| |

The best things to do in Cambridge with kids

With the sun shining on its historic colleges, there are few UK cities as lovely as Cambridge (although Oxford always has a special place in my heart) – and with some fantastic things to do in Cambridge with kids, it’s ideal for families.

View of Kings College Cambridge, seen from the outside - my tips for visiting a Cambridge college with kids
contains affiliate links*

If you’re looking for a family city break that won’t cost a fortune, Cambridge is particularly good, with some great free museums and a centre that’s easy to walk around.

After an unexpected last-minute trip for work (reviewing The Fellows House hotel with my daughter), I was reminded that with fast trains to Kings Cross, it’s a really easy day trip from London as well.

Find the Dinky Doors

One of the best things to do in Cambridge with kids is to stroll – ambling down little side streets, past some of the gorgeous old buildings, along the river, through the marketplace.

My daughter is always happier if she has a goal rather than meandering randomly though, so the quirky mini trail of Dinky Doors went straight to the top of our list.

These miniature sculptures are hidden in plain sight – hidden well enough that it’s well worth getting the trail map (there’s a tour too if you fancy) – and all designed with a sense of fun.

The Teleport-o-matic was one of my favourites (only 3p to teleport 3 yards), as well as the everyday treasures of Wonder Emporium and the very unexpected inhabitant of 10 1/4 Downing Street, a mini replica of the famous black Downing Street door.

There are doors being added all the time, so keep checking back to see the tiny portals to new worlds which pop up.

Follow a Treasure Trail

Another great way to see Cambridge on foot is to follow a treasure hunt trail around the city, and there are several different options to pick from.

The Treasure Map Trails collection includes two different routes for Cambridge – choose from a space-themed map around the Cambridge colleges, or another of the centre of Cambridge, with 10% off using code MUMMYTRAVELS.

Kids need to keep their eyes open for some of the quirky signs, statues and other sights as you go, plus there are a string of facts to learn along the way.

Or check out the range of Treasure Trails, with five options to pick from.

We followed the Cambridge Central trail, which included a few Top Trumps stats on several of the colleges we passed, so you get a mini potted history along the way.

It also led us to the lovely models of Cambridge near St Mary the Great, as well as to gaze at some of the decoration on Trinity College (wrongly, as it turned out, but I’m still glad we did!) and introduced us to a few of the city’s famous names.

Visit a college

There are 31 different colleges in Cambridge and while you can’t pop in and take a peek at them all, there are various ways to get a glimpse inside their walls.

There’s a free walking tour of Cambridge from Footprints Tours, so you can join the group to learn more about the city and some of its history and traditions.

They also run private family tours, as well as a string of other companies offering group tours of Cambridge which will take you inside some of the colleges.

If you prefer to go at your own pace, try this self-guided audio tour, narrated by a former Cambridge student.

And some of the colleges open to the public too – times vary, some charge an entrance fee, and numbers are often limited at present. But it’s worth checking their individual websites to see whether you’ll be allowed to look inside.

Kings College does have a fee but you can book online in advance and it includes a chance to see the beautiful chapel, while Pembroke is open most days (some restrictions in exam time) as is Trinity College.

Punts lined up by the riverside in Cambridge - heading out on the river is one of the best things to do with kids in Cambridge

Go punting

I have very fond memories of punting along the river with friends – but if you’d prefer to sit back and soak up the views, it’s easy to find an option where someone else does the hard work.

Handy too if you’re travelling solo with kids: my daughter is happy to lend a hand paddling a kayak, but there’s no way she could manage the punt’s pole, and it’s less fun if you don’t get a rest at any point!

This 45-minute punting tour is great for shorter attention spans, but long enough to see some of the colleges from the water and leaves from near Jesus Green, while this 50-minute chauffeured punting option is great for bigger groups.

Or Scudamore’s Punting boasts of being the first to bring pleasure punting to the city, and have both boat hire and tour options.

Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour

With its pedestrianised narrow streets, there’s no question that a lot of Cambridge is better seen on foot, but for an easy way to see some of the highlights, the hop-on hop-off bus tour is great for tired legs.

Taking you to some of the sights outside the city centre, as well as past the colleges and river, the entire route lasts around 80 minutes.

