Cambridge

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Even though Oxford students wouldn't like to admit it, Cambridge beats Oxford as the quintessential English university town. And whereas Oxford has a solid record in educating political grandees, Cambridge's reputation lies more in the technological sphere. Past names to have worked and studied here range from Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to the discoverers of DNA, James Watson and Francis Crick, and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. In some senses it's the mother of English scientific ideas. And even though you may think all those medieval and neo-Gothic buildings look serious, Cambridge was where English humour was nurtured, producing John Cleese, Michael Palin and others of the Monty Python team.

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CAMBRIDGE

Bridge of Sighs

City Cycle Hire

Fitzwilliam Museum

King's College

King's College Chapel

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EATING ffl

Fitzbillies

Galleria

Michaelhouse

Midsummer House

Rainbow Vegetarian Bistro. River Bar + Kitchen

Founded in the 13th century, contemporary m Cambridge is less touristy and more manage-£ able than its competitor. However, note that 5 during exam time - mid-April to late June -z its colleges are often shut to the public.

The centre of town lies in a wide bend of the 3 River Cam. The best-known section of river-S bank is the mile-long Backs, which combines 5 lush scenery with superb views of half a dozen colleges (the other 25 colleges are scattered throughout the city).

The Round Church (Church of the Holy Sepulchre;

311602; www.chrlstlanherltageuk.org.uk; cnr Round Church & Bridge Sts; adult/child £1/free; H 10am-5pm Tue-Sat, 1-5pm Sun & Mon) was built in 1130 to commemorate its namesake in Jerusalem, and nearby is St John's College (§§ 338676; www.joh.cam .ac.uk; St John's St; adult/child £2.50/1.50; H 10am-5pm), with a 16th-century gatehouse and three beautiful courtyards, two of which date from the 17th century. From the third court, the picturesque Bridge of Sighs spans the Cam. Stand in the centre and watch the punts float by.

Just south of St John's, Trinity College (@ 332500; www.trln.cam.ac.uk; Trinity Lane; adult/concession £2.20/1.30, check website forfree entry periods; ® 10am-5pm) is one of the largest, wealthiest and most attractive colleges, ft was established in 1546 by Henry VIII, whose statue peers out from the top niche of the great gateway (he's holding a chair leg instead of the royal sceptre, the result of a student prank). The Great Court, the largest in either Cambridge or Oxford, incorporates some fine 15th-century buildings. Beyond the Great Court are the cloisters of Nevile's Court and the dignified Wren Library (® noon-2pm Mon-Frl, plus 10.30am-12.30pm Sat full-term time), built by Sir Christopher in the 1680s.

Next come Gonville and Caius (pronounced keys) College and King's College (I® 331212, 331100; www.klngs.cam.ac.uk; King's Pde; adult/concession £4.50/3; ® 9.30am-3.30pm Mon-Frl, 9.30am-3.15pm Sat, 1.15-2.15pm & 5.30-6pm Sun term time, 9.30am-4.30pm Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm Sun out of term time), one of the most sublime buildings in Europe and Cambridge's foremost tourist attraction. The chapel was begun in 1446 by Henry VI and completed around 1516. Henry VI's successors, notably Henry VIII, added the intricate fan vaulting and elaborate wood-and-stone carvings of the interior. The chapel comes alive when the choir sings and there are services during term and in July (phone for performance times).

The Fitzwilliam Museum (332923; www.fltzmu seum.cam.ac.uk; Trumplngton St; admission free, tours £3; S 10am-5pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun, guided tours 2.45pm Sun), otherwise known as 'The Fitz', was one of the first art museums in the UK. It houses Egyptian sarcophagi, Greek and Roman art, Chinese ceramics and English glass in the lower galleries, while the upper galleries have paintings by Titian, Leonardo, Rubens, Rembrandt and Picasso, among others.

Taking a punt along the Backs is great fun, but can also be a wet and hectic experience. The secret to propelling these flat-bottomed boats is to push gently on the pole to get the punt moving and then to use the pole as a rudder to keep on course. In Cambridge, as opposed to Oxford, the tradition is to punt from the flat, decked end of the boat (for hire, see Information, below).

INFORMATION

City Cycle Hire (365629; www.cltycydehlre.com; 61 Newnham Rd; bikes per hr/half-day/day/weekfrom £3/5/8/15; ® 9am-6pm Apr-Sep, 9am-5.30pm Mon-Sat Oct-Mar)

Scudamore's (359750; www.scudamores.com; Granta PI; per hr £12, chauffeured rides £40) Has punts for hire and chauffeured rides.

Tourist office (322640; www.vlsltcambrldge.org; Old Library, Wheeler St; ® 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun Apr-Sep, 10am-5.30pm Mon-Sat Oct-Mar) Just south of Market Sq. Staff can arrange accommodation and two-hour walking tours (adult/child Including entry to King's College £9/7), leaving at 1.30pm year-round, with more during summer.

Trinity Punt Hire (®) 338 4800; www.trln.cam.ac.uk; Trinity St, Trinity College; punts per hour £6) Has punts for hire and chauffeured rides.

TRANSPORT: CAMBRIDGE

Distance from London 54 miles (87km) Directioi North

Travel time Two hours by bus, 55 minutes by train Bu National Express (0870 580 8080; www .natlonalexpress.com) runs hourly shuttle buses (day return £10).

Ca The M11 connects the London Orbital Motorway (M25) to Cambridge. Take Exit 13 onto A1303 (Mad-Ingley Rd) and follow It towards the city centre.

Train There are trains (0845 748 4950; www .natlonalrall.co.uk) every 30 minutes from King's Cross and Liverpool St stations (day return £17.90).

EATING

In addition to the places listed below, cheap Indian and Chinese eateries can be found where Lensfield Rd meets Regent St towards the train station.

Midsummer House ((H 568336;www.midsummerhouse .co.uk; Midsummer Common; set lunch £20,3-course dinner £55; ® Mon-Sat) Two Michelin stars adorn this fantastic modern French-cuisine restaurant, which has one of the best lunch offers around. It's a formal affair, with the restaurant's two floors sitting on the corner of the common, near the river. Book ahead.

River Bar + Kitchen (§§ 307030; www.riverbarkitchen .co.uk; Quayside; mains £9-13) Conran-designed, light and modern, this is a two-storey riverside brasserie that attracts a smart young crowd with its modern Mediterranean cuisine.

Gallería (Ü 362054; www.galleriacambridge.co.uk; 33 Bridge St; mains £7-10, 2-course set lunch £6.50) If you didn't manage the punting, watch others try from this Continental-style café overlooking the Cam that serves good French and Mediterranean cuisine.

Rainbow Vegetarian Bistro (§§ 321551; 9a King's Pde; mains £7-9) Massively popular and loved by herbivores, there's experimental vegetarian and vegan food, such as Latvian potato bake and spicy Indian veggie curries.

Michaelhouse (®) 309167; Trinity St; mains £3.50-6; S 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri) A beautifully converted church, this stylish café has fair-trade coffee and sandwiches, eaten in a pew amid impressive medieval arches. A top choice.

Fitzbillies (§§ 352500; www.fitzbillies.co.uk; 52 Trump-ington St) Cambridge's much-loved, oldest bakery is famous for its super sticky Chelsea buns and cakes, but it serves as a restaurant in the evenings.

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