This is the Best Guide to Living in Cambridgeshire England
So many of us leave our home base to discover new lands, countries, cultures, and cuisines. We pack up our familiarity and head to places near and far that offer up challenges, opportunities and fresh beginnings. It is so popular that some countries have even extended passports to accommodate the excess number of stamps and visas their citizens will accumulate over time. I was one of those people. I wanted to see the world and live in another country. It sort of helps you grow up as Mommy and Daddy aren’t just around the corner to bail you out. And I did just that. Grew up. (well even more than I already had.) And where better than a gorgeous, historical town like Cambridgeshire UK? Here is our guide, based on personal experience on Living in Cambridgeshire England.
A Little About Cambridgeshire
- Cambridgeshire is located in the East Anglia county of England surrounded by several English villages – Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire.
- Current population is approximately 850,000!
- Steven Hawking resides in Cambridgeshire
- The original Winnie the Pooh manuscript is housed at Trinity college in Cambridge University
- Poet, Tennyson went to Cambridge University
- There are more bicycles than vehicles in Cambridgeshire
- Cambridge University has been deemed the #1 university in the UK! Followed by Oxford and St Andrew
- Cambridgeshire is considered the driest part of the UK. That is a bonus for those Living in Cambridgeshire England isn’t it!
- The sapling from the famous tree that assisted Sir Isaac Newton in discovering Gravity is planted at King Campus of Cambridgeshire England
- Punting was made famous here on the Cambs river
- Prince William and Kate Middleton are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and there were rumours that they move here at some point!
- The King’s Collage Boys Choir is world famous! It was founded in 1441 and continues to bring boy sopranos into the limelight. Every year they perform to millions on Christmas eve on live podcast.
Living in Cambridgeshire England
University of Cambridge
The main draw to Cambridgeshire is the very prestigious university. In fact, Cambridgeshire has been nicknamed a university town. The majority of the folk you pass while exploring Cambridgeshire are students or alumnae. It is a rather safe town though some rowdy parties can take place after those pesky final exams.
This prestigious post-secondary institution was founded all the way back in 1209 and then granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1231. As the second oldest university in the modern world, Cambridgeshire attracts thousands of prospective students not only based on academic offerings, but also for its elite position in the university world.
The University consists of 31 separate colleges! The campus grounds are kept in ultimate pristine conditions with lawns meticulously manicured and buildings clean and clear of obstacles. While living here I always appreciated the cleanliness of the grounds. It is reassuring when you live in an area that truly cares about its outward appearance.
Not a student, but wish to see the grounds more thoroughly? The University offers relaxing and informative tours of the campuses, showcasing the gardens, landscapes, and historic nature of the campus buildings.
University of Cambridge Fun Facts:
- As mentioned, there are 31 colleges, but did you there are 100 Academic departments? Wowzers!
- The university made £1.64 billion last year with nearly 50% of it coming from research grants
- 10 British Prime Ministers are affiliates of the University!
- The first of the 31 colleges was founded in 1284!
- Mathematics and Physics used to be mandatory courses if studying for a BA degree (Yikes! I am TERRIBLE at Math and Physics!)
- The University originally only accepted male students up until 1869 when the first Women’s College opened.
- A Traditional Wooden Spoon is handed to the student who accomplished the lowest grades of the Mathematical Tripos each year. Hmmm would you want to receive that?
- There are 114 libraries in the University of Cambridge! That is a A LOT of literature.
- The original Brothers Grimm manuscripts are housed at Trinity College along with the first Winnie the Pooh book.
Famous University Notables
As the University of Cambridge is such a famous and highly recognized academic institution, you can only imagine how many big wigs and notables have chosen it to further their studies. Here are a few whose names just may ring a bell:
- Sir Isaac Newton (Got hit by an apple and discovered gravity)
- Charles Darwin – the scientist behind the theory of evolution
- Stephen Hawking – famed scientist, Brief history of Time
- Sir Ian Walmut – Responsible for the successful cloning of Dolly the Sheep
- Sir David Attenbourgh – Naturalist, Narrator, and voice behind the Planet Earth Series
- Dame Jane Goodall – Chimpanzee and Primate specialist
- Members of Music Bands Radiohead, Procol Harem, Hot Chip, and solo artist Nick Drake (gosh I love his song Northern Sky, played in Serendipity).
