Cambridge’s foremost museum with over half a million exhibits, the Fitzwilliam is one of the finest in Europe. It was founded in 1816 by the wealthy musical antiquarian and art collector, Richard Fitzwilliam, the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745–1816), who was an alumnus of Trinity College. He felt the university needed its own art museum and library, and on his death donated a priceless collection of works including Renaissance pieces by Italian painters Palma Vecchio, Titian and Veronese, 144 rare Dutch paintings, engravings by artists such as Rembrandt and sheet music signed by German composer Handel. The Fitzwilliam became the museum of the University of Cambridge, and remains to this day one of the oldest public museums in Britain. You’ll easily find it along the main thoroughfare, Trumpington Street, for it is housed in a monumental neoclassical mansion, a Cambridge landmark. Its magnificent collection has grown over the years and spans centuries and civilisations from as far back as 2500 bc to the present day. Among the exhibits are works by Rubens, Constable, Picasso and Monet, along with antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, rare Oriental works of art and medieval coins. The museum’s own Courtyard Cafe serves morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon tea, and is sure to provide a welcome break.
Facilities – at a glance
Suitable for all child ages
- Parking nearby
- Fully accessible
- Facilities: Induction loop
- Accessible toilets
- Open all year
- Opening Times: Open all year Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun & BHs 12-5. Closed Good Fri, 24-26 & 31 Dec, 1 Jan
Also in the Area
About The area
To the west of East Anglia is Cambridgeshire, a county best known as the home to the university that makes up the second half of ‘Oxbridge’ (the other half is Oxford). As well as its globally renowned educational credentials, it also has a rich natural history; much of its area is made up of reclaimed or untouched fens. These are low-lying areas which are marshy and prone to flooding. The lowest point in the UK is at Holme Fen, which is some 9 feet (2.75 metres) below sea level. Some of the fens had been drained before, but it was in the 19th and 20th centuries that wide-spread, successful drainage took place, expanding the amount of arable and inhabitable land available.
Ely Cathedral was built on an island among the swampy fens, but now sits among acres of productive farmland, albeit farmland criss-crossed by miles of flood-preventing watercourses. Oliver Cromwell was born in Ely, and his family home can still be visited. Cambridge itself is a beautiful and historic city, with any number of impressive old buildings, churches and colleges, and plenty of chances to mess about on the River Cam which gave the city its name.
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