Fitzwilliam Museum

Lonely Planet review

Fondly dubbed 'the Fitz' by locals, this colossal neoclassical pile was one of the first public art museums in Britain, built to house the fabulous treasures that the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam had bequeathed to his old university. An unabashedly over-the-top building, it sets out to mirror its contents in an ostentatious jumble of styles that mixes mosaic with marble, Greek with Egyptian, and more. It was begun by George Basevi in 1837, but he did not live to see its completion: while working on Ely Cathedral he stepped back to admire his handiwork, slipped and fell to his death.

The lower galleries are filled with priceless treasures spanning the ancient world; look out for a Roman funerary couch, an inscribed copper votive plaque from Yemen (c AD 100-200), a figurine of Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, some splendid Egyptian sarcophagi and mummified animals, plus some dazzling illuminated manuscripts. The Chinese ceramics section was closed at the time of writing due to a robbery. The upper galleries showcase works by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Rubens, the Impressionists, Gainsborough and Constable, right through to Rembrandt and Picasso; standout works include the tender Pietà by Giovanni del Ponte and Salvator Rosa's dark and intensely personal L'Umana Fragilita . You can join a one-hour guided tour of the museum at 2.30pm Saturday.