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The Cambridge Backs & Kings College Chapel
Cambridge is a university city in Cambridgeshire in England. It's a city of crocuses and daffodils on the Backs, of green open spaces and cattle grazing only 500 yards from the market square... The Cambridge of Brooke, Byron, Newton and Rutherford, of the summer idyll of punts, 'bumps', cool willows and May Balls. In guidebooks Cambridge is generally rated amongst the top tourist destinations in England.
View of King's College Chapel, seen from St Johns College chapel.
Cambridge brings many images to mind: the breathtaking view of King's College Chapel from across the river Cam, the rich intricacy of Gothic architecture, students cycling to lectures, and lazy summer punting on the River Cam.
Cambridge manages to combine its role as an historic city with a world-renowned University and, in more recent years, an internationally acknowledged center of excellence for technology and science. The University of Cambridge was founded in the 13th century by monks who wished to escape the hurly-burly of Oxford and chose the quiet town of Cambridge as a suitable location for study. In the 17th century Cambridge University educated many of the founders of a (then) minor American university called Harvard, also located in a place called Cambridge).
Cambridge University has been the home of many famous scientists, philosophers and mathematicians from Sir Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking and was the site of Rutherford's pioneering work in nuclear physics as well as Crick and Watson's DNA work (see the Eagle pub below). Cambridge academics have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other university in the world. The rumor that just one college - Trinity - had more Nobel prize winners than France, however, is not true 1 (http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/smb1001/trin/nobel.htm).
The City is surrounded on all sides by heritage villages, towns and ancient monuments (such as Ely, Peterborough and Granchester), all within easy travelling distance.
More than 3½ million visitors come to Cambridge every year to savour the delights of the historic city itself, as well as using it as an ideal base for exploring some of the gentlest and most unspoiled countryside in England.
Cambridge is a mere 50 miles (80 km) north of London - with good rail services and road communication links, Cambridge is easily accessible, whether travelling by car, or by public transport.
Cambridge is within easy reach of all of London's international airports. London Stansted (http://www.baa.com/main/airports/stansted/) is 30 miles away, for example, from where there are regular bus and rail services into Cambridge. London Stansted and London Luton airports offer many of the cheapest international flights to be found in Europe, with many of the big low-cost European airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and HLX having a hub at one of these two airports.
Regular trains run from London (King's Cross and Liverpool Street) to Cambridge. The fastest "Cambridge Cruiser" services to King's Cross take under 50 minutes, slower stopping trains may take up to 90 minutes. The train station is situated south of the center, there are regular buses into town and a taxi rank outside the station. Trains also run to and from Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and Birmingham.
Direct trains from Stansted airport to Cambridge take 25 minutes (catch trains going in the direction of Birmingham). It is often necessary to change at Bishop's Stortford, which can make the journey time substantially longer.
Parking can be difficult in central Cambridge and the one way street system is extremely confusing. The Council recommends the use of the "Park and Ride" (http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/transport/around/park_ride/) scheme (Free parking and a £1.50 bus fare)
(map of Park and Ride routes (http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/51E4F01D-32A6-4570-927C-DEA317E92F95/0/pr_routes.gif)).
Cambrige is connected to London primarily by the M11 (or A10 - but the M11 has no Speed Cameras, and is good for 150mph - I have made London Stanstead airport in 15 minutes). From the north, come off the A1 onto the A14, which is a terrible road - although 2 or 3 lane, it is very dangerous, full of speed cameras, as well as terrible driving...
Speedlimit on motorways is 70mph.
The bus station is on Drummer Street, conveniently located for all the main sights - however, be aware that the City Council is intending to move its location. Jetlink airport buses serving Luton, Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick and Brighton leave hourly. National Express 2 (http://www.nationalexpress.com/) provides bus links to major cities around the country.
Cambridge is mostly pedestrian-friendly - most sights can be easily reached on foot and much of the central area is traffic-free. Students and locals often use bikes to get around and hiring a bike 3 (http://www.cam.ac.uk/cambarea/local/bikehire.html) is a viable alternative to simply walking. You can also opt for a hop-on, hop-off open-top sightseeing bus which provides commentary in several languages. There shouldn't be much need to use the local bus services (http://www.stagecoachbus.com/cambridge/timetables.php) unless you're staying in a far-flung area of the city, but they are clean and efficient if you need to.
