The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is often mentioned as a ‘gem’, a ‘small British Museum’, or the perfect mixture of a museum and art gallery with free concerts – all in a stunning building which in itself is well worth a visit, even if you don’t like museums. It is not only an amazing museum with exciting and versatile displays but the entrance is totally free for both the permanent and the excellent temporary exhibitions too (like the recent Vermeer’s Women exhibition) and for the occasional concerts too! The museum is in the city centre of Cambridge (approx. 20 mins walk from the train station). The best time to visit to avoid the crowds is on weekdays in the mornings. It can be very peaceful and pleasant, a little sanctuary for the wearied traveller.
Opening Hours of the Fitzwilliam Museum (closed on Mondays)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays: 12 pm (noon) – 5 pm
Address: Trumpington Street, Cambridge UK (post code CB2 1RB)
Telephone: 01223 332900
Something to Interest All – Fitzwilliam Museum
The exhibitions at ‘the Fitz’ really cater for all interests, you can see all sorts of beautiful things from a knight on a horse through hand held fans to paintings by Renoir, or Raffaello to Chinese pottery – . What is more, in addition to the fantastic displays, you can also listen to some classical music concerts (including harpsichord concerts) – again for free. The museum has a cafe / canteen with some basic refreshments, sandwiches, soups, pastries, etc. and there is a small book / gift shop with several quality art books and other merchandise inspired by the Fitzwilliam’s collections. You can get an informative audio guide for only 3 pounds. Some of the big names of the art gallery: Degas, Monet, Raphael, van Dyck, Rubens, Holbein, Gainsborough, Constable, etc.
Just the Right Size – Fitzwilliam Museum
There are more than 30 exhibition halls with a wide range of exhibits in the Fitzwilliam Museum, most of them are of high value and the detailed labelling (including large print versions) help to put the various exhibits into perspective. The museum is by no means a second rate countryside museum with its rich and varied items on display. Many visitors to the Fitzwilliam Museum highlighted the French and the Italian collection of world famous paintings, while others recommend the armour room for those coming with children. The interesting bit about the Fitzwilliam Museum is that several visitors pointed out how perfectly balanced the exhibitions are, saying “So much to see but small enough to actually have time to look at things properly. Whereas bigger museums can sometimes be overwhelming, the fitzwilliam is just the right size so get through it all in one afternoon.” “Fitz is small enough that you can feel that you have really seen everything and you don’t feel overwhelmed” (recent visitor reviews about the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge on TripAdvisor travel site).
The museum is family friendly and visitor friendly, but cell phone rings are not tolerated at all, so make sure to set your phone to mute to avoid noise pollution and an unnecessary conflict with the sensitive staff of the museum.
Taking Photos – Fitzwilliam Museum
Mind you, it is not allowed to take photos inside the museum (except at the main entrance), on the one hand to protect the exhibits, on the other hand to raise income for the museum which “can provide a range of photographic material to suit your requirements. All the income raised via our image library directly supports the collections and activities of The Fitzwilliam Museum. [...] A custom print service is now available via www.fitzwilliamprints.com. Simply select an image, size and format and your print will be delivered to your door. You can also order bespoke mugs, gift cards and postcards featuring your favourite Fitzwilliam Museum work.” (quote from the official website of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)
Cafe at the Fitzwilliam Museum
Some visitors cautiously criticized the Courtyard Cafe of the Fitzwilliam Museum for its high prices and quality, but who feels the right to judge when the entrance is free? (see the quotes from reviews below).
Opening Hours of the Cafe at Fitzwilliam Museum (closed on Mondays)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 am – 4:30 pm, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays: 12 pm (noon) – 4:30 pm
Lunch hours 11.30 am – 3.30pm
Some of the current prices: Soup of the day vserved with a bread and butter 4.45 GBP, Humous, carrot, red pepper & spinach wrap 5.25 GBP, Free-range egg & watercress sandwich on brown bread 3.95 GBP, Main courses – like the Salmon & haddock fishcake – are 8.95 GBP, Warm apple & blueberry cake with double cream 3.65 pounds.
Useful tips and quotes from tourists’ reviews about the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge
The following tips from fellow museum visitors are from TripAdvisor.com:
“The entrance fee is also free but you can always help the Museum by giving a tip”
“We visited to see the Vermeer exhibition and were amazed to get in for nothing. We did pay for the audio guide but only three pounds.”
“Storing backpacks and bags at reception is compulsory – you’ll be given a token to reclaim them – and no flash photography is permitted. It can be very busy when coach parties arrive so be prepared to revise your route to keep out of their way. Pick up a floor plan in reception and tick off the rooms you’ve seen. There are toilets in the basement.”
“A little traditional in style. I want to warn you about the overpriced and pretentious cafe which spoilt the experience for me. I took back a sour smoothie to be told that it was exactly as it should be and noone else had complained. I asked to see the manager so they got the ‘chef’ who told me I was being rude! Try Brown’s downstairs near Market square or one or one of the chains for cafes this was poor.”
“As others here have said, this is a gem. Worth visiting for the stunning building alone – spend some time looking up at the ceilings. A wide variety of exhibits, you could spend several hours and it’s free. If you don’t want to use their cafe, try Brown’s just along the street,”
“Lots to see and very well laid out. They even offer small fold up chairs that you can carry around if you have trouble standing for too long – and entry is free !”
“It’s like a mini British Museum & National Gallery in one with lots of beautiful ancient artefacts, plus a respectable collection of paintings too.”
“What I appreciated also was the inclusion of furniture pieces among the paintings.”
“Superb setting and well worth a visit. Best go first thing on a weekday morning! Very crowded later on.”
“Great place and must see when you visit Cambridge. Free entry except Monday close. Very good stuff inside”
“cross between a museum and art gallery. I was pleasantly surprised at the standard of the exhibits and paintings – it really is up to London standards albeit on a slightly smaller scale (but not that much smaller).”
“look up when in the main entrance hall as there is a breathtaking ceiling edged in gold; really beautiful.”
“Make sure you check out the French Impressionist room – very impressive collection of artwork.”
“The armour room is very cool, but my personal favorite was the fan room.”
“This was possibly the best free museum I have ever been to. You can get through it in a couple of hours if you must, but if you really love looking at old paintings or you’re going to be in Cambridge for a while, I recommend going through it in pieces or multiple times to take it all in. Wonderful!”
Last updated: March, 2012