The Freshers' Guide


There is a range of shops in the centre of Cambridge that will cover most of your basic needs. A number offer student discounts. When you arrive, pick up a copy of the CUSU Cambridge Guide in the Pigeonhole Room (these are also available online).

You can get away with not packing many household items such as cutlery, plates and towels. However, it does help if you arrive in Cambridge about a week before lectures begin (if you are on a taught course), and keep as much time free as possible during Freshers' Week. Many events will be arranged to help you to meet other students. But it is also a useful time for acquiring things you need. The weekend before term starts is incredibly crowded and shops tend to sell out of goods. For example, buying coathangers (especially clip coathangers for skirts and trousers) can be difficult. Cheap plates, bowels and cutlery also often sell out. Arriving early and buying what you need can save you a lot of problems. Knowing where to shop can also help - below is a brief run down of some of the shops and the things they sell. This is just a quick overview of some of the shops in Cambridge that cover the basic essentials – you will quickly realise as you wonder around that there are many more shops than these.


Location: Sidney Street | Website

Stationery store that has a 10% student discount upon showing your student ID card. Covers all the basic stationery requirements - folders, papers, pens, computer discs etc. (you can get documents bound here too).

WH Smith

Location: Market Street | Website

Stationery store. Covers basic stationery but also has a selection of magazines, some books, art materials etc.


Location: Trinity Street | Website

Another book store, with a wider range of academic textbooks as well as fiction and non-fiction. Heffers have a card scheme where you receive stamps for purchases, which count towards a discount. Heffers has several shops in Cambridge specialising in a particular area. The main book store is located at 20 Trinity Street, next to Heffers Sound which mostly sells classical music CDs.

Other Bookshops

There are a range of smaller bookshops in the centre of Cambridge, including several on Sidney Street next to the main college entrance. Several of these have second-hand books (including textbooks); Galloway and Porter often have sales where you can buy a text book at a greatly reduced price.

Argos sells a huge range of goods - clothes airers, radios, jewellery, kitchen utensils - you name it, they probably sell it. You can take a free copy of their catalogue and have a good look through to compare prices. You fill in a form in the store and the items are brought down to you. The catalogue can also be viewed, and reservations made, online. There are two Argos stores in Cambridge - a central one near the bus station and a larger out-of-town shop.

Lakeland Limited

Location: Sidney Street | Website

Right across the street from college on Sidney Street, Lakeland is bound to have the random items (food containers to shoe polish) that make us feel more at home - even though we never pack them.


Location: Sidney Street | Website

Basically a chemist/pharmacy that also sells a wide range of personal products like deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, condoms, tampons and pads, washing detergent, make up and a small range of food such as candy and sandwiches. They also develop photographs. Students receive a discount of 10% on Wednesdays.


Location: Sidney Street/Petty Cury | Website

A large store that sells cosmetics, stockings, socks, personal items such as deodorant, shampoo and conditioner etc. as well as items such as hairdryers. Boots is a major chemist/pharmacy, develops photos and also sells lunchtime foods.


Location: Sidney Street | Website

Directly opposite Sidney with quite long opening hours - weekdays until 11.30pm, Sunday until 5pm (watch out!!). Sainsbury's will often be your saviour when hall food becomes too depressing. It is quite a small supermarket but with a reasonable range of food goods. It also sells alcohol. Sainsbury's sells fresh fruit and vegetables, pre-cooked meals, as well as pre-made sandwiches and salads, along with all the normal items you would expect to find in a supermarket including a bakery. Sainsburys can run out of items on the shelf as it is such a small supermarket and it is the only one in the centre of town. Friday nights are mayhem. If you try and shop during quieter hours it will be a quicker shopping experience and a far less annoying one. Fill out a form for a Nectar card at Sainsbury's - this is a free discount card that earns you points every time you shop. Points can be redeemed by reducing the total of your next bill, once you have accumulated enough points.

Marks and Spencer

Locations: Sidney Street; Market Square | Website

M&S have a good supermarket on Market Square. They sell high quality pre-cooked meals, ready made sandwiches and salads, as well as bread and other normal supermarket food. The Market Square store also contains menswear, a cafe and household items; the other Marks and Spencer store opposite Boots (and accessible using a shortcut from the back of the food hall) sells a wide range of women's clothing.

