The city of Cambridge is undoubtedly one of the world’s best kept treasures soaked in rich history, knowledge and natural beauty. Home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, Cambridge has been hailed globally as an unrivalled hub of education producing the greatest minds in science, literature and art for many centuries. The global appeal of this top ranked university attracts a myriad of students from all over the world each year which gives the city an undeniable energy and charm. Yet there is so much more to this city. Cambridge is not a sprawling metropolis. It is a small city and part of its charm is that it can be comfortably walked in a day. The city escaped damage in the Second World War, unlike many other towns in England, and therefore it still boasts the most astonishingly beautiful old buildings full of fables and tales in narrow, medieval streets that have stood the test of time and have seen many famous historical figures walk its cobblestones.
Whether you are a first time visitor or a seasoned traveller to this part of England, Cambridge is a must-visit destination for everyone. Here are a handful of interesting facts about this marvellous city to whet the appetite.
Established in 1209, Cambridge University has global appeal. It is ranked one of the top five universities in the world and it has boasted a prestigious reputation for world class education for over 800 years. Cambridge University is made up of a number of different colleges attracting over 25000 students each year. The university’s stunning and fascinating buildings are scattered throughout the city and they include the renowned King’s College Chapel, the famous Cavendish Laboratory and the historic Cambridge University Library, just to name a few.
A day out visiting the colleges is an affordable way to get to know the city on foot. Visitors can get a glimpse of over 800 years of history by venturing inside the college buildings and gardens often for free, or for a small fee. One of the highlights of the summer months is the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the enchanting college gardens across the city.
Cambridge University has undoubtedly produced some of the greatest minds in history. As of 2020 Cambridge University has been associated with an astounding 121 Nobel laureates in the disciplines of physics, chemistry, literature, physiology, medicine and peace. This is more than any other institution in the world. 47 heads of state and 14 British Prime Ministers have also been associated with Cambridge as students and the impressive roster of alumni includes names such as Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, John Maynard Keynes, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, Philippa Garrett Fawcett, Eva Hartree, Barbara Wootton, Marjory Stephenson, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Sir David Attenborough, Prince Charles, Dame Emma Thompson.
The first game of football
Sports fans will be interested to learn that the first set of rules for modern football (or soccer for Americans) were invented in Cambridge. Parker’s Piece, a 25-acre flat and roughly square green common located near the centre of Cambridge is today regarded as the birthplace of modern Association Football. The rules were drafted by members of the university in 1848 and the first game was played with what are now called “Cambridge rules”.
First bridge built using Mathematics
An afternoon of punting along the soothing River Cam will take you past some fascinating historical sights. One of the top reasons given for a punting tour in Cambridge is the chance to see the timeless Queens’ College and its most famous structure, the Mathematical Bridge, or Wooden Bridge, which connects two parts of Queens’ College together. There is much speculation of the origins of the design but it is believed that this is the first bridge that was designed and built without the need for nuts and bolts. Using mathematical principles the bridge’s design led to a timber structure that was entirely self-supporting. The story then goes that a group of students attempted to take the bridge apart but they were unable to make it hold when they were trying to put it back together, and as a result, they had to use nuts and bolts.
A popular fable is that Sir Isaac Newton, who at one point held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, designed and built the bridge. In fact, it was built some 22 years after his death but the story nonetheless lends some mystery and intrigue to this famous city sight.
Tech savvy city
Today, Cambridge and the fens surrounding the city are at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen - a play on Silicon Valley in California. Also known as the Cambridge Cluster, it is home to a large number of successful high-tech businesses that focus on software, electronics and bioscience. One of these companies which has come to the spotlight in the last year is AstraZeneca with their invaluable vaccine efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently over 1500 companies in the technology and life sciences sectors based in Silicon Fen and many start-up companies are the direct product of the university.
