Cambridge is one of the most charming cities in England and is famed for its historic university and colleges. There are lots of fun things to do in and around the city and within this guide, you’ll find out where to stay in Cambridge to get the most out of your trip. From the coolest areas to the best nightlife, budget options, and more.
I’ve been visiting this laid-back city (it feels more like a town) since childhood and have stayed in many of the Cambridge neighborhoods over the years. Whether you want to be close to the picturesque River Cam, the city’s main attractions, nightlife, or the best foodie options, this guide has you covered.
Cambridge is a relatively small city by world standards with a population of fewer than 150,000 people, so no matter which area you choose, most places of interest are easily reachable on foot. The small size and easy-going nature of the place are what makes Cambridge one of my favorite places for a weekend break.
Best Areas to Stay in Cambridge
Quick Look: Best Areas to Stay in Cambridge
Round Church Street: Best Place To Stay in Cambridge for Your First Time
The area around Round Church Street is located between the River Cam and some of the city’s most famous colleges such as Trinity and St Johns. All the major Cambridge attractions from the Market Square to the “Backs” are within a short walk, as are some of the best restaurants and pubs the city has to offer.
This area is perfect for first-time visitors as everything is so close by, making it the best area to stay in Cambridge if you want it all.
Best Places to Stay in Round Church Street
You’ll find some of the best places to stay in Cambridge around Round Church Street and below are three of my top picks:
1. West Court Jesus College: The rooms at Jesus College are part of the University making this one of the most unique places to stay in Cambridge. Single and double rooms are available with either a private or shared bathroom and there’s the option of a continental-style breakfast.
2. Two-Bedroom Townhouse: If you’re looking for a place to stay in Cambridge with parking then look no further than this two-bedroom townhouse. This is one of the best places to stay in Cambridge for groups of friends or families and comes with two bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen.
3. Varsity Hotel and Spa: If you’re looking for a little bit of luxury then the four-star Varsity Hotel and Spa is the place to go. Rooms come with an LCD TV and a library of DVDs, a monsoon shower, and underfloor heating. There’s also a rooftop terrace with amazing views of the city for guests to experience.
3 Top Things To Do in Round Church Street
As this area is just north of the city center there’s plenty to do from walking along or having a punt on the river to exploring the prestigious colleges such as Trinity and St James.
1. Visit The Round Church: The Round Church, from which this area is named, is one of the city’s most historic buildings and dates back to the 12th Century. Inside, you’ll find a visitor center and exhibition hall with different events throughout the year. You can take a 120-minute guided walking tour of Cambridge from the church for £12.
2. Take a Bridge of Sighs Punting Tour: The famous Bridge of Sighs is a short walk from Round Church and the starting point for boating tours of the college backs. This 50-minute punting tour is the perfect way to explore the most picturesque part of the city and is one of my favorite Cambridge activities.
3. Explore Trinity College: Trinity College was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546 and is one of the largest colleges in Cambridge. Trinity can count 34 Nobel prizewinners, 6 Prime Ministers, and luminaries such as Lord Byron, A.A Milne (creator of Winnie the Pooh), and Sir Isaac Newton among its Cantabrigians.
Where to Eat and Drink around Round Church Street
There are some great places to choose from when it comes to eating and drinking options around Round Church Street. and the area is home to a couple of my favorite pubs in the city.
1. The Baron of Beef: If you’re looking for a traditional pub a few steps from Round Church then had along to The Baron of Beef. With a location close to the river, a pleasant beer garden, and occasional live sport and music, this is a great place to grab a pint and a bite of homely pub grub. A great option for Sunday lunch.
2. The Pickerel: The Pickerel is one of Cambridge’s most iconic pubs and is thought to be the oldest in the city. The menu includes classic British dishes such as fish and chips and pie and mash, as well as a selection of succulent meat and meat-free burgers. Perfectly located overlooking the river.
