The 11 Best Museums In Cambridge
The city of Cambridge serves as the county town of Cambridgeshire in the east of England. It is best known for its internationally and historically renowned universities, including one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, the University of Cambridge, and its 31 autonomous colleges.
As you visit the city, you'll also be walking in the footsteps of some of the greatest literary experts, scientific giants, and musicians in human history. It is home to some of the world’s brilliant geniuses whose discoveries have changed the world and enriched our lives.
Besides its scholarly charm, architectural grandeur, and beautiful old buildings, numerous art galleries and stunning museums in Cambridge also make the city stand out. They contribute to its millions of visitors every year, and each has a unique appeal that will satisfy every history buff and art enthusiast.
One full day isn't enough to explore all of them, so plan your visit to maximize the experience. It's a good idea to store your bags in a safe luggage locker in Cambridge. That way, you can tour around with peace of mind knowing that your belongings are in a secure location.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Founded in 1816, The Fitzwilliam Museum is the principal museum of the University of Cambridge. It welcomes over 400,000 visitors every year, offering more than half a million objects in its collections.
The museum is a favorite destination for those who want to discover one-of-a-kind works of art from around the world. These include collections from Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Rome, and artifacts from the vast geographical area of the Ancient Near East that span over 5000 years. It also features Roman statues, paintings and drawings of well-known artists and by the masters of the Italian Renaissance, medieval manuscripts, and unique pieces from different periods.
If you’re looking for something exciting to do with your kids, this museum also provides interactive programs and family-friendly fun. Its learning activities and resources are available for everyone of all ages. You can visit the museum every Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from noon to 5 pm.
Museum of Cambridge
Near Cambridge Station and formerly known as the Cambridge and County Folk Museum, the Museum of Cambridge provides an opportunity to explore and discover more than 300 years of the county’s tradition, culture, and history. When you visit the museum, you’ll get a glimpse of the local people’s customs and lifestyles through every item and work of art related to everyday life.
The building itself plays a remarkable historical significance to the city. It’s a Grade 2 listed sixteenth-century former coaching inn and a rare example of a timber-framed building available for public visits. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk from King’s College and right beside the Kettle's Yard in the city's central area. It is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm except Tuesday and Wednesday. You can also visit during Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11 am to 4 pm.
University Museum of Zoology
In the heart of the Cambridge City Centre, you’ll find one of the city’s major attractions, welcoming more than 100,000 visitors annually. The University Museum of Zoology boasts thousands of specimens from across the animal kingdom, including birds, insects, reptiles, giraffes, and elephants. The galleries also showcase the diversity of animal life, so whether you're an animal lover or not, you’ll find yourself in awe of the many magnificent treasures in the museum.
Besides its exhibitions and tours, it also provides a unique space for special events and corporate functions. You can rent the glass-walled Whale Hall to accommodate up to 150 guests, or the Whale Hall plus galleries cater to up to 300 event attendees. Read our guide on where to stay in Cambridge and we'll fill you in on other things to do in the City Centre besides a fun day at the zoo.
The Museum of Zoology is open Tuesday to Sunday and closed on Mondays. You can visit from 10 am to 4:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and from 12 noon to 4:30 pm on Sunday.
Scott Polar Museum
Dive deep into exciting Arctic and Antarctic adventures at the Polar Museum, where you can learn more about the coldest, windiest, and deadliest places on Earth. It is housed in the Scott Polar Research Institute, founded in 1920 and regarded as the centre of excellence in polar research.
Over the years, the museum has obtained over 5,000 items and presented special exhibitions that educate, delight, satisfy curiosity, and spark conversations. It also showcases various polar expeditions that will open your eyes to a world no ordinary person has explored.
Anyone may walk up to the museum without passes during opening hours. It is open three times a week, from Thursday to Saturday, from 10 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 to 4 pm.
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Do you want to delve deep into humanity’s history and people’s stories over hundreds of thousands of years? In that case, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MMA) should be number one in your must-visit museum in Cambridge. Founded in 1884, MMA has been home to around one million historical artifacts, including recent Cambridge archeological discoveries, the earliest African stone tools, and indigenous art.
When you visit the museum, you’ll find displays of local antiquities and archeological and ethnographic artifacts from all over the world. Its impressive collections are also accessible through exhibitions in various countries, such as China, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the U.S.A., and more. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm.
Museum of Classical Archaeology
Founded in 1884, the Museum of Classic Archeology houses one of the world’s largest plaster casts collections, from the largest of sculptures you can find today to the smallest of original artifacts. Its plaster cast collection is one of the few surviving ones in the world day, allowing visitors to dig into the realm of Greek and Roman sculpture. You’ll find over 450 of its casts displayed in the Cast Gallery, including Roman statues from the Christian era and unique pieces of ancient Greek art.
The Museum is open to the public from Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and from 2-5 pm on Saturdays. It is located in the Cast Gallery on the first floor of the Classic Faculty on the University’s Sidgwick Site.
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Originally established as the Woodwardian Museum in 1728, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is the oldest of all the museums of the University of Cambridge. It was founded on Dr. John Woodward’s collection of nearly 10,000 fossils, minerals, and rocks. Since then, the collection has grown to at least two million specimens.
