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Cambridge owes its continued popularity as a tourist destination primarily to the presence of the universitywhich bears the city's name. The wonderful medieval architecture of the early colleges that make up the university provide adelightful glimpse of life long ago, and the history that is bound up in those colleges makes for fascinating exploring.
The oldest colleges face away from the River Cam, but share an expanse of lawn running down to the river known as The Backs. TheBacks provide an excellent space for strolling and relaxing, and walkers along the river can view the often comical efforts ofneophytes attempting to pole a punt along the water. [Editor's note: it is much harder than it looks, and quite embarrassing whenyour pole gets stuck in the river mud and your punt drifts away]. No one should visit Cambridge without trying their hand atpunting - the boats can be rented for quite a reasonable price.
Cambridge boasts superb museums and art galleries, and the University Botanical Gardens are world-renown. Near the city are awhole range of attractions, from Duxford War Museum to the stately home of Wimpole Hall. Further afield the cathedral cities ofPeterborough and Ely offer more architectural delights.
You are never far from the fenland in Cambridgeshire; in bygone centuries much of the fens was underwater, and only small tuftsof solid ground rose above the surface to provide space for settlement. Since the fens were drained in the 17th century the richsoil of the area has provided excellent agricultural opportunities, and even the outskirts of Cambridge back onto farmer'sfields. The unique flora and fauna of the fens can be explored at the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, the oldest such reserve inEngland.
The university at Cambridge evolved from informal teaching arrangements of scholars and students who arrived here as early as the13th century. From these humble beginnings a system of individual colleges evolved, funded by private donors. The university,then, is not a central institution, but separate teaching colleges gathered together under the administrative umbrella of theUniversity.
Most of the older colleges are arranged along the banks of the River Cam in central Cambridge. The grounds of several collegeslead down to the river, creating a large expanse of parklike lawn called The Backs. Most of the colleges can be visited bytourists, but there may be restrictions on which parts of the college buildings can be accessed at different times of the year.Remember that the colleges are active residential teaching institutions, not museums, and please respect the needs of studentsand masters for privacy and quiet.
The older colleges all have private chapels, and these chapels are often among the most intriguing college buildings from anarchitectural standpoint. Notable among these is the justifiably famous King's College Chapel, one of the most remarkableexamples of late medieval architecture in England.
Cambridge University Botanic Gardens Bateman Street
The gardens were opened in 1846 and provide habitat for a wide variety of plant species. There are a number of different habitatzones, including a Rock Garden, featuring alpine plants from every continent, Water Garden, Tropical rainforest, and glasshouseswith seasonal displays. The Systematic Beds feature over 80 varieties of flowering plants.Open: daily from 10 am. Tel. 01223 336265 Punting in Cambridge
A punt is a narrow flat-bottomed boat that somewhat resembles a Venetian gondola with the curve removed. Punts generally seat upto four adults while a fifth person stands at the rear and propels the boat with a long pole. The design was developed in themedieval period to allow for easy navigation in areas with shallow water. Until recently punts were used by commercial fishermenworking the fens of East Anglia, but today they are almost exclusively used for recreation. Poling along the river lookseffortless and easy; a relaxing way to enjoy a quiet summer afternoon. Looks can be deceiving however, as steering a punt isneither as easy or effortless as it looks.
