Cambridge is best known for one thing: its impressively ancient university. Dating back to the early 13th century, Cambridge University has for hundreds of years been at the forefront of academia. Today, tourists flock here to tour its historic colleges, boat past medieval buildings along the River Cam, and delve into the city’s many museums and galleries.
But once you’ve seen all that this famous university city has to offer, you’ll be happy to hear that there are some excellent day trips from Cambridge to enjoy, too. The equally historic cities of Colchester, Ipswich, and Stamford can all be reached with a short drive, stunning nature awaits you in Thetford Forest and along the nearby Suffolk Coast, and London is never too far away.
To inspire your next trip to England, here are the best day trips from Cambridge.
Colchester is one of the most historic destinations to visit in the United Kingdom and one of the best Cambridge day trips. The town was originally founded by the Romans, and for many years it was the capital of the Roman provinces in Britain.
Today, travelers can learn more about the town’s past at Colchester Castle, where you can explore over 2,000 years of history. The town is just as famous for its wildlife park these days, and you’ll see animals from all over the world with a trip to Colchester Zoo.
Getting there: The best way to travel to Colchester is by car or National Express coach. Journey time is 1.5 to two hours each way.
Ipswich is the largest town in the county of Suffolk, and a day out here is one of the best side trips from Cambridge. Ipswich is situated on the beautiful banks of the River Orwell, and the riverfront is a lively, buzzing place where you can find cafés, bars, and restaurants serving good food with a great view.
You can take a boat cruise along the River Orwell and then learn more about the importance of the river and Ipswich’s harbor throughout English history at the Ipswich Museum. The Ipswich Transport Museum is always a hit among travelers, while the popular Christchurch Mansion offers an insight into Tudor history.
Ipswich is the gateway to Suffolk’s most glorious countryside, with the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty being just a short drive away.
Getting there: Ipswich is just a short trip from Cambridge by car or train: one hour or 1.5 hours respectively.
Southwold is a traditional English seaside town that’s one of the most beautiful destinations along the Suffolk Coast and one of the best day tours from Cambridge. Here you can enjoy a day out at the beach as you dine on fish and chips and hope that the seagulls don’t steal your ice cream.
Southwold is best known for its long pier, which extends some 200 meters (650 feet). The pier dates back to 1900 and is a lovely place to take a stroll when the sun is shining. If you’re feeling active, then there are plenty of hiking routes up and down the Suffolk Coast from Southwold, or if you’re brave enough, you can always jump into the sea for a swim.
Southwold is home to one of England’s most famous independent breweries, too. If you’re a beer drinker, then book a tour of Adnams Brewery while you’re in town, or just pop into one of the many Southwold pubs for a pint.
Getting there: Southwold is a two-hour drive from Cambridge. If driving, you can combine a trip to Southwold with a trip to nearby Ipswich.
4. Sutton Hoo
Eastern England is full of history, and one of the region’s most important archeological sites is just a day trip away from Cambridge. Sutton Hoo is an ancient Anglo-Saxon burial ground, where gold, riches, and weapons have been discovered buried under mounds of earth.
Important Anglo-Saxon leaders were laid to rest at Sutton Hoo in burial ships, surrounded by their wealth and often in their lavish armor. The site was excavated in the 1930s, with the archeological story recently becoming the subject of a feature-length Netflix movie, The Dig.
The site is protected by the National Trust, a British conservation organization that runs an exhibition hall and visitor’s center where you can see many of the Anglo-Saxon artifacts on display.
Getting there: The best way to reach Sutton Hoo from Cambridge is by car, as there’s little public transport. It’s a 1.5-hour drive, but you can easily combine a trip to Sutton Hoo with a trip to Ipswich or the Suffolk Coast.
Ely, being just a short 15-minute train ride away, is one of the easiest day trips from Cambridge. It is also one of the most intriguing day trips from Cambridge because it is one of the smallest cities in the country. Ely has a population of just 20,000 people, but since it’s home to an important medieval cathedral, it’s always been classed as a city rather than as a town.
