Cambridge doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the world for its nightlife, but despite this there are plenty of decent places to unwind and go out. Colleges all have their own bars and ents, and there are loads of good pubs, bars and clubs in the town.
College bars are really popular, and a great place to meet up with your friends and have a couple of drinks. At student prices, they’re cheap and a good way to start your evening, with the added bonus of being only a couple of minutes from your room. Some College bars are run by students (Sidney Sussex), and others use professional companies (ours), but all are well stocked and designed with student needs in mind – you’ll often be able to pick up some quick food, too. Our bar makes lovely toasties and waffles, so you can get a light dinner if you miss the Buttery opening hours. The College bars aren’t alco-centric, either. You can quite happily go to the bar every evening without feeling any pressure to opt for alcohol – many people discover a love of borrowing the bar’s Scrabble or Monopoly games!
Occurring twice termly, John’s Ents aims to bring into the Fisher Building and Boiler Room the best acts available in Cambridge for your enjoyment only. The ludicrously cheap alcohol and often as ludicrous fancy dress themes cannot fail to put you in the mood for a good night! The Fisher Building has two rooms of live DJs, while the Boiler Room provides a more “intimate” (read: “sweaty”) environment for alternative music ents.
One of the highlights of the year, often recalled through the haze of May Week, is the June Ent. Often doubling its normal capacity and engulfing the whole of River Court, the June Ent is a lavish and sumptuous appetiser to the May Ball.“Providing free food, cheap cocktails and visual treats – this year’s “LIFE’S A BEACH!” themed Ent brought a jazz band, silent disco, DJs, inflatables, BBQ, ice cream, candy floss, popcorn and loads more just next to Cripps!” This event is one on the calendar that cannot be missed! Alongside this, there are ents at almost every other College which you can go to. Queens’ do very popular weekly ents, but you need to get there early to guarantee entry. Emma bar extension is guaranteed to be cheap and cheerful and Clare Cellars is awesome too. The Cellars host the most diverse range of ents and open mic nights in Cambridge, such as stand-up comedy and jazz bands.
Whether you prefer cheesey snog/song fests or edgy indie nights, it’s nice to get out of College sometimes! Here’s the JCR’s low-down on the clubs that Cambridge has to offer:
Fez (between Superdrug and Sainsbury’s)
Best nights: Monday, Thursday, Sunday
Fez has an amusing Arabian-nights style interior (watch out for the giant mirror!). The student nights plays funk, soul, 60s, indie and are very fun, and other nights include drum ‘n’ bass and proper dance and Hed-Kandi nights as well. Entry is never too expensive, but the drinks aren’t the cheapest – although they do sometimes have 2 for 1 cocktails before 10:30 and shots are £1 on Sunday.
Ballare (AKA Cindies) (behind the Lion Yard)
Best nights: Tuesday (Jellybaby) and Wednesday (Rumboogie)
A Cambridge institution. You will hear this club called Cindies most of the time – not because of any pink imitation Barbie decor, but because this is its old name. Refurbished a few years ago, it’s still an amusingly cheesy den of vice, famous for cheap pulls and very sweaty dancing. And yet some people still spend 2 hours on a busy night queuing to get in. NOT to be missed!
The Place (AKA Life) (next to Waterstone’s)
Best nights: Sunday, Thursday
Previously called Life, the requests and shout outs never stop and the pulling levels are ridiculously high here. The central dance floor is big but usually packed to the point where movement is impossible as the club fills up very fast – queues are normally massive, so get there early.
Lola Lo’s (next to the Corn Exchange)
Best nights: Thursday, Sunday
Recently opened, Lola Lo’s has a tropical theme, from the tiki tables to the cocktail menu. It is air-conditioned and is less cheesy and, more importantly, less sweaty than Cambridge’s other venues. Laid out on 3 floors it offers the opportunity to spend all night dancing, chill out or try a couple of tasty cocktails.
Vodka Revs (On Downing Street, opposite John Lewis)
Revs is a bar downstairs, and a two-storey club room upstairs. It offers a more relaxed atmosphere than most of the clubs, with lots of seating, while retaining a busy dance floor. You can get cocktails and paddles of their signature flavoured shots for a discount with a Revs Card – on offer during the CUSU Freshers’ Fair. This year they’re starting a new student night on Tuesdays so might be worth a look if you’re bored of Cindies.
The Junction (near the Station)
Best nights: Friday, Saturday
Ready for this? The Junction is about 20 minutes walk away. While you probably won’t die on the way, as Varsity used to say, most Cambridge students (other than Homertonians who, for once, find something useful nearby) find this distance unacceptable and don’t go. However they are missing out because the Junction is actually one of the premier music venues outside London. Seriously. Many of the country’s top DJs plied their trade here before becoming more famous and moving to clubs in the capital. They regularly return for homecoming sets (check out their events online). Door fees are higher than average, reflecting the quality. Remember that NUS card for a discount!
From serious drama to improvised comedy, new writing to Shakespeare, there’s a huge variety of things to see. The ADC Theatre on Park Street is the students’ own theatre. The standard of the theatre is really high, and there are shows on every night, with both a main show and late show each week as well as one-night shows. Going to see one of your friends if they get into a show is always good fun. Lots of colleges have their own venues: Queens’, Corpus Playroom and Robinson Brickhouse are good examples. The Cambridge Arts Theatre (just off Market Square) puts on professional touring productions and concerts, whilst the Corn Exchange has big West End musicals, comedians, the occasional band, and various other tours.
As with theatre, Cambridge is rich in cinema. The Vue at the Grafton Centre provides all the usual popcorn-munching blockbuster fare for those who like their cinema mainstream. As does the multiplex next to the Junction on Hills Road.
It is the wealth of art cinema that is really noteworthy, however – The Arts Picturehouse (above the Wetherspoon’s, allegedly the biggest pub in Europe!) shows new world and independent cinema as well as classics from the archives. They have various film festivals which tour there as well – have a look at their website for details of what’s on at the moment. What’s more, College film societies provide massive variety. John’s Films is the most popular (of course!), showing films on Thursdays and Sundays in the Fisher Building.
Robinson, Corpus, Christ’s, Trinity and the Cambridge Union also have flourishing film societies. The societies can, and do, show anything from recent Hollywood releases to 60s classics, with the odd example of black and white art house craziness thrown in for good measure.
Cambridge is justifiably famous for classical music of every kind. You can go and hear world-famous choirs at Evensong, join or watch one of the many student orchestras, go to lunchtime recitals and hear chamber groups play at many Colleges. Varsity and The Cambridge Student carry listings of these events.
For those who prefer their music guitar and drum-filled, the Junction and the Corn Exchange host the UK’s biggest acts (Bloc Party, Dizzee Rascal, Pigeon Detectives and Kate Nash have played here recently), while the Graduate pub is Cambridge’s Barfly, where you can check out the best up-and-coming talent (Robots in Disguise, Lightspeed Champion and Yo Yo Yo Litvenenko have been to Cambridge recently). Cambridge Indie Soc is worth joining for all the latest gig details and discounted entry.
All in all, there is loads of stuff to do in your time at Cambridge. Whilst College life is fun, it is essential to go and relax outside John’s from time to time, so get your friends together and have a good night out!