Museums in Cambridge, Cambridge (Self Guided)

The city of Cambridge prides itself on the famous museums that collect and preserve objects of cultural, historical, artistic, and scientific value. The special collections and exhibits are available for public viewing and serve as the primary way to learn and experience the historical traditions of this fine city.
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Museums in Cambridge Map

Guide Name: Museums in Cambridge
Guide Location: England » Cambridge (See other walking tours in Cambridge)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 km
Author: sylvia
1
Fitzwilliam Museum

1) Fitzwilliam Museum (must see)

Owned and managed by Cambridge University, the Fitzwilliam Museum is located on Trumpington Street, within the university campus. The museum’s collection was founded in 1816 when Viscount Fitzwilliam donated his extensive fine art collection to the university. The current building, an imposing neo-Classical edifice resembling the Parthenon in Athens, was designed by George Basevi and opened to the public in 1848. The museum has achieved global recognition for the quality of its collections and has been described as one of the world’s best small museums. Containing over 30 galleries, the Fitzwilliam specializes in fine art, sculpture and antiquities from around the world.

The Fitzwilliam’s remarkable collection of antiquities includes coins, engravings and pottery from civilisations around the world, including Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire and Persia. The building’s art galleries contain original masterpieces by Monet, Canaletto and Picasso amongst many others. The museum was extensively modernised in 2006, and now houses an impressive collection of 20th-century art.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a sense of the staid, scholarly atmosphere of a respected English university town.
Wide-ranging collection; magnificent surroundings and buildings; occasional free lunchtime concerts.
Photography is allowed so long as you don't use a flash making it a brilliant place for stocking up the photo album.
You probably won't see everything the first time but that's fine because admission is free and you can pop back another time.
The café serves delicious soup and has a superb choice of cakes; the shop has a lovely range of gifts and is a jigsaw fan's haven of delight.

Tip:
Consider researching what the museum has to offer in advance of your visit to make sure you fully benefit from the eclectic exhibits – there is something here to cater for the whole family's interests.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am-5pm; Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays: 12-5pm
Free admission
2
MAA: Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

2) MAA: Museum of Archeology and Anthropology (must see)

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, also known as MAA, at the University of Cambridge houses the University's collections of local antiquities, together with archaeological and ethnographic artefacts from around the world. The museum is located on the University's Downing Site, on the corner of Downing Street and Tennis Court Road. In 2013 it reopened following a major refurbishment of the exhibition galleries, with a new public entrance directly on to Downing Street.

In all, the MAA contains over 800,000 historically important artefacts. The turreted, Gothic-style building has housed the museum since the end of WWI. The MAA covers three floors: the ground floor, known as the Clarke Gallery, is dedicated to archaeology, while the Maudsley Gallery above houses anthropological and ethnographic finds. The upper floor is used as a space for new/rotating exhibitions on specific themes, such as a recent exhibition on the indigenous Sami people of Lapland.

Highlights of the MAA collection include numerous antiquities found in the Cambridge region, and artefacts collected by Captain James Cook on his voyages to the Antipodes. The Clarke Gallery houses some of the earliest human tools ever discovered, originally found in East Africa.

Why You Should Visit:
Gorgeous building and really accessible collection. Children will marvel at the tallest totem pole and adults will have time to reflect on the huge and fascinating diversity of the physical expression of culture.

Tip:
If you're a bit short-sighted make sure you take your specs as a lot of the exhibit signs are quite small!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10:30am–4:30pm; Sun: 12–4:30pm
Free admission
3
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

3) Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences (must see)

Together with the MAA and Zoology Museum nearby, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences has helped to make this corner of the Cambridge University campus a global centre for natural history research. Created by physics professor Dr. John Woodward, the museum blossomed under the stewardship of Dr. Adam Sedgwick, who attracted exhibits of global significance to the site. Following Dr. Sedgwick’s death, the museum was moved to a new site in his honour. The current building was opened by King Edward VII in 1904, and now houses an extensive collection of exhibits dating back to the prehistoric era.

The Sedgwick Museum has an impressive collection of prehistoric artifacts, including a number of exhibits on the Jurassic era, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. A complete Iguanodon skeleton, discovered in South East England, forms the breathtaking centrepiece of the museum’s entrance hall. The museum also houses galleries of prehistoric minerals and fossils dating back to the origins of animal life as we know it. A number of child-friendly exhibitions take place at the museum each year, making this a must-see attraction for children with an interest in the prehistoric world.

Why You Should Visit:
If you like geology this is the place! Lots of specimens with informative signs and labels, and you get a sense for how the discipline evolved. Wonderful collection!
Each section has an overview of climate, types of creatures that appeared and what the continent(s) looked like along with a ton of fossils. There are literally thousands on display.
This is a really fine example of what museums looked and felt like 50-60 years ago while the staff has clearly worked hard to make sure that the expectations of modern audiences are met.

