10 things to do at Open Cambridge

Discover some of Cambridge's hidden treasures, as some of the most intriguing and impressive spaces open their doors

Here's what not to miss during the city’s celebration of history, architecture, art and gardens, on 14 and 15 September...

1. See the city’s new neighbourhood 

Explore the city’s new eco-friendly neighbourhood Eddington –  the largest single capital project  undertaken by Cambridge University in its 800-year history. Try your hand at archaeology, take afternoon tea by the lake, feast on street food from foodPark and join in all sorts of talks and tours, including a look at the Storey’s Field Centre – the development’s impressive performing arts hub. 

2. Explore a Cold War Bunker 

Did you know that there’s a nuclear bunker buried deep beneath the County Council’s office buildings? You do now, and you can take a look for yourself at Open Cambridge! Thankfully, it’s not been needed for its original purpose, and is now used to store significant items from the council’s archeological collections.  

3. Meet the Cambridge university spies 

Fancy a jaunt into the world of espionage? You’re in the right place: the relationship between Cambridge University and spies is famous, and goes far beyond the KGB’s so-called ‘Magnificent Five’. Join Cambridge Green Badge Guides on a walking tour of the Colleges associated with Cambridge’s contribution to the world of spies. 

4. Meditate at Cambridge Buddhist Centre 

Pay a visit to Newmarket Road’s Buddhist Centre for a drop-in day of tasters in meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, talks on Buddhism and more.
It’s also a chance to enjoy a tour of this remarkable building, including the 200-year-old pre-Victorian Festival Theatre (Grade II listed), and the renovated Georgian House. 

5. Climb the University Library Tower 

The tallest public building in the city, and definitely one of the most mysterious, the 157ft tall tower at the Cambridge University Library is home to an Aladdin’s cave of treasures for booklovers and historians. From first editions of Lord of the Rings and the Famous Five books to Victorian toys and games, there’s plenty to explore in the Tower Collection – see for yourself with the Open Cambridge tour, which will take you up to the highest floors of this intriguing building. 

6. Have a feast at Madingley Hall  

Taking place on 14 September, the venue for this year’s Open Cambridge Dinner is Madingley Hall, a beautiful former stately home which dates back to Tudor times. Guests will enjoy a slap-up five-course meal by the venue’s award-winning chefs, plus an entertaining talk by the head gardener. You can also explore the Hall, gardens and parts of the Estate on 15 September at an open day which includes tours with local experts and a pop-up farmers’ market. 

7. Discover the city’s literary history 

From John Milton to Joanne Harris, Cambridge is a city steeped in literary history. In this tour with Cambridge Green Badge Guide Peter Hains, you’ll head out on a two-hour walk around landmarks associated with the novelists, poets and playwrights connected with the city, and hear extracts from their work.

8. Enjoy some glorious gardens 

There’s a chance to discover the manicured beauty of some of the university’s college gardens at Open Cambridge too – taking in the Victorian borders at Selwyn, the roses, topiary and mature trees at Wolfsen and the tropical garden at Clare, all of which will be opening their doors to the public over the course of the weekend. 

9. Marvel at the Open Observatory 

Visit the The Observatory at the Institute of Astronomy on Madingley Road and you’ll be treated to the engineering marvel that is the great Northumberland Telescope, the fascinating technology of the Thorrowgood Telescope and the neo-classical Observatory building, which dates back to 1823 and houses a library – one of very few specialist astronomical libraries in the country.

10. Quiz a Conservator 

Visit the revamped Museum of Zoology and explore its collection, which features some two million objects, showcasing an awe-inspiring diversity of specimens from across the animal kingdom. As part of Open Cambridge, the museum is letting its conservators out of the lab for the afternoon to show you what they do and answer all of your burning questions about the natural world.

Events take place over the course of the weekend 14-15 September and most are free to attend but booking is advised. For the full programme, visit opencambridge.cam.ac.uk