If you want to witness what the Earth had over 4.5 billion years ago, the Sedgwick Museum is worth visiting. Its collections are organized into five major categories: Woodwardian Collection, Mineral Collection, Building Stones Collection, Petrology Collection, and Paleontology Collection. This museum of Earth Sciences offers free admission and is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 10 to 4 pm.
The Whipple Museum of the History of Science
Are you interested in free things to do in Cambridge? Put this museum at the top of the list! Find out more about the ancient tools and devices that helped scientists make remarkably accurate calculations and advanced observations, paving the way for the computers, clocks, and observatories we have today. Founded in 1944, the Whipple Museum of the History of Science features an outstanding collection of scientific instruments, many of which date back as far as medieval times to the present day.
The Whipple Museum is one of the city’s hidden gems, with thousands of enthralling scientific-related exhibits. You’ll also find materials from the 17th to 19th centuries, early electrical apparatus, ancient drawing and calculating tools, astronomical instruments, devices for surveying, sundials, and more.
It is open five days a week, Mondays through Fridays, from 12:30 to 4:40 pm. Although tickets at the Whipple Museum are free, you still need to secure one before visiting.
Cambridge Museum of Technology
Overlooking the River Cam, the Cambridge Museum of Technology is found at the Old Pumping Station on Cheddars Lane, with the entrance located on Riverside. If you’re looking for free parking, Cheddars Lane and Stanley Road are your closest options. Otherwise, Riverside has paid-and-display parking available.
Besides witnessing the museum's engaging industrial displays, you can find open and green spaces for all ages to enjoy. This relaxed atmosphere allows couples, families, and groups to take time for fun activities while exploring this important part of Cambridge's historical technology and buildings.
This industrial heritage museum offers a variety of pricing ranges depending on your purposes, such as individual and family rates, special event promos, and even school trip deals. Although only open on weekends from 10:30 am to 4 pm, you can book in advance for a weekday visit.
The Centre for Computing History
Have you ever wondered what computing was like in the past? Perhaps, most people can’t envision a world without the Internet or computers and know very little about how this groundbreaking innovation has come to pass. That’s exactly why the Centre for Computing History was established – to tell a story and shed some light on the computing evolution.
This Cambridge-based computer museum takes pride in its comprehensive collection of technology, including game consoles, calculators, and vintage computers that chronicle how computing has evolved from the beginning to the present day. Students and kids will also love the interactive and hands-on exhibits, which teach them about computing in an exciting and engaging way.
The Centre for Computing History is open at weekends only from 10 am to 5 pm. But it is open every day from April 2-18, 2022, and 7 days a week during Cambridgeshire school holidays.
Kettle’s Yard was conceived to provide a living place where young people could enjoy works of art at a home that’s neither a museum nor an art gallery. It was how Jim Ede envisaged the house, positioning beautiful artworks alongside furniture, ceramics, glass, and other ordinary objects in the house.
Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and his wife, Helen, between 1957 and 1973. In 1966, Jim left the house and its valuable contents in the care of the University of Cambridge. Today, it is the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery, featuring a stunning collection of modern art. More so, it hosts art exhibitions in its new and improved galleries.
Kettle’s Yard is open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. If you plan to come later, note that the last entry to the House is at 4:20 pm.
What are the best free museums in Cambridge?
You're lucky to be in Cambridge if you're traveling on a budget, as it offers tons of free entertainment and fun. Most art galleries, historic libraries, and museums in Cambridge are free and provide unique features, displays, and services to satisfy your inner wanderlust without spending a fortune.
If you're fascinated with animals or plan to take your kids to a Cambridge museum that will leave them in awe, you should definitely go to the Museum of Zoology. It's one of the city's major attractions for a reason, so don't miss out on an opportunity to learn and explore some of the best collections in the world. You can also attend an exhibition at the University of Cambridge's primary museum, The Fitzwilliam Museum, and be immersed in masterpiece paintings, historical artifacts, and spectacular works of art.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Cambridge?
The truth is, every Cambridge museum offers a unique experience to visitors through its exhibitions, collections, and outstanding displays. So the best one will hugely depend on your interest and preferences.
For instance, if you’re into the spectacular art illustrating the polar regions and curious about Polar expeditions, the Polar Museum would be best for you. But suppose you’re interested in the fossils of plants and animals illustrating the evolution of life on land, in the air, and in the oceans. In that case, The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences may be the best Cambridge museum to visit.
Are there any cheap museums in Cambridge?
The best thing about visiting museums in Cambridge is that most of them are free. If you have to pay an entrance fee, they’re often super cheap and nothing a student can’t afford. Therefore, you can check out one museum after another without digging deep into your pocket.
Some independent museums, like the Museum of Cambridge, rely on external support to continuously make history available to everyone. For them, admissions and donations are crucial to their survival. Thankfully, the admission fee is often under $10. Aside from the cheap ticket prices, you can also take advantage of discounts on tickets for accompanying family and friends or special events offered by the Museum of Technology.
Museums in Cambridge
It doesn't matter whether you're a science geek, historian, or simply a person who enjoys exploring historical places, art spaces, and museums for entertainment and leisure or learning and discovery. The museums in Cambridge will undoubtedly leave you with a strong impression that will make you want to come back for more.