If You Read One Article About Cambridge Universities Read this One

   Cambridge is one of Europe’s oldest centers of learning—with its first college founded in 1284—and one of the most prestigious as well.Its 31 colleges have produced alumni as varied as John Milton, Stephen Hawking, Iris Murdoch, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Oliver Cromwell, and it consistently ranks among the world’s top universities.

   Greatest of all its historic sights is King’s College Chapel, called by Henry James “the most beautiful [chapel] in England.” Begun in 1441, it remains the country’s finest example of the late-Gothic English style known as Perpendicular. Rubens’s 17th-century Adoration of the Magi hangs behind the main altar, softly lit by vast 16th-century stainedglass windows beneath an awe-inspiring fanvaultedceiling. If you’re here on Christmas Eve and join the long line early, you may get toattend the much-loved Festival of Nine Carols and Lessons sung by a student choir, a tradition since 1918.
Rubens’s 17th-century Adoration of the Magi
   In spring and summer enjoy a classic view of the chapel from the Backs, the mile-long strip of emerald green lawns along the banks of the lovely River Cam, where “punting”—floating on a wooden, flat-bottomed boat slowly maneuvered by a pole—is a pastime not to be missed. Be sure to include a visit to the FitzwilliamMuseum, one of Britain’s oldest and finest public art museums. Its prize collection centers around 17th-century Dutch art, enriched with masterpieces by everyone from Titian and Michelangelo to the French Impressionists.

   Wander down the town’s narrow lanes lined with cluttered bookstores, historic inns, and pubs, and quench your thirst at the Eagle, where students have been propping up the bar for centuries. Then retire to the nearby Hotel du Vin, a stylish, modern lodging option in a medieval former university building, today well known for its classic bistro. Or leave the city behind and stay at the Hotel Felix, a large Victorian manse about a mile from the town center, with sleek contemporary rooms and an excellent restaurant.

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