WHAT TO SEE IN CAMBRIDGE
The historic city of Cambridge is one of the UK’s top tourist destinations. Whether you are interested in famous names, architecture, eating and drinking, music or museums, there is plenty to see and do. But don’t take our word for it. Travel writer Chris Hallam wrote this in the Sunday Times earlier this year:
“Are you ready for a laid-back, mind-enriching weekend of outstanding beauty in the most civilised city on earth? The fenland capital is much more than the place that came up with DNA, Stephen Hawking and the computer. It also offers exquisite architecture, magnificent museums, an extraordinary arts scene and a buzzing foodie culture. Oh, and a fab river.”
King’s College chapel: quite simply the finest building of its kind in Europe. Founded by Henry VI in 1441, work began in 1446 and took almost 100 years. The fan vault ceiling is renowned for its breathtaking beauty. The 26 stained glass windows depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments and tell the story of Christ. They are the most complete set of church windows from the time of Henry VIII. The chapel’s treasures include a priceless Rubens paining dating from 1634 and a carved oak screen reckoned to be one of the best examples of wood carving in northern Europe. (www.kings.cam.ac.uk).
Queens’ College: one of the most picturesque Cambridge colleges, famous for its half-timbered gallery dating from 1540 and the intricate ‘Mathematical Bridge’ over the River Cam. Old Court was completed in 1451 and is little altered today. It is a fine example of how Cambridge college courts were laid out in mediaeval times, with a gatehouse, chapel, library, dining hall, master’s lodge (though Queens’ has a President) and living accommodation all surrounding one lawned courtyard.
Pembroke College: founded in 1347 by Marie de St Pol, the Countess of Pembroke. A welcoming, open college with buildings ranging from the 14th century to the 20th. Home to the first building ever completed by Sir Christopher Wren, the college chapel which was consecrated in 1665.
St.John’s College: the gate house is regarded as the finest in Cambridge, though Christ’s College is not far behind. The extensive college courts show Tudor brickwork at its best. The grounds include the famous Bridge of Sighs and the oldest secular building in Cambridge, known as the School of Pythagoras. This dates from the 12th century, and no one knows how it got its name.
Trinity College and the Wren Library: the largest Cambridge college, founded by Henry VIII in 1546. Former students include 32 Nobel prize winners, two kings, six prime ministers and a long list of famous scientists, philosophers, writers and poets. The 17th century library designed by Sir Christopher Wren houses priceless books and manuscripts, including a first edition of Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica’, an eighth century manuscript of the epistles of St Paul, Milton’s poems in his own handwriting and the original manuscript of AA Milne’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
Emmanuel College: a must for American visitors. A third of the first hundred British graduates to arrive in New England were from Emmanuel. This includes John Harvard who founded a school which became one of American’s famous universities. The chapel is one of two in Cambridge designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The other, in Pembroke College, was Wren’s first completed work.
Cambridge colleges: there are 31 colleges in Cambridge. All have their own history and points of interest. The oldest, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284 and the newest, Robinson, in 1981. Jesus College has the oldest building in any Cambridge college: the college chapel which was originally part of a 12th century Benedictine nunnery. Magdalene College houses the famous Pepys Library, with 3,000 books bequeathed by the great diarist himself.
The Old Cavendish Laboratory and New Museums site: the discoveries made at the Cavendish changed mankind’s understanding of the physical world. From the electron to the structure of DNA and beyond, the Cavendish led the way. Today the site is a rambling collection of buildings old and new, on some of which you can spot plaques marking the famous discoveries made inside. The site is also home to the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, which houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Charles Darwin.
The Fitzwilliam Museum: the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. Regarded as one of the best regional museums in the country. Permanent collections include: paintings and drawings from the 13th century to the present; artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome; European and Oriental sculpture and decorative arts; medieval coins and medals. Open Tuesdays-Saturdays 10:00-17:00. Sundays 12:00-17:00. Tel: 01223 332 900. We offer an introductory one hour tour, taking in key exhibits and the main galleries.
The view from the tower of Great St.Mary’s church: a bit of a climb, but well worth it. Look down on Senate House, Old Schools (where teaching took place in the 14th century), King’s college and the market place.
The Eagle Pub: One of the oldest pubs in Cambridge. Used by the RAF and US 8th Air Force pilots during the Second World War. They wrote their names and squadron numbers on the ceiling, using lighters or candles. The ‘RAF Bar’ is preserved today pretty much as it was then (8 Benet Street, Tel: 01223 505 020).
St Bene’t’s church: built by the Saxons around 1025. The oldest building in Cambridgeshire. Used as a meeting place for students after their arrival in Cambridge in 1209. Still an active parish church today.
