely made for punting – so it's the one thing you simply must have a go at while in the city! But if you don't fancy risking falling into the river, don't worry, there's a plethora of other exciting activities to keep you occupied. For the adventurous, there are places to climb and play escape games, or if you simply want to make the most of the fresh air, Cambridge is the perfect spot for walking and cycling.
Activities in Cambridge
The River Cam could have been purpose-built for punting. Although pleasure punts were relatively late to arrive in Cambridge – not being introduced until the turn of the 20th century – they've been a burgeoning success ever since. Today, it's thought there are more punts in the city than anywhere else in England – not least because the Cam is so shallow and the river bed is quite gravelly in many central stretches – unlike the muddy Cherwell in Oxford, which makes punting more treacherous.
There are numerous punting companies to choose from in Cambridge and you can, of course, take out your own self-hire punt if you want to have a go yourself. Just remember the advice of Jerome K Jerome that ‘it takes long practice before you can do this with dignity and without getting the water all up your sleeve’. But if you want to sample punting in style, try somewhere like Let's Go Punting, which organises chauffeured river tours along The Backs. It also does special events, such as weddings, hen parties and birthdays.
Another way of experiencing the beauty of Cambridge from the river is by boat. Cambridge River Trips towards the tranquil Ditton Meadows last around 45 minutes.
If you’re not averse to actually getting wet, then Jesus Green Outdoor Pool is a lovely spot for a dip if the weather's nice. Outdoor swimming pools are such a rarity these days that it's worth taking the plunge while you can.
Further afield, Linton Zoo is well worth a visit for animal lovers. Our Cambridge City East hotel is most handily located for the zoo, which is about 10 miles south-east of the city and is open all year round. Among the animals you can see at Linton Zoo are lions, tigers, tapirs, lemurs, parrots, tortoises and tarantulas. Set in a pleasant 18 acres of gardens and woods, there's enough to keep you busy for hours, including talks by keepers about the zoo’s conservation programme and other educational activities. Among the most popular are the zoo's exciting animal encounter sessions. There's free parking, a children's play area and a coffee shop serving snacks and lunches as well as drinks.
River Cam Punting
Staying indoors doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to less adventurous activities – as you’ll find out if you visit LockHouse Escape Games on Regent Street. It specialises in exciting indoor group adventure activity for adults and older children. Teams of up to seven members choose one of three themed games – Armageddon, Egyptian Tomb or Secret Agent – before solving puzzles and clues against the clock.
Clip 'n Climb is another great place for youngsters to burn off excess energy, Describing itself as a cross between a climbing centre and a theme park, it's suitable for anyone aged four or older. A typical session lasts an hour a half, including safety briefings and time to get fastened into your harness – and you can book a slot in advance online.
Thrillseekers might also fancy a trip out to Flight Studio to try out its Boeing 737 flight simulator. Just five miles south of the city centre, Flight Studio gives a rare opportunity for non-pilots to experience what it's like to actually fly a passenger jet from inside a cockpit, which is an exact replica of the real thing.
If you fancy something a little more sedate, the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, which is just a stone’s throw from Lion Yard, has a reputation for showing the very best of the latest arty movie releases. Alternatively, you can indulge in a spot of wine tasting at the Cambridgeshire Wine School. Here you can learn about cheese and wine pairing or enjoy virtual tours of wines from around the world.
As with many historic cities, the best way of seeing them is on foot. After all, these ancient streets were designed centuries before the advent of motorised transport!
If you want to go on a walking tour, you'll find loads of different options to choose from, depending on your budget and how much time you have to spare. Cambridge Alumni Tours give you the chance to see the city from a student’s perspective in small walking tours limited to 20 people. Meet your guide at the entrance to King's College, and you'll also visit other colleges, including Corpus Christi and Trinity.
Cambridge Tour Guides offer tours of different lengths – the most popular being two hours. Along the way, the green badge guides aim to inject some fun into their family-friendly walking tours, which always include a visit to at least one of the city's famous colleges. These range from the iconic King's College Chapel, the ancient Queens' College and popular St John's College. It's not just about university life though – you'll also get to see historic buildings, such as The Eagle pub and hear about its fascinating RAF connections.
While walking is a wonderful way to see Cambridge, you can of course cover even more ground by bike! So if you fancy pedalling around the historic city, Cambridge Bike Tours might be just the thing for you. You can choose a range of tours, from a shorter trip around the city centre to a full-day excursion which heads out to the village of Grantchester. Either way, bike hire is included.
You don't have to take part in an organised tour to go cycling in Cambridge. It's one of the most popular places for bikes in the UK, as it's quite flat and has a comprehensive 80-mile cycle route network for all levels. It’s no wonder a quarter of the city’s population cycle to work.
If you want to admire Cambridge's stunning architecture by bike and get off the beaten track, simply go to the Visitor Information Centre and get a copy of the Cambridge Cycle Map, which covers cycle paths in the city and also further afield to nearby villages.