Area Guide: Cambridge
Everything you need to know about living in Cambridge
Much of Cambridge’s detailed history is around its world-famous university, but there’s much more to this great English city than education, education, education. In this Cambridge guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the city, where to live and how much it costs to buy a property. We’ll also highlight the city’s best schools, pubs and restaurants, and showcase the area’s superb transport links.
Where is Cambridge?
Cambridge sits on the River Cam in the east of England, just over 50 miles north of London and 95 miles east of Birmingham. Located in the county of Cambridgeshire, Cambridge is west of Suffolk and Norfolk, with Essex to the south east and Bedfordshire to the west.
Is Cambridge a city or a town?
Cambridge is the county town of Cambridgeshire and was granted city status in 1951. Despite not having a cathedral, Cambridge was made a city due to its rich history and contribution to the UK economy.
Is Cambridge a good place to live?
Cambridge is frequently named among the best UK towns and cities to live.
With great employment opportunities, superb transport links and beautiful countryside right on the doorstep, it’s easy to see why Cambridge’s popularity with property hunters continues to soar.
Where to live in Cambridge
As well as the city itself, Cambridge is surrounded by a host of stunning towns and villages popular with house hunters and renters.
Chesterton is north east of the city centre and close to the north bank of the River Cam. Close to the city’s science and business parks, dubbed Silicon Fen, Chesterton is hugely popular with family buyers and renters and is home to some of Cambridge’s best schools.
A short distance from the city centre to the south west, Newnham is home to several Cambridge University colleges. The area has a lovely village feel, despite its close proximity to the city centre and is considered one of Cambridge’s most affluent suburbs.
The Mill Road area is south east of the city centre, close to Cambridge station. That makes it a popular area for commuters, while families flock here for some excellent schools and quaint period properties.
Mill Road also contains a great mix of independent pubs, restaurants, cafés and shops which gives the area a very cosmopolitan feel.
Located around two miles south west of Cambridge, near the River Cam and the M11 motorway, Grantchester provides buyers and renters with a real taste of village life close to the city. The village was also the focal point of the ITV series ‘Grantchester’, starring James Norton and Robson Green.
Property for sale in Cambridge: What you’ll find
Despite rapid growth in the 19th century, Cambridge has retained its property heritage and is home to some of the best period homes in the UK. If you’re searching for a property from the Victorian era, look in areas like De Freville Avenue, which has large detached and semi-detached homes and period townhouses.
In the Mill Road area, you’ll find rows of Victorian terraces close to the train station, while Chesterton offers a rich mix of period homes, more modern family homes and some apartments on the River Cam.
Grantchester, meanwhile, offers thatched cottages, among sprawling pre- and post-war houses with plenty of space.
Is Cambridge expensive?
According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Cambridge is 13% less expensive than London, with rents in the city 37% cheaper than in the capital.
Property prices in Cambridge
The average price of a property in Cambridge in the year to July 2021 was £378,596 according to Dataloft Inform – a rise of 6% on July 2020.
Average costs by property type in Cambridge
• Detached house: £506,742
• Semi-detached house: £356,218
• Terraced house: £318,343
• Flat / apartment: £233,033
How much you’ll pay in council tax
A Band A property in Cambridge will cost you just over £1,200* a year in council tax.
Common Band C and D properties, meanwhile, cost between £1,600* and £1,900* per year, while the most expensive Band H homes cost just under £4,000*.
*For year April 2021 to March 2022. Prices from cambridge.gov.uk
Property to rent in Cambridge
Rental properties available in Cambridge range from the period homes the city is best known for, to more modern, post-war houses and new riverside apartments.
Rental prices in Cambridge
The average monthly rent for a property in Cambridge was £1,039* in July 2021. Buy-to-let investors, meanwhile, can expect yields of between 3% and 5% from rental properties in Cambridge and its suburbs.
*Prices from Dataloft Inform July 2021
Cambridge transport links
Cambridge offers excellent transport links across the UK and beyond, thanks to its rail services and superb road network.
Cambridge rail links: Cambridge is a popular city for London commuters, with services from the city to King’s Cross taking just 50 minutes. Direct services to Liverpool Street and London Bridge are also available.
Cambridge road links: The M11 motorway offers drivers a straightforward route into London, with journeys taking around 90 minutes. The A14 and A1(M), meanwhile, runs north to Peterborough, while the A14 also links with the M6 for access to Birmingham.
Cambridge airport links: London Stansted is 30 miles south of Cambridge and offers flights to a host of international destinations.