3. Cote Cambridge: Cote is a brasserie located just a short walk from the Round Church that offers up classic French dishes from coq au vin to beef bourguignon (two of my favorites) alongside an excellent wine list. It’s a great place for couples to spend a romantic evening.
Central Cambridge: Best Area in Cambridge for Nightlife
If you’re looking for where to stay in Cambridge for nightlife then the city center is certainly the best place to be. With so many excellent restaurants, bars, and clubs around the center, as well as the top tourist sights, this is one of the best areas to stay in Cambridge.
This is a lively area with plenty to keep you occupied day and night and is one of my favorite parts of the city. Some of the popular nightspots include the Bar-OH cocktail bar and the Brewdog Taproom which is my go-to as I love a pint of Punk IPA or two (or three…).
One thing’s for sure, you won’t be bored for a second as there’s always plenty going on in the center of town. This is definitely the best place to stay in Cambridge for nightlife and for those looking for a lively experience.
Best Places to Stay in Central Cambridge
Discover where to stay in Cambridge city center with the below hotel options:
1. Gonville Hotel: This four-star hotel is one of the best places to stay in Cambridge center and has comfortable and modern rooms with free WiFi, flatscreen TV, and an en-suite bathroom with toiletries. The onsite Terrace restaurant serves continental and cooked breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
2. University Arms Hotel: The University Arms is an upmarket hotel overlooking a courtyard and the historic Regent Street. Rooms come with free WiFi, and en-suite bathrooms, and some rooms feature a balcony. There’s also an onsite gym.
3. Hilton Cambridge City Center: The Hilton is one of the top Cambridge hotels near nightlife and is located in the heart of the city a short walk from all the top pubs, bars, and clubs. The stylish and contemporary rooms come with Sattelite TV, free WiFi, and complimentary toiletries.
5 Top Things To Do in Central Cambridge
The center is packed with fun and interesting things to do from some of the top museums in the country to the charming market square and city colleges.
1. Take a City and University Tour: One of the best ways to get orientated and see the best the city has to offer is to take a tour of the city and University. Visit iconic landmarks such as the cathedral, the oldest church in the city, the historic King’s College, and the laboratory that’s produced multiple Nobel winners.
2. Visit Market Square: The Market Square is the central point of Cambridge and is a great place for shopping, eating, and drinking. I love browsing the market stalls here for clothes, curios, souvenirs, and local produce. There are lots of great cafes and restaurants around the square serving everything from burgers, halloumi, and gyros to Belgian waffles.
3. Walking and Punting Tour: If you want to see some of the most picturesque parts of Cambridge including the colleges and the famous “Backs” then taking a combined walking and punting tour is a great option. Learn about the city’s fascinating history with Cambridge alumni who step in as tour guides.
4. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: This excellent museum is one of the highlights of any trip to Cambridge for me and houses one of the best collections in the country. With exhibits from pre-history to antiquity and the modern day, this is one of the most interesting places for lovers of history. Be sure to check out the Egyptian and Roman floors.
5. Take in a Show at the Corn Exchange: The Corn Exchange is one of Cambridge’s most historic music and arts venues and I’ve watched many bands play here over the years. Check the website to see what’s on during your visit. The Exchange hosts everything from comedy nights to plays, operas, live acts from around the world, and more.
Where to Eat and Drink in Central Cambridge
You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to eating and drinking in the town center which is why it’s the best place to stay in Cambridge if you want to experience the best restaurants, bars, and pubs.
1. Honest Burgers: If you’re looking for the best burger in Cambridge then give Honest Burgers a try. The folks here have been perfecting their craft for over 10 years and the burgers are made from 100% British ingredients. They’re some of the tastiest I’ve ever tried (and I’m not really a burger guy so that’s a huge compliment). Located in Market Square in the heart of Cambridge.
