Ely is a compact town comprised of medieval streets and surrounded by quaint countryside. Admire its impressive cathedral, go for a walk along the charming riverside footpath or browse the traditional shops that line its main thoroughfare.

Ely takes its name from the eels that once lived in the undrained fens surrounding the town. Until the 18th century, Ely was a true island, encircled by dangerous marshlands that were difficult to cross. Visit Wicken Fen, a nature reserve found 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) south of town, to see what the undrained fenlands once looked like. This important wetland is home to more than 8,500 species, including Konik ponies, hen harriers and numerous types of dragonflies.

Don’t miss the town’s most famous attraction, the 11th-century Ely Cathedral. The imposing cathedral’s gorgeous Gothic octagon took nearly 20 years to build. This domed stained-glass skylight is considered to be a masterpiece of medieval engineering.

Near the entrance of the cathedral is the Stained Glass Museum, where you can inspect a beautiful collection of glasswork dating between the 13th century and the present day. To the north of the church, check out the charming shops and Georgian houses lining Ely’s High Street.

Explore Oliver Cromwell’s House, a half-timbered residence where the controversial military and political leader lived with his family in the 17th century. The interior has been decorated with period furnishings, as well as exhibitions and displays dedicated to its infamous former occupant.

Take a look inside the interesting little Ely Museum, which traces the history of the Isle of Ely and the Fens from prehistory through the 20th century. You’ll see displays of original prehistoric tools, Anglo Saxon jewelry and Roman pottery. The museum’s other exhibitions focus on the formation of the Fens, as well as old-fashioned trades like eel fishing and leatherwork.

Ely is easily visited as a day trip from Cambridge. Ride an express train or stagecoach bus from Cambridge. Trains for Ely also depart regularly from London's King’s Cross Station.

Known for

Cathedrals, Bars and Museums

Top hotels in Ely

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Image for Poets House
Poets House
4 out of 5
40 - 44 St Marys Street, Ely
£116/night
20 Aug-21 Aug
4.6/5Wonderful! (170 reviews)

"This is a great value for a great location. Great staff provided great service and resolved all matters very well. Food choices could be broader for special needs, like gluten and diary free choices. Nothing we did not like. This is a spot to return to."…"

Reviewed on 19 Jul 2019

Poets House
Image for Lamb Hotel by Greene King Inns
Lamb Hotel by Greene King Inns
3 out of 5
£75/night
19 Aug-20 Aug
3.7/5Good! (241 reviews)

"Helpful staff in bar and restaurant areas. Clean throughout."…"

Reviewed on 9 Jun 2019

Lamb Hotel by Greene King Inns
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The Woodlands
3 out of 5
Grunty Fen Road, Ely
£80/night
30 Jul-31 Jul
4.4/5Wonderful! (107 reviews)

"Fabulous hosts in an idyllic country setting. Used this lovely B&B while attending a wedding at the Old Hall."…"

Reviewed on 14 Jul 2019

The Woodlands

Popular things to do in Ely

Ely Cathedral
Image for Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Towering over the flat surrounding countryside, this beautiful cathedral is nicknamed the Ship of the Fens.

King's College
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King's College

Explore the campus of one of Cambridge University’s great colleges and visit its medieval chapel, a superb example of late Gothic architecture.

Trinity College
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Trinity College

Walk around the campus of Trinity College, a top university in Cambridge. Wander around the area's picturesque gardens or experience its fascinating museums.

St. John's College
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St. John's College

Walk around the campus of St. John's College, a top university in Cambridge. Wander around the area's picturesque gardens or experience its fascinating museums.

St Catharine's College
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St Catharine's College

Enjoy the student vibe around St Catharine's College, a top university in Cambridge. Wander the picturesque gardens and riverfront in the area.

Church of St Mary the Great
Image for Church of St Mary the Great

Church of St Mary the Great

Climb to the top of the tower for enchanting views of the city’s famous spires and learn about the church’s rich history.