Nestled on the banks of the River Cam, the university town of Cambridge has been in existence since the Bronze Age and became an important site of trade during the Roman and Viking ages. Today, some 25,000 university students call it their term-time home, and the soaring Gothic architecture evident in its 31 colleges is recognisable all over the world.
The University of Cambridge regularly features on the list of the top 5 universities in the world. Originally founded in the 12th century, it comprises 31 separate colleges, with the oldest – Peterhouse – founded in 1264 and the newest – Robinson – founded in the 1970s. No fewer than 88 Nobel prizes have been awarded to members of the University, and some of its most famous alumni include Stephen Hawking, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Sir David Attenborough.
The King’s College Chapel is one of the most recognisable buildings in Cambridge and a popular tourist site, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Built between 1446 and 1515 by King Henry VI, it has the largest fan-vaulted ceiling in the world, and some of the finest medieval stained glass in existence. To this day, the chapel is actively used as a place of worship, and for concerts and college events. These include the annual King’s College Music Society May Week Concert, and the beautiful daily Evensong, sung by the King’s Voices choir at 5:30PM.
Punting has always been a traditional activity in Cambridge, with its own set of fascinating idiosyncrasies. Punters embark on their journey down the tranquil River Cam in long wooden boats, known as punts, drifting past iconic sites and dozing wildlife as they go. Gliding past King’s College Chapel, Trinity College and the Bridge of Sighs is a breathtaking experience providing visitors with a unique perspective of the city. Interestingly, when punting in Cambridge, one does so from the rear of the punt, while in Oxford they prefer to punt from the front.
There are many museums in Cambridge, but one of the largest and most notable is the Fitzwilliam Museum. Located in the centre of town, its dominating Neoclassical facade is difficult to miss, and it boasts significant collections of art produced by Rubens, Brueghel, Constable, Monet and Picasso. The Museum also keeps a collection of artefacts from around the ancient world.
Other museums of note include the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Museum of Archeology. Such a fascinating range of museums to visit ensures that tourists are captivated by culture from the moment they arrive.
The Corpus Clock is a large sculptural clock at street level on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. Conceived and funded by John C Taylor, an old member of the college, it was officially unveiled by Stephen Hawking in 2008, and features a 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel disc. The clock was intended to be a piece of public art as well as a functioning clock and has been designed to represent the passing of time as displayed by an insect eating the seconds as they pass.
During the summer months, Cambridge comes alive with open-air events to cater to all tastes. Shakespeare performances, cultural dance shows, art exhibitions, food festivals and fashion fairs make summer in Cambridge a truly eclectic experience and something to remember.