Punting on the River Cam is about as far as you can get from punting a football on a field….
Punts are flat-bottomed boats that you can rent for anything from half an hour to an entire day from central locations in Cambridge. Whilst they’re nearly impossible to flip, each year at least one lucky student manages to take an unintentional dip in the river, so make sure your phones and wallets are safely stored if you’re the one doing the punting! There are two directions that you can take your punt – upriver to Grantchester, or along the backs of the stunningly beautiful Cambridge Colleges.
Grantchester has a ton of claims to fame – the highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners in the world, the hang-out of choice for famous writers like Lord Byron and Rupert Brooke… Pink Floyd even wrote a song about it! Chilling out along the river is a great way to unwind and relax while you’re in Cambridge.
You can also punt down the ‘backs’, getting a unique perspective on some of the most impressive buildings in Europe. Splash out on a chauffeured punt (or take along a member of the Reach Study Abroad Team) to get all the great stories of the colleges as you punt by!
Cambridge has a huge selection of world-class museums and galleries. And the best bit? Most of them at totally free! Here are some of our favorites:
1) The Fitzwilliam Museum. Few museums in the world contain collections of such variety and depth on a single site. You can be checking out the Ancient Greek collection one second, and a couple of rooms later be looking at 20th century paintings. Admission is free!
2) The Kettles Yard House & Gallery is a tiny gem in the center of town! A favorite of the Reach team, this is actually a house that has been turned into a gallery. The best bit? They left in everything that makes it a house! You can sit on the sofa and read a book off the shelf surrounded by world-class paintings and sculptures. Again, admission is free.
3) The Scott Polar Institute is a great place to spend a couple of really interesting hours. A great exhibition on polar exploration is a pretty inspiring place be – and yep, admission is free here too.
4) The Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology: Two million years of human history. One million artifacts. Countless astonishing stories. Students often stop by with half an hour to spare, and end up spending half a day exploring the collections! Admission is one million dolla…. oh wait, no, this is free as well…
5) The Botanical Gardens are just a short walk from the city center and not only contain some beautiful trails but also offer a selection of Wednesday evening outdoor concerts throughout the summer. Take a picnic and enjoy this oasis in central Cambridge.
Bumps is a rowing race unique to Cambridge and Oxford, in which a number of boats chase each other in single file. But that doesn’t come close to explaining the drama (or potential carnage!) of the competition.
Unlike most races – in which crews would be heavily fined for crashing into another boat on purpose – the entire point of the competition is to hit (or ‘bump’) the boat ahead. Doesn’t sound like much? Check out some of the YouTube videos to get an idea of the atmosphere at the event.
Even if you’re into sports as a spectator, we highly recommend you go along and take a look. This is an event unique to Oxford and Cambridge (both cities have rowed the races since the early 1800s!), and something you’re unlikely to get the opportunity to see again. It’s the perfect excuse to pack a picnic, walk down the riverside with your fellow students, and spend an afternoon in the sun watching exhausted people crash boats. Ask any of the locals along the riverbank, and they’ll be happy to explain a bit about the event – ‘boaties’ are usually a friendly bunch, and come out to support each other for the major event of the year.
I very much enjoyed the volleyball games that involved almost everyone on the trip and went on almost daily. They allowed the students to bond in new ways with people we perhaps wouldn’t have teamed up with in other settings – Linnea, Student 2014
Each summer our students make great use of the college grounds and public parks to enjoy a range of sports on an almost daily basis. Wherever you are in the city center, you’re rarely more than 15 minutes away from a green space where you can play sports. Volleyball, soccer and Ultimate Frisbee have been favorites in the past few years (2015 even saw the invention of ‘Frennis’ – a version of Tennis in which rackets and balls are replaced with a Frisbee… obviously….).
You don’t have to be a keen sports-person to join the group; any ability and age are welcome! Even if you have no interest in playing, come along and enjoy the atmosphere. Catch the late (around 9pm in the summer) sunset as you cheer on you class mates!
Whatever your interests, Cambridge nightlife will have something for you! In the summer, sunset is usually around 9pm, allowing for outdoor theatre performances in college gardens and the late opening of several of the city’s attractions. If you take in an outdoor event, why not take a stroll down Kings Parade and grab a delicious gelato at Bennett’s Cafe (open until 10pm throughout the summer)? Or stop at the famous ‘Trailer of Life’ food truck on your way home?
Of course there’s plenty going on indoors too! Cambridge hosts a variety of music venues, from the Corn Exchange (capacity of several hundred) to tiny pub venues that host intimate folk gigs for 40-60 people. Each summer our programs take place at the same time as the Cambridge Comedy Festival (make sure you book early for the big acts!), and if you’re in need of a chilled evening, why not watch a movie at the independent cinema in the town center?
Obviously, the UK is famous for the unique culture of our traditional pubs. Several of these have a long and interesting history – why not head to The Eagle pub and see where the discovery of DNA was first announced? Or grab a pint in The Pickerel – one of the oldest ale-houses in town (still in business after over 450 years!). And of course there’s the stunning view from the rooftop bar at the Varsity Hotel & Spa. There’s no pressure to drink alcohol – pubs are simply a place to meet up and catch up with friends. Soft drinks are always available too – just turn up and enjoy the atmosphere!