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 a historic 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 a feast of shops, culture and entertainment, all features that make the historic town one of England's most popular holiday destinations. It hosts several festivals, including the Cambridge Summer Music Festival and the Cambridge Shakespeare festival.
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 village. 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 taxi can 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. Two novel and exciting ways to get around Cambridge are punting and 'shopmobility'. Shopmobility is an initiative instituted by a number of shopping centres giving shoppers access to wheelchairs, scooters and Segways. The shopmobility programme is in effect at the Bus Station on Drummer Street, the Grand Arcade and the Grafton Centre. Punting is an age-old tradition in Cambridge and offers visitors the perfect way to view the historical and scenic colleges around the city. Visitors can hire a punt and chauffer from the Quayside, Silver Street or the back of Trinity College.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
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 everyone'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. 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. The gallery's permanent collection is 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.
King's College Chapel
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 many of the college's students as well as younger choristers from King's College School.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
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, 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.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Round Church)
Visitors to Cambridge would be unwise to skip this important attraction. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge is one of four round medieval churches in western Europe, and dates back to the year 1130 AD. Most churches in Europe are designed in a cruciform (cross-like) shape; round churches such as this are thought to be influenced by the shape of the original Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Cambridge's Round Church doesn't have an active congregation, but it is open to visitors and contains a library and an exhibition about the influence of Christianity on England. Visitors to the church can also admire the Gothic tower, which was added in the 15th century, or attend one of the regular concerts, lectures, recitals or plays hosted in the church.
Church of St Mary the Great
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 3-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.
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