Cambridge - City Guide
“With an educational history which stretches back over 800 years, Cambridge is one of the most beautiful and iconic places to live as a student. With a college around every corner, and a cyclist ready to knock you over at every turn, Cambridge is one of the UK’s truly distinctive cities.”
Describing itself as a ‘bubble’, Cambridge is packed full of cultural activities, pubs and museums to enjoy as a student. You’ll never run out of things to do in this city, whether you’re strolling around the colleges, punting on the river, or enjoying a quirky Cambridge night out. Here’s a student guide to this amazing city so you can get the most out of your time there.
Things To Do
If you’re studying at Cambridge: get out of the library and do something fun! For example:
- Go punting – whether you’re going around the Backs (the riverside gardens of the colleges) or to the nearby village of Grantchester, you can’t beat watching your friends humiliate themselves at punting. Some colleges have punting cards which get you FREE punting, so it’s worth asking around for that.
- Go shopping – though Cambridge is notorious for its chain stores (wittily nicknamed ‘Chainbridge’ by some), there’s basically everything you could need as a student in The Grand Arcade and the Grafton Centre.
- If you’re done with big shops, try the market in Market Square, and some of the smaller shops such as the Cambridge Cheese Company. Rose Crescent is beautiful and has some great boutiques for last minute present buying.
- Walk to Grantchester or any of the villages near Cambridge. While you’re in Grantchester, visit the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester Meadows which was a popular haunt for well-known writers such as Virginia Woolf and Rupert Brooke.
- Go to a quirky bookshop. If Cambridge knows anything well, it’s books. Check out David and The Haunted Bookshop on St. Edward’s Passage especially. Heffers is fantastic for all sorts, and is worth a browse, and the Cambridge University Press bookshop is great for up-to-date academic works.
Arts and Culture
There’s more culture in Cambridge than gowns in a formal hall. Check out:
- The wide array of museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, and many more. These are free to get into and are a great way to spend an afternoon.
- Some top-notch student drama: If you’re a bit of a drama queen (or king), the ADC theatre and the Corpus Playroom are where it all happens. With some impressive alumni such as Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson and Simon Russell Beale, you might witness the next star on stage, and student tickets are pretty cheap too.
- Some hilarious student comedy: there’s a reason the Cambridge Footlights are well-known in the comedy world, and I’d go see them if you get the chance. They frequent both the ADC and Corpus.
- The Cambridge Arts Picturehouse is also great for artsy films and has a top-notch cafe.
Music and Nightlife
Don’t laugh: Cambridge does have a nightlife, just not in the same way as Manchester or Leeds. If you fancy sampling an authentic Cambridge night out, the most popular student nights are as follows:
- Cindies (the sign calls it ‘Bellare’, but students don’t) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This is as big as Cambridge clubs get (still small) and is extremely popular with students on Wednesday nights due to its cheesy music and VKs.
- Life on Fridays and Sundays – (the sign calls it ‘Kuda’, but students don’t). Closer to chart music than Cindies, Life is another popular student night which might be worth checking out, despite its tiny dance floor.
- Fez on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – A bit dark and dingy indoors, and not one for cheese-lovers, but popular with students who are into rap, grime and garage.
- Lola Lo on Thursdays (Cambridge students call it by its actual name! – With multiple floors playing R&B and chart music downstairs, and cheese and rock upstairs, Lola’s offers something a bit more interesting than Life or Cindies. Plus the Hawaiian theme is fun.
- Wetherspoons (‘The Regal’)– Spoons is enduringly popular, especially with graduate students who don’t fancy the nights out popular with undergraduates.
If it’s live music you’re looking for, your best options are probably:
- The Cambridge Corn Exchange which has a great central location and hosts classical, jazz, rock, and many other types of live music.
- The affordable and frequent concerts at the West Road Concert Hall. In particular, check out the lunchtime concerts which run here and are FREE.
- The Cambridge Junction is located much further out than the other two venues, but is definitely worth a look. I saw Akala there, and it feels like a big-city venue.
If you want a more relaxed evening, there are plenty of good bars and pubs in the city too. Those worth visiting include:
- Hidden Rooms on Jesus Lane for top-notch cocktails (pre-book if you’re in a larger group as it gets very busy).
- The Granta on Newnham Road for its river-view, food and quiz night.
- One of the Snug Bars on Lensfield Road, or on East Road, near the Grafton Centre.
- If you’re into wine, Cambridge Wine Merchants is a must-visit. Expect to pay £5+ for a glass, but you won’t be disappointed.
- The Cambridge Brew House for its burgers and beer. Places to Eat
Top Three Places to Eat
- Aromi. This my top student food recommendation for Cambridge. Aromi is a Sicilian-style cafe which serves massive slices of pizza and pasta dishes for fantastic prices: much better than rival chain Italians in the city.
- The St John’s Chop House. They do an excellent early-dining deal (5-7pm weekdays), and serve amazing food, but it’s probably not one for the vegetarians.
- Butch Annie’s for burgers as they should be. You’ll be given it wrapped up, with no cutlery or anything fancy: delicious.