2. BrewDog Cambridge: The BrewDog craft beer bar and restaurant is one of my top places to go in Cambridge as it serves one of my favorite beers, Punk IPA, on tap. BrewDog has some great offers on food such as 2-4-1 burgers from Monday to Wednesday and a bottomless brunch at weekends.
3. The Anchor: A cozy riverside venue with a terrace overlooking the banks. Perfect for a romantic evening or afternoon sat by the river with a pint and a good book. The menu features fresh, seasonal home-cooked meals, pub classics, and an excellent Sunday roast. It’s definitely a place with one of the best views in the city.
Romsey Town: Coolest Place to Stay in Cambridge
Romsey Town, which centers around the Mill Road area, is the best neighborhood in Cambridge for foodies, hipsters, and those looking for a change from the more up-market parts of town. The area is the most multicultural in Cambridge and as such, you can expect to find cuisines from around the globe.
There’s a plethora of quirky cafes, (check out Relevant Record Cafe if you’re into vinyl), thrift stores, craft beer spots, and lots of live music to be found in the evenings. Bohmian Romsey is one of my favorite places in Cambridge to have a nose around.
It’s a couple of miles south of the city center but there are plenty of public transport links into town (bus route 2).
Best Places to Stay in Romsey Town
You’ll find a cool selection of places to stay here in the city’s most hip suburbs and one of the best neighborhoods in Cambridge.
1. Citystay Dove House: This one-bedroom apartment in Romsey is one of the best places to stay in Cambridge for couples. It has a private bathroom, kitchen with oven, free toiletries, and WiFi throughout the property. It also offers some great views of the city.
2. Parkview Guest House: This three-star B&B is a great place to stay in Romsey and rooms come with free WiFI, tea and coffee-making facilities, and en-suite bathrooms. Champagne can be served on request and guests benefit from a 15% discount at the local Indian restaurant, the Raj in the city center.
3. Citystay Eagle Yard: This one-bedroom apartment with a living room and fully equipped kitchen benefits from a coffee maker, free toiletries, towels, and bed linen. It offers city views, free WiFi, and a washing machine. It’s within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the station.
3 Top Things To Do in Romsey Town
This is the place to come for second-hand clothes, records, and foods from around the world as well as live music. Check out these top things to do in Romsey Town:
1. Browse the Second Hand (thrift) Stores: There are plenty of second-hand shops along Mill Road where you can find all sorts of bargains. Whether you’re looking for a vintage leather jacket or that old Pink Floyd record you’ve been hunting down, you’re sure to find something of interest.
2. Combine Coffee and Vinyl at Relevant Records: What could possibly be more hipster than a cafe and record store combined? At Relevant Records, you can browse their massive selection of vinyl while sipping coffee (don’t spill any though!). Open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
3. Check Out the Sculptures at Romsey R Sculpture: This community display and arts center on Cavendish Road commemorates the town’s historic ties to the railway and is an interesting stop.
Where to Eat and Drink in Romsey Town
Mill Road and Romsey Town is one of the best areas in Cambridge for foodies and there’s a plethora of restaurants to pick from; from British, Indian, Chinese (my favorite), and more. Below are some of the best places to eat:
1. Tradizioni: If you’re looking for the best pizza in town served in a cozy setting with indoor and outdoor dining then you can’t go wrong with Tradizioni. As well as pizzas, the menu also includes freshly made pasta dishes, salads, and an extensive wine list. They also offer a takeaway service.
2. Spring Restaurant: Who doesn’t love a good Chinese buffet? Especially with some of the cheapest prices in town… This is a traditional Chinese restaurant serving a great selection of Sichuan (spicy) and Cantonese (yummy) dishes. The classic sweet and sour pork is excellent and the best I’ve tasted outside of China itself.
3. Samaan: For a taste of the orient head along to Samaan on Mill Road for the best kebabs, falafel, and shawarma in town. The menu also includes traditional fast food items from burgers to milkshakes.
