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Taking a punt

by
21 September 2012

by Natalie K. Watson

Where?

ON THE banks of the river Cam, in south-east England, Cambridge is home to the second oldest university in England, now ranking among the top five universities in the world. It is easily accessible by rail and road. Parking can be at a premium; so use of the city's Park and Ride system is advisable for visitors coming by car.

What to do

Many of the university's 31 colleges are open to the public during the day. The chapel of King's College is probably the city's most spectacular building - a masterpiece of Tudor architecture, it was begun by Henry VI and completed in 1515 under Henry VIII. It is known to many around the world for its famous choir and its annual Christmas broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols. The architecture is stunning, and its altarpiece of Rubens's Adoration of the Magi is not to be missed.

The chapel of St John's College is one of the finest Gothic Revival chapels in the country, but there are many others, such as Wren's chapel, in Emmanuel College, that merit a visit. Peterhouse, the oldest college, was founded in 1284.

The university's Fitzwilliam Museum houses one of the country's finest art collections, including works by Titian, Veronese, and Rembrandt. Kettle's Yard, on Castle Street, is a delightful collection of 20th-century art. Visitors are invited to ring the bell in the afternoon, and ask to look around. The collection includes paintings by Christopher Wood, David Jones, and Joan Miró, as well as sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, set alongside period furniture, glass, and ceramics.

A visit to Cambridge would not be complete without a walk around the "Backs" of the colleges - particularly enjoyable on a summer afternoon or a beautiful autumn day. Going on a punt on the river is also a must. The university's Botanic Garden offers a splendid collection of plants.

Cambridge offers shopping for all tastes and budgets. The city's many secondhand bookshops have treasures for those who enjoy finding them. The outdoor market on Market Square is a food-shopper's paradise, but offers much more than just edibles.

Where to eat and drink

A university city would not be complete without a wide range of pubs, coffee shops, and eateries. The city's smallest pub is the Radegund, on King Street, which has a delightfully eccentric atmosphere. Among the many coffee shops, Clown's, also on King Street, offers a warm Italian welcome. Sticky Beaks, on Hobson Street, is a good lunchtime alternative to the many chain outlets now spread around the city centre.

Near by

Beyond the city centre, Grantchester is a delightful village on the river Cam (or Granta) with connections with many historical characters, including Lord Byron and Virginia Woolf. Ely, with its spectacular cathedral, is a short train ride away, as are Saffron Walden and Audley End.

 

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