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The best Cambridge study spots that’ll force you to leave your college

Cure your spacenesia with these tried-and-tested head-downers


It’s 7:14pm. It’s Sunday. The rain is pounding against your window. A three day old, ghastly half-eaten chocolate bar withers away beside you. You are engaged in an Oscar Wilde-esque, death-inducing scuffle with your wallpaper. Your motivation is decreasing; your to-do list, by contrast, is doing the opposite. You engage into a symbiotic relationship with your grimy chair. Week five blues have seeped into week six. And I’ve got just the antidote.

Cambridge students are a weird bunch – a fact I am reminded of when I hear the word “infralapsarian” thrown around in the Mainsbury’s queue. So, this list will cover study spaces for everyone: the classics, the wild, the cosy, the loud and the quiet.

Get out there. Don’t rot away in your rooms. You deserve better, queens. Just PLEASE don’t try to read Paradise Lost while abseiling down King’s College Chapel – I don’t think that’s quite what King Henry VI had in mind when he intended the Chapel to be a site of “learning”.

1. Architecture and History of Art Library

Zzzzz….

A delightful example of a Georgian townhouse, pleasingly appropriate given its department, this library is the undisputed champion of how a *cosy* study space should be. It is conveniently central, yet somewhat “distant” from the bustle of the centre – which makes it a perfect place to resort to when you’re feeling slightly trapped within our little old Cambridge bubble.

What is more, the rooms are adorned with plants and other home furnishings – all of which induce the comforts of a living room in an academically accessible environment. So, if you’re ever overcome with a sense of longing for a homely environment, it’s a delightful option. Oh, and it’s warm. Like, toasty. Reallll toasty. Not quite sleep-inducing, but nourishing.

Where? 1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge, CB2 1PX

Where? 1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge, CB2 1PX

Access? A University Card is required.

Size? Small/medium. Sometimes, spaces are not available. However, you can usually find one knocking about even in the afternoons.

Volume? Quiet.

2. The Botanic Gardens

Just beware of the badgers…

No, Romantics of Cambridge, I wasn’t going to leave you aside. If there was a competition titled “best study spot to satisfy the insatiable desires of al fresco fanatics”, there would only be one winner. Sadly, there isn’t, but you get the picture. The Botanic Gardens is, quite simply, representative of the tireless efforts of both professional and student gardeners. That much is clear: from the seamlessness of the natural habitats to the elaboration of the water fountains, they almost force you to lose yourself in the delightful chasm of the natural world.

As for the study spots on offer, it’s amply provided with pond-side benches and picnic tables to make studying feasible. Again, cafe enjoyers are in luck: Its cafe offers a well-balanced range of indoor and outdoor seating, as well as an array of sustenance options. Unleash your inner nomad!

Where? 1 Brookside, Cambridge, CB2 1JE.

Opening hours? Monday-Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Access? Free access upon presentation of a University Card.

Size? Unthinkably large. You’ll always be able to plonk yourself down.

Volume? The gardens are quiet, but the cafe is, of course, somewhat loud.

3. The Locker

Yes, I know I need new jeans.

Wafts of freshly-ground coffee. Friendly staff. Modern art. Calming music. Plug sockets. Free WiFi. Moreish pastries. It’s almost as if The Locker is secretly owned and maintained by the university itself. I was surprised to discover that it isn’t listed on Spacefinder (an excellent resource, by the way). Although it has a well-justified “laptops upstairs only” policy, there’s plenty of room to go round up there.

The second floor is a material pick-me-up. Its chic ambience is very conducive to smashing your reading list into smithereens. The lighting sets the tone well. The artworks, unlike the portraits in the Haddon, endow it with a homely character akin to the AHA’s. In the corner, there’s a quaint little cushioned seat, which is best enjoyed while using your laptop in its intended position.

It even has a sizeable exterior roof terrace seating area, which is a splendid place to soak up the sun’s warmth. However, being England, the opportunities to do so are pretty fleeting. Nevertheless, it’s one not to be missed by those partial to a bit of al fresco action.

Where? 54 King St, Cambridge, CB1 1LN.

Opening hours? Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm. Saturday 9:30am to 5:30pm. It is worth noting that, on weekends, laptops are banned entirely.

Access? Public.

Size? Small, largely due to the ‘laptops upstairs’ policy.

Volume? Mainly medium, but it is quiet in the mornings and the late afternoons.