Newnham: Best for Families
Newnham is a quiet suburb west of the River Cam and one of the posher areas of Cambridge; perfect for families. This safe neighborhood in Cambridge is characterized by leafy streets, lots of open parkland, and riverside walks.
The great thing about this area is that it’s still within a short walking distance from the city center.
Best Places to Stay in Newnham
There are lots of excellent accommodation options around Newnham. Below, you’ll find some excellent choices of places to stay near Cambridge city center:
1. Graduate Cambridge: The Graduate offers large, family rooms, and a restaurant, bar, outside terrace, and a shared lounge. Rooms come with a flat-screen TV and cable, room service, and the option of a full-English or full-Irish breakfast (Irish comes with black and white pudding).
2. Newnham College: Newnham College offers visitors large rooms with private bathrooms set within stunning gardens just a short walk from the city center. Rooms come with seating and a desk for those who wish to work while away, free WiFi, and tea and coffee-making facilities.
3. Pass the Keys: This cozy studio apartment comes with a garden, terrace, and free parking. There’s a kitchen with a fridge, oven, and microwave, and a shower with free toiletries. This is a great option for solo travelers and is located just a couple of miles from the city center.
3 Top Things To Do in Newnham
Although the city center is within walking distance, there are some excellent things to do in Newnham from picnicking in the park and walking along the river to exploring nearby colleges.
1. Museum of Classical Archaeology: I studied archaeology at night school many years ago and as such always hunt down the best collections, excavations, and museums. The Cambridge Museum of Classical Archaeology is one of the best in the country, which is probably unsurprising given that it’s part of the university.
2. Stroll Along the River Cam: The area around the river in Newnham is perfect for walking with lots of parks, woodland, and open grassland. There’s a playground and even an open-air swimming pool here so it’s a great place to bring the kids for some fresh air outside of the city.
3. Take in a Show at the Leys: The Leys performance arts theater is an excellent place for the whole family to enjoy a show. With song and dance performances, theater, pantomime, and comedy nights, there’s sure to be something of interest going on during your visit. See the box office website for tickets.
Where to Eat and Drink in Newnham
There are lots of excellent dining options around Newnham all within easy walking distance. Below are three of the top eateries in the neighborhood:
1. The Millworks Brasserie: If you’re looking for contemporary British cuisine in a beautiful riverside location then the Millworks is a must-try. With informal lunches, brunches, and dinners in a gorgeous setting, and a menu utilizing the freshest of ingredients, this is a great place to come for a relaxed meal.
2. The Red Bull Newnham: The Red Bull is a family-friendly pub that serves a selection of burgers and pizzas. Come in on a Monday and get any two pizzas for a bargain £15 (booking is advised as unsurprisingly this fab deal tends to sell out quickly). The Red Bull also hosts live sporting events throughout the year.
3. Sala Thong: I love a good Thai green (or red) curry and Sala Thong in the heart of Newnham is the best place in Cambridge to savor this classic Asian dish (or choose from a selection of grilled and stir-fried options). A laid-back restaurant with friendly service in charming settings close to the river.
Station: Best Place in Cambridge on a Budget
The area around the station is one of the cheapest places to stay in Cambridge and here you’ll find a selection of hostels and budget hotels. It’s just over a mile (1.6km) from the center so is walkable in around 30 minutes.
There are plenty of buses and taxis if you don’t fancy the walk, however.
Best Places to Stay around the Station
Below, are some of the best places to stay around the station for travelers on a budget:
1. YHA Youth Hostel: For Budget travelers, the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) hostel has dorms and private rooms for great prices. It’s within walking distance of the station and under one mile from the city center so has a prime location. The hostel has a cafe/bar and games room perfect for getting to know other travelers.
2. A and B Guest House: This excellent guest house has rooms at very reasonable rates perfect for those on a budget. All rooms are modern and comfortable and come with a private en-suite bathroom, TV, free WiFi, and tea and coffee-making facilities.
