In a tranquil rural setting lies a city of colleges constructed as acts of piety for the personal glorification of each founder. Winding streets are lined with old houses, shops, restaurants with even older colleges and churches. The gently flowing River Cam is shaded by trees, providing a serene accompaniment to the architectural splendours. Here are just some of our favourite wonders you will encounter with many gratis.
A wander along the green expanse of lawns beside the River Cam gives stunning views of some of the finest architecture in Cambridge; the ‘Backs’ of the Colleges, once pastures, gardens and orchards in the 16th-Century. With elegant bridges, shaded by Willow trees, here there are an array of leisurely Punts and in the Summer, Colleges hold their “Bumps” race: single file rowing boats attempting to catch and “bump” another, without being caught by the boat behind, a tradition kept alive since 1827.
Museum of Cambridge
The former 17th Century timbered White Horse Inn now houses a huge 300 year old array of Cambridge history and that of the surrounding area in the Museum of Cambridge. Over 20,000 objects trace the traditions of life in Cambridgeshire, from tools to domestic items and the lives that employed them.
Great St Mary’s Church
In Market Street and Kings Parade stands Great St Mary’s Church, its tower of 15th century design. The University church gives wide views over the city and the countryside and there are tours available. The clock chimes heard here were the pattern for Big Ben’s chimes at Westminster. The 12 bells will play host to the final of the National 12 bell striking contest this year (2018), where ten teams with the finest ringers from across Britain, will compete for the coveted Taylor Trophy, producing some of the finest bell ringing to be heard across the city on Saturday 23rd June. A live all day broadcast will follow events. Word has it to listen out for Birmingham, the current and longstanding reigning champions.
King’s College Chapel
Opposite Great St Mary on Kings Parade is Henry VI’s late Perpendicular Gothic masterpiece which began in 1446 and completed in 1515 under the rule of Henry VIII. Home to the world famous King’s College Choir, originally ‘poor boys’ under twelve years from the city. Stephen Cleobury, their famous Musical Director is to retire in 2019 after 37 years service. Its superb fan vaulted ceiling is 80 ft high and stretches newly 300 ft with interior features of fine medieval stained glass and ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ above the Altar, painted by Rubens in 1634.
The Eagle Inn
Further down Kings Parade is The Eagle, a 17th-century Coaching Inn that became a public house and still has its external gallery, which used to provide a drafty route for guests to reach bedrooms. It was here at lunchtime on 28th February 1953 that Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of the double helix secret of life, a proposal for the structure of DNA.
St Bene’t’s Church
Opposite the Eagle Inn is the city’s oldest building dating from the early 11th century. Bene’t’ is short for Benedict born around 480. Once parish clerk, Fabian Stedman, invented the art of change ringing after studying the variations possible on a given number of bells. He wrote his first book on bell ringing in 1668. It is the oldest standing building in Cambridge, with the Saxon tower dating from around 1033.
Corpus Christi College
Where rival Oxford has quads within its grounds, Cambridge has courts, and the oldest of all is here built in the 14th century. Corpus Christi was founded by the townspeople of Cambridge. Dramatists Christopher Marlowe and John Fletcher studied here. On the exterior is the 2008 distinctive gold-plated Corpus Clock with radiating ripples alluding to the Big Bang, and the ‘Chronophage’, time-eating monster, devouring each minute it passes. The shaking of chains and hammer striking a coffin at key times audibly emphasises the ‘mundus transit et concupiscentia eius’ inscription, meaning ‘the world and its desires pass away’.
St Botolph’s Church
Standing guard over Corpus Christi College on the south side, is St Botolph’s Church, mainly 14th century with two sundials standing just inside the site of the former City Gate. The West Tower dates from about 1400 and crowned with carved symbols of the four Evangelists, and contains four bells cast in 1460. An elaborate wooden front cover and canopy has been recently restored in opulence and glowing colours. The Chancel was rebuilt in the 19th century.
