Cambridge is both beautiful and busy at all times of year – and in springtime there’s a huge choice of great things to do, many of which won’t break the bank.
Perched on the banks of the River Cam in eastern England, the city is most famous for the prestigious seat of learning, the University of Cambridge, dating all the way back to 1209. Indeed, many of the University’s own museums host a range of top-class events and exhibitions throughout the year – some of which you’ll find below in our list of 10 affordable things to do this Spring in Cambridge.
Cambridge Beer Festival
First held in 1974, the Cambridge Beer Festival is the United Kingdom’s longest running CAMRA beer festival and one of the largest regional beer festivals in the UK. Drawing visitors from across the world the event features a wide range of local and national beers of all styles, as well as cider, perry, mead, wine, and bottled and draft beers from around the world. There’s also a cheese counter showcasing a wide range of fine cheeses, together with locally produced bread, pork pies, scotch eggs and other savoury items. Entrance starts at £3 per person. Under 18s are allowed on site, but must be with an adult.
Jesus Green / 22-27 May 2023
Bottisham Airfield Museum
This museum tells the story of a busy airfield that played an important role in WW2. It is told in an engaging way using artefacts such as a P51 Mustang, WW2 jeep and an immersive re-creation of a Prisoner of War camp, combined with many great personal tales such as that of Alex Macmillan who was shot down and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III. The museum regularly attracts 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor and Google and has some great facilities such as the Flying Tractor Cafe, with its delicious range of cakes and scones, and a well-stocked shop. Admission is £5 for adults and kids go free.
Wilbraham Road / Sun & Weds 10.30am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues & Thurs-Sat
Grand Arcade Pop-Up Science Centre
The Cambridge Science Centre is on the road this Spring with two pop-up science centres that encourage children to explore and discover various STEM subjects in their own way, whether it’s getting involved in activities, exploring hands-on exhibits, or taking part in a show. Aimed at varying age groups, both centres will offer a unique way to inspire children to engage with all things STEM. The Grand Arcade Centre will be open at weekends and during school holidays and is aimed at children from 7-11 years, while the Grafton Centre caters for under 5s only and will be open during the week. Both are free to attend.
The Grand Arcade and The Grafton Centre / Through Spring 2023
Replacing the Cambridge Science Festival and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, the Cambridge Festival is now in to its third year and is promising to be bigger and better than ever for 2023. The event covers all aspects of the world-leading research taking place at Cambridge University, exploring everything from political crises, to the outlook for feminism as well as advances in cardiovascular therapy and organ transplantation, all with the aim of finding solutions to some of our most pressing issues. Prominent figures from the worlds of current affairs, science, arts, and culture will feature in a diverse programme of debates, talks, exhibitions, lab tours, workshops, films, and performances. Ticket prices vary for each event.
Venues across Cambridge / 17 March – 2 April 2023
Thriplow Daffodil Festival
Each year, bringing a dash of colour to early spring, the streets of the pretty Cambridgeshire village of Thriplow, 8 miles south of central Cambridge, are lined with masses of daffodils. A traditional country festival and fair providing wholesome family entertainment in a beautiful village setting, as well as the visual spectacle created by the daffodils, the event also features a whole host of activities including traditional games with prizes, circus tricks, stalls; bell ringing, organ recitals and history talks in the village church; tractor and miniature railway rides, Morris dancing, a vintage car show, a beer tent, live music, and a Blacksmith at work in the Smithy on The Green. Tickets start at £8 for adults and £4 for children aged 5-16. Under 4s go free.
Thriplow / 25-26 March 2023
‘Radio Enters The Home’ exhibition
This exhibition celebrates 100 Years of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) bringing radio into the home and the first radios made by Cambridge company Pye. It features some 25 of the earliest Pye radios made between 1922 and 1932, together with panels outlining the history of the BBC and how radio helped Pye grow to become the largest company in Cambridge. Guided tours of the exhibition are being held on the second Sunday of every month through to September. Museum admission is £5 for adults and £3 for ages 5-18. Kids 4 and under go free.
Cambridge Museum of Technology / Through 24 September 2023
The Cambridge Club Festival
This festival has come a long way since its origins as a one-day event launched in 2017. Today, it has grown into a three-day entertainment extravaganza, hosting a stellar line-up of performers spanning arts, culture and music. Taking place in the picturesque and historic Childerley Orchard, just outside of Cambridge, the festival is a veritable homage to creativity – with comedy, live stage music, live podcasts, family activities, group games, wellness and more to explore in their various dedicated areas across the site. For 2023, the festival will welcome such notable musical names as Lionel Richie, Grace Jones, and Kool & The Gang to the main stage. Day tickets start at around £50 for adults.
Childerley Orchard / 9-11 June 2023
‘Ice From Above’ exhibition
With hundreds of objects on display, from beautiful clothing and artwork by communities living in the Arctic to poignant artefacts from the early days of British Antarctic exploration, there’s plenty to see at the Polar Museum. This exhibition invites visitors to discover what it’s like to explore our icy world from the sky and space. It features the many different tools that are used, from satellites to drones, as well as the different types of sensing equipment that explorers and researchers are able to utilise that mean they aren’t just limited to what the human eye can see. And it explains how the real skill of the observer is in analysing and presenting those findings, whether as an artist or scientist. Museum entrance is free.
The Polar Museum / Through August 2023
Cambridge Literary Festival
Given its heritage of intellectual endeavours, it’s little surprise that Cambridge has its own literary festival. In fact, the Cambridge Literary Festival is a biannual event, with an edition in both spring and winter, each with the purpose of helping promote the growth of literature, language and the arts. Held over a busy weekend, there are seminars, talks, panels, workshops, readings, while well-known speakers and panel members, including prize-winning novelists, politicians, and award-winning thespians, have also made regular appearances over the years. Ticket prices vary for each event.
Venues across Cambridge / 19-23 April 2023
Islanders: The Making of the Mediterranean
Displaying more than 200 antiquities from three of the largest Mediterranean islands – Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia – this exhibition takes visitors on a 4,000-year journey from life in the ancient Mediterranean to today. The items on show shine a light on the ways these island cultures reflected, and even shaped the larger Mediterranean world with its migrations and movement of peoples. Highlights include striking bronze votive figurines made around 4,000 years ago by the Nuragic people of Sardinia, and exquisite pottery, jewellery and bronze figures from the palaces, sanctuaries and caves of Minoan Crete. Museum admission is free.
The Fitzwilliam Museum / 24 February – 4 June 2023
Wimpole Home Farm
Located 10 miles west of central Cambridge, Wimpole Home Farm bursts into visual life during spring, with the trees, foliage and flower beds dotted across the grand country estate coming into colourful bloom. It’s also the time of year when the farm’s rare breed yews give birth to fluffy new additions to the flock – offering visitors the chance to see the pens and paddocks filled with happily skipping and oh-so-cute baby lambs. There’ll also be the opportunity to admire the farm’s shire horses, pigs, sheep, cows and goats. Admission to the estate starts at £9 for adults and £4.50 for children.
Wimpole Estate, Orwell, Royston / April-May 2023
By Paul Joseph