Cambridge, United Kingdom

More than Oxford, more than any other UK city, Cambridge is dominated by its university. The semi-independent colleges – 31 of them – own most of the city centre's bricks and mortar, although that's a rather reductive term for the towers, chapels, great halls, labyrinthine libraries and cobbled courts that line the streets. Peek under the hem of the scholar's gown, however, and you find a chic shopper's city, a cluster of fine restaurants, the most cycle-friendly urban centre in England, and an idyllic place to spend a summer afternoon messing around on, or by, the river.

When to go

The students may have left, but swarms of tourists descend on Cambridge in the summer months from June to August, clogging the colleges and the packing the river with punts. Although the weather’s best in July and August, you’re better off visiting in May or September, when the sun’s shining but the city’s less busy.

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