Many renowned performers have honed their skills on the stages of Cambridge theatres during their student years, including the likes of Sir Ian McKellen and Tilda Swinton – so it’s no wonder that Cambridge boasts a lively cultural scene. But it extends beyond the dramatic arts: the city’s galleries offer a storehouse of artistic gems from the classical to the contemporary as well as museums whose collections serve as engaging reminders of our collective past.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum is certainly easy to spot: the massive neoclassical edifice with its vast portico makes for a striking and imposing entrance to this temple of art. It contains an outstanding art collection given its size, including works by Titian, Constable, Monet and Matisse. As well as paintings, the museum also houses ceramics, sculptures and antiquities from the Far East.
If you’re keen to catch the 21st century answer to Monty Python, this is the place to come and start looking. The ADC Theatre, England’s oldest university playhouse, is home to the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe, whose numerous former members include John Cleese, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, who all went on to become international stars.
Cambridge Arts Theatre
If am-dram isn’t your thing, then be sure to check out what’s on at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, the city’s main venue for professional productions of contemporary drama and famous classics. The venue has staged the premieres of pioneering works such as Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn. It also caters for popular tastes with its annual panto and by hosting long-running shows by touring companies such as An Inspector Calls, The Woman in Black and The 39 Steps.
Corn Exchange Cambridge
The Corn Exchange Cambridge was once just that – a building where farmers and merchants bought and sold grain. Since 1988, it’s been the city’s live venue par excellence. It’s played host to a stellar list of major names in pop, rock and blues that have wowed audiences – David Bowie, Chuck Berry, Van Morrison and Amy Winehouse to name a mere few. Should you find yourself in need of some laughter therapy, the Cambridge Corn Exchange also hosts great live comedy – Eddie Izzard, Jimmy Carr and Rob Brydon have all performed side-splitting stand-up shows here. Classical music and dance fans are also well served.
Imperial War Museum Duxford
Aircraft fans will delight in the vast range of planes on display at IWM Duxford, one of the Imperial War Museum’s branches, located just outside Cambridge. The 132 bus from Cambridge train station will take you to IWM Duxford in about 35 minutes. Explore huge hangars filled with old Spitfires, Lancaster bombers and even a Concorde and an SR-71 Blackbird. Getting up close with these imposing 20th century icons of the air is a fascinating experience. Even more impressive are the airshows held here several times a year, during which some of the remarkable flying machines, including WWII veterans, are put through their paces to the delight of spectators.