Tip:
They close for lunch so make sure you leave enough time for your visit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am–1pm, 2–5pm; Sat: 10am–4pm
Free admission
4
Whipple Museum of the History of Science

4) Whipple Museum of the History of Science (must see)

Editor's Note: The Whipple Museum is currently closed. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the opening date has been delayed to 7th May 2019.

The Whipple Museum of the History of Science is situated within Cambridge University’s Downing Site, a globally renowned centre of scientific research. Founded by Robert Stewart Whipple, the former chairman of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument company, the museum is a quirky collection of historic instruments and contraptions.

The museum's holdings are particularly strong in material dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries, especially objects produced by English instrument makers, although the collection contains objects dating from the medieval period to the present day. Instruments of astronomy, navigation, surveying, drawing and calculating are well represented, as are sundials, mathematical instruments and early electrical apparatus.

The museum is partially housed within a Jacobean hall, built in 1628 and formerly the Cambridge Free School. The building has also housed the Perse School and was a temporary home for the Fitzwilliam Museum collection before it moved to its current home on Trumpington Street. A number of temporary exhibitions run at the Whipple Museum throughout the year, including a recent display of historic globes and mapping devices.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 12:30am-4:30pm
5
Museum of Cambridge

5) Museum of Cambridge (must see)

Formerly known as the Cambridge & County Folk Museum, this is an interesting attraction housed in eight rooms in the former White Horse Inn, a public house that closed in 1934. A contrast to the global focus of many of Cambridge University’s museums, the Museum of Cambridge is devoted to its host city, with eight rooms of exhibits dating back to 1700.

The museum is supported by Cambridge City Council, the National Lottery, through the Heritage Lottery Fund, plus two local organisations, and was shortlisted in 2006 as one of the UK’s most innovative museum attractions. Highlights amongst the exhibits include the Folklore Collection, a meticulous gathering of medieval objects, including courting tokens and Witch Balls – glass ornaments used to ward off evil spirits. The exhibits explore local customs and traditions and give a unique insight into medieval life in the region.

Why You Should Visit:
Basically, to see how people ate, drank and lived over a several-hundred-year timespan. The museum has a whole range of rooms, each different thematically, so everyone can find their own interests. Well designed for the independent-minded visitor as the displays are well labeled in wonderful storytelling detail. Good for kids, too – some hands-on items.

Tip:
You can have tea, coffee & cakes in the small teashop tucked in the back and there is also a gift shop.
If you have kids go to the top floor for old and new games, including a playable dolls house.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10:30am-5pm; Sun: 11:30am-4:30pm

Walking Tours in Cambridge, England

Create Your Own Walk in Cambridge

Create Your Own Walk in Cambridge

Creating your own self-guided walk in Cambridge is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
The Colleges of Cambridge University

The Colleges of Cambridge University

Cambridge is famous for the University of Cambridge, the second oldest institution in England and the leading one in Europe. The collegiate university is made up of 31 self-governing and independent colleges. The university grounds are also beautifully decorated with lush lawns and terrific Gothic architecture. Here are some of the most prestigious colleges on campus.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Cambridge Nightlife

Cambridge Nightlife

Cambridge is an exciting city, compact and easy to get around, which ultimately makes it ideal for a terrific nightlife. When the sun goes down, the city begins to relax. Cambridge features an abundance of pubs, clubs, live-music venues, restaurants, and cinemas for your relaxation and enjoyment.

Tour Duration: 0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.2 km
Art Galleries in Cambridge

Art Galleries in Cambridge

Cambridge is a famous English town, and with that comes a fantastic heritage. Art galleries and museums help share, spread, and preserve that heritage. Inside Cambridge art galleries, visitors will cherish phenomenal paintings, sculptures, handmade prints, and crafts.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Cambridge Specialty Shops

Cambridge Specialty Shops

Cambridge is a famous English city and thus offers some of the greatest shopping opportunities in England. In the heart of the town, tourists will discover a wide range of small shops and boutiques, as well as some large shopping centers and the well-known Market Square. Explore the specialty shops of Cambridge today.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.2 km
Religious Tour of Cambridge

Religious Tour of Cambridge

Cambridge is a welcoming place with warm and authentic people. There are many places of worship in the area, all of which offer the chance to celebrate your own personal beliefs. like: Travel along the streets of Cambridge and discover many of the city's most famous churches and chapels.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Set along the banks of the River Cam in eastern England, the city of Cambridge is famed worldwide as the home of one of the world's most prestigious and oldest learning institutions, the University of Cambridge. Indeed, the University makes up the bulk of the local sights, including the affiliated colleges themselves, such as King’s College renowned for its choir and Gothic chapel,...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Cambridge for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Cambridge has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Cambridge, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.