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Cambridge University Students' Union
Old Examination Hall
Free School Lane
Cambridge CB2 3RF
The City of Cambridge
To call Cambridge a city can be a bit misleading: with a total of 110,000 people, 22,000 of whom are students, it's a little on the small side for a city. Cambridge tends to provoke images of King's College chapel, students on bikes and people lazing about in punts on a summer's day. It's easy to see why it is seen like this, but there's much more to Cambridge as a place to live, and it's surprisingly easy to get beyond (as you'll hear the swarms of American tourists say) its "quaintness".
There's loads to Cambridge as a place to live and it's easy to get over its 'quaintness'.
The centre of Cambridge is dominated by the University, and the Colleges and departments are sprawled across it. Geographically, the centre of Cambridge is also fairly small and flat. The easiest way to get around is by bike and you can get from even the most distant College to the city centre and departments within twenty minutes. This makes Cambridge a great place to be a student: everything you could need is packed into a small space, and you'll never have to go far to get anywhere. At least during term-time, the town is the University, if you want it to be.
Cambridge has most of the benefits of being a city, whilst being more laid back in pace and surrounded by countryside. There's a good collection of high street chains both in town and in the Grafton shopping centre, as well as individual shops and a market that runs every day. Cambridge is well catered for in terms of places to eat, too. There are restaurants and cafés abound, many at decent prices with student discounts and happy hours, which are useful when parents come to visit. On top of this, there are plenty of supermarkets and food shops, from Sainsbury's in the centre of town, Tesco and Asda a five minute cycle from the centre, to international shops, where you can buy Asian and African food. Whatever you are looking for, it's likely you'll be able to find it.
There are loads of places to hang out in Cambridge, from traditional pubs to new bars and several night clubs with a variety of music (though if you are a serious clubber, you are likely to be disappointed). In addition, each College has its own bar, a good way to catch up with people and unwind on an evening. Several bars and clubs have live music ranging from jazz to alternative, and there are three cinemas showing mainstream and independent arts films. There is also an Arts Theatre and an amateur dramatic theatre for student productions.
If you miss the big city life, transport routes in and out of Cambridge are pretty good. You can get to London in 45 minutes by train, and Cambridge is well networked by rail. Driving within the city is a nightmare, with little parking and perhaps the most complicated one way system ever, but there are good Park and Ride buses coming in from all directions. The large majority of students don't have cars, parking is extremely limited and you require a University permit to keep a car as a student.