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Arrival by train

From much of continental Europe it is possible to avoid flying altogether and travel by train. The principal connection to Britain uses the Eurostar service that runs from Paris Gare du Nord, Lille, or Bruxelles Midi / Brussel Zuid direct to London St Pancras International. For connections from other stations in Europe consult the excellent and reliable Seat61 website which provides comprehensive travel information about rail travel throughout Europe and further afield.

If you are travelling from the Netherlands, northern Germany and perhaps Denmark you might consider instead taking a train to Rotterdam (Schiedam Centrum), a short metro trip to Hoek van Holland, then a StenaLine ferry across to the English port of Harwich which has a direct Greater Anglia train connection to Cambridge.

London has connections to Cambridge from three of its main line stations: St Pancras International, Kings Cross, and Liverpool Street. The first two of these are just a short walk apart, and Liverpool Street station is four stops away on the Circle and Metropolitan lines of the London Underground. Two mainline railway lines run through the centre of London: Thameslink runs from south to north connecting London Gatwick airport through London Bridge and Farringdon to St Pancras International. The fairly new Crossrail link – now called the Elizabeth line – runs from west to east connecting London Heathrow airport through Paddington and Farringdon to Liverpool Street. You can research and buy tickets in advance through the National Rail website. To buy a ticket you will be redirected to one of the train companies’ websites – note that any UK rail company can sell tickets for any UK rail journey even if they don’t run that route; prices will be the same across all companies. Depending which journey you are making the trains might be run by different companies but a through-ticket should be valid for the whole journey including any cross-London transport where that is needed. When selecting your tickets beware of so-called ‘Advance’ tickets. These are usually displayed as the cheapest tickets available but they restrict you to use a specific train and are best avoided unless you are really confident that you can travel on that train. You are recommended to ignore any pop-up message like: “Long journey? You might like to upgrade to first class.” For most of the trains on these routes the first class seats differ little from ‘standard’ class except for slightly more space and a sense of exclusivity. For some routes you might be able to have QR-code tickets sent direct to your smartphone but others might still need actual physical tickets. This depends on whether your start and end stations have been equipped with QR-code readers.

You might find it easier to book through a company such as Trainline. They also sell tickets for rail journeys from Britain into mainland Europe so it might be worth enquiring if they can book your entire journey if you prefer that convenience.

Arrival by air at one of London’s four main airports.

London Heathrow airport (LHR) lies to the west of London. The easiest route is to travel by Elizabeth line either to Farringdon to pick up a northbound Thameslink train (as for Gatwick below) or onward to Liverpool Street for a Greater Anglian train. It is possible also to travel by Heathrow Express to London Paddington. From there the Elizabeth line runs to Farringdon and to Liverpool Street. Alternatively, the London Underground Circle line runs to Kings Cross and St Pancras International for Thameslink or Great Northern trains and onward to Liverpool Street for Greater Anglia trains.

London Gatwick airport (LGW) lies to the south of London and has a half-hourly Thameslink train service direct to Cambridge. If you happen to travel on another London-bound Thameslink train with a final destination other than Cambridge you can leave the train at St Pancras International and either wait for a direct Cambridge train on the same platform or walk the short distance to Kings Cross for a Great Northern train. If your travel plan includes stopping off in London on your way to Cambridge you might also choose to use a Southern or Gatwick Express train into London Victoria station.

London Stansted airport (STN) serves mostly Ryanair flights and lies to the north-east of London. It is the closest main airport to Cambridge and also has the shortest rail connection with four direct services an hour to Cambridge and a journey time of around half an hour.

London Luton airport (LTN) serves mostly easyJet and Wizz Air flights and lies to the north of London. Although it is the next closest to Cambridge it is the least well served for direct rail transport. A shuttle bus from the airport runs to Luton Airport Parkway station from where you would need a southbound Thameslink train to London St Pancras International. Then you would need either to cross to the opposite platform for a northbound Thameslink train to Cambridge, or take the short walk to Kings Cross Station for access to a Great Northern train to Cambridge.

London City airport (LCY) is best avoided. A journey to Cambridge would involve a trip westbound on The Dockland Light Railway (DLR), changing at Stratford to the London Underground Central Line as far as Liverpool Street where you can catch a Greater Anglia train to Cambridge.

In Cambridge the railway station is around a mile (1.6km) from the centre so it is advisable to use a bus or taxi if travelling with heavy luggage.