4. The Fitzwilliam Museum

Yet more validation…

Ever the love child of the Haddon and the AHA, the Fitzwilliam needs no introduction. It is alive. What better way to deal with your mid-week essay crisis than to do so while staring lounging with your laptop under a work of Monet? While the Fitz is, of course, brimming with other spectators, it does have beanbags and soft benches that function well as makeshift study spots.

When taking a well-earned break from your bench-turned-study spot, it also brings the benefit of feeling as if you’re continuing to stimulate yourself intellectually. So, maybe, just maybe, taking a break can be entirely guilt-free. Cheers, artistic minds of the past!

The objects on display, moreover, cater to all – from 16th-century Italian portraits to Ancient Greek ceramics, the Fitz is as comprehensive as it gets. Conveniently, there’s also a cafe – the Courtyard Kitchen – which offers reasonably priced food, drinks and sweet treats. You can even study there, too. It’s ever so accommodating.

Where? Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RB.

Opening hours? Tues-Sat 10am to 5pm. Sundays and Bank Holidays 12pm to 5pm.

Access? Public.

Size? Medium – some of the corridors vary in size. The benches and bean bags are sought after, too.

Volume? Fairly loud, typically.

5. The Haddon Library

A true cradle of knowledge.

The Haddon shines in its attempt to epitomise what a Cambridge library looks like, no doubt, in the mind of any prospective first-time tourist. Superfluous, imposing windows? Check. Portraits of dead men? Check. Painstakingly detailed wooden galleries that wouldn’t look out of place at the end of a college hall? Busts? I needn’t answer further. This one eternally dishes out Camvalidation.

A supplementary feature of this antiquity supplier is its layout. Its shelves are arranged in such a way that it’s practically impossible to procrastinate (if you’re not me, that is): they provide the perfect blend of seclusion and airiness that the UL’s Main Reading Room could only dream of.

It’s also located next door to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which is worth a sample. Its exhibitions are second to none. If you’re in need of a break, but don’t want to end your intellectual stimulation, you’re in luck.

Where? Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ.

Opening hours? During Term, Monday-Friday 8:45am to 5:15pm. During Vacations, Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm.

Access? No University Card is required, but not public.

Size? Medium. A seat is usually available, but you’ll rarely have a table to yourself.

Volume? Silent.

6. Cafe Nero

When in Cambridge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You knew it was coming. Now, before you protest and hit me with a barrage of insults, I will maintain that the classics are classics for a reason.

While being perhaps the most obvious cafe study space on this list, that doesn’t render it unworthy of a mention. Located in the beating heart of our city and university, the vibrancy and dynamism of the city centre is the principal attractive factor of good old Nero.

With outdoor seating with a view that is unparalleled (courtesy of King’s College), and indoor seating that offers a nice portion of seclusion, Nero will remain triumphant. The only war you’ll need to wage, however, is against the swathes of tourists who, understandably, adore Nero’s convenient location.

Where? 17 King’s Parade, Cambridge CB2 1SP.

Opening hours? Monday-Friday 7am to 8pm. Saturday and Sunday 7:30am to 8pm.

Access? Public.

Size? Small. Get in while you can.

Volume? At lunchtime and in the afternoon, quite loud; otherwise, medium to low volume.

7. West Hub Library

I. will. not. develop. back. problems. in. my. twenties.

I imagine you’re scratching your head at this inclusion. Hear me out, okay? Whub’s in need of some love; I’m here to extend that call into the wonderful world of Tabland. Seriously, though, the West Hub Library is, in one word, uplifting. It’s airy, modern, trendy. It’s filled with an exorbitant amount of natural light; if you’ve been cramped in the corner of your room with the blinds closed in an effort to escape the wrath of the winter season, that will no doubt be well-received by your vitamin-D-deprived body.

On the topic of self-improvement, its seating arrangement is markedly anti-hunchback: if you, like me, have the burden of the long spine, Whub’s tall tables and chairs are an excellent option. On the other hand, if you just want to kick back and relax (causing our chances of chronic back pain in 10 years’ time to rise drastically), Whub’s Library has an array of lower seating as well.

The quality of the muffins in the Canteen may or may not have influenced the above praise.

Where? JJ Thomson Ave, Cambridge CB3 0US.

Opening hours? Monday-Friday 8am to 9pm.

Access? Public.

Size? Medium. A space is invariably available.

Volume? Quiet.