An Expert Guide: Things to do in Peterborough

Exploring Cambridgeshire? Here's our guide to how to spend some time in Peterborough.

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Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough, UK

As the largest city in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough is an impressive cathedral city with a market and a layout of historic vestiges spread across its core. It grew as an important rail link between London and Edinburgh, meaning you might just be here as a quick stop-off between the capitals of England and Scotland. Never fear: Plum Guide is here to give you some tips about things to do in Peterborough, whether you’re here for a layover or spending a few days in this historic jewel of Cambridgeshire. 

The Peterborough Cathedral and the Peterborough Museum combine to provide a glimpse of the city’s rich and regal history, while the parks and railway attractions show us its other faces. We have so many ideas for what to do, that even the briefest of skim-readings would give you enough knowledge to fill the Elton Hall & Gardens, where we’d also suggest you visit.

Visit the cathedral

The pride and glory of the city is undoubtedly the Peterborough Cathedral (sorry, Peterborough Museum, we’ll get onto you soon enough). Amble through the floral displays of its garden (well, around the flowers, don’t tread on them, unless you’re some kind of rascal or hoodlum bent on destruction), and reach the imposing façade. Embark on a guided tour to hear tales about religious things that are said to have happened and to find out about the construction and architectural quirks of the building. It has an Early English Gothic design (remember this, it’ll be important to tell the rest of your family on the way there). Take photos of your little ones in the enormous arches of the frontage to make them seem even tinier than normal. ‘Did you know,’ you’ll tell your group to excited and impressed gasps, ‘that the tower on the right was never entirely finished, lending an asymmetrical aesthetic to the façade?’ ‘Yes, we know,’ cometh the reply, ‘you told us five times on the train.’ Ungrateful so-and-sos…

Peterborough Cathedral Interior, England UK

Peterborough Cathedral Interior, England UK

Check out the Peterborough Museum

Ah, finally, the jealous younger sibling of the cathedral, forever forced to settle for second place in the hearts of locals and vacationers alike, and making up for such perceived shortcomings with a remarkable and comprehensive collection of its own. Yes, we’ve given the museum a personality. It claims to have around 200,000 objects of great national and international importance. We don’t envy the person whose task it was to count the artefacts and separate them into categories of national and international importance, but by Jove, they’ve done a good job (one can only presume). See the sculptures of Sir Anthony Caro and admire the paintings by Sheila Girling in the same section: the pair were married. Grab a bite to eat or settle in with a hot drink at the Squire’s Coffee House, and watch people go by. Take on one of the escape rooms in the cellars or wander through the Priestgate Vaults to see ghosts and other scary things. 

Rummage through the market

There’s no better way to get a sense of a local culture than by delving into its market. The Peterborough Market lies under a green cover, which is practical given the drizzle that sometimes looms over these British Isles. Grab food – both as uncooked ingredients and ready-made culinary specialties – and purchase clothes, electrical goods and arts and crafts in this diverse market.  

Do train things

Peterborough has a historic train link, so bring your family along for a ride to learn all about it. Climb aboard the Nene Valley Railway, where your kids will love riding on Thomas the Tank Engine. Check out the pristine steam engines that’ll transport you back to a bygone time. Then, continue the train theme with a trip to the Railworld Wildlife Haven. It makes for a strange but welcome combination of wildlife with model railways right beside the Nene Valley Railway. Bring a packed lunch and enjoy a picnic beside the tiny trains.

Nene Valley Railway | © Dave Hill/ Flickr

Nene Valley Railway | © Dave Hill/ Flickr

Activities

There are all manner of other activities in Peterborough. Go for an educational walk around Flag Fen, which is a Bronze Age village. I can hear the kids now: ‘Almost as old as you, dad/mum.’ It is pretty old, to be fair, and the roundhouse at its centre is reconstructed. Still, it gives us a fascinating insight into life before TV and Tamagotchis and stuff. For something totally different, you could attend the Peterborough Greyhound Stadium and watch dogs run around. Take your family for a pleasant day out in the presence of the bourgeoisie at Elton Hall & Gardens and watch a dramatic performance at the Key Theatre. And then, finally, take a breath and relax in the Ferry Meadows Country Park, beside its scenic lake. Go cycling or fishing, as you reflect on the great time you’ve had in Peterborough.

There we have it – our guide to the best things to do in Peterborough. Keen to keep reading? Take a look at our guide to the things to do in Cambridge next. Travelling with family? Our travel experts also have a guide to Cambridge with kids too. Oh, and we have a great selection of homes in the area, all handpicked by our home critIcs. We really are good to you.

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