3. Centennial Hotel: This reasonably priced three-star hotel is just five minutes from the station and comes with free parking. All rooms have WiFi, a private bathroom, and free toiletries. The Centennial Restaurant serves full-English breakfasts, lunches, and dinners using fresh, seasonal produce.
5 Top Things To Do around the Station
The station is a 30-minute stroll into the center of town, but there are some things to do nearby such as taking a walk around the botanical or community gardens. It’s also based in the perfect location if you’re looking to take some day trips from Cambridge by train (Norwich, Colchester, and London are all within easy reach from here).
1. Stroll Around the Cambridge University Botanic Garden: The university botanic gardens are well worth a look and are home to a variety of different plant species from around the world. This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and a cool place for families to come.
2. Catch the Latest Blockbuster at the Light: The Light is a multiplex cinema and part of the Cambridge Leisure Center. It shows the latest releases as well as classics and themed movie nights. There’s an onsite bar and cafe, plenty of snacks, (can’t beat popcorn with a movie), and there are special deals for families.
3. Hop on a Train: Take advantage of being so close to the train station and consider a day trip to London, Norwich, Colchester, or to the coast (Frinton-on-Sea is a good option). There are multiple trains an hour to many destinations around the southeast of England.
Where to Eat and Drink around the Station
As you would imagine there are plenty of excellent dining options around the station. Check out these excellent eateries nearby:
1. The Old Ticket Office: Head along to this station-themed pub for a beer, cocktail or bite to eat. The homemade bar snacks are a nice touch, with scotch eggs and sausage rolls (vegetarian options available) and there’s a full menu of pub classics available from 10 am daily.
2. Slingers Smokeworks: Craving some smoked meats, ribs, or other American classics? Then be sure to check out Slingers Smokeworks on Station Road. Located inside an old factory with quirky, industrial settings, this is one of my favorite places in Cambridge for a meal.
3. The Venetian: The Venetian is an Italian bistro, cafe, bakery, delicatessen, and wine shop all in one (so heaven basically!). With a menu of classic Italian dishes from lasagna and pizza to paninis this is the place to come for a taste of the Mediterranean. The prices are great value with pizzas and mains under £10.
FAQs About the Best Areas to Stay in Cambridge
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about where to stay in Cambridge:
The city center is the best area in Cambridge for tourists as this is where all the major sights, landmarks, and dining options are located. Newnham is a short walk from the center and is a great option for families.
Cambridge is a very safe city, in fact, it is one of the safest in the country. Although the city center sees the highest rates of crime, this is relative. North and south Cambridge (so areas like Round Church and Newnham) have considerably lower rates of crime.
The city center is the best place to stay in Cambridge for shopping. The area around Market Square is a good option.
There aren’t any areas of Cambridge that aren’t nice, but the area around the Backs is the most picturesque and charming. With magnificent views of the colleges, wide open spaces, and river views, this is my favorite part of the city.
Cambridge is a small city so a weekend (or better yet, a long weekend) is the perfect amount of time to get the most out of your stay. I usually aim to stay for two or three days.
Cambridge is a pretty posh city overall (with so many Prime Ministers, Scientists, and Philosophers passing through it’s not hard to see why). The poshest area of Cambridge is certainly the university itself (King’s College, Trinity College, and the like).
Cambridge is a very walkable city and almost all of the top attractions from Trinity College to the River Cam, museums, pubs, and restaurants are within walking distance of each other.
Now you know where to stay in Cambridge. Whether you’re looking to be in the heart of the action, seeking budget options, or curious as to where to stay with family, and everything in between. The city center is the best all-around option as you’ll have all the top sights, restaurants, and pubs within easy reach.
I can’t wait for my next trip to Cambridge, (I’m planning it already), and think I’ll give one of the university rooms a try like the ones at Jesus College near the Round church. One thing’s for sure, with so many options, these excellent places to stay in Cambridge will help you get the most out of your trip.