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A Cambridge City Guide for Lovers of Art, Architecture, and History

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Cambridge is a treasury of Tudor and Jacobean architecture, with centuries-old college buildings endowed by monarchs and aristocrats. You'll also find unique shops and markets, surprising museums and galleries, and more theaters and nightlife than you'd expect in such a small city. For fresh air, you can stroll or cycle alongside the River Cam, or take to its calm waters in a flat-bottomed boat, known as a punt.

Cambridge’s famous colleges

 

Peterhouse, founded in 1284, is the oldest of the University of Cambridge's 31 colleges, most of which huddle in the city center. If you have time to visit only one, make it King's College, founded by Henry VI. Trinity, Cambridge's largest college, was founded by Henry VIII; his statue guards its gateway, clutching a wooden table leg instead of a sword. If you can squeeze a few more colleges into your schedule, the Tudor glories of Queens' should be on your list, followed by Emmanuel and its 17th-century chapel.

 

  • Peterhouse College, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RD; Tel: +44 1233 338200; Website: Peterhouse College
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  • Emmanuel College, St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge CB2 3AP; Tel: +44 1233 334200; Website: Emmanuel College

Punting on the River Cam

 

An afternoon drifting along the River Cam in a punt is an essential Cambridge experience. On the way, you'll float under bridges including the ornate Bridge of Sighs in St. John's College and the ingenious Mathematical Bridge in Queens' College. Back on land, there are fine views of the colleges across the river from well-tended lawns known as The Backs. You'll see punts, sculls and rowing "eights" - icons of Cambridge university life - on the water all year round.

 

 

Museums and galleries

 

Art, science, archaeology, nature - you can explore all these and more in the University of Cambridge's museums, most of which are free. Art rules at the Fitzwilliam Museum and more intimate Kettle's Yard. Treasures from ancient and recent cultures have their place at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The Whipple Museum of the History of Science shows how understanding of the world has advanced since the University was founded. The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences celebrates our fragile planet, and the Polar Museum takes you to the icy worlds of Antarctica and the Arctic.

 

  • Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH; Tel: +44 1233 330906; Website: Whipple Museum of the History of Science
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  • The Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER; Tel: +44 1223 336540; Website: The Polar Museum

 

Parks and green spaces

 

Cambridge has a plethora of parks and gardens. You can jog, stroll, and picnic on Christ's Pieces, next to Christ's College. On Jesus Green, between the River Cam and Jesus College, you'll find tree-lined paths and a 1920s outdoor swimming pool which is one of the longest pools in Europe. Coe Fen and Sheep's Green, a few minutes' walk from the city center, are swathes of countryside where cattle graze near the walls of Peterhouse College. Desert and rainforest plants flourish in the glasshouses of Cambridge University Botanic Garden, among shrubs, rockeries, ponds, and a pleasant café.

 

 

Days out in the Cambridgeshire countryside

 

Postcard-pretty villages pop up from pancake-flat countryside around Cambridge. You can walk, cycle, and punt to Grantchester, where whitewashed houses with thatched roofs stand along tree-lined lanes. At Saffron Walden you can admire timber-framed houses whose plasterwork looks more French than English. Nearby, Audley End is an aristocratic 17th-century manor, once owned by Charles II. Moving into the 20th century, you'll find warplanes - including retired nuclear bombers - at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.