Behind the grand façade of this neoclassical building is Fitzwilliam Museum, a treasure trove of arts and antiquities. One of Europe’s finest regional museums is home to more than half a million fascinating artifacts, ranging from works by Rubens and Monet, to Roman and Egyptian burial pieces.
The museum was founded in 1816 after Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion bequeathed his art collection and library to Cambridge University. Over the years the collection has been added to and is still growing to this day.
Start your exploration in the lower galleries which focus on antiquities from several ancient civilizations. Look for marble figures from Greece and Rome and funeral pieces left in Egyptian tombs. Examine sculptures from the Chinese Han dynasty dating back to the 3rd century B.C. and an Egyptian cat goddess figurine.
The museum’s lower two floors also feature exhibitions dedicated to Far Eastern applied arts and Korean ceramics, as well as a large collection of manuscripts. See early examples of printed books, letters by literary giants and musical scores autographed by Handel and Elgar.
The museum’s upper galleries are mainly dedicated to paintings and sculptures. Look over impressive works by British artists such as William Blake and John Constable and Flemish masters, including Jacob van Ruisdael and Frans Hals. Be sure to seek out the museum’s two large paintings by Titian, as well as Salvator Rosa’s work L'Umana Fragilita. Save time to check out the post-1945 gallery, which includes pieces by Henry Moore and Lucian Freud.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions as well as various events and courses for all ages. For a small fee, you can also take advantage of guided tours, which are offered on Saturday afternoons.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free, although donations are welcome. The museum is located near King's College, within walking distance of the city centre. For an alternative to walking, use local bus services.