- A.A. Milne – Author of Winnie-the-Pooh
- Alfred Lord Tennyson – Poet, famous for “Crossing the Bar”
- Many actors including: John Cleese (Monty Python), Sir Ian McKellan, James Mason, Emma Thompson, Hugh Lorie (House), Eric Idle, Tilda Swinton, Thandie Newton, Rachel Weisz, Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Dan Stevens, and director Sam Mendes
- Prince Charles, and nine other British Monarchs of the past
Things to Do
So, besides the studious side, living in Cambridgeshire England is very rewarding with the number of interesting things to see and do. Depending on what you love – history, art, shopping, food, etc., there is something for everyone.
The Round Church
This is one of the more popular landmarks in town. Probably part of the reason is the shape. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it’s actual name, was built in 1130 and still to this day holds worship services for Christians.
They offer guided tours for a nominal fee and all who wish to share worship with them are welcome.
Head to the Wren Library in The University of Cambridge to see some of the most prized literary gems ever written. Right in this library, protected in glass are the original manuscripts of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Tennyson, and the Brothers Grimm. You sadly cannot take photos, but to see these priceless literary antiquities is worth the visit.
A very popular activity in Cambridgeshire is punting down the River Cambs. A relaxing experience, punting takes passengers along the river on an educational tour of the University grounds. Prices vary depending on whom you come across, or why not attempt yourself (while sober is definitely best!)
Fun Punting Facts:
- Many confuse a punt with a gondola. The main difference is that punts are propelled by poles, while gondolas by oars.
- Punts’ original purpose was for fishing, not for tourism
- The punts for pleasure were built for the first time in 1860.
- Punt races take place yearly on the River Thames
- When the Olympics were in London 2012, the Olympic torch was exchanged on punts.
Go to a Performance at the Corn Exchange
Enjoy a show at the Corn Exchange! A wonderful venue that can hold nearly 1850 people, it has some wonderful unmatched acoustics, ideal for that intimate concert, seminar, or movie sing-a-long. While we were there, we had the opportunity to take in the Sound of Music Sing A-Long with fellow fans of Do Re Mi and had a blast! I couldn’t believe the number of lonely goatherds and nuns for a day that attended and shared a chorus of “How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria” with Peggy Wood on screen.
Check out the Famous Tree of “Gravity”
The UK has significant spots in history scattered all over the place. You come across such landmarks when you don’t even realize. Well, for those of you wishing to explore and/or live in Cambridge, you must stop by King’s College and see the grown sapling that came from the original tree that dropped the apple on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, leading to the discovery of gravity.
Have a Picnic on Parker’s Piece
I worked full time while living in Cambridgeshire England and quite often when the weather cooperated, I would meet hubby for lunch and enjoy it sitting on the beautifully green manicured Parker’s Piece park ground. It is 25 acres or beautiful common ground and welcomes soccer [football] matches, dogs, markets, outdoor music festivals, carnivals, and more.
Places to Eat
There are so many incredible restaurants suiting all budgets in Cambridge! Here are my favourites that those living in Cambridgeshire England frequent on a regular basis.
This cafe lives up to its name with the perfect spot to catch up with friends and have a good ole chat. The lattes, cappuccinos, and other espresso beverages are top-notch as well as their healthy sandwiches and salads. It is definitely my favourite cafe here in Cambridgeshire. Go early to get seating inside and a great helping of their delicious pastries.
This hip little joint just off Regent Street on the way to the Arcade has an open window bar with some very trendy cocktails, sharing plates, and treats. We enjoyed the signature martinis as well as a couple of their culinary specialties. The quality is there for a nice work get together after hours or maybe a Friday cocktail hour.
For all the vegans out there, this is the restaurant for you. A menu of delicious vegetable bowls, tofu-based bakes, incredible breads, and creative drinks, this haven for the veggie-lover is the perfect choice. We particularly loved the atmosphere surrounded by art and unique expression and the convenience near the theatre for a quick fix prior to the evening performances.
While living in Cambridge I was able to find some truly incredible eateries that suit all budgets and styles of dining. If you are looking for a Michelin star upscale spot with the ultimate in gourmet cooking, than head to Alimentum. Find a unique crafted menu, delightful wine pairings and a very satisfying atmosphere. Plan to spend at least 150-200 quid per couple.
This is one of my favourite spots in all of Cambridge. I think it is because of the ceiling. I know, a weird reason to love a joint, but the ceiling in this pub has an emotional edge; it features messages from the RAF soldiers with lighters. Have a look at some of the really cool messages left by these armed men as they enjoyed a pint before heading to battle. Plus, it has great pub grub as fish ‘n’ chips, toad in the hole, and steak and kidney pie.