Focus on Architecture
Cambridge, especially the various colleges and university buildings, is fascinating for people with an interest in architecture. The colleges have been built sporadically over the centuries and the result is a mixture of styles both ancient and modern. Although the modern architecture is sometimes controversial, especially in how the newer buildings (fail to) harmonise with adjacent older buildings, it is in its way as interesting as the older. A tour of the backs (see above) gives the visitor a good feel for the various styles and a few small diversions add to the experience. One obvious landmark is the tower of the University Library. The library was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also built the Bankside Power Station in London that is now the Tate Modern. It does have a very industrial feel to it perhaps because of this. On the far side of the library the curious can see Robinson College, the newest college and built in about 1980 and one of the few pieces of modern architecture in Cambridge that has no notable old buildings nearby.
St John's College and Magdalene College also have a number of architectural treats. As well as the Bridge of Sighs, St John's has buildings in almost every style of architecture starting with the 16th century hall in First Court and ending up with the extremely modern Cripps building. Near the Cripps building there is also the dramatic New Court built in the early 19th century and the School of Pythagoras, one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge which dates from the early 13th century.
Next door Magdalene College - cognoscenti know that Magdalene is accessible from the back of the Cripps building - is quite a contrast. Unlike St John's, which consists mainly of buildings designed originally as college accommodation, Magdalene has converted a number of old half-timbered inns as some of its accommodation. Magdalene also possesses the Lutyens building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and the Pepys building. The latter, which houses the Pepys library, has an imposing and almost symmetrical facade and looks completely different from the rear. The ugliest Magdalene building, the 1970s Buckingham Court, is fortunately well hidden, while across the river the Magdalene Quayside development (1990) is an excellent example of how the late century architects appear to have learned subtlety and harmony. Quayside is an excellent place to rent a punt.
The Cambridge 2000 (http://www.cambridge2000.com/) website has a list of 100 buildings (http://www.cambridge2000.com/cambridge2000/html/other/notable_buildings.html) that have notable architecture for one reason or another.
- King's College and King's College Chapel 4 (http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/), King's Parade, 01223 331212. College grounds open term-time M-F 9.30AM-3.30PM, Sa 9.30AM-3.15PM, Su 1.15PM-2.15PM and 5PM-5.30PM (summer only). Out of term M-Sa 9.30AM-4.30PM, Su 10AM-5PM. Grounds closed during exams (late April to mid June) though Chapel is open. Chapel opening times vary, ring for details. The most visited attraction in Cambridge, the architecture of King's College Chapel towers above the town and its world-famous choir have spread its reputation across the globe. £4 adults, £3 children/students.
- Queens' College 5 (http://www.quns.cam.ac.uk/Queens/tourist/tourinfo.html), Silver Street/Queens' Lane, 01223 335511. Open approx 10AM-4.30PM, see website or ring for updated times. Closed mid-May to mid-June. Founded by two Queens - Margaret of Anjou in 1448 and Elizabeth Woodville in 1465, the College stretches across both sides of the Cam, linked by the famous Mathematical Bridge. The myth goes that it was designed by Isaac Newton without the use of pins, screws, nuts or bolts, but when disassembled, the fellows and students couldn't figure out how to put it back together again. This is sadly false, the bridge dates from 1749, 22 years after Newton's death. The stunning medieval Old Hall is also worth a visit. £1.30 (includes printed guide). Free mid-October to mid-March.
- Trinity College 6 (http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/): Large Courtyard
- St Johns College 7 (http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/): Formally the St Johns Hospital (13th century) before being refounded as a college in 1511, this college houses the oldest academic building in Cambridge (the "School of Pythagoras"). It has a number of large courtyards, and has the Cambridge "Bridge of Sighs".
- Jesus College 8 (http://www.jesus.cam.ac.uk/)
- Clare College 9 (http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/): Pretty Gardens
Parks and Gardens
- The Backs. The gardens by the river behind various colleges. Heading downstream from Kings you can pass through the gardens of Clare, Trinity and St John's Colleges (which has the "Bridge of Sighs").
