Anywhere but the library: Places to work in Cambridge

Katherine Whitfield 8 October 2017

Understandably, Cambridge has many a space specifically engineered for work: college libraries, subject libraries, the phallic monstrosity that is the UL. Take your pick. However, it’s easy to develop a Stockholm style relationship under their grasp. On the one hand, they are comforting and aesthetically pleasing (self-selecting books that work well with your carefully curated room interior will only get you so far throughout the year); on the other, they can be panic inducing and even the soothing tunes of your chosen playlist can’t drown out the persistent hum of impending essay deadline doom that lingers in the air.

If you need to spice up the scene alongside the helping hands of caffeine or the warming comfort of tea, these are some good options:

Café Nero

Sadly unoriginal but the coffee does the job, the Cloud Wi-Fi is free, unlimited and more reliable than eduroam and Nero dominates at least three retail spots in Cambridge so you don’t have to feel guilty about setting up camp. Get yourself a loyalty card so every 9th coffee is free, or abuse the Fresher’s offer on UNIDAYS: make multiple email accounts and you can drink coffee for weeks without paying a penny. Once you run out of MSN-era inspired email addresses and you’re cheeky, broke or both, you can skulk upstairs in the Nero next to TKMaxx, nestle into the reclusive armchairs or corner table spots hidden from view and work for hours without purchasing a drink at all. Can currently confirm that whilst writing this there are at least 5 people including myself doing exactly that. There is also a Nero on King’s Parade that is often heaving but has nice relatively quiet workspaces in the back, and near the Grafton centre if you fancy a jaunt.

Hot Numbers

With two Hot Numbers in Cambridge, you’ve got a nice selection. Closer to the centre, the first is a perfect quick break for HoA students (just opposite the faculty buildings) and it’s nice combined with a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum- the Moore sculpture in the grounds outside is only there till the end of 2017 so make a trip before it leaves! Measured by ounces, their speciality coffee is ethically sourced, roasted on site and always looks pretty: the 8oz option is perfect for milky but strong. This is more tailored to a relaxed reading session than hardcore squatting: Wi-Fi is limited to 30 minutes before you need to start paying up and polite notices nudge you to the shared work bench (however lovely it is) rather than hogging the independent tables. The courtyard is lovely in the sunshine and sheltered from the Siberian winds.

Alternatively, take time to cycle in to the beautiful more relaxed residential areas of Cambridge and visit Hot Numbers numero 2 just off Gwydir Street, Mill Road. The same great coffee, a selection of seating – more comfortable seating at that – and a great selection of live music, charity events and art exhibitions in the evenings. Check their website for timetables here.


Affordable, comforting and mugs as big as your head, Indigo is bang on central and sits just off King’s Parade yet somehow avoids the city-centre mania. They have a big selection of great homemade food on offer – the daily soup options are always lovely- and it’s good value. There isn’t much seating, but the spots available are comfy and private. Another great option for some reading outside the confines of a library, though no Wi-Fi: download e-books and articles before you arrive and you could quite easily settle in for a good few hours hidden away upstairs in the window seat. Also, a note before you arrive: they don’t accept cards! However, if your hard cash is lacking and you have either a trustworthy or severely stressed face they may let you wander off in to the ether on the premise that you will once again return (obviously not advisable but it says something about the vibe). Lovely.