Things to do in Cambridge, UK: The three-minute guide

WHY

There's an element of truth in Cambridge's reputation as a nerdy place of purist academia, with a rarefied air of knowledge and study. The university has a strongly dominant effect on the city, but also provides its plethora of beautiful buildings, greedy clutch of museums, and bookish atmosphere.

Cambridge is also just half an hour by train from Stansted Airport – which Emirates launched flights to last June.

VISIT

Among a gaggle of often stridently old school museums, the one at the Scott Polar Research Institute offers the most fascinating dive into a niche topic. Much of it is dedicated to the derring-do of explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen, whose expeditions helped us learn much more about the Arctic and Antarctic. But there's also some fascinating insight into the lives of the nomadic people who live in the Arctic Circle. See spri.cam.ac.uk

EAT

The Pint Shop does excellent locally-sourced food cooked over charcoal grills, while serving up a long list of craft beers on draught. It's also a few steps away from the Eagle Pub, the supposedly haunted old coaching inn where Francis Crick and James Watson unveiled their groundbreaking discovery of the structure of DNA. See pintshop.co.uk

LOOK

Lazily gliding down the River Cam on a punt is the quintessential Cambridge tradition – and doing so offers marvellous views of the most impressive college buildings, framed with their pristine grassy back lawns. Scudamore's hires out punts for £27.50 an hour for those wanting to try their hand with the long wooden pole, but also offers £19 tours for the less adventurous. See scudamores.com

MUST

The King's College Choir – famous for its Christmas carol services, among other things – performs evensong just about every day at 5.30pm. The sounds are impeccable – the harmonies of the boys and the undergraduates are spellbinding – but looks arguably trump them. The delicate fan-vaulted roof and huge stained glass windows give King's College Chapel an ethereal majesty. See kings.cam.ac.uk

SLEEP

Just to the north-west of the city centre, the Felix is actually an old council community centre, but it feels like a posh college residence. Heated bathroom floors and bold splashings of art help nudge it into the luxe and stylish categories respectively. Doubles cost from £135. See hotelfelix.co.uk

TIP

Cambridge's 31 colleges all have their own quirks, and most have something worth going inside to see. Pembroke College, for example, has a gloriously quaint 14th century Old Court. Meanwhile, Magdalene hosts the library of Fire Of London diarist Samuel Pepys and Corpus Christi has a startling gold clock straddled by a malevolent-looking grasshopper. The joy of Cambridge comes in hunting out the small stuff.

David Whitley was a guest of Visit Cambridge, see visitcambridge.org

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