There are lots of Colleges to visit in Cambridge; thirty-one to be exact. Naturally, as a visitor to Cambridge you will want to visit at least one of these iconic sites, but choosing which ones to visit is harder than the entrance exams!
Don’t worry, we at Footprints Tours have compiled a list of the top 5 best Colleges to visit at Cambridge. It will also tell you about opening times and costs to ensure your visit to the colleges goes ahead without a hitch.
If you fancy having a student guide along to explain the historical significance of your chosen College and to clarify the workings of the college system, why not book a Private Tour with us?
There was no question which College should be on the top of our list.
King’s is stunningly beautiful, with the most recognisable building in Cambridge: King’s College Chapel. Moreover, it is centrally located and full of fascinating history.
Did you know that five different Kings were involved in the construction of the chapel?
This happened due to all the turbulence caused by the War of Roses. This was one of the historical events that George R R Martin used as inspiration for Game of Thrones.
The Chapel has the largest span of fan vaulting in the world!
The master mason and legendary gothic architect John Wastell constructed it between 1512 and 1515. Additionally the stunning medieval stained glass above and around the altar is also a thing of beauty.
Pembroke is indisputably one of the top colleges to visit at Cambridge. They are the third oldest College of the university, dating back to 1347. Their founder was Marie de St Pol, who was the widow of the Earl of Pembroke.
Moreover they are also one of the largest Colleges with over 700 students.
One of the main reason why we recommend Pembroke College is their splendid architecture.
They managed their assets well over the years and now they have a building from nearly every century since their foundation!
Their college chapel was designed by none other than Sir Christopher Wren, who designed St Paul’s Cathedral.
Pembroke is also known for academic performance. They are frequently placed very high on the Tompkins Table, which ranks undergraduate exam results.
Additionally, they are one of only six Colleges where a British prime minister has studied. In Pembroke’s case the PM in question was William Pitt the Younger.
The grounds and the Chapel are open to visitors and there is no entrance fee. They are generally open every day from 10am to 5pm.
It is always best to check their opening times in advance if you are travelling from far away. You can give the Porters’ Lodge a call on 0044 1223 338100.
If you have a large group please contact them to pre-book a group time slot.
St John's College
None other than the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort founded the College in 1511. Its initial dedication was to liberal arts, biblical languages and theology, but since then they have developed a varied repertoire.
St John’s alumni include twelve Nobel Prize winners, seven prime ministers, at least two princes, and three saints!
While it does not look like its namesake in Venice the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most photographed spots in Cambridge for a reason. Queen Victoria herself described it as “so pretty and picturesque”.
While Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs is slightly longer the Cambridge one was completed more than 80 years earlier!
The New Court’s central cupola is affectionately known as the ‘wedding cake’ building. It is famous for its four blank clock faces.
The architect Henry Hutchinson was famously obsessed with symmetry. According to the story Hutchinson feared that the installation of clockfaces would spoil the building’s perfect symmetry.
Queens’ College was originally founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou. However they were refounded in 1465 by the rival queen Elizabeth Woodville.
Hence the name of the College is spelled Queens followed by an apostrophe, indicating multiple Queens.
Even though they were founded 7 years before the War of the Roses they barely experienced any little construction delays due to the conflict.
Another one of the most famous bridges over the River Cam. So many rumours and legends have sprouted around the bridge that the College has a dedicated section on their website correcting misinformation.
We don’t want to give away everything we tell you on our tours, but *spolier alert* it was not designed by Sit Isaac Newton. Sorry!
College alumni include world famous figures such as Desiderius Erasmus. The philosopher and theologian studied at the college during his trips to England in the early 1500s.
Another notable alumnus is famous actor, broadcaster and comedian Stephen Fry.
While their opening dates are a bit irregular they are open regularly. Please check on their website before visiting.
They charge and entrance fee of £5/visitor, with children under 12 entering for free. Please approach from the Visitors’ Gate in Queens’ Lane.
Last entry is generally at 4.00pm.
At last but no least Newnham College! While they are not centrally located like the others on our list, their gardens and gorgeous architecture definitely make the trip worthwhile.
Moreover their new Iris Café is also open to the public. It is the perfect place to rest before exploring the rest of Cambridge.
They were only the second women’s college to be founded in 1871. During that time educating women at Cambridge was still a radical idea. So much so that a group of men famously besieged the college’s original entrance, the Pfeiffer Arch.
The College persevered despite these early challenges and they have maintained a strong ethos of an institution run by women for women.
Believe it or not, the College has the second-longest continuous indoor corridor in Europe!
The architect Basil Champneys designed it so the women did not have to step outside in the rain. This way they didn’t have to get their hair or dresses wet in the famously hostile English weather.
The Newnham gardens are one of the best kept secrets in Cambridge. Entrance is free and they are open to the public for most days of the year.
You can easily check on their opening status on their website.