Famous film locations in Cambridge
When it comes to world fame, Cambridge is of course best known for its unparalleled University education. However, the city has also become known as a favoured filming location due to its magnificent backdrop and it has seen plenty of lights, cameras and action throughout the years. Perhaps the most famous recent movie filmed in Cambridge is The Theory of Everything, which depicts the life and works of Professor Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking lived, studied and worked in Cambridge which means that throughout the film there are plenty of scenes filmed around the iconic buildings of the city. Some of the famous scenes include Trinity College, St John’s College, Queen’s Road and the famous Kitchen Bridge at St John’s College just to name a few.
The majestic historic buildings of Cambridge perfectly lend themselves to films seeking to tell stories related to the university such as Chariots of Fire, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Man Who Knew Infinity but, perhaps more surprisingly, Cambridge’s King’s College has also lent its backdrop to a more curious movie set - The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. On your visit to Cambridge, take a different angle on some of these famous movies by visiting their real life film locations.
Mad about cows
Cambridge is a truly unique city weaving beautifully together the traditions of many centuries. Evidence of this is seen all over the city but perhaps one of the more surprising sights that greets visitors is herds of peacefully grazing cows on the banks of the River Cam with the magnificent backdrop of King’s College Chapel as a contrast. The bucolic meadowland of Coe Fen lies east of the River Cam at the back of Peterhouse, one of the well known University Cambridge Colleges, in close proximity to the city centre. This semi-rural meadowland is home to the peacefully grazing iconic urban Cambridge cows. They are remnants of bygone times when locals used public spaces to graze livestock and today they are a well loved fixture of the city. Walking and cycling is pleasant in the area and the summer months are perfect for punting on the river Cam. Some locals are so fond of the cows' presence in the city that they claim only Latin can do justice to their feeling. They say it gives a sense of “rus in urbe” or “rusticity in town” as they watch these gentle giants roam amid the city parks and gothic towers of this magnificent university town.
The brilliant Cows about Cambridge sculpture trail won the hearts and minds of many in Cambridge throughout the summer. This Wild in Art event brought communities together to celebrate this magnificent city through creativity. For ten weeks during the summer there were 90 beautifully designed cow sculptures grazing around Cambridge and forming a fun, family friendly trail for residents and visitors alike. Smaller sculptures were adopted and decorated by schools, colleges and community groups and they were spotted browsing in shops, museums, libraries, galleries and leisure venues across Cambridge.
A summer program for the next generation of innovators
We cannot wait to welcome students to our illuminate Cambridge all-girl summer school. Our academic lessons have been carefully curated by our expert tutors who are passionate about education in this magnificent city that has inspired so many great minds over the centuries. Students will be immersed into the rich cultural and historical aspects of this truly splendid city and they will be taking part in meticulously considered activities to nurture curiosity, to ignite the love of learning and to fuel the students’ thirst for knowledge in and outside of the classroom. We are confident that our summer school programme will broaden the students’ horizons enabling them to discover a new culture and to explore the world around them like never before. The extra weeks spent studying English, History, international relations and the art of dialogue in a different culture will also encourage students to pursue their aspirations with more confidence and drive.
Our illuminate Cambridge summer programme tutors are dedicated to delivering exceptional standards of teaching and they are highly experienced in creating an inspiring and collaborative learning environment in which students can thrive. Our programme offers a safe and inclusive learning environment where students respect diverse perspectives and learn from each other. This approach fosters a greater sense of belonging, where meaningful connections are made and lasting friendships are forged.
Beyond the classroom, learning will come to life through a series of carefully planned educational and cultural visits in Cambridge and the surrounding areas including London. Our exclusive program offers the experience of a lifetime, and is limited to a maximum of 90 students each year to ensure that our students receive an unparalleled educational experience. Our programme is specifically designed for girls aged 15-17.
Join us at illuminate Cambridge summer program for a two-week academic and cultural program where we will explore history, politics, international relations and oracy while discovering Cambridge’s history and hidden treasures along the way. You can apply for your place here.