Schools in Cambridge
Cambridge is, of course, best known across the world for its prestigious university. But the city is also home to a huge number of superb primary and secondary schools. The city’s ‘Outstanding’-rated primary schools include:
• St Alban’s Catholic Primary School
• The Spinney Primary School
• University of Cambridge Primary School
• Coton Church of England Primary School
• Histon and Impington Junior School
‘Good’ schools in the city, meanwhile, include:
• St Matthew’s Primary School
• Park Street CofE Primary School
• Newnham Croft Primary School
• Ridgefield Primary School
• Milton Road Primary School
• Morley Memorial Primary School
There are also three ‘Outstanding’ secondary schools within five miles of the city centre:
• Parkside Community College
• Chesterton Community College
• St Bede's Inter-Church School
Is Cambridge university expensive?
The University of Cambridge was ranked the 30th most affordable university out of 35 English higher education institutions in the most recent NatWest Student Living Index. Tuition fees at the university, meanwhile, are among the most expensive in the UK, with only Oxford University’s fees being higher.
Cambridge’s best restaurants and pubs
Cambridge is home to a multitude of superb restaurants and pubs, meaning you’ll never be short of somewhere to grab a cold drink or something to tantalise your tastebuds…
Five of the best pubs
Cambridge may be a small city, but it still boasts more than 100 pubs. Here are five of the best…
1. The Free Press - A popular haunt for more than 100 years, The Free Press is still going strong. A former printing press building, the pub serves a wide range of drinks and home-cooked food, while also remaining true to its heritage by displaying past front pages on its walls.
2. The Eagle - One of Cambridge’s best-known pubs, The Eagle’s dark wood interior and homely feel mean it has stood the test of time to remain hugely popular. A traditional pub experience awaits you.
3. The Flying Pig - A lively nightspot with live music and a frequently rotated real ale menu, The Flying Pig also has a large pub garden which adds to its vast appeal with both locals and visitors.
4. The Cambridge Blue - The Cambridge Blue’s big selling point is its vast array of real ales from across the globe. Expect to find draught beer from Holland, Belgium and America, as well as more local brews.
5. The Mill - Located on the banks of the River Cam, there’s arguably no better place to enjoy a drink when the sun is shining. Drinkers can choose to sup their beverages on the lawns and bridge next to the pub, watching the punters drift by on the Mill Pond.
Five of the best restaurants
Cambridge really does have something for everyone when it comes to restaurants, from Michelin Star fine dining to bustling city centre eateries…
1. Midsummer House - Cambridge’s most famous restaurant, Midsummer House is the proud owner of two Michelin Stars. It’s not cheap, with the evening tasting menu costing upwards of £200, but price is what you pay, and value is what you get when it comes to Midsummer House’s incredible French-inspired dishes.
2. The Old Bicycle Shop - The name gives it away, but before it was a restaurant, The Old Bicycle Shop was Britain’s oldest bike shop. Now it’s one of Cambridge’s most popular restaurants, with a particular focus on vegan and vegetarian dishes.
3. The Oak Bistro - Located in the heart of the city, The Oak Bistro serves big food with big flavour. Expect to find hefty meat dishes like beef, duck and halibut and other classic dishes done superbly.
4. The Garden Room - Surroundings are just as important as menus when it comes to great restaurants and there are few prettier places to eat than The Garden Room at the Tamburlaine Hotel. The Garden Room remains true to its Victorian heritage, and afternoon tea or cocktails here are a true delight.
5. Trinity - Named after the famous Cambridge college, Trinity is best known for its oyster and Champagne combinations. If seafood isn’t your thing, though, fear not – duck, pork belly and rabbit are all present, alongside a host of vegetarian delights.
Things to do in Cambridge
Cambridge is steeped in history and the city offers visitors and new residents a wide variety of things to do. The Botanic Gardens offers more than 40 acres of green space to enjoy, including a vast woodland that makes it hard to believe you’re still in a city.
The River Cam, meanwhile, provides more outdoor space to enjoy, whether it’s a walk along the banks or a traditional punt downstream.
The best way to tour Cambridge on dry land is on two wheels and the city is brilliantly set up for cyclists. Of course, Cambridge is best known for its university and a tour behind the scenes of the famous educational establishment reveals its history from its creation 1209 to the present day.
Sport lovers should take in a match at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium home, or if you prefer something a little more tranquil, watch Cambridge University rowing team train on the River Cam.
Finally, Cambridge is something of a shopper’s paradise, with the Grand Arcade housing more than 60 top retail brands, including John Lewis. The Grafton, meanwhile, also boasts more than 60 shops, as well as a multi-screen cinema, while All Saints Craft Market and the independent, boutique stores of Bridge Street and Magdalene Street are great to explore.