Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
This impressive memorial, which is situated in the Cambridge countryside between the beautiful...Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
It’s also a year-round tourist attraction, bringing hordes of camera-clutching families from all over the world. With some of Britain’s oldest and most impressive college buildings open for visiting, plus a whole host of outdoor events taking place through the summer, it’s easy to see why.
There’s nothing quite like taking a punt along the backs – literally the back ends of the colleges, where clusters of Britain’s brightest young things while away sunny afternoons – followed by a leisurely glass of something in one of Camrbidge’s many olde worlde pubs. Or visiting the magisterial King’s College at Christmas to hear the world-famous choir. Whenever you go, Cambridge has something special waiting for you.Read more
by Alex Brown
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Visit Cambridge at any time of year and the first thing you’ll want to do is check out the University buildings.
Cambridge’s architecture in general is seriously impressive – so much so that Forbes Magazine has called it “one of the most beautiful cities in the world” – and nowhere is it better represented than in the extraordinary Gothic outlines of the major college buildings. Most colleges have areas that are open to the public, some for a fee and some free. However, during exam times all colleges are closed.
The King's College
If you’re only going to check out one college in Cambridge, it has to be King’s. The King’s College and Chapel are far and away the most popular attractions in the city, both for the architecture and the sense of history that surrounds it. As noted above, if you happen to find yourself in the area around Christmas time you could do a lot worse than getting a seat to hear the choir – which is so famous its carol concerts are broadcast all over the world.
There are plenty of non-University related things to visit Cambridge for: the summer festivals, which spill out from the Midsummer Common; the beautiful (and flat) surrounding countryside, dotted with heritage villages; and the cultural associations. Fans of some of the most famous figures in the performing arts make pilgrimages to Cambridge, which spawned, among others, Pink Floyd; the Monty Python team; Douglas Adams; and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Legendary Bake-Off hosts Mel and Sue are alumni of Cambridge’s renowned Footlights drama group, as is Sandi Toksvig.
Cambridge has an established folk music scene (the Broken Family Band also hails from the city), and holds one of the world’s best regarded annual folk music festivals. In addition to the popular Corn Exchange, which regularly features big name acts on its gig roster, the Cambridge Folk Festival takes place in the city’s many excellent real ale pubs.
The curious will love the city’s museums, of which there are extraordinary quantities. The Polar Museum, which houses incredible collections commemorating the Golden Age of subzero exploration, is recommended; as is the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences (which incorporates some of Charles Darwin’s Beagle collection).
Cambridge is best visited by train: parking in the city centre, which is set up for cycling and pedestrians, is practically impossible. Cambridge train station receives trains from London on a regular half hourly basis. If you’re coming from one of the many airports that serve the region, you’ll need to go through London to get a train – or take a bus or taxi from the airport itself.
Cambridge train station is just over a mile away from the city centre, and is well served by buses and taxis. Be aware that trains stop end to end at the platform, so your connection may be obscured by another train.
Don’t do it if you can help it (see above).
Getting into Cambridge by bus and coach is easy: it’s on the National Express route, and is also served by coaches from all major airports. Getting around Cambridge itself is much harder. The bus services are confusing (they’re run by several different companies, none of which will accept tickets bought on buses run by a rival) and slow. Given the small size of the city centre, it’s often best to walk or get a taxi.
There are plenty of taxi companies serving the city: call to book for the best fares.
Cambridge is a town of cyclists. It’s on the National Cycle Route, and has an extensive web of local cycle paths too. The land is flat, the countryside is pretty – and with bikes available for hire pretty much everywhere (try Station Cycles next to the train station), there’s no reason not to go native. There are rules for cycling in the city: never cycle on the pavement unless there is a clearly marked cycle lane on it, and never cycle the wrong way up a one way street unless there is a contraflow cycle lane.
Walking is the perfect way to take in Cambridge’s architecture. The shared cyclist/pedestrian lanes on some pavements can be alarming until you get used to them – listen out for the sound of bells and be watchful of children.
Cambridge is directly served by buses and coaches from Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and Gatwick. There’s also a local (ish) airfield – Cambridge Airport, near London Stansted.
Any history of Cambridge is a history of the University – which was founded in the 13th century by a group of breakaway academics fed up with the bickering of Oxford. The city (then a small town) was selected for its beautiful location and quiet pace of life, which were thought to be perfect for encouraging scholarly contemplation.
Originally known as “Grantabridge”, thanks to its position on the River Granta, Cambridge was renamed by evolution. Local accents gradually changed the pronunciation of the name to Cambridge. The river’s name was changed from Granta to Cam to marry with the new spelling. Granta Books, one of Cambridge’s oldest and most respected academic publishing houses, is named for the old river.
In a sense, the history of Cambridge is a history of its alumni: and that, in turn, is a history of some of the most important developments in human understanding and world affairs. Sir Isaac Newton studied there. Students there lobbied to be allowed to display posters of one William Shakespeare, who became as a result the first still-living writer to get onto the syllabus of the institution. A number of Cambridge alumni from the late 17th century went on to found a small university in the USA (they called it “Harvard”). James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix of DNA at Cambridge. The Monty Python team invented modern comedy there.
Cambridge became a city in the 1950s, when it was granted the status as recognition of its academic importance. In recent decades, Cambridge has become an internationally important centre for science. In addition to the university facilities, which attract researchers from all over the world, the city has become home to some of the most recognised names in commercial scientific research and manufacture.
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