Top 10 cheap date ideas in Cambridge

Because let’s be real, university is definitively NOT cheap.

Picture this: you’ve finally found the person of your dreams, whether it be through Tinder, that one slightly odd society you joined in Freshers’ Week, or in the University Library. You’ve plucked up the courage to ask them on a date, and they’ve said yes… Now what? Agreeing on a date location can be a daunting task, but never fear! Whether you’ve been in a relationship for months or you’re a newbie to the Cambridge dating scene, this article will cover ten The Tab-approved date ideas and why we love them. A slight disclaimer- one of these date ideas requires a trip to London, but more on that later.

10. Castle Mound Stargazing
The view of the city from Castle Mound

Cambridge looking peaceful in November 2020. (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

When I was a fresher, we were at university in what felt like a never-ending lockdown. The start of November 2020 saw restaurants and bars close their doors once again, and Cambridge became still. What can you do when (literally) everything is shut? Castle Mound is just past Clare College and provides stunning views across the city at night-time. Walking up to the hill with snacks and a blanket is perfect if you fancy some stargazing- once I even saw a comet! This date is on the list because it costs next to nothing and it is incredibly easy, but if you go in winter make sure to wrap up warm!

9. Jack’s and the Backs

This one is mainly included because I like the rhyme, but Jack’s Gelato definitely had to make the list. Rather than get Jack’s and just sit on King’s Parade, why not go for a walk around the backs? You can also walk past Sidgwick and the University Library towards West Cambridge if you fancy a longer walk, as there is a pond with benches near the department buildings. If ice cream isn’t your thing, you could opt for one of their hot chocolates- my friends have described them as divine. A scoop at Jack’s will only set you back a few pounds, so it’s one of the most affordable dates on this list.

8. Cambridge Market

Now the market is open more regularly than this time last year, every Cambridge student should try and visit. There is a huge variety of stalls with food ranging from luxury bakes to wraps to paella. Why not go once and one person decide on a stall, and (if it goes well) the other person can choose next time? The market isn’t exclusive to food, with a variety of craft stalls and rotating traders. It won’t cost you an arm or leg, and it’s right in the centre of town… What’s not to love?

7. Cambridge Botanic Gardens
A pathway surrounded by plants and shrubs

Am I fulfilling the Biogeography stereotype of rinsing the Botanic Gardens? Probably. (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

The Cambridge Botanic Gardens are situated near the Cambridge Train Station. They’re open from 10am-4pm daily, with free entry for students at the University of Cambridge! You could definitely take a picnic and sit on the pristine lawns, or keep it simple with a picturesque walk. There are plenty of elements in the gardens to explore, and the indoor greenhouse is open too. Although the walk to the gardens is a little out of town, it’s definitely worth a trip. Tickets can be pre-booked here.

6. Punting

Punting is a Cambridge classic. Whilst many companies offer student discounts, some colleges also have access to free/subsidised punt trips. Most companies start prices at around £18-20, although some may be cheaper (i.e., Trinity College Punting charges £14 upon presentation of a Camcard). If you’re desperate to get out on the river and see the backs, you better start dropping hints to that student that you’ve seen in your lectures who you’re pretty sure goes to Trinity.

5. Coffee Shops
A brownie, coffee and sausage roll in a coffee shop

The Roost (Jesus College) has some of the best sausage rolls I’ve ever had. (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

Cambridge has too many coffee shops to ignore, and not including them on this list would be a crime. Whether your go-to is the Michaelhouse Cafe (a personal favourite with amazing desserts) or one of the many Neros, coffee shops aren’t exactly hard to come by. They’re not too expensive and are often the perfect place to sit and chat, surrounded by other people going about their lives. If you worry about conversation-starting, slowly sipping your drink provides an opportunity to think about something to say, without looking awkward! It isn’t the most original date idea, but coffee shops are tried and tested.

4. Trips to London
A boy stood outside a theatre in the West End

Trips to London were the rogue entry on this list, but look at that smile! (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

Okay, so I said that there would be an exception from the ‘in Cambridge’ rule. London is about an hour away from Cambridge, and return train tickets sometimes cost as little as £8.62! There’s lots to do when you’re there, with plenty of affordable options. If you fancy a culture trip, visit one of the free galleries or museums. If the West End is more your thing, you can find cheaper theatre tickets online- there are multiple websites offering them! I managed to drag my boyfriend to see Les Miserables last week for £20 each, which to me is an absolute steal. National Theatre offer student tickets for £5-10 here. All in all, a trip to London can be quite affordable depending on what you do, and is something different!

3. Watch Some Local Football
A goalkeeper stood on a football pitch

The U’s winning streak is one for the sports fans to keep an eye on. (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

Who doesn’t love football? Cambridge United are on a five-game winning streak at the moment and haven’t dropped points yet in the New Year. With a massive upset FA Cup victory under their belt against Premier League side Newcastle United, the team are fun to watch. Student tickets are available via the Cambridge United website for £14.50 each (including the booking fee). With their FA Cup fourth-round match against Luton coming up, there’s never been a better time to support the U’s…

2. Vue

The Vue near the Grafton Centre has some of the comfiest cinema seats I’ve ever seen. Cinema tickets are usually £7-9 each, but VOXI users can access a discounted deal which gives you two tickets for £7. Yes, cinema snacks can up that price considerably, but there’s no harm in bringing your own popcorn. Cinemas may not be the best idea for a first date, but if there’s a film you really fancy seeing, it’s worth knowing that a Vue is so close!

Honourable Mentions

Of course, for every ten ideas that make this list, there are plenty of ideas that don’t. Come Dine With Me is always a fun option, with one person cooking the first meal, and another cooking the next. The Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard offer cultural destinations, and the ADC Theatre often has cheap (but brilliant!) shows on offer. There are lots of things to do in Cambridge if you look in the right places.

1. Pool at The King Street Run
A boy stood over a pool table

Depending on the skill level, pool may be a challenge. (Image Credits: Isabella Manfredi)

This quirky pub on King Street (near Jesus College) has a variety of games, ranging from darts to bar billiards to pool. With two tables in the upstairs section of the joint, you can grab your drink of choice and pay 70p per game of pool. Again, this date is affordable and you can stay for as long as you’d like. There’s a jukebox downstairs, but the playlist is usually pretty good regardless. The happy hour offers triple vodkas for £4.80, so by Cambridge standards, it can be a great option!

Hopefully, this list has provided you with some much-needed date ideas that won’t break the bank! By no means is this list a comprehensive guide to date locations in Cambridge, but a springboard for you to come up with your own ideas. University life certainly isn’t cheap, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time!

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Feature image credits: author’s own, using Canva Pro