There are also family tickets available for up to three children aged five-15 (kids aged four and under are free… but may have to sit on your knee if the bus is busy).

Climb Great St Mary’s Tower

Experience some of the most amazing panoramic views over Cambridge by climbing to the top of Great St Mary’s Tower, the high point of the historic University Church.

From the special observation platform on the tower, you’ll get unbeatable views out over the rooftops to Kings College Chapel and many of the other historic college buildings.

The 123 steps that make up the circular staircase to the top of the tower are fairly steep but still manageable even with kids. Just take it slow and steady, especially when descending.

Tickets are on sale in the church gift shop, and don’t need to be prebooked: last entry is half an hour before closing time.

Do take a look inside the medieval church while you’re there too, which has been the university church since 1209, or stop to refuel in the Michaelhouse cafe, named for one of the old Cambridge colleges founded in 1323.

View looking up the tower of Great St Mary's, the University Church in Cambridge - climbing the tower is one of the best things to do in Cambridge with kids

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

If there’s one thing all kids love, it’s dinosaurs, right? And the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is the go-to place for prehistoric creatures in Cambridge.

One of the string of free museums in Cambridge, this fascinating city centre collection has several complete dinosaur skeletons and the skull of a T-Rex named Stan, as well as thousands of other fossil, rock and mineral specimens. 

For families, the child-friendly Cambridge museum also has several free gallery trails to follow, puzzle and colouring stations and activity packs with lots of additional at-home activities.

Prebook your free ticket online here – the museum is closed on Sundays, if you’re visiting Cambridge with kids at a weekend.

Museum of Zoology

Part of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, the Museum of Zoology showcases the diversity of animal life across the world.

Another of the free things to do in Cambridge with kids, you can discover thousands of specimens inside, from tiny insects to a 21m Fin whale, which are used for academic study by researchers and students.

The world-class collection includes specimens discovered by Charles Darwin himself and the skeleton of an extinct Dodo bird.

For mini zoologists, there are some great trails (also free!) to follow around the galleries, including rainbow of colours, aimed at the youngest visitors, and the highlights trail.

There are normally explorer bags to borrow too, along with talks and other family-friendly events although these are not currently an option. Closed on Mondays.

View of one of the metal models of Cambridge near Great St Mary's church, with a key to the notable buildings on the map, including in Braille - my pick of the best places to visit in Cambridge with kids

Cambridge Science Centre

Sitting on the outskirts of the historic city centre near the train station, the Cambridge Science Centre is ideal for getting hands on.

Designed with the purposes of encouraging children and young people to get more involved with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), the interactive displays at the small science centre make it one of the best museums in Cambridge for kids.

Along with a range of interactive exhibitions, there are some fun hands-on activities and interesting child-friendly shows and talks to check out at weekends and during school holidays too (no need to prebook).

From building DNA sequences to discovering fossils and walking in space, there’s loads to keep kids engaged with enthusiastic staff on hand to encourage you to experiment.

Tickets cost £5 for adults, £4.50 for kids, and you can check out what’s on here.

Museum of Archeology and Anthropology 

Next door to the Sedgwick Museum, you’ll also find the University’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology which looks back over two million years of human history.

Another free Cambridge museum, it’s packed with cool and unusual artefacts, including giant totem poles from Canada, a full skeleton of a Roman woman, early African stone tools and spears thrown by Captain Cook on his voyages to the Pacific. 

There are even some freeze-dried potatoes from Peru which are at least 500 years old.

If that’s not enough to capture your kids’ imagination, there are special trails to follow, including Overlooked Treasures which is suitable for families with young children, along with trails based around masks.

With its emphasis on different cultures and people across the world, the Museum of Anthropology and Archeology is a fascinating place to visit with older children and teens too. Closed on Mondays.

View part of the frieze and columns at the exterior of the Fitzwilliam Museum, one of the best free things to do in Cambridge with kids

Fitzwilliam Museum

If you only visit one museum in Cambridge with kids, the Fitzwilliam Museum is the University of Cambridge’s main museum site, containing art and antiquities from different cultures around the world.

