Mei & Kerstin
We're going to spend a long weekend in Cambridge and Oxford with our niece, to show her both universities (she would like to study there). And we have so many questions, since we've never been there before.
- What is the best way to travel to both cities? Catch a train from London? Are there direct trains from Cambridge to Oxford (and vice versa)?
- Are the universities closed during weekend?
- We know that both universities are huge. Which parts are interesting to visit?
- Can everyone access the libraries? Are they open during the weekend?
- Any hotel recommendations in both cities?
- Any restaurant recommendations?
- What else can/should we do in both cities? Perhaps places that locals (or students) go to, so that our niece can see if she can picture herself studying there?
Thanks for your help!
Mei & Kerstin
There are direct trains from London to both Oxford and Cambridge. You could take the train to one or other and then return to London via the other one.
If you want to go to Cambridge you want to use King's Cross Station, if you want to go to Oxford, you want Paddington Station.
(Many years ago, there were also trains between the two cities … but that's another story).
I'd go to Cambridge first (that being my city - my knowledge of Oxford is a few years out of date, I'm sure someone else will give you a better answer anyway).
The X5 bus will take you between the two cities. Take it from the city's main bus station (well sign-posted in both cases).
I'm afraid non-members can't access the libraries - they tend to discourage tourists in term-time because the buildings are living centres of scholarship and teaching. Seeing as your niece would like to study there, have you spoken to the Admissions offices? They will likely be able to help you and especially if you tell them you're from overseas, they won't just tell you to come and visit on a Open Day.
Saying all that, King's College Chapel will be open and is a must-see. I'd also recommend seeing Trinity CollegeAs well as Gonville and Caius CollegeAnd Clare College whose gardens are particularly beautiful. Many of the other colleges are worth visiting - just walk past the entrance and see what their entry policy is.
Another must-see is The Fitzwilliam Museum – the finest small museum in the country.
Kettle's Yard will appeal too with it's collection of early 20th century arts, and changing exhibitions. It's in the house of the former owner Jim & Helen Ede, preserved as they left it.
As for food, I'd recommend the old favourite Fitzbillies, where generations of Cambridge students have munched on their famous pastries (especially the famous Chelsea buns).
There's also Stickybeaks, St John's Chop House, Kingston Arms, but I'm sure you can look those up. There's no shortage of places to eat.
Students and fellows tend to eat in College dining rooms (known as Hall).
I'm afraid I have no experience of the hotels in Cambridge – I live there and in Oxford, I stay with friends or I drive back to Cambridge (it's not far).
I think that covers the main points. Good luck to your niece!
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I took the bus from central London to Oxford. You can catch a train to Cambridge. Transportation is great in the UK, so it shouldn't be a problem. Bus is usually cheaper but check rates on the National Railway, etc.