- Botanic Garden of Cambridge University. A relaxing way to spend a few hours, away from the hustle and bustle of the colleges and canals. Open to the public since 1846 this garden hosts some important botanic collections amongst its 10,000 or more species. Adult admission £2.50, free Mon-Fri in winter (November through February). Open 10am-4pm Nov-Jan, 10am-5pm Feb and Oct, 10am-6pm Mar-Oct, closed 25 Dec to 3 Jan. ph 012 2333 6265, Bateman St CB2 1JF. 10 (http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk/)
Cambridge has a number of interesting modern buildings : The Maths Department
Museums and Galleries
- the Fitzwilliam Museum 11 (http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/), Trumpington St, 01223 332900 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 01223 332933). Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Su 2.15PM-5PM. The art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. Collections include antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, Asiatic cultures and Cyprus; applied arts, including sculpture, furniture, clocks and rugs; rare illuminated manuscripts and books as well as many paintings, drawings and prints. Free entry.
- the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences 12 (http://www.sedgwickmuseum.org/), Downing St
- the University Museum of Zoology 13 (http://www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/museum/), the New Museum Site, Downing St - re-opened after renovation in 2001
- the Whipple Museum of the History of Science 14 (http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/), Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, just off Pembroke Street
- Kettle's Yard - Small modern art gallery with art, objects and furniture within a house and adjoining exhibition space
St Johns College seen from The Backs
- Cambridge Corn Exchange. The city's center for arts and entertainment. http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/cornex/cornex.htm
- Punting. 9/10am-dusk daily. If anything is stereotypically 'Cambridge', this must be it. Punting involves propelling yourself in a long wooden boat by pushing a pole against the shallow river bottom. For the full effect, take strawberries and champagne to quaff as you glide effortlessly down the river. You can either travel along the Backs or head out towards the village of Grantchester. Guided tours are also available, but self-hire is more fun. £12 per hour per punt, £14 at weekends. A deposit (e.g. a cr card) is required. http://www.scudamores.com/punting/yourself/backs.shtml
In fact if you turn up in the summer you'll find it hard not to go punting as touts assail you from all sides in the streets. For a look at the evolution of punting in Cambridge consult
Cambridge is the home of two universities: the famous Cambridge University (http://www.cam.ac.uk/) and the much younger Anglia Polytechnic University (http://www.apu.ac.uk/).
Most lectures are only open to members of the university; however, a variety of public talks and lectures are organised. See the weblinks for more details:
There are a large number of summer schools, mostly English language, but also those offering tuition in a wide range of other subjects.
Cambridge University students aren't allowed to work during term-time, so there are often possibilities for bar or waitering work for foreign nationals. Those from outside the EU require a work permit, see the Work section of United Kingdom for more details.
There are also Technology Parks : http://www.cambridge-business-park.co.uk , http://www.cambridge-science-park.co.uk , http://www.cambridgeresearchpark.com, http://www.stjohns.co.uk where lots of hi-tech and bio-tech companies opened their offices.
King's Parade has numerous souvenir shops and gift shops with Cambridge (and London) branded merchandise. Scour the charity shops down Burleigh Street, Regent Street and Mill Road for bargains. The Grafton Centre has all the usual high-street shops in a mall and surrounding streets.
- Rainbow Cafe 15 (http://www.rainbowcafe.co.uk/), 9A Kings Parade, tel 01223 321 551, open Mo-Sa 11am-11pm - Virtually the only place in Cambridge to get vegan food. Also caters to a whole range of dietary requirements. The food is very tasty, imaginative fare. £12 (meal with beverage).
- Michaelhouse Cafe 16 (http://www.michaelhouse.org.uk/thecafe.html), Trinity St, inside St. Michael's Church, open Mo-Sa 9.30am-5pm - beautiful cafe serving excellent sandwiches, salads, hot dishes, and soups. Sinful desserts as well. Vegetarian options always available. Average lunch fare £4-6. Lunch served until 3pm.
Cambridge has a colossal number of pubs, over 110 at the last count.
- Fort St George 17 (http://www.fortstgeorge.com/), Midsummer Common - been there for hundreds of years, overlooks the Cam and Midsummer Common. IPA £2.30, Stella £2.75, large glass of wine £3.
- Pickerel Inn, Magdelene Street - claims to be the oldest pub in Cambridge.
- The Eagle, Benet Street - Watson and Crick were regulars here whilst in the process of unravelling the secrets of DNA.
- The Regal, St Andrews Street - belongs to the Wetherspoons group and is supposedly the largest pub in Europe, it was previously a cinema. A freehouse, it serves one of the biggest selections of real ale in the town. Refurbished in Spring 2004. Guest ales £1.30, Stella £1.99.