Turning left onto Pembroke Street we come to the first of many museums. Whipple Museum. founded in 1944 displays early scientific and surveying instruments, ranging from old astronomical telescopes to early electrical apparatus mainly dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The main gallery from 1618 is housed in the original Cambridge free school.
University Museum of Zoology
Within a Mammoths’ tooth throw of the Whipple Museum is the university museum of zoology from 1865, where there are sections on all types of animals. Even extinct species are here. The university museum was designed for student research but of great value to the public and much of Darwin’s collection found its way into the museum.
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Opposite at the university museum of archaeology and anthropology has collections built up from finds across the world. Founded in 1884, it has been in its present location on Downing Street since 1913. There is a strong emphasis on the prehistoric inhabitants of the Cambridge area. There is material about the people of America Africa Oceania and Southeast Asia. Highlights include one of the largest collections of objects from the voyages of Captain James Cook
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Here are a million animal and plant fossils and collections of rocks stones and marbles. Dr. John Woodward’s geological collection are in the original 18th-century cabinets. The museum, a national treasure, was established in 1728 and takes the visitor through 4.5 billion years of earth history. Highlights include the enormous skeleton of the mid-Jurassic dinosaur Iguanodon bernissartensis standing guard to the entrance to the museum
At the end of Downing Street Emmanuel College was founded by Sir Walter Mildmay who was Chancellor of the Exchequer to Elizabeth the first in 1584. There is a mixture of Styles and origin making a harmonious whole. Sir Christopher Wren designed the designed the chapel and its colonnade in 1666. St Andrew’s Street Facade is Georgian. Alumni included English novelist Hugh Walpole.
Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Ajou, refounded St Bernard’s as Queen’s College in 1448. The Old Court was completed in 1449 and is an almost unaltered example of medieval brickwork. The college spans both sides of the river Cam, referred to as the “light side” and the “dark side”, via the Mathematical Bridge. Alumni include actor Stephen Fry and Paul Greengrass, Oscar-nominated film director and screenwriter.
The Round Church
The Holy Sepulchre circular church was built around 1130 by a crusading monastic order in the style of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was heavily restored between 1841 and 1843 with the North aisle and chancel from the 14th century. Above the nave is a triforium containing double Norman arches. Carvings of Demons and Norman warriors can be seen on the walls.
Stunning Corinthian porticos impress at the entrance to one of Europe’s major treasure houses. Five departments together cover a multitude antiquities from home and the ancient world, including pottery, glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour, art, rugs, coins, medals, literary and music manuscripts through to rare printed books and paintings.
Founded by Henry VIII in 1546, the oldest parts of the College date from the time of King’s Hall in 1317. The library designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century. Philosopher Bertrand Russell and Sir Issac Newton are alumni here, with past members of Trinity winning thirty-two Nobel Prizes. Trinity has been cited as the inventor of a version of crème brûlée, known as “Trinity burnt cream”. The film ‘Chariots of Fire’ in 1981, made famous ‘The Great Court Run’ a race around the court in the time it takes the College clock to strike the hour of twelve, recreated by Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram for charity in October 1988.
This historic market square in the city centre since the middle ages. Operating from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, the stalls sell a wide range of goods including books, music, films, clothes, jewellery, fresh food, second-hand bikes, plants, mobile phones, and accessories. Between 10 am and 4 pm on Sundays, the market square also sells flourishing local organic food, with arts and crafts.
Trinity Street hosts the All Saint’s Garden Art and Craft Market every Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
With premises in Oxford as well as Cambridge, The Pint Shop in Cambridge’s food quarter on Peas Hill, has offered gastro casual dining and craft brews since 2013. It is sited in what was an empty grade two listed office building from 1830, once home to novelist E.M Forster.
Winner of The British Street Food Awards, East of England 2015, The Steak and Honour in Wheeler Street by the Corn Market, serve gourmet burgers both in their restaurant and mobile catering Citreon wagons sited daily in locations across the city.
When Charles Darwin bought his first bicycle from the Old Bicycle Shop in Regent Street in the 1800s, he may not have foreseen its future evolving into this child-friendly bar and restaurant offering a varied menu lineup, complete with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.