Recently I took a day trip to Cambridge from London and it was all that I hoped and more. You always see pictures of Cambridge and Oxford and never fully believe if they will live up to those expectations - but Cambridge definitely does.
It's a picturesque little town/city where most of the people ride bikes to get to and from places and there are several cobblestone streets that just have a certain charm to them.
I, sadly, went on a weekday where exams were going on at the main campus - so a lot of it was closed to visitors. That didn't stop me from exploring other places, however, like St. Johns College where the Bridge of Sighs is.
The Bridge of Sighs (Cambridge) was built in 1831 at the University of Cambridge after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy. Although the bridges have very little in common, architecturally, Queen Victoria is said to have loved it more than any other place in the city. There is a common myth behind the name of the bridge which is the 'sighs' that came from around the campus from pre-exam students.
The bridge is a famous landmark in Cambridge and I recommend it highly. It's very pretty on a nice day and you will see several of the gondola tours going under it.
The cost to get into St. John's University (which is where the bridge is located) is £5 for students!
Gondola rides are a HUGE thing in Cambridge. I think I saw over 100 going up and down the river in the span of two-three hours. It's definitely something to do in Cambridge because not only are you getting to sit down for a bit, instead of walking around, but they also tell you a bit about the history of each place you pass. It looked like so much fun and people would have picnics on the gondolas - very cute.
I didn't do it because I didn't want to do it alone - but if you are interested in doing it, the Cambridge Shauffeur Punting website has all the information you could want. It looks like you get a student discount which would be £14 for 45 minutes and £16 for one hour.
As I stated previously, the University was closed to visitors due to students taking exams - but that didn't stop me from admiring it from afar. The architecture takes your breath away as soon as you turn the corner from the market square. It's grand and beautiful on a pretty day.
This is still part of St. John's college and is directly after the Bridge of Sighs (Cambridge). It's considered the "New Court" and was completed in 1831 designed by Thomas Rickman and Henry Hutchinson in order to accommodate the growing number of students.
The New Court's details are neo-Gothic and the views from across the lawns are magical. The bridge of Sighs connects New Court with Third court.
Honestly, Cambridge is a beautiful town with beautiful architecture everywhere you look. The market square is great for shopping and there is a huge mall in the center of the city as well. Plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from meaning you can easily spend an entire day in Cambridge.
I went through the town wishing and hoping I would stumble upon a bike rental place and it didn't happen until the very end. I would highly recommend renting a bike and doing as the locals do. It's very biker friendly so don't worry about traffic or cars!
City Cycle Hire is a good place to start looking @ bike rentals.
If you are studying in London or just visiting for maybe about a week - I highly recommend traveling up to Cambridge. During off-peak hours it was £24 round-trip on the train. You can also get there by National Express Coach if you prefer. Prices vary depending on the month/day.