Which colleges are worth seeing,which ones cost a lot and which are free?
St. Johns, Trinity and Kings charge IIRC, they are all pretty nice to walk around though. If its a touristy day then they will be quite busy! It's exam term so not all colleges will be open, but porters are generally friendly to talk to so just ask. Downing is pretty and a little different to the other town colleges (I may be biased ) Kings college chapel does an evensong which is supposed to be quite special, if you are around in the late afternoon, you will have to queue for that.
Anything specific that you wanted to see?
Just the general buildings and architecture, is it worth paying to get in or can you see these from outside nearly as well?
To be honest most of the buildings can be seen from outside, particularly for kings. I think that it would be worth going in to St. Johns or Trinity. They are much more closed in, and you experience the courts much more in these colleges. I think they are only a few pounds to get into as well, but I might be wrong on that! If the weathers nice going on a punt down the backs is the best way to see a lot of colleges, but it will cost more and be v. busy at this time of year. If you get a map and wander around you can't really go wrong; about 20 of the colleges are within ten minutes walk of the city centre
As said, it is exam term at the moment so most of the colleges are closed to visitors, with the exception of the big / Royal colleges that charge. Most are about £5 to view the courtyards/gardens. We have generally found St Johns, Kings, Queens and Trinity charge and Corpus Christi, Magdalene, Clare and St Catherines are usually closed to visitors for some reason. If you come after 14 June (end of term) it might be better. Queens has a very pretty old courtyard, although the oldest original courtyard is in Corpus Christi (go down from the far left corner of the first courtyard space) - if it's open to visitors. You can usually wander around Peterhouse (oldest college) and Pembroke (ornate library and Christopher Wren chapel) which are next to each other and 5 mins from King's Parade. If it's sunny it is worth seeing King's Chapel for the stained glass. As said, you can usually get in to the chapels for free for choral evensong or organ recitals during the evening.
Personally, I would look at the three Royal colleges (St Johns, Trinity and Kings) from the outside - you get a good idea of the stonework and grandeur - and wander in to a few the others if they are open.
It is also worth visiting a few of the museums since they are free, depending on what interests you.
Also worth doing a punt for a general overview and view of the backs that you don't get from the public footpath (Garrett Hostel Lane). EDIT - although I would haggle... a lot.
Punting down the Backs is a must as it's the best view and some things, like the Bridge of Sighs, are only visible that way. You can pay to see inside Kings College (free for residents, and I think £7.50 for tourists). It's definitely worth wandering round a few as the quadrangles are very impressive. A lot of them shut, to visitors, when exams are on. I like Trinity Hall and Peterhouse. Fitzwilliam museum is worth a look, if only for the entrance hall which is really impressive.
You can also go up to the roof of Great St Mary's Church, opposite Kings College, for £1.50, and get a great view:
A rather poor pic of the Chapel taken with my D80, I really need to go back with the D4 and get a much better one:
Cheers I'm planning on going this weekend so will have to make do with walking around the outside of colleges or maybe punt
The Botanical Gardens are a lovely place to relax if you like weird plants, much nicer than the huge places like Kew. Near the station.
Downing is pretty and a little different to the other town colleges (I may be biased )
two of us on the same forum. wow
I've lived 15 miles away for years and have never been round one of the colleges! Punting along the backs as mentioned is good fun tho'.
Sights also worth seeing are:
St Radegund, Maypole and if you really want to tick off a tourist spot then the Eagle.
It's a great city, busy at the weekends though, so just be sure to try and dodge the backpacks!
Shame it is exam period. I would certainly loop around the city centre colleges and see which you can get in. It looks like St Johns might be allowing visitors. You can look in to college courtyards through gates / doors and entrances. Also the University Downing site off Pembroke Street and old Cavendish Labs on Free School Lane might be interesting for their museums and if you are interested in the history of science.
If it's raining the Scott Polar Museum is pretty good, some of Scotts last letters are there, very dusty last time I went.
Never thought there would be another forum member from Downing.. Are you a current student imnotverygood?
Also, the weather forecast looks ok for the weekend, I would recommend (as stated above) the botanical gardens. Possibly a bit less busy too, though I can't vouch for that.
Sidney Sussex by far the best college and in the middle of town. Downing is rubbish, although did once spend a happy night there....
Joking apart Sidney has lovely gardens. Exams will be about now though and most colleges are a bit funny with visitors.
University members can wander freely around all colleges - you could try and befriend a student tour guide!
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