Top 10 things to do in Cambridge for international students

Posted 15 October 2015
Cambridge punting River Cam

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Besides its global reputation for excellence in teaching and research and incredible historic architecture, Cambridge has plenty more to offer its international students. Students can fully immerse themselves in the local culture and customs, by cycling along cobbled streets, punting on the River Cam and visiting a range of markets, museums and leafy outdoor spaces.

As the academic year opens, many international students are arriving in – or returning to – their place of study for another year of learning. The city of Cambridge, with its centuries-old academic history and excellent reputation as a centre of learning and research is a popular choice that continues to attract thousands of new students.

As well as being a great place to study, Cambridge is a wonderful place to visit and live. At Bellerbys College we encourage international students to get as much as possible from studying in the UK by exploring their surroundings. Not only is this a great way of making their new city feel like home, it also helps them get a fully rounded educational experience. Here are some of our top recommendations for international students looking to get the most out of Cambridge.

1. Punting

No guide to Cambridge would be complete without a mention of this traditional Cambridge pastime. Perhaps best tried in summer, punting on the River Cam is something every international Cambridge student should try at least once. A punt is a long, flat-bottomed boat which one person – the punter – drives by pushing against the riverbed with a pole. You can rent punts at various points along the Cam. It’s a great way to spend time with a group of friends and enjoy the river.

2. Museum of Technology

A particularly great find for anyone studying Engineering, Cambridge’s Museum of Technology boasts a working pumping station as well as a wealth of artefacts from Cambridge’s local industries. The museum also holds events centred around technology, industry and transportation throughout the year, and it hosts meetings for engineering enthusiasts.

3. Kettle’s Yard

Previously the home of Jim and Helen Ede, which was then turned into a museum in its own right, Kettle’s Yard was designed as a relaxed environment in which students can enjoy art. It’s a great spot for reflection and an excellent place to go when you need a break from studying or time to gather your thoughts.

4. Apple Day at the Botanical Gardens

Apple fairs take place around the UK, and the one held by the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens in October is particularly special as it attracts growers of rare and heritage varieties – many of which are available to buy and take home. Apple farmers from around the country attend the event to share their knowledge of the history of apple farming in the UK. Many bring artisan apple products to sell. The event is also a good excuse to visit the heritage-listed garden, which has been part of the university since 1846.

5. Centre for Computing History

Established in August 2013, Cambridge's Centre for Computing History allows you to step back in time, taking a look at how digital technology has developed over the last 60 years. Here, you can get a better understanding of the social, cultural and historical impact of the Information Era, through hands-on displays and a nostalgic collection of vintage computers and memorabilia.

6. Cambridge Teslathon

If you’re an electrical engineering enthusiast, you might want to get involved with this regular meeting for fans of the Tesla coil. Owners of the high-voltage devices bring their treasured possessions in for demonstrations and discussions, answering questions from visitors and sharing their expertise.

7. Summer night market

On selected summer evenings, the area around Mill Road is taken over by an explosion of activity – street food stalls, musicians, performers and craftspeople all come together to put on the night market. It’s a diverse event with a lovely atmosphere, which provides a good opportunity to explore local businesses and try new foods and products. It’s also a wonderful venue for discovering inexpensive, locally sourced gifts for friends and family.

8. Orchard Tea at Grantchester

Another activity that’s as British as punting, taking afternoon tea in the orchard at Grantchester let’s you soak in beautiful surroundings that have been visited by famous poets, writers and thinkers. Visitors can walk, cycle or punt to the orchard and take tea, seated on deckchairs among the trees.

9. Discover MakeSpace

If you’ve just enrolled on an engineering degree, you may already have a few business ideas in mind. MakeSpace is a community-run site designed for people who want to fix things, build things, or get started on their first prototype. Its aim is to provide a supportive and social environment, and you’ll find lots of manufacturing and prototyping equipment on site. It’s definitely worth a visit.

10. Get on your bike

One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in Cambridge is that everyone cycles. It’s one of the fastest, cheapest and healthiest ways to get around, not to mention great fun. Cycling is definitely an integral part of the Cambridge experience, but do remember to put safety first. Before you get started, make sure you familiarise yourself with UK road laws, invest in a good helmet and some high visibility gear, and do some research into the city’s safest cycle routes. 

Our suggestions are just 10 of the things you can do during your time in Cambridge – there are plenty more for you to discover for yourself as you begin your course of study and start to make the city your own.