The small and picturesque city of Cambridge is most famous for its university, which still dominates the city centre with its medieval college buildings and grounds. However, academia aside, the city is also proving to be a popular destination for people who are looking to move for work.
This continuing popularity is due to the mixture of employment opportunities that are available in and around the city, along with the relaxed lifestyle that Cambridge offers.
Click the links below to skip to the section in the guide:
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why Cambridge is such a popular destination for those who want to organise their work/life balance.
Cambridge is a great city for cycling, with plenty of people taking to two wheels to get about and plenty of provision such as cycle routes to help cyclists move around the city safely. Indeed, much of the centre of Cambridge is closed to cars, meaning that cycling is often the preferred way to get around for those who live and work in the city. Not only will this method of transport save you money, but it also helps the environment and can help you stay in shape too. With 80 miles of flat bike paths, cycling around Cambridge is pleasant as well as being good for the environment.
Those working at TWI but living in Cambridge can also take advantage of the commuter bus service that runs from Cambridge train station to Granta Park during the working week, going in the opposite direction to much of the daily commuter traffic driving into and out of the city means that you can avoid much of the rush-hour traffic too!
Although Cambridge has seen expansion in the outskirts in recent years as housing developments spring up, the core of the city remains relatively unchanged. This is, of course, due to the history associated with the city and the University, with the colleges and University buildings meaning that the compact city centre maintains many beautiful medieval features.
The small size of the city centre also means it is easy to take a walk around the shops (more on those later!) before heading out to sit by the river Cam or on one of the many green areas for a picnic. This mix of urban and rural elements in close proximity is one of the biggest draws of Cambridge living, while the buildings themselves provide a unique historic backdrop to everyday life.
While the shopping can’t match larger cities such as London, there is still a good number of well-known, big name retailers in the city. However, Cambridge has a few special tricks up its sleeve when it comes to retail therapy as the influx of students and tourists allows it to support a wide range of smaller independent shops right across the city. Stocking everything from books to clothes and jewellery to vinyl records, you are sure to find something to suit your taste in one of these unique places.
In addition, there is an open-air market every day of the week with a variety of stalls to browse. This independent spirit also stretches to eating and drinking while you are out browsing the shops. Although Cambridge has the usual big-name coffee outlets, there is also a strong tradition of independent cafes, tearooms and coffee shops, including, for example, Fitzbillies (where the Chelsea Bun was invented) and a smattering of independent cafes trading as ‘Hot Numbers’ – themselves named after a much-loved independent record shop that once existed in the city.
It is impossible to talk about living and working in Cambridge without mentioning the University. Understandably, one of the largest employers in the city, the University offers jobs outside of academia through the many support roles such as, for example, working in the libraries, museums, or catering for the 29 colleges. There is also employment at the Cambridge University Press (and their city centre bookshop) and Cambridge Assessment, which are both also tied to the University. In addition the University has ties to innovation, such as through the Cambridge Science Park, which was founded by Trinity College in 1970 and is the oldest science park in the United Kingdom. Of course, with the University literally having a steady stream of top-level graduates each year, landing one of the better roles with them can be a challenge. However, even if you are not working for the University, it will still impact your life in the city.
With the first college (Peterhouse) dating back to 1284 when it was founded by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, the University’s medieval stone colleges give the city its beautiful look throughout the different seasons. But, the University also brings an arts and culture scene that you can dip into. With the ADC theatre having fostered names including Tom Hiddleston and Derek Jacobi, coupled with free lectures, performances of Shakespeare at the college gardens, free-to-attend evening lectures, music recitals and full courses delivered by some of the world’s best academics, there is plenty on offer for the culturally-minded. In addition, there are the pleasant University Botanical Gardens that can offer some peace and inspiration for the green-fingered as well as several University museums in the city.
Of course, the University also delivers a host of students and tourists to the city each year, meaning that it can be incredibly busy (particularly in the summer months). However, as a balance to this, the crowded streets help you slow down and appreciate your surroundings a little more, and the changing student population keeps a young, vibrant and ever-changing feel to the city.
Cambridge is not known as a hotspot for nightclubs, but there are still a few places around the city where you can go dancing into the night. There are also two council-run venues that do a good job of providing a broad range of entertainment, from ballet to comedy and club nights to concerts and opera, it is worth keeping up with what’s going at the city’s venues. Outside of this, Cambridge boasts several cinemas, showing both the latest blockbusters and smaller arthouse films, as well as a number of theatres showing a range of live productions.
Much of Cambridge’s nightlife revolves around the thriving bar and restaurant scene in the city. Alongside the usual well-known chains, Cambridge has a surprising amount of smaller bars and pubs to explore. The city’s pubs include plenty of historic places, such as The Eagle with its famous ‘R.A.F. Bar’ and stories of a ghost that means one of the top windows over the courtyard is always left open! Cuisine is also high on the menu for Cambridge living, whether at one of the many smaller, independently owned eateries, in a well-known ‘brand’ outlet, or at one of the Michelin star restaurants that Cambridge is home to.
Aside from the University (see above) there are a range of large employers in the area, including strong biotech and digital sectors. The tech scene in the area, dubbed ‘Silicon Fen’ in wry homage to ‘Silicon Valley,’ is particularly strong with employers including Raspberry Pi Foundation and Arm helping the digital tech turnover generated in Cambridge reach double the UK average in 2018. This growth has continued in recent years, with Apple, Samsung and Microsoft all setting up dedicated A.I. teams in Cambridge.
The city itself is surrounded with science and business parks, which house businesses ranging from tech and pharmaceuticals, to charitable organisations, investment companies, and engineering businesses. TWI’s headquarters is situated at one such cluster, Granta Park, just south of Cambridge itself.
Employment prospects in the area are also expected to grow as the local economy is boosted by investment to build upon the innovative environment where academia meets professional life. Salaries are also higher in Cambridge than the UK average, although this does bring up the thorny question of living costs in the city…
There is no way to deny that Cambridge is a relatively expensive city to live in. With house prices and rental costs much higher than in many other parts of the country, as demand for property continues to push prices up. For this reason, many people live in the surrounding areas rather than in the city itself.
Because Cambridge is far from being an urban sprawl, it doesn’t take too long to travel from one of the villages and towns in the surrounding area where housing costs are lower. With many beautiful fenland places to explore, the surrounding area is worth heading out to even if you are a resident in the city itself. For example, you can take a train the 17 miles to Ely in matter of minutes and explore its magnificent cathedral or head out a nearby county to see what’s on offer there.
Because Cambridgeshire borders Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west, TWI employees can be found living in a variety of nearby places.
Looking further afield, Cambridge has superb connections to London, with a fast service to Kings Cross meaning you can be there in 50 minutes on the train as well as a direct line into Liverpool Street. As a result, visiting the capital for an evening or day out or for shopping is easily achievable.
Stansted airport is also just 30-40 minutes away by train, making it easy to fly away on holiday or for business.
Of course, Cambridge is also pretty well situated for the Midlands or journeys out to the East Anglian coast if you fancy some time at the seaside.