Another free Cambridge museum, the exhibitions have some great child-friendly crowd-pleasers like ancient Egyptian coffins and a wrapped mummy, to a large armoury with medieval knights displayed on horseback and hundreds of historic weapons.

Plus there are regular temporary exhibitions, so you’ll always find something new when you visit, along with free museum trails to pick up as you explore – you’re encouraged to bring your own pencils to sketch what you see as well.

The museum has also been shortlisted as Best Accessible Museum in the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Awards for its work to include children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Prebooking is advised at busy times, with free admission tickets available a couple of months in advance. Closed on Mondays (except bank holidays).

Cambridge Botanic Gardens

While the museums in Cambridge are great whatever the weather, when the sun shines there are some great places to get outdoors with kids in Cambridge – and one of the best is a visit to the beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Gardens.

Spread over an impressive 40 acres not far from the station (and walking distance from the city centre), Cambridge’s Botanical Garden is home to a collection of over 8,000 plant species from all over the world.

There are plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied in the gardens too, including self-led family trails and special seasonal events such as treasure hunts, arts and craft stations, and drop-in educational sessions for kids.

Don’t forget your camera for some great family photo ops too. Kids go free, adult tickets cost from £7.50.

View of a bench by the waterside near the River Cam looking across to Jesus Green - a great place to relax if you're visiting Cambridge with kids

Relax on Jesus Green

One of the few drawbacks to visiting Cambridge with kids is that it does get busy with tourists in peak season – so if you want to escape the crowds in the streets, head north to sprawling Jesus Green. 

The large green space runs alongside the River Cam, making it a lovely place to sit and watch the punts and ducks float by for a while.

The park also has a playground for smaller children, a picnic area and a kiosk selling drinks and ice cream. 

And if it’s a particularly hot day, there’s even an open-air swimming pool (open only during the summer months, wetsuits recommended) for you to enjoy.

Join a Cambridge Ghost Tour

Older kids and teens with an interest in all things spooky will love hearing stories of the city’s frightful past and modern-day hauntings on a Cambridge Ghost Tour.

While Cambridge is best known for its historic university, the city also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the UK with a history of apparitions spanning all the way back to the 13th century.

Many of the Cambridge Colleges have their own ghosts, most of which are said to be past students or professors who died on the college grounds, not to mention wandering Civil War Soldiers and the famous demon dog known as Black Shuck.

Cambridge Ghost Tours are suitable for children but with its spinechilling stories, this one is best suited for older children and teens.

Hands holding two ice creams, one chocolate, one creamy white, with a narrow Cambridge street and bikes in the background - Jacks Gelato is unmissable if you're visiting Cambridge with kids

Ice cream at Jack’s Gelato

On a sunny day (or a cloudy one, if my daughter gets the chance), you can’t beat an ice cream. And while Jack’s Gelato isn’t the cheapest in Cambridge, it’s easily one of the best.

With two different locations – Bene’t Street and All Saints Passage – there are some fabulous flavours to choose from.

Dark chocolate and sea salt was hard to beat, but you can find mint stracciatella, yuzu sorbet or ginger juice and fudge ripple among others.

There’s even an option to jump the queue (which can get pretty long on sunny days) at Bene’t Street, if you order via the website..

Cake at Fitzbillies

A Cambridge institution, there’s now a new branch of Fitzbillies in Bridge Street to join the original in Trumpington Street, founded in 1920.

Most famous for its sticky Chelsea buns (they made around 160,000 last year), you can grab one to take away or sit down in the cafe to rest your feet and refuel.

There’s afternoon tea as well which you can eat in at Trumpington Street or get to take away to take out on a punt or enjoy as a picnic

For more ideas of things to do while you’re visiting Cambridge with kids, you’re only around half an hour from Ely, with the beautiful Ely cathedral as well as National Trust site Wimpole Hall (check out my visit during an East Anglia road trip) and Saffron Walden in nearby Essex

*First published 2021, updated 2022*


The best things to do in Cambridge with kids - exploring this historic university town on a family city break, including the best free museums in Cambridge, punting on the River Cam, the best ice cream in Cambridge and walking tours of Cambridge with kids

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Punting/Fitzwilliam Museum images courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravels


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.