I never went on any college tours before I applied to schools in the U.S., nor am I a big fan of the tours they run at Northwestern (the dynamics of the Overly Rehearsed Tour Guide, Overly Eager Parent and Overly Uncomfortable Kid just make me, well, uncomfortable). But touring Cambridge felt different.
Cambridge is a place where DNA was discovered and the likes of Isaac Newton and Alan Turing once worked and lived. I figured I had to visit either Cambridge or Oxford while I was studying abroad in London, and many of my friends said Cambridge was the nicer of the two—luckily, my study abroad program was organizing a trip to the five-hundred-year-old town.
Here is my list of five reasons to go to Cambridge.
1. History of the city
People from Cambridge don’t like to share this, but Cambridge University was actually founded in 1209 by a group of students from Oxford University (ha). Many of the townsfolk blamed Oxford students for a death in the town, causing some academics to flee to Cambridge where they established the University.
I don’t think that matters, because since then, Cambridge has had its affiliates earn more Nobel prizes than any other institution and garnered a reputation as one of the best universities in the world. Book a walking tour with a guide and you’ll see that Cambridge is a city of stories – about old ghosts, the plague, medieval schoolboys, time eaters, and more.
2. Stained glass windows of King’s College Chapel
Some of the finest of their era, the stained glass windows in King’s College Chapel are a must-see. There are 12 great windows on each side of the chapel depicting iconic stories from the Bible; beyond that, the building boasts the largest fan vault in the world (the ribs of the ceiling are “all curved equally and rotated at equal distances around a central axis” – thanks, Wikipedia). Entrance tickets cost £9 for adults and £6 for children.
3. The cobbled streets
Walking around the city, Cambridge glowed with an untouchable storybook charm. It didn’t feel intimidating, but rather like a medieval enclave teeming with an intellectual but welcoming air, far from the city grids and lights of the Asian capitals I’d grown up visiting.
4. Punting on the River Cam
Although I was initially reluctant to go punting, it turned out to be the highlight of my trip. Sitting on a little canoe with soft, tattered pillows and a well-dressed Englishman narrating centuries-old stories was quite romantic, and offered new views of the city and its bridges. Floating down the river, I became a part of the scene, rather than just a spectator.
Tickets for punting cost around £15 for adults and £8 for children. You can choose to punt your own boat for around £35, but it isn’t as easy as it looks.
5. Gothic architecture and landscape at Cambridge University
The most common pictures you see of Cambridge are of King’s College and King’s College Chapel, surrounded by greenery and canoes by the river—also known as The Backs—and there’s no question why. There’s nothing more grand than walking into the main entrance of Cambridge University, admiring the amount of space the school has, and marveling at the carvings of King’s College.
Have you been to Cambridge and if so, what are your reasons to go? Let me know in the comments below!