With a university heritage dating back as far as 1209, the city of Cambridge is steeped in tradition and, as its colleges have been added piecemeal by royal and aristocratic patrons over the centuries, it opens for the visitor like a catalogue of the past 700 years of European architecture. The prestigious University of Cambridge, which dates back to the 13th century, gives the town an academic gravitas while simultaneously providing it with a youthful and exuberant population.
Cambridge offers a number of historic buildings and sites worth exploring, including Kings College Chapel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Great St Mary's Church. There are also a plethora of top-notch museums in Cambridge, dedicated to zoology, classical archaeology, earth sciences, anthropology, art, and local history.
With daffodils and summer flowers carpeting the 'Backs', or banks of the River Cam, summer and spring are ideal seasons for punting in Cambridge. The city has a number of parks and gardens that provide quiet retreats from the urban city centre.
Cambridge offers first class accommodation, as well as an abundance of shops, culture and entertainment, all features that make the pretty town one of England's most popular holiday destinations. It hosts several popular festivals, including the Cambridge Summer Music Festival and the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has been described as 'one of the greatest art collections in the UK', and was named 'best small museum in Europe' by the Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Setting aside a few hours to explore the museum should be first on every art lover's list of things to do in Cambridge. The Fitzwilliam Museum houses an extensive art collection from a number of countries across Europe and the Near East. Visitors can marvel at the inspiring sculptures, drawings, prints, armour, pottery, paintings and antiquities on display, which date from the 14th century to the present day.
Kettle's Yard is an art lover's dream and one of the finest art galleries in Britain. Originally the private home of Jim Ede (former curator of the Tate), Kettle's Yard houses the impressive art collection that Ede donated to the University of Cambridge in 1966, and the house itself is charming. The gallery's permanent collection consists of mainly 20th and 21st century artists, including Henry Moore and Joan Miro. The informal art gallery space is a popular attraction in Cambridge for tourists and locals alike. Budget at least a couple of hours to do the collection justice and to spend some time soaking up the scenery. The Kettle Yard is currently going through renovations; they expect to reopen in early 2018.
Perhaps the most popular attraction in the town of Cambridge is the university itself. Steeped in tradition, Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in England, losing out only to Oxford University. The university's colleges are the main attraction on this beautiful campus. Viewing the colleges gives visitors the opportunity to stroll through Britain's architectural history. Peterhouse is the oldest college, founded in 1284; while Homerton College was approved in 2010, making it the newest addition to the Cambridge family. King's College and the Gothic-style King's College Chapel are not to be missed on this prestigious campus. The intricate chapel was built over a period of nearly a hundred years (1446 to 1531) and is home to the famous Chapel Choir, made up of college students as well as younger choristers from King's College School.
A popular Cambridge attraction for visitors wishing to learn more about the geology of the area surrounding Cambridge is the University's Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The museum was opened in 1904 and houses an extensive collection of fossils, rocks, minerals and crystals. Visitors can view the fossil collection of Dr John Woodward, a well-known 17th and 18th century British geologist, as well as rocks collected by Charles Darwin and other interesting artefacts that chart more than 550 million years of the planet's history. The Sedgwick Museum is fascinating even for those who are uninitiated in the Earth Sciences.
The Great St Mary's Church, as it is locally known, is central to Cambridge and its university life. It is the official university church, and according to university rules, all Cambridge undergraduates must live within a three-mile (5km) radius of the church, while university officers are required to live within 20 miles (32km). St Mary's was completed in 1205, before being destroyed by fire and rebuilt again in 1290. Cambridge University sermons are conducted here, and day visitors are invited to climb the tower and appreciate the lovely views it affords of the town's historic market square. The church hosts many events and visitors are welcome at services.
The climate in Cambridge is on par with the rest of the United Kingdom, but because it is situated in the more sheltered region of Eastern England, Cambridge enjoys significantly less rainfall than the rest of the country. Winters tend to be quite cold and they're often wet but the area experiences less snowfall than the rest of England. Summers are dry and temperatures range between 65°F (18°C) and 73°F (23°C). The best time to visit Cambridge is any time between April and September when it is warm and often sunny; however, even though the city is drier than much of the rest of England, rain is still possible in any season.
Transport in Cambridge is simple and easy, provided you don't drive a car. The best way to get around Cambridge is by bicycle. Bicycles can be hired at any number of the cycle hire shops in central Cambridge. The town is cycle friendly with over 80 miles (130km) of dedicated cycle routes, lanes and roads. Maps of the cycle routes can be acquired at the Cambridge Visitor's Information Centre or on the Cambridge City Council's Website. Park and ride options are available along most major routes into Cambridge. There are also a number of local buses ready to transport visitors around the city.
Bus routes go in and around town as well as from central Cambridge to the outlying towns and villages. The city sightseeing hop-on-hop-off bus is a great way to take in all the attractions on your way around town. Free transportation is available during business hours from Monday to Saturday on the city centre shuttle bus. The free shuttle can be used from Market Square, Corpus Christi College, Fair Street, Jesus Lane and Trinity Street. Buses tend to leave each station at 15 minute intervals.
Further transport options for visitors to Cambridge include taxis and cars, however these are not recommended. There are a number of taxi companies in Cambridge and rates per kilometre are dictated by the city council. Taxi ranks are located on St Andrew's Street and on Drummer Street during the day while night-time taxis can usually be found on Sidney Street and at Market Square. Travelling around Cambridge by taxi or car is made cumbersome, and expensive, by the multitude of one-way streets, no car roads and cycle-only areas in the city.
In an effort to provide a relaxing, car-free atmosphere around the city, the Cambridge City Council has declared a number of pedestrian zones. Visitors to Cambridge can explore the city without having to worry about traffic, parking or the noise and air pollution created by cars. The pedestrian zones effectively limit car and cycle access to the centre of Cambridge during business hours.
Strolling around Cambridge is a joy and a walking tour is the best way to get an introduction to the city. Visit Cambridge organises official guided tours with highly qualified guides, which include the university and colleges. These tours depart every day of the week from the Tourist Information Centre. There are even ghost tours available. Another must is a boat trip down the famous canals, which will give visitors a chance to see 'The Backs'. River tours can also be arranged from the Tourist Information Centre. Bicycles are readily available and there are dedicated lanes for cyclists. The hop-on hop-off tourist buses complete the array of fun sightseeing options.
Apart from the myriad attractions of the campus, top tourist sites in Cambridge include the art gallery of Kettle's Yard, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Imperial War Museum (Duxford), the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, and Anglesey Abbey. Church lovers will enjoy the Church of St Mary the Great and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is one of only four round medieval churches in western Europe. If the weather is good, a picnic in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is a lovely way to while away the hours, particularly in spring when the gardens are a riot of colour.
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