So this is my husband’s favourite restaurant in Cambridge! If you like smokey ribs that fall off the bone, or burgers that clearly speak to the hearty appetite, than this restaurant is for you. The funky atmosphere of pushing the buttons for service and signature bourbon milkshakes make this the perfect spot for work functions (I had my farewell dinner here!), birthdays, guy nights, girl nights, and more. Trust me on the bourbon milkshake. It is amazing.
La Maison du Steak
Another great spot! If you enjoy a good steak, head here. Not into steak? Don’t worry, there are many other options and sauces available. We particularly enjoyed the steak, the Filet Mignon, and the duck creme brulee starter.
Ready for some amazing Asian cuisine? Head up the stairs to Wagamama. I particularly recommend that sticky rice pudding. Soooo good! They serve a huge variety of rice and noodle dishes at both ends of the spicy scale, ample beverages, and unique desserts. Also the hot sake is amazing. You cannot enjoy a meal at Wagamama without sake!
The Varsity Hotel Rooftop Bar
Head here for a beautiful view of Cambridge with a signature cocktail and dessert to boot! This lovely hot spot is popular among locals looking for great views, drinks, and an unmatched atmosphere. Hotel rooms and spa treatments are also on offer here at the Varsity year round! Inquire with the front desk for availability.
The Coffee Stop
So this is really a personal plug. One of my friends I met when living in Cambridgeshire England runs this adorable coffee truck (aka Gertie!) right at the Cambridge railway station – The Coffee Stop. Stop in and talk to CJ – the barista boss of this amazing caffeine-fix space you will pass every morning on the way to work. She can craft up any morning drink you crave – lattes, macchiatos, Americano, cappuccino, hot chocolate, a selection of teas, and that ultimate shot of espresso. Hungry too? She makes kick ass sausage rolls, rocky roads, and incredible pastries. You really must stop in and enjoy her food that clearly should be rated the top coffee spot in all of Cambridge.
If you are going to be living in Cambridgeshire England, than you need to learn of the best shopping spots! This uni town of bicycles and boats secures its spot in the shopping havens of the UK. Here are some of our favourite spots. (Note: no links are affiliates.)
This is one of the official malls of Cambridgeshire. Enjoy the swanky department store John Lewis, Pandora jewellery, Clintons for some amazing greeting cards, Costa Coffee- the coffee chain of the UK, Apple of course, and Pink by Victoria Secret to name a few.
Cambridge University Press Bookshop
The students’ refuge for all things studious and educational, the Cambridge University Press Bookshop is also a wonderful spot for visitors of the city to indulge in some great evening reading. Pull out the hammock and delve into a text about the great poets of the past, research that artifact you always wondered about, or purchase some truly unique literature.
Ever wanted to look like Indiana Jones? My husband sure did. And Laird Hatters is the place to grab a stetson just like his. They are of exceptional quality, can be bent and folded without losing their shape for hassle-free travel, and have a lengthy guarantee. Plus on top of that, they keep your head warm!
The Lawson Gallery
Personally, I love finding unique prints, animation cells, and other keepsakes of favourite authors, characters, playwrights, poets, artists, and more. And while living in Cambridgeshire England, you have the opportunity to own a piece of memorabilia from a local artist, or one that has enjoyed global fame. For us, the highlight of this gallery was the Quentin Blake collection of original prints. Not sure who Quentin Blake is? Let me enlighten you:
- Quentin Blake is an illustrator for Roald Dahl’s many books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and George’s Marvelous Medicine.
- He earned the Hans Christian Andersen award for his remarkable contributions to children’s literature
- He illustrated the Dr. Seuss book “A Great Day for Up!”
- Tale of Kitty n Boots, a newly discovered book by Beatrix Potter, was illustrated by Quentin Blake in 2015.
- He never married or had children.
- He has made personal appearances at the Lawson gallery. If you are lucky enough to stop in while he is there, be sure to pick up a print! He may sign it for you!
This is a combination of great shopping and artisan food. Head here for some crafts, preserves, clothes, and some of the best waffles you will eat outside of Belgium! Plus you can see some incredible dogs and cats during your visit out with their owners 😉
So there you have a great start at your adventure in Cambridge. Some of the best landmarks, foodie spots, and shops to get you started in discovering this uni city. It is an exceptional area of the country only a train ride away from London, and has the smallest unemployment percentage in the entire UK. Lodging varies, but the suburbs do present great options for long-term residence. I miss Cambridge now and then and am so thankful to have chosen this place as my second home to grow, learn, and experience new things in life.
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