‘Quaint and steeped in highbrow history, Cambridge isn’t just popular with students – families flock here to take advantage of the good schools and charming city centre, while direct trains to London and a thriving arts scene appeal to both young professionals and older couples’.
However, they’re not the only ones – the city struggles to cope with the high numbers of visitors, so locals must be willing to share their narrow, congested streets with hoards of tourists – and pay high property prices for the privilege.
A settlement has existed here for over 3,500 years, but archeological evidence suggests that it wasn’t until the Viking invasion that Cambridge became a key trading centre. The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, and the city continued to grow around the university into the charming municipality we see today.
Property prices in Cambridge have increased at an alarming rate over the last few years, with the average house increasing in value by 75% in the last decade alone – and property is selling faster here than anywhere else in the UK.
For those who can afford it, the nicest places to live in Cambridge include the affluent De Freville Avenue, Madingley Road, and the suburb of Grantchester, located in what are considered to be the best areas to buy a house in Cambridge. Mill Road is slightly less expensive and popular with students, while the area north of Midsummer Common and that surrounding Gwydir Street are often referred to as the best areas to live in Cambridge for families due to the open green spaces and sense of community. Young professionals may prefer developments such as that of Hill Road, which is ideally positioned for commuting from Cambridge Station and a little quieter than some of the more central areas.
‘As of 2017, the average Cambridge property now costs over £500,000, double the UK average and increasingly out-of-reach for the majority of locals, with an average salary of just over £30,000’.
Popular with London commuters, the direct train from Cambridge Station into London’s Kings Cross runs every half hour and takes less than 50 minutes, while direct connections to Brighton and Gatwick are scheduled to begin in 2018. The central bus station in Drummer Street offers direct routes throughout the UK, and within the city itself.
With such a compact centre, ancient streets and poor parking facilities, the majority of residents in Cambridge prefer a two-wheeled form of transport – the city has more cyclists than anywhere else in the UK, and a 2013 survey found that 47% of residents cycle to work at least once a week. For those coming into the centre from nearby villages such as Trumpington and Milton, there are a number of Park and Ride services. Meanwhile for international travel, Stanstead Airport is thirty miles away and can be accessed by direct train.
For a small city, Cambridge offers a reasonable selection of shops, ranging from high-street brands such as Topshop, The White Company, Charles Trywhitt and a large John Lewis in the Grand Arcade and Grafton shopping centres, to independent boutiques and delightful delicatessens on winding streets such as Rose Crescent, King Street and Magdalene Street. Highlights include the quaint Norfolk Street Deli, where hungry students and local professionals tuck into rosemary focaccia sandwiches, and the magical David’s Bookshop, which has practically reached historic status with its second-hand and antiquarian offerings.
You won’t find many Michelin-starred restaurants in Cambridge but there are enough well-known chains, proper pubs and cosy bistros to keep most diners happy, including a Grade II listed branch of Jamie’s Italian, The Cambridge Chop House for traditional British grub, and Mediterranean flavours at Cotto on Gonville Place. Ale drinkers tend to head to the pubs of Castle Street or historic watering hole The Eagle, while students looking for something a little livelier can be found hitting the dance floor at Lola Lo and Fez.
There’s no shortage of supermarkets as well as independent grocers in Cambridge, with an Asda Superstore, various Tesco Superstores and a large Waitrose. For something a little more special, the weekly farmers market in the Market Square offers local produce in the form of vegetables, fruit, meat, cakes, cheese, breads and home-made juices.
Health & Sport
For a bookish city, Cambridge is surprisingly well-stocked when it comes to spas, with the Elemis Spa, House of Beauty and Imagine Spa all excellent options for preening and pampering. For those looking to get in shape, there are various national names on the gym scene including the Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre and a branch of David Lloyd, as well as a various Rowing Clubs for those who prefer to exercise on the river.
The city offers plenty in the way of cultural entertainment, ranging from dance and comedy performances to plays and live music at the historic Cambridge Corn Exchange, the Arts Theatre and the newer Cambridge Junction. The ADC Theatre, belonging to the University, hosts the famous Cambridge University Footlights Drama Club, which launched the careers of countless actors and actresses including Hugh Laurie, Olivia Coleman and John Cleese. Cambridge also boasts a number of world-class museums, with the Fitzwilliam on Trumpington Street leading the way, and during the summer months festivals such as the Beer Festival and Folk Festival draw large crowds from the surrounding area.
‘In terms of higher education, the University of Cambridge is ranked as one of the world’s most prestigious universities, and tends to attract a studious rather than rowdy crowd, much to the relief of the local population’.
Schools and Education
As you’d expect from a city associated with learning, Cambridge has plenty of good schools across both primary and secondary. The best primary schools in Cambridge are Milton Road School and The Spinney Primary School, both with ‘outstanding’ ratings from Ofsted. Parkside Community School also boasts an ‘outstanding’ rating and is considered to be the best secondary school in Cambridge, while Chesterton and St Bede’s Inter-Church School follow close behind. There are also a number of highly-rated independent schools such as The Pearse and The Leys, while the best-performing private school in Cambridgeshire is the Focus School – Cambridge Campus in Great Shelford.
Cambridge is a relatively safe city compared to the rest of the UK and was ranked 8th safest among university towns and cities in 2016. However, crime levels do rise slightly during the summer months due to the increased population of tourists. Anti-social behaviour is the most predominant crime, while the majority of crimes were reported in Cambridge South, which includes areas such as Cherry Hinton and Coleridge. Huntington and Arbury also fared poorly for safety compared to the rest of the city.
Cambridge has lots of open green spaces and is surrounded by beautiful flat fenlands, making it ideal for those seeking a city-country lifestyle. Punting along the River Cam or strolling through the parks is a popular pastime for both locals and tourists, although it can become very crowded during July and August. Grantchester Meadows, the Deer Park and the 40 acre Botanic Gardens are all highly recommended.