- The Free Press, 7 Prospect Row - one of the few pubs in England to ban smoking - thus far! Garden outside. Mobile phone use is also not allowed, making this a pleasant quiet pub.
- Spread Eagle, Lensfield Road - big screen sports, popular Friday night pub quiz with £50 prize.
- The Champion of the Thames, King Street - old style pub in the centre of town.
There are a number of guesthouses on Tenison Road, about 10 minute walk from the train station towards town. Some options include:
- A&B Guesthouse, Nice clean, small rooms. £50 double. Ensuit available. (include hot English breakfast).
- Cambridge Youth Hostel 18 (http://www.yha.org.uk/make_booking/process/hostel86.html), 97 Tenison Road (near the railway station), (01223) 354601 (email@example.com, fax:(01223) 312780). Days and times open. 99 beds in this YHA hostel in a Victorian town house. 15 minute walk from center. £12.40 (under 18), £16.50 (adult) (include breakfast).
- Brooklands Guest House, 95 Cherry Hinton Road. Ten rooms. Simple B&B accommodation. £33 (single), £49 (double), £45 (single e/s), £55 (double/s).
The local telephone code for Cambridge is 01223.
There are cybercafes at CB1, 32 Mill Road; La Pronto, 2 Emmanuel Street (central); Netbar, the Forum, Jesus Lane; and a cheap and cheerful place on Hills Road. The public library in Lion Yard provides access for free but you need to register as a library member (and be Cambridge resident???)
If you have a bike, keep it locked up with a strong D-lock, as cycle theft is big business. Cambridge is a generally safe city. The police station is on Parkside, (01223) 358966.
- Launderette, 12 Victoria Avenue
- Monarch Launderette, 161 Mill Road
- Shaw Service Laundry, 423 Newmarket Road
- The Glassworks, Halfmoon Yard/Quayside, 305060.
- Kelsey Kerridge sports center near Parker's Piece.
Places of worship
See http://www.colc.co.uk/shared/religion.html for a more complete list:
- Anglican many churches, including college chapels.
- Roman Catholic Our Lady & The English Martyrs, Hills Rd, 350787
- Muslim Abu Bakr Mosque, Mawson Street, off Mill Road. 350134
- Jewish Synagogue, Thompson's Lane, 354783
- Day trip to Grantchester to enjoy the countryside and have scones and tea at The Orchard. With a long history of famous patrons such as Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster and Bertrand Russell, taking tea in The Orchard is a well established tradition. This large garden planted with apple trees is perfect for lounging on a deck chair in the sun with a cup of tea and a scone for sustenance. Prepare for long queues on sunny days, but regardless of the numbers there's always room in the garden.
- 45-47 Mill Way, Grantchester CB3 9ND Tel: 01223 845788. open 10:30-18:30 Sun-Sat.
(Please note that not far from here is the old vicarage, is where Lord Jeffrey Archer (the discred former politician and writer) lives.)
- Ely: Market town, with impressive Cathedral towering above the Fens (Ely actually used to be an island): regular trains and buses (X12 and 19)
- Newmarket: Market town, with it famous horse-racing venue, and every horsey related including the National Horseracing Museum19 (http://www.nhrm.co.uk). Tu-Sun 11:00-16:30 (22 March - 30 October). Hourly trains and regular buses (X11, 111)
- Bury St Edmunds: Market town, with it cathedral and gardens. Hourly trains and regular buses (X11)
- World War II Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial20 (http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/ca.php): Three miles west of the city on Highway A-1303. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery is on land donated by Cambridge University and is the final resting place for 3,812 American military dead lost during the War in the Atlantic and Northern Europe. A monument is inscribed with the names of 5,126 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. The chapel contains mosaic maps of World War II campaigns and a mosaic memorial to American Air Forces on the ceiling. Free.
- Tourism Cambridge (http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/leisure/TICWEB/tourism.htm)
- History of Cambridge (http://www.colc.co.uk/cambridge/cambridge/history.htm) (one of many sites)
- University of Cambridge (http://www.cam.ac.uk/) including history (http://www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/pubs/history/centuries.html), travel and tourism links
- Cambridge Online (http://www.cambridgeonline.co.uk/) has a street index, shop listings and visitor reviews of shops and venues