6 Must-Visit Cultural Hubs in Cambridge

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Cultural Attractions in Cambridge

This piece comes to you courtesy of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Nestled alongside the River Cam’s eastern shore, Cambridge isn’t just any English medieval city—it’s a treasure trove of history, vying for cultural majesty with the likes of Padua, Siena, and Salamanca. Known far and wide for its illustrious university and the intellectual luminaries it has produced, it’s hardly a shocker that Cambridge is a breeding ground for an array of delightfully quirky museums and art spaces.

  1. Fitzwilliam Museum

Acting as the jewel in the University of Cambridge’s crown, the Fitzwilliam Museum is a smorgasbord of artistic and historical offerings—half a million to be exact. From the iconic works of Titian and Canaletto to rare Anglo-Saxon trinkets and an assortment of invaluable Islamic pottery, this museum is a feast for the eyes. And oh, did we mention you can explore over 30 galleries here?

  1. Polar Museum

Located within the university’s Scott Polar Research Institute—founded by a lone survivor of Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed Terra Nova Expedition—the Polar Museum is a trove of artifacts related to icy explorations. Expect to see everything from the mundane (sleeping bags) to the extraordinary (Ernest Shackleton’s actual snow goggles). Check for the latest hours, but know the museum typically opens from Wednesday to Saturday.

  1. Museum of Zoology

Step into a world celebrating the vast tapestry of Earth’s fauna at this scholarly sanctuary. Housing one of the world’s premier collections of natural history, you’ll get up close and personal with specimens ranging from a staggering 70-foot fin whale to the majestic African elephant. The lower level is particularly fetching, with its array of skeletal structures and more.

  1. Centre for Computing History

Focusing on how tech has seeped into societal and cultural fibers, this institution offers a trip down microchip memory lane. From early computing machines to the game consoles that might have occupied your childhood, the Centre for Computing History promises a tech-savvy day of fun—especially for the kiddos. Just a heads-up: the museum takes its own downtime on Mondays and Tuesdays.

  1. Kettle’s Yard

Occupying what used to be a familial dwelling and maintaining its homey vibes, Kettle’s Yard is anything but your run-of-the-mill art gallery. Before you underestimate it, consider this: its former resident was a bigwig curator at London’s Tate Gallery. The art pieces you’ll find here—ranging from paintings and sculptures to furniture—are his personal favorites.

  1. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Think summarizing the human experience in one museum is overambitious? Think again. Established in 1884 by the scholarly minds of Cambridge, the MAA makes good on its lofty goals. While the museum has a global scope, it keeps its heart close to home, showcasing a variety of archaeological artifacts from the local Cambridge area.

Published in the UK & Ireland supplement of the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

To get your hands on a subscription to National Geographic Traveller (UK), you know what to do. (Available only in select locales, though, so check before you click).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cultural Attractions in Cambridge

What are some of the must-visit cultural spots in Cambridge?

The article lists six must-visit cultural hubs in Cambridge, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Polar Museum, the Museum of Zoology, the Centre for Computing History, Kettle’s Yard, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Is the Fitzwilliam Museum part of the University of Cambridge?

Yes, the Fitzwilliam Museum is part of the University of Cambridge and serves as its showpiece museum. It houses a vast collection of approximately half a million artworks and artifacts.

What kind of exhibits can I expect at the Polar Museum?

The Polar Museum is home to an extensive range of objects related to polar exploration. This includes items like sleeping bags, Inuit artworks, and expedition diaries. You can even see Ernest Shackleton’s snow goggles there.

Are the museums suitable for children?

Yes, many of the museums, particularly the Museum of Zoology and the Centre for Computing History, offer exhibits that are educational and engaging for children. The latter has interactive exhibits featuring mobile phones, calculators, game consoles, and vintage computers.

What’s unique about Kettle’s Yard?

Kettle’s Yard is a contemporary and modern art gallery set in a former family home. The gallery still maintains a home-like atmosphere and showcases a personal collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, and other objects.

Does the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology focus only on Cambridge?

While the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) has a broad scope, it does include a strong focus on local archaeological finds specific to the Cambridge area.

When is the best time to visit these museums?

While the article does not specify the best time to visit, it does note that some museums, like the Polar Museum and the Centre for Computing History, have specific days when they are closed. It’s advisable to check their websites for the latest opening times before planning your visit.

Is there a subscription link for National Geographic Traveller (UK)?

Yes, at the end of the article, there is an option to subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK), but it’s available only in select countries.

How is the list curated?

The list is curated by National Geographic Traveller (UK) and seems to offer a balanced view, incorporating both well-known and quirky attractions to appeal to a broad audience.

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10 comments

MikeTheExplorer August 28, 2023 - 10:49 am

Woah, didn’t know Cambridge was more than just a uni town. The Centre for Computing History sounds like my kinda place. old-school tech, here I come!

Reply
SarahLovesArt August 28, 2023 - 1:45 pm

Kettle’s Yard sounds so cozy! An art gallery in a former home? Totally up my alley. can’t wait to go check it out.

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PeterThePolarBear August 28, 2023 - 5:29 pm

Polar Museum sounds cool. (see what i did there). But seriously, Shackleton’s goggles? That’s like holding history in your hands.

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JustAGeek August 28, 2023 - 5:39 pm

If they ever make a Museum of Nerdy Things, it’ll fit right in. Until then, I’ll be at the computing history place.

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AnnieTheAnthropologist August 28, 2023 - 6:30 pm

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is a hidden gem. The focus on local finds makes it super special, feels more intimate y’know?

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ZooFanatic August 28, 2023 - 6:55 pm

That Museum of Zoology seems like a zoo, but in a museum! Imagine walking beside a 70ft fin whale, crazy stuff man.

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NatGeoAddict August 29, 2023 - 12:33 am

Is that subscription link at the end a hint? Coz it worked. Take my money, Nat Geo, take it.

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NerdLife4Me August 29, 2023 - 1:09 am

Why do I get the feeling that Cambridge is Hogwarts for museum lovers lol. So many to choose from!

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MomOfThree August 29, 2023 - 4:46 am

Love that there are options for the kiddos. Gotta keep them busy and learnin while we explore!

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TravelJunkie101 August 29, 2023 - 8:43 am

Been to Fitzwilliam Museum and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. The collections are stellar. Anyone visiting Cambridge should def make it a stop.

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