Punts can be hired at Silver Street Bridge, Mill Lane, Magdalene Bridge, Jesus Green, Trinity College, or Grantchester. The costis in the £8/hour range, with a damage deposit generally required. If you are feeling flush in the pocket you can hire achauffered punt and relax while your paid punter takes you along the Backs, past the historic colleges of Cambridge University.Often the chauffeus are students at the University, and you'll be regaled with tales of Cambridge past and present. Mostboatyards are open Easter to early October.Duxford Aircraft Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire
During WWII Duxford was one of the most important air bases in Britain, and planes flying from here played a mwajor role in theBattle of Britain. Today Duxford houses the largest collection of historic aircraft in Europe, ranging from WWI vintage biplanesto Spitfires, Concordes and Gulf War jets. Duxford frequently hosts airshows and special events throughout the year. It lies ninemiles south of Cambridge, and regular free buses to the museum leave from Crowne Plaza and from Cambridge Railway Station in thecity.Open: Daily, Summer (17 Mar - 27 Oct) 10.00am - 6.00pm (last admission 5.15pm) Winter 10.00am - 4.00pm. Tel, 01223 835 000
Cambridge Museums and Galleries
Cambridge Darkroom and Gallery
The Darkroom Gallery is part photographic facility and part art gallery. There are public darkrooms for photographic work, and anongoing program of instruction in photography and digital imaging using the Gallery's in-house facilities. As well, the Galleryhosts regular exhibitions of photographic art in its gallery space, including regional and international artists.Fitzwilliam Museum Trumpington Street
One of Europe's great art museums. The imposing neoclassical Fitzwilliam Museum building was built in 1848 to house the artcollections of Viscount Fitzwilliam, which he had bequeathed to Cambridge University. The permanent collections at theFitzwilliam Museum are divided into the categories of Antiquities, Applied Arts, Coins, Paintings, and Manuscripts. Entry: free. Open: Tuesday - Saturday: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm Sunday: 2.15 pm - 5.00 pm. Guided tours in English take place onSundays at 2.30 pm. No booking required. Fee charged.Folk Museum 2/3 Castle Street
The Folk Museum is housed in a delightful half-timbered building that once served as an inn. The collections show in detail theeveryday life of Cambridge people over the past 400 years.Open: April to September, Monday to Saturday: 10.30am - 5pm; Sunday: 2 - 5pm; October to March, Tuesday to Saturday: 10.30am -5pm Sunday: 2 - 5pm. Open on Mondays during school holidays. Tel. +44 (0)1223 355159Kettles Yard Gallery
Kettles Yard House and Gallery is a unique art experience located at the corner of Castle Street and Northampton Street. Thecollection is composed of paintings, glass, furniture, ceramics and ordinary objects in an intimate 'homelike'atmosphere. Most of the art comes from the first half of the 20th century, and includes sculpture by Henry Moore and BarbaraHepworth, and paintings by Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, and Christopher Wood. House open: Summer, Tuesday-Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 13.30-16.30; Winter, Tuesday-Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays14.00-16.00. Gallery open: Tuesday-Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 11.30-17.00. Tel. +44 (0)1223 352124Museum of Zoology Downing Street
A combination research facility and zoological collection, the museum is a part of the Department of Zoology at CambridgeUniversity. Open: Mon - Fri 10.00am-4.45pm during University holidays. 2.00pm-4.45pm during University term time. Phone for details. Tel,01223 336650Sedgewick Museum of Earth Sciences Downing Street
The museum holds over 1 million samples of rocks, fossils, minerals, soft sediments, building and decorative stones. Thecollection is available to both students and visitors to the museum, and a special research room is available to aid visitingresearchers.Open: Monday to Friday 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00, Saturday 10:00-13:00. Tel. (01223) 333456Scott Polar Research Institute Lensfield Road
Located just around the corner from the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Scott Institute houses the most important and highly respectedlibrary and archive of polar studies in the world. The museum was founded in 1920 as a memorial to Robert Falcon Scott, who diedwhile leading an expedition to the South Pole. The museum showcases artifacts from polar exploration, including diaries, sleds,and displays on life in arctic regions. There is a very large photographic library relating to polar exploration, and extensivegeographic and historical information in the archives.Open: Mon-Fri afternoons, except Bank Holidays and certain other days.University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Downing Street
The museum is a part of the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University. It is housed in a 3 story house in thecentre of Cambridge, and contains collections from around the world. The museum collections total over 750,000 artifacts ofhistoric and anthropological interest, including over 70,000 photographs.Open: Tue-Sat, 2.00pm-4.30pm. June - Early Sept, extended opening hours: 10.00am-4.30pm. Tel, 01223 333516Whipple Museum Free School Lane
Founded in 1944, the Whipple Museum covers all branches of scientific endeavour - a tall order indeed! The museum displaysscientific instruments, models, photographs, and artifacts relating to scientific exploration and discovery, includinginstruments used at the University as far back as the 16th century.Open: Monday to Friday 1.30 to 4.30pm Closed Bank holidays. The museum may sometimes be closed during universityvacations.
Cambridge Tourist Information Centre
The Tourist Information Centre and Shop
The Old Library
Tel: 01223 322640
Fax: 01223 457588
Email: Britain Express