Bars and clubs
Whether you’re town or gown, there’s plenty to do and lots of places to go for a good night out in Cambridge. It all depends whether you’re in the mood for something lively, a glass of decent wine in a stylish bar or a few good ales with friends – the night is all yours!
If you fancy kicking your night off with a cocktail – and you haven’t yet ventured into the centre – then 196 on Mill Road is a great place to start. Although small, it serves amazing cocktails made with premium spirits – no skimping on the quality here – with emphasis on fresh flavours. The bar is compact with seating for about 20 people, but it’s got a great vibe and it’s not too noisy, either. Novi, on Regent Street, serves a great range of herby, botanical cocktails, and it’s open until 3am at the weekend. It’s also a café by day if you fancy stopping by for a coffee or a snack.
In the centre of town, the roof terrace at the stylish Varsity Hotel is probably the best place to have a drink with a view in Cambridge. With stunning panoramas across the city and top views of the fireworks if you come during May Ball time – which is in June, incidentally – it’s a fantastic place to start your evening. There’s also a heap of blankets in case there’s a chill in the air. Enter the hotel and take the lift to the top floor for your wow moment.
Riverside, the area around Magdalene Bridge, comes alive at night, with bustling bars and restaurants, and people sitting by the river enjoying a drink. Cambridge Wine Merchants on Bridge Street is a brilliant spot for people-watching and – as you’d expect – it serves excellent wine. You can also buy nibbles and small plates of food such as Scotch eggs or a cheese platter if you’re feeling peckish.
Hidden Rooms on Jesus Lane is a well-hidden venue below the elegant Pizza Express restaurant. It’s open from 7pm and there’s no entrance fee. It serves amazing cocktails and also offers table service, which is great if you’re with a group of friends. There are often live events, too, such as jazz on a Thursday night – and some music events are free.
Right on the market square and above the Don Pasquale restaurant, 12A is a private members’ club. But if you happen to know someone who is a member, it’s a stylish and rather swanky place to spend part of your evening. Cocktails are mixed well, and the bar staff certainly know their stuff.
If you’re in the mood for music, 2648 on Trinity Street, which used to be known as The Vaults, is a restaurant and bar that serves cocktails, with live jazz music during weekend evenings. It also has an open mic night on Wednesdays.
The passageway just off the market square, Market Passage, is home to a few different clubs and bars. Baroosh, known as B-Bar to the locals, serves good drinks in a happy atmosphere – it’s on a couple of floors, so it doesn’t feel too crowded even when it’s busy. Opposite is Fez Club, a bar and nightclub that definitely has a young vibe.
La Raza, on Rose Crescent, is a funky cocktail bar that also boasts regular live music. It’s one of the best places in town to see local bands show off their talent, while club nights are also hugely popular.
On the way out of the centre, on Regent Street, is Italian restaurant De Luca. But head straight for the top floor for The Piano Bar, where a fabulous pianist entertains guests all night with a magical set – singalong sheets are available if you suddenly find your voice! Nearby is the popular 90 Cocktail Bar, which also runs cocktail masterclasses.
There’s no shortage of good drinking establishments in town. The Cambridge Brew House on King Street not only serves good beer, but it brews it, too. You can see the micro-brewery, The Cambridge Brewing Company, within the pub, and two of its favourite ales are always served, such as King’s Parade or Misty River, along with other local cask ales and craft beers.
Its sister pub, The Old Bicycle Shop on Regent Street, is housed in what’s said to have been the oldest bicycle shop in the country. This establishment boasts a cool, pared-back interior, serves good food as well as local ales, and features a decent wine list.
The Pint Shop near the market square is a great place to go for a proper beer, while for spirit-lovers, it has more than 55 gins on the menu. Styled in the same way as a drinking den in the 1830s, it has a soft, lamp-lit ambience and serves delicious food, too. The Liquor Loft, upstairs at dArry’s restaurant on King’s Street, is a recently-opened cocktail and wine bar, with – as the name suggests – a huge range of spirits. Great for watching the night sky with friends, or cosying up with a throw in its intimate interior.
Calverley’s Brewery is a small, family-run craft brewery just off Mill Road. It serves six to seven beers on site and is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, while local food vans pop by to serve hungry punters.
No visit to Cambridge would be complete without having a pint in The Eagle in the centre of town. It’s famous for being the place where Crick and Watson announced their discovery of DNA, and the bar where WW2 airmen graffitied their names and messages on the ceiling before heading off on their wartime missions.
It’s worth popping your head around the door of The Pickerel on Magdalene Bridge, as it’s said to be the oldest pub in Cambridge. The Punter, just up the road on Pound Hill, is a Cambridge favourite for food and ales – and a nice place to spend an evening if you’re looking for a drink with friends.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing live bands in Cambridge. First up is the Cambridge Corn Exchange, right in the centre of town. It always hosts big-name bands and a wealth of artists that people clamour to see, often on the first leg of their tour after playing in London. It also puts on plenty of top theatre shows, too. You might want to check out the website before you visit in case there’s someone you really want to see as gigs often sell out, but it’s also worth just turning up to the box office in town.
The Cambridge Junction, a bit further out of town – though not far from the railway station – plays host to some big names in music and the arts, and has both a performance venue and a theatre. As well as live music, it features some brilliant comedy nights, theatre and dance.
There are also a few pubs that are better known as music venues than as pure drinking establishments. The Portland Arms on Chesterton Road, a stone’s throw from the centre, features regular live bands as well as monthly comedy nights and movie nights.
But if classical music’s more your thing, the West Road Concert Hall – just a few minutes walk from ‘The Backs’ and the centre, is renowned for its fine acoustic qualities. Take a look at the website to see what’s on and take your pick.
Poets House, in the heart of the city centre, is a charming boutique hotel that also mixes mean cocktails to perfection. If you like a decent glass of wine, too, this is the place to come – the Study Lounge even has a vegan cocktail menu.
3At3 is a real ale and craft beer café tucked down a side street in Ely, serving locally-sourced produce from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Wine, cider and beer can be enjoyed in the small courtyard every weekend, with real ales and winter warmers when in season. The owners even bring out big, fleecy blankets when the evening turns a bit chilly, while there’s a wine bar and ‘beer library’ upstairs with a blues and jazz ambience.
In Willingham, a small village just outside Cambridge, The Bank Micropub is said to be the first micropub to have opened in Cambridgeshire. A small, one-roomed venue, it serves casked conditioned real ale – and good conversation. The Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon, although renowned for food, is also a great place for drinking in the evening. For a friendly local drink in a quiet residential area, The Victoria Inn in Huntingdon is a favourite with locals. It also has regular live music on Saturday nights.
For proper clubbing, Peterborough is a big enough city to feature a variety of nightlife: The Solstice has a host of different club nights and resident DJs, while The Met Lounge and Edwards are both popular. The Stoneworks Bar on Church Street is well-loved by locals and features a fine range of ales and a relaxing atmosphere, while The Bumble Inn on Westgate is a great little micro pub just a stone’s throw from the centre.
Whatever your style, there’s sure to be something to float your boat in Cambridgeshire. Just head on out and see what takes your fancy!
Everything you need to know about Cambridgeshire
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A guide to nightlife in Cambridgeshire
Where to eat in Cambridgeshire
The best days out in Cambridgeshire
A guide to Arts & Culture in Cambridgeshire