Best Revision Spots

LEAF ARBUTHNOT tries a change of scenery.

coffee exam term grantchester Libraries Library revision Trinity UL Waterstone's Wren

The approach of exams – er, this Tuesday actually, shitshitshit – has compelled me of late to stop loafing about like a sticky malt, and get some work done.

It turns out that I’m incapable of revising in the same place for long so have to migrate every few hours from workstation to workstation, books in bag, new iPad pointedly on arm just to check that everyone knows I’ve got one. (It’s called The Sword; you pronounce the ‘w’.)

Revision is like a date – half the battle is finding the right place to go. Mercifully Cambridge is writhing in good work-spots, so you can be fairly certain that at least a couple of them will suit you and your work needs. Here are some of the best.


Waterstones has a café on the second floor, as well a clique of armchairs and tables on the third. Notwithstanding the café’s deeply questionable colour palette, it’s a pretty cracking workstation if you like revising in a quiet, but not funereal, atmosphere. Avoid at weekends: lots of babies. 

Where the perfect work ambiance lies between babies and funerals…

The Law Faculty

If you are lacking in drive or need to be shamed by anonymous suits into buckling down, the Law Faculty might be for you. It looks, sounds and smells like money clamouring to be earned. The Wifi is zippy; speaking/breathing/smiling is frowned upon, desks are spacious.

Starbucks’ Basement

There are many disadvantages to working in Starbucks’ basement, not least that one tends to be tempted, having descended the stairs, to scan about for lurking inferi. That said, nocturnal workers might appreciate its muted lighting, plum furnishings and muffled acoustics.

The Wren Library

Only open to Trinity students – but if you can visit it, do, because it’s full of light and the architecture is fly. It smells pungently of cobwebbed tomes and marble; ideal for anyone gunning for a retro working experience.

Satisfy your craving for vaulted ceilings…

The UL

Not for the lily-livered. The UL is my panic place, only to be resorted to in moments of liquid fear. That said, its buttery is quite the socialite’s hub, so I hear, and it has extended Easter Term opening times – till 10pm on weekdays. Places at desks go like Presto pasties at closing time, so pitch up early or not at all.


If you have words to learn, tenses to dominate, formulae to tackle or anything that requires out-and-out memorisation, taking to the fields and parks around Cambridge could be for you. There are some splendid trees drooping over the Cam up Grantchester way that are begging to be lolled on with a book. It’s also good for the soul.


This is a new Scandinavian shop that’s recently opened by Magdalene Bridge that has a miniscule coffee shop at the back. The opening times are quite restrictive – it shuts at 5 – but the cakes are extremely good, and it’s very quiet and clean.

Community library

Rather surprisingly, the Grand Arcade has a library, located on the second floor by Topshop. It has limited spaces at the weekend (arrive at least ten minutes before opening times) but is great for anyone thirsting for a primary school atmosphere, plasticized books and solicitous helpers. Distractions include a tramp who comes in daily, with or without shoes, to sleep or be told off for sleeping.

Put the ‘primary school back’ into your scholaring… 

One’s own room

Although one’s own room tends to be full of one’s own stuff, that one therefore like to mess around with, working at basecamp can be productive and time-efficient. No awkward laptop-to-library lug, no earnest work-denial chitchat with fellow workaholics, no potentially rain-splattered bike rides. Ban yourself from unparking from your chair for two-hour blocks at a time, to avoid the lure of your bed.