St Edward’s Church: on Christmas Eve 1525, Robert Barnes preached what is considered to be the first Reformation sermon at this church. The pulpit from which he spoke is still there and dates from 1510. The church is usually open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1300-1500, but phone 01223 362004 to check.
The Round Church: No connection with the Da Vinci Code, but it was built in 1130 and replicates the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
WHAT TO DO IN CAMBRIDGE
Punting on the river Cam: a popular Cambridge pursuit since the early 1900s. Try it yourself or arrange for a chauffeured tour. Sit back, sip a glass of wine and watch famous Cambridge colleges slip by.
Ghost tours: be punted along the River Cam and hear about ghostly goings on in the Cambridge colleges. Working with Let’s Go Punting we offer chauffeured ghost tours by punt, or a combination of punt and 45 minute walking tour. The maximum size of group is 11. For a quote please contact Let’s Go Punting on 07989 423 721 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cambridge University maintains a fascinating and stimulating collection of museums, which are an invaluable resource to researchers, students and the public. Entry to all museums is free. There is a small charge for visiting the University’s Botanic Garden.
For a full list and details of opening times go to: www.cam.ac.uk/museums
Probably the best known of Cambridge’s museums is The Fitzwilliam, renowned as one of the best regional museums in Europe. The Fitz offers a wide range of exhibits, encompassing exquisite Greek and Roman antiquities, paintings by Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, Van Gogh and priceless illuminated manuscripts. Entry is free, but a small donation is welcome. From January 2016 we now offer tours of the Fitzwilliam. A one hour taster tour will take you through the main galleries and highlight some of the most important exhibits.
Other Cambridge museums include: the University Museum of Zoology, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Archeology and Anthropology, Classical Archeology and The Whipple Museum of the History of Science.
Not to be missed is the recently refurbished Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute.
For modern art lovers, the University offers the incomparable Kettle’s Yard, the home of former Tate Gallery curator Jim Ede turned into a showcase for 20th century art.
Some 20 minutes walk from the historic centre is the University’s beautiful Botanic Garden, founded in 1846 by Darwin’s mentor, Professor John Henslow.
The Orchard, Grantchester: serving teas since 1897 and open all year round. Walk down the river or hire a bicycle. The Orchard is open for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea. The scones are famous, as are many of the clients over the years: Bertrand Russell, Maynard Keynes, Wittgenstein, King George VI, Pandit Nehru, Salman Rushdie and John Cleese, to name but a few.
WHAT’S ON IN CAMBRIDGE
Cambridge is renowned for its music scene. Apart from major venues like the Corn Exchange and the Junction, there are many excellent pubs around the city offering free gigs on a regular basis. These are often not well publicised. If you are in town and want to sample some music, email us for details of any forthcoming events. Also see our ‘Cambridge Pubs’ page which lists some of the pubs offering live music on a regular basis.
For lovers of classical music, Cambridge University has its own first rate venue, West Road Concert Hall. Known for its superb acoustics, this is a relaxed and intimate place to enjoy classical music.
Theatre goers can choose from the Cambridge Arts Theatre which runs a continuous programme of high quality West End productions with well known stars, or the University’s own ADC theatre . The latter is one of the liveliest venues in Cambridge, presenting a varied programme of theatre to suit everyone’s tastes. The ADC helped to launch the careers of such theatre luminaries as Sir Ian McKellen, Rachel Weiss and Emma Thompson, so you may well see a star in the making. The Cambridge theatre scene has recently been further enriched by the redevelopment of the Corpus Playrooms, an intimate 80 seat theatre owned by Corpus Christi college and run by the ADC Theatre.
Cambridge Arts Theatre:
Box office: 01223 503333 or http://www.cambridgeartstheatre.com
Tickets and info: corpusplayroom.com or 01223 300085
Cambridge Corn Exchange:
Sun 6 Sep: Battle of Britain Memorial Concert. Sat 19 Sep: Richard Thompson. Mon 28 Sep: Nicola Benedetti.
For full details and bookings log on to www.cornex.co.uk or phone 01223 357851.
For bookings and details: 01223 511 511 and www.junction.co.uk
West Road Concert Hall:
For full details and booking: www.westroad.org and 01223 355 184.
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival:
The ever-popular festival of Shakespeare’s plays performed in college gardens makes a welcome return July and August. Full information at www.cambridgeshakespeare.com
Concerts at King’s:
A series of concerts and events in celebration of King’s College Chapel’s 500th anniversary. For full details go to www.kings.cam.ac.uk/events/concerts-at-kings.
Gigs in Pubs
Music at the Flying Pig pub, Hills Road. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and often Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Sunday Sessions at the Six Bells (11 Covent Garden, CB1 2HS). 5-8pm. Open mic and maybe a poem or two.
Songsmith Sessions at The Alma, every Wednesday at 9pm. Free entry. (26 Russell Court, CB2 1HW).