Our guide to Open Cambridge - including 10 highlights from the festival that allows you behind the scenes
Encounter the supernatural at Christ's College, visit the Cambridge mosque and explore Eddington
Many of Cambridge’s historic buildings and hidden collections will be throwing open their doors to the public in September – and tickets to the free events are available now.
Open Cambridge, the annual city-wide festival, showcases a diverse range of architectural gems and stunning spaces that are normally closed to the public or which usually charge for entry.
Visitors will be able to encounter the supernatural at Christ’s College, see behind the doors of Cambridge mosque, find out what’s going on at the city’s newest neighbourhood, Eddington, or explore gender and sexual identities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, among many other events.
Bookings are open for the hugely popular heritage weekend, which runs on September 14-15. The free, two-day celebration, run by the University of Cambridge, features more than 80 events from walks, talks, tours and exhibitions showcasing the rich historical and cultural diversity of Cambridge; its buildings, landscape, art, history and people.
Open Cambridge co-ordinator Sue Long said: “Cambridge is a truly remarkable city and everyone who lives here, or visits, understands that. Past and present, it’s a small city with a huge impact.
“The Open Cambridge weekend is a fantastic opportunity for the community and visitors alike to celebrate the city and enjoy its uniqueness; the ancient colleges, the picturesque ‘backs’ and the exquisite architecture all combine to create an extraordinary city we are very proud of.
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming back previous visitors and meeting new people who may never have been to any of the many cultural and historical events on offer.”
Top of the bill includes an exhibition at Christ’s College Old Library, The Art of Disruption: Society and the Supernatural, for those intrigued by the strange, subversive and chaotic world of the supernatural. It is open on Friday, September 14 and Saturday, September 15, from 10am to 4pm.
Librarian Hannah Goodsell explained: “The exhibition was inspired by the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We have a three-volume first edition of the book for people to come and see as well as other manuscripts and artworks which are thought to have inspired her creation of Victor Frankenstein and the monster. We also have other ‘supernatural’ exhibits, such as a shoe that was buried in a wall to ward off witches. Apparently it was believed the smell would keep them away!”
Another exhibition attracting attention is at the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is offering special tours exploring gender and sexual identities through a selection of objects in the Fitzwilliam Museum collections.
The rich history of the city will be brought to life through a series of walks, introducing visitors to some of the people and places that have made the city the place it is today. Visitors will be able to learn about Cambridge’s contribution to the world of espionage; journey through the religious history of Cambridge churches and chapels; uncover the architectural significance of the city’s buildings; and explore the area around the river port, once the hub of the town, the origins of Magdalene College, and the old Danish quarter. There is also the hugely popular complete Cambridge tour, which includes punting along the majestic college Backs and an intriguing walking tour around the historic city.
For many, Cambridge is synonymous with science and technology. One of the main highlights of this year’s Open Cambridge is the special day of talks, covering renewable energy and sustainable living, and walking or cycling tours by the architects and professionals who have created the development around Eddington, the flourishing new community being delivered by the University of Cambridge. Cambridge’s newest district already has a primary school, community centre – which has been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize – supermarket and sporting facilities, with more to come. Visitors can learn about the first phase of Eddington and about creating the foundations for a long-lasting and sustainable community.
A further highlight is the annual Open Cambridge three-course dinner on the evening of September 14. This year, the fine dining experience is at the beautiful and historic Madingley Hall. The after-dinner speech is set to be given by head gardener Richard Gant.
10 events to try on Friday September 14-15, 2018
The Complete Cambridge Tour: Punting and Walking
Start your trip with a chauffeured punt along The Backs before joining a Blue Badge Guide on a walk around the city. Friday, September 14 at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Pre-book. Scudamore’s Punting Company, Mill Lane, CB2 1RS.
The Gardens at Clare College
The tour includes a trip to the Fellows’ Garden, with its sunken pond and tropical garden. Friday, September 14 at 11am and 2.30pm. Pre-book. Clare College, Trinity Lane, CB2 1TL.
Tall Tales, Secrets of the Tower
Uncover the secret history of the tower of Cambridge University Library. Friday, September 14, 9am to 6pm and Saturday, September 15, 9am to 4.30pm. Cambridge University Library, West Road, CB3 9DR.
Cambridge Fire Station Open Day
An opportunity to see a working fire station and talk to the firefighters. Friday September 14 and Saturday September 15, 11am to 4pm. Cambridge Fire Station, Parkside, CB1 1JF.
Join Cambridge Blue and Green Badge guides for a walk around the city. Friday September 14 and Saturday September 15, 11.15am and 2.15pm.
Join a Cambridge Green Badge Guide for a tour of the colleges associated with the city’s contribution to the world of espionage. Friday September 14 and Saturday September 15, 11.30am and 2.30pm.
Inside the Cold War Bunker
Discover more about the nuclear bunker deep beneath the county council’s offices. Friday September 14 and Saturday September 15 at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Pre-book.
From John Milton to Joanne Harris, Cambridge has a rich literary history. Join this two-hour walking tour to discuss 60 novelists, poets and playwrights connected with the city. Starts at The Guildhall, Peas Hill, CB2 3QL. Friday September 14, 2pm and Saturday September 15, 11am. Pre-book.
Madingley Hall and gardens
Guided by local experts, including head gardener Richard Gant. Saturday September 15, 10am-4.30pm. Madingley Hall, Madingley, CB23 8AQ.
Queer Stories: Exploring Gender and Sexual Identities at the Fitzwilliam Museum
Explore a selection of highlights in the Fitzwilliam Museum collections. Saturday September 14, noon and 1pm. Courtyard entrance, Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street, CB2 1RB.