where should I live in Cambridge, UK?
January 15, 2015 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to try to find a place to live in Cambridge, England. What neighbourhoods would be a good fit for me?

Logistical details:
  • 6 month term
  • prefer a room in a shared house
  • working on the west side of the University, commuting by bicycle
  • prefer a commute between 10 and 40 minutes in length
  • willing to pay up to around 600 pounds/month total for a room, although I prefer less
Me and my preferences:
  • late 20s, female, queer
  • like fancy beer and little coffee shops
  • get cranky around huge crowds of drunk young people
  • enjoy not having my bicycle stolen
I'm coming from an American university town (specifically Madison, WI) and we have a pretty clearly delineated hip-young-non-undergrad queer-leaning district. Is there such an animal in Cambridge? Is there a neighbourhood that has a lot of these attributes?

Alternately, did (or do!) you live somewhere in Cambridge that you really love?
posted by yomimono to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hi - Cambridge native here. For a start Cambridge is actually really small so wherever you live you're not that far from any other place in Cambridge. There are plenty of coffee shops and pubs everywhere.

I would avoid anywhere near Newmarket Rd to the west a that is quite an unattractive area.

I used to live just to the north of Midsummer Common and there are some affordable places up there, while still being very central. Be careful of the cows on Midsummer Common though, they can rush you. No joke.

The north east just beyond the backs (Madingley Rd area) is full of very large desirable houses where the rich people live and you'd be lucky to get somewhere there but you might be OK for price if the house is big enough and there are enough people sharing.

Mill Rd is a good area to look - again full of large houses that might be cheap if you can get a large enough house share.

You might want to think about the newly developed Hills Rd area, which is near the station but a bit remote from the centre. It's full of new builds - boxy flats.

Long Rd and the road towards Trumpington are full of big houses and you might find lodging there but again it will feel a bit remote.

AFAIK there is no gay area in Cambridge (it's too small for that really) but I have a lot of gay friends that used to live there and it was always very tolerant and gay friendly. There used to be gay pubs/bars and I'm sure there still are but I'm not sure where they are.

As for non-undergrad, that's pretty much the whole city. Because the colleges have such a lot of on-site accommodation, and again because the town is so small, there isn't really a feeling that one area is for students and another for normal people.

Hope this helps.
posted by Summer at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved living in the Mill Road/Romsey Town area of Cambridge. Probably one of the younger neighbourhoods and a little grotty in places (but grotty in in interesting way!). It's got some of the better ethnic shops and a very nice small-town vibe to it.

I think you can cycle commute pretty much anywhere in Cambridge in 40 minutes.

You will get your bike stolen sooner or later - just buy a solid lock and get used to the idea.
posted by kadia_a at 12:37 PM on January 15, 2015

Yep - Mill Road/Romsey is your best bet. I lived there for three years and still miss the range of independent food, small shops, Korean supermarket, etc.
posted by terretu at 12:49 PM on January 15, 2015

The Kite is a still a good place to be, even though they knocked bits of it down in the 80s. It's fairly central, but still has a real local community feel to it.

There wasn't a particular "queer/hip" area of Cambridge when I was there - it's too small really - down Mill Road was definitely the funkier / quirkier end of town if that's what you're after though.
posted by pharm at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with all the people who've mentioned Mill Road/Romsey Town. We've been here for two years now, and getting a place in the Mill Road area was one of the best choices we could have made! It's definitely made living here more fun and convenient than it could otherwise have been.

This is where all the good Asian and other international shops are, and there are plenty of nice cafes and local stores of all sorts. There are pubs that do live music (blues and Irish, though not on the same night), and the best place in town for good beer is The Cambridge Blue right off Mill on Gwydir St. (Most local pubs have pretty crap beer, if you're used to microbrews. Sorry, England.)

Like others have said, Cambridge is small and eminently bikeable, so pretty much anywhere is convenient. (As a data point it takes me about 20 minutes to where the University Library is from where we live, and maybe 30 to the West Cambridge site - but I'm a slow cyclist.) Despite that, a point in favor of Mill Road is that a lot of the area is close to the train station, which is nice for day trips to London!

I haven't noticed anywhere being particularly more queer friendly than other places - as a lesbian couple we've never had any problems anywhere in town. (Though being half of a married lesbian couple I also don't know where all the cool queers hang out...)

£600 for a room should definitely be doable - I know people who're doing it for £400, but it depends on how low your standards are.

As for your bike - if you can't keep it inside, get a good lock and a cheap bike, and hope the thieves will go for an easier and more lucrative target. I don't think there's anywhere in town that is safe - I've known people to have their bikes stolen from locked bike parking areas at work as well as from outside a church, so...

I'd be happy to try and answer any other questions you may have about Cambridge living - just drop me a MeMail!
posted by harujion at 3:02 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ex-pat Cambridge landlord here, though my house is taken. Cambridge is tiny, and nice and not-so nice areas are quite close together so disregard blanket snark about e.g. the Newmarket Road area. Get a decent street map and use Google street view to get an idea of what streets are like.

Bike theft happens, just have a decent lock and a cheap bike and don't be surprised if you have to replace them.

Mill Rd is a nice area though some of the terraced houses can be small.

The centre of town can be full of drunken youths at weekends apart from that it is generally safe and quiet, and dare I say it, a bit boring.

You don't say whether you are attached to the University or not. If you are, they have an accomodation bureau and there are various internal bulletin boards for house-shares.
posted by epo at 3:50 AM on January 16, 2015

As another Cambridge resident, I agree with the above suggestion to look at the Mill Road area. If you like fancy beer and little coffee shops, it is pretty much ideal (particularly the part near the bridge, which is fancy beer central). If you don't like crowds of drunk people I'd avoid Mill Road itself and look at the side roads - I lived on Gwydir Street for a while and that was great, although south of the bridge is usually cheaper.

You can get anywhere in the city within 40 minutes on a bike, but I'd avoid some of the further out areas (e.g. Abbey, King's Hedges) as they can be a bit lifeless.
posted by gnimmel at 5:33 AM on January 16, 2015

You can get anywhere in the city within 40 minutes on a bike, but I'd avoid some of the further out areas (e.g. Abbey, King's Hedges) as they can be a bit lifeless.

Yeah, I used to live out in Histon for a while, which was fairly convenient for cycling to the science park for work, but otherwise dead as the proverbial doornail.
posted by pharm at 4:16 AM on January 17, 2015

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