The Market

Location: Market Square

The market has a range of stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to cakes, clothes and trinkets. Definitely fun to look around.

Although Sainsbury's offers a good selection of organic produce and products as well as options without wheat/meat/dairy, there are several stores around Cambridge which offer wider selection of organic, vegetarian, and vegan products: Arjuna Whole Foods (Mill Road) and Cambridge Health Food (Bridge Street), which offers a 10% student discount. Also see Food.

Dry Cleaning

Location: Emmanuel Street

There is a dry cleaner - Johnsons - on Emmanuel Street, 5 minutes walk from Sidney.

John Lewis

Location: St. Andrew's Street | Website

Department store that sells kitchen and electrical appliances, lamps, cosmetics, scarves, stockings (and indeed most things). It offers a great selection and tends to be a bit more expensive than other department stores (mainly because the goods are superior quality). A tip for your rooms: John Lewis sells the rail hooks that slide on the ledges across the walls in most college rooms (since you are not allowed to knock fittings into the walls), and also the suction hooks (you may find that your room has little space for hanging towels, scarves, hats etc., and these hooks come in handy).


Location: St. Andrew's Street | Website

Good for computer needs such as cables, mouse pads, power adaptors etc. There is a more central store on St. Andrew's Street, and a newer one in the Beehive Centre (next to Asda), near Newmarket Road. You can also search the catalogue and place an order online.

Coffee shops

Most of the major coffee shops are represented in Cambridge. These can be ideal places to meet, chat and surf the web. Starbucks is on Market Street, on St. Andrew's Street and on Fitzroy Street (near the Grafton Centre). Caffè Nero is on Market Street, Kings Parade and in Heffers on Trinity Street; Costa Coffee has a presence in Waterstones on Sidney Street, and in both the Grand Arcade and the Grafton Centre. Of course, Costa also offers the nearest coffee shop to our college on the corner of Sidney Street and Sussex Street (and is part of the same building as South Court).

Cambridge also has several highly recommended indepedent coffee shops. Savino's on Emmanuel St serves Illy coffee and Italian pastries. The Cambridge institution Fitzbillies' on the corner of Trumpington St and Pembroke St serves decent, if slightly overpriced, artisanal coffee and Chelsea buns in their recently extended cafe. For fanatics, Hot Numbers Coffee on Gwydir St (off Mill Road) serves excellent single origin coffee roasted in-house.

Post Offices

If you wish to send something to another college then you can use the free CUSU mailing service. The nearest postbox to Sidney is on the corner of Sidney Street and Jesus Lane: walk out the front of the Porters' Lodge, turn right, and it is 100 metres along the college wall. Numerous other red postboxes are dotted around the city centre. There is a small post office on Trinity Street and a larger post office on St. Andrew's Street. Stamps are available for purchase at the Porters' Lodge.

Sports Stores

Hobbs Sports is the nearest to Sidney, just a few doors down Sidney Street from Sainsburys (ask for their current student discount rate). Sports Direct has a branch in the Grafton Centre and JD Sports has a branch in the Lion Yard shopping centre (see below).

Shopping Centres

There are two major shopping centres within walking distance of Sidney: the Lion Yard/Grand Arcade in the centre and the Grafton Centre, which is a short walk across Christ's Pieces.

Lion Yard

Accessible from St Andrew's Street and Petty Cury, the Lion Yard contains numerous stores and the Cambridge Central Library.

Grand Arcade

The impressive Grand Arcade adjoins the Lion Yard and was opened during summer 2008 along with the refurbished John Lewis department store. It is accessed through the Lion Yard and has a main entrance on St. Andrew's Street.

Grafton Centre

The Grafton Centre has a range of stores as well as being attached to the Vue Cinema.

Fair Trade and Ethical Shopping

Cambridge WDM, the local branch of the World Development Movement, has an online Fair Trade directory listing local shops and cafés selling fair trade products, which can be searched by outlet and product type.

The CUSU Green campaign has previously published The Little Green Book and The Little Green Map, which lists stores for ethical shopping.

Freshers' Guide last modified: 1 November 2017
This section last modified: 8 September 2013