Cambridge: the name is enough to evoke unforgettable images of the prestigious university, the grand architecture of the colleges, the historical conflict with Oxford, the beauty and the calm of the tree-lined Backs and the River Cam, the bustle of bicycling students on King's Parade, and the extraordinary vivacity of its research and literature.
These are just a few of the unique facets of this historical city. When the first scholars arrived in 1209, Cambridge was already a flourishing market community that had grown from a Roman fort in the first century BC to a Saxon settlement during the Middle Ages, and finally to a Norman stronghold. Walking around the city, one discovers the mix of a medieval, Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian architecture, the quaint winding streets and passages, the wide, stately courts of the colleges, the treasures of the town's churches and its museums, and the stories and discoveries of some of the most famous scientists of past and present that lived here.
Our walk starts from the Fitzwilliam Museum, the magnificent building dating from the mid-nineteenth century with its internationally-renowned collection of European paintings including works by Titian, Tintoretto, Vermeer, and Reynolds, drawings and prints, fine furniture and sculpture, antiquities, coins, medals, manuscripts, and printed books. As we walk along Trumpington Street we may, depending on opening times, visit Peterhouse College, which was founded in 1284. We may see the original hall and the windows by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Ford Madox Brown. Next, we may visit Pembroke College, with its chapel, the first work of architect Christopher Wren. Then we may see Queens' College, with its absolutely beautiful medieval Old Court, home to the chapel, library, and dining hall, along with the eighteenth-century sun and moon dial (one of few in the world) and the “Mathematical Bridge”. Finally we may stop by King College, founded in 1441, and its chapel, the icon of the city of Cambridge and a real masterpiece of English architecture, with its fan-vaulted ceiling and Rubens' famous altarpiece, 'The Adoration of the Magi'.
We may step into the little Anglo-Saxon St. Bene't's Church, which contains the oldest tower in the county that itself was built around 1020. We may also step inside the Church of St. Mary the Great, a late Gothic building that overlooks the marketplace and is regarded as the main city church. Walking onto Trinity Street, we will enter Trinity College, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and St. John's College, with its School of Pythagoras and its neo-Gothic Bridge of Sighs. We absolutely cannot miss the chance to get into the Round Church, which was built in 1130 and remains the oldest Norman building in the country. To finish, we will visit a truly special place full of charm, The Kettle Yard. It was once the home of the late Helen and Jim Ede, who was a curator of the Tate Gallery. Here, nothing is labelled, and you are free to wander into the rooms, sit down, and read one of Ede's books or to stop and look at one of the Constantin Brancusi or Barbara Hepworth or Ben Nicholson works housed here.