Ely is built on an island in an area of Cambridgeshire known as the Fenlands, and the name Ely stems from the fact that local business historically revolved around catching eels in the many waterways that surrounded the city.
You can visit Ely Cathedral, see the former home of the English Civil War dictator Oliver Cromwell, and explore the nearby fens by boat.
Getting there: Ely is a 15-minute train journey from Cambridge.
The small town of Stamford is often described as the best preserved stone town in Britain because almost all of the buildings were constructed from locally sourced limestone in the 18th century.
This gives Stamford a beautiful look, and the distinctive old-world charm of the town ensures that it’s a popular filming location for period television and movie productions (including the likes of Pride and Prejudice).
Take a stroll through the historic town center, enjoy afternoon tea overlooking the river, then take a side trip to Burghley House, a grand Elizabethan estate on the outskirts of Stamford.
Getting there: Stamford is a one-hour drive or one-hour train journey from Cambridge.
7. Bury St. Edmunds
As far as easy train trips from Cambridge go, a day out in Bury St. Edmunds is a great option for travelers. The historic Suffolk town is just 45 minutes by train from Cambridge, and when you arrive, you’ll find that both heritage and good food await you.
Bury St. Edmunds is named for St. Edmund, one of England’s most important patron saints. You can find out more about the saint’s exploits by visiting St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, while the ruins of the nearby Abbey of St. Edmund also offer a unique historical insight.
Just as intriguingly, Bury St. Edmunds is home to the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Suffolk, making the town a real hit with the foodie travelers.
Getting there: Bury St. Edmunds is well connected to Cambridge. It’s a 45-minute journey by bus, train, or car.
8. Thetford Forest
Escape the city with a trip to Thetford Forest, one of the best tours from Cambridge. This vast area of woodland offers endless opportunities for hiking and outdoor activities, with almost 20,000 hectares of forest just waiting to be explored.
You’ll be surprised to learn that this vast woodland is man-made, too, and it’s one of the most successful rewilding and conservation projects in the United Kingdom. The gateway to the forest is the town of Thetford, which travelers from the US will be intrigued to learn is the birthplace of Thomas Paine. There’s a statue dedicated to the American revolutionary and a pub named in his honor.
Getting there: The best way to get to Thetford Forest from Cambridge is by car, a journey which takes around 45 minutes.
9. Sandringham Estate
When the Queen wants to escape to the English countryside, she heads to the extravagant grounds of her Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Popularly described as being “the most comfortable house in England,” Sandringham Estate is home to one of the Queen’s official royal residences.
The estate itself consists of a historic country house, which visitors are allowed to tour through when the Queen isn’t staying there, and hundreds of acres of landscaped gardens and wild woodland, which are also open to the public. Sandringham House dates back to the 18th century and rather macabrely has seen two kings die while in residence.
Getting there: Sandringham Estate is a 1.5-hour drive from Cambridge. Alternatively, travelers can take a train to King’s Lynn then change to a local bus service for a journey of around two hours.
Cambridge is extremely well connected to London – which, as the nation’s capital is, of course, one of the best places to visit in England. London needs little introduction, but even if you’ve visited countless times before, you’ll find new attractions, new neighborhoods, and new things to do on every trip to the big city.
See classic sights such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster, or the Tower of London. Visit the city’s wonderful museums, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, or the Imperial War Museum. Explore markets in vibrant districts such as Camden or London Bridge, visit colorful, quirky suburbs such as Notting Hill, or hang out with the rich and famous in Chelsea, Kensington, or Knightsbridge.
Getting there: There’s a train every 30 minutes from Cambridge to London, with the quickest trains taking less than an hour. Cambridge to London trains arrive at either King’s Cross Station or London St. Pancras.
From the exceptional coastline of Suffolk to the wilds of Thetford Forest, there are so many fantastic things to see in England beyond Cambridge. With our handy guide to the best places to visit from Cambridge, we know that you’ll be able to uncover some of eastern England’s most exciting tourist destinations.