Student cities: studying in Cambridge
According to the latest UK census, 20% of Cambridge’s residents are university students – so it’s little surprise that so much of the city is geared around university life.
The city spans tradition and modernity. Its idyllic historical side is made up of its 31 colleges, ancient gates and bridges and many charming places to stroll. But the aspects of the city that are very up to date are large parts of its nightlife and its high tech businesses. For a modest-sized city it has lots of places to hang out in the evening.
The university organises a huge number of activities. It was voted number one for extracurricular activities/societies in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2015 and has hundreds of clubs and societies. It has 29 million books in its library too, which might keep you occupied… but step into the city and there are many other things to do.
Free and cheap stuff to do in Cambridge
Pack a nice meal and picnic by the river Cam. If you sit at Mill Pond you can munch and watch the punts go by. There are great walks all along the river bank. Head east from the Quayside past green, open spaces or go west to the attractive nearby village of Grantchester. Some of the earliest Cambridge University colleges were built on the banks of the river so as to take part in river trading. These colleges, backing on to the Cam, are called the ‘Backs’ and are popular for their prettiness.
There are free festivals and events throughout the year, even in the coldest months. Bonfire Night is a real spectacular as is February’s E-Luminate Festival when the city’s main buildings are lit up in weird and wonderful ways. The Dragon Boat Festival in the autumn is wonderful in other ways with oriental-themed boats competing for first place in the race down the river. The two big, free music/arts festivals are Strawberry Fair in June and Big Weekend in July. The three-day Buskers and Street Performers Festival – also in June – adds to the charm of the city. Who knows, if you’ve a talent to flaunt you could be there on the streets, causing passers-by to stop and admire.
Spend £15 on the annual student membership for the Cambridge Picturehouse to get your fill of cinema; spend £2.50 upwards for a pastry at one of Cambridge’s many great cake shops. Stickybeaks is popular and comparatively new; Fitzbillies has been serving cakes for almost a century and is well known for its large, sticky Chelsea buns.
Alternatively, go to one of Cambridge’s museums and art galleries – home to over five million exhibits so they should have something you find interesting. There are museums devoted to science, computing, archaeology, modern and classic paintings, sculpture, steam age technology, fossils, zoology, and Arctic and Antarctic exploration.
There are four big shopping areas in Cambridge and a number of small streets with independent, unusual stores. Retail therapy and practical day-to-day purchases are available from Cambridge’s markets, which run seven days a week. The general market is open Monday to Saturday; there are also arts, crafts and local produce markets at weekends.
The five largest nightclubs in Cambridge get varied reviews. Kuda and Ballare are big and shiny with lots of student drinks deals; Fez Club has Moroccan style décor and indie and RnB nights. Lola Lo has a Hawaiian look, three floors and runs itself on a policy of unpretentious fun. The Q Club has absolutely no frills in terms of decoration but a wide range of music nights covering the 1960s to 1990s, new acts, goth and rock.
The city gets top marks for its number of highly rated pubs. There are quiet and chatty pubs, for example the Maypole, the Baron of Beef and the tiny pub that’s called the Free Press. There are late haunts with cute and trendy names such as Baroosh and Pint Shops, and a couple of historical inns – the Eagle being the best known. The college bars have got a good reputation for having a wide range of inexpensive drinks and a variety of ambiences.
In terms of music venues, Cambridge is served well by a clutch of good, local music pubs such as the Portland Arms and Man on the Moon. Cambridge Junction and Cambridge Corn Exchange are bigger venues that also have theatre, comedy and other performance arts.
If you’re looking for work experience
There are part-time job opportunities connected to Cambridge’s leisure and tourism sector, and to the universities and other educational establishments in the city. Other than that, Cambridge’s main industries are research and development, software consultancy, high-end engineering, creative industries, pharmaceuticals and tourism.