The answer to this question depends entirely on the purpose of the visitor’s trip; the length of time he or she has at his or her disposal; and the budget he or she is hoping to stick to. Cambridge is a small town, so within reason all types of accommodation can be found in roughly the same areas – or at least, it is possible to accommodate a person in any kind of hotel or lodging house within a similar distance from the center of the city and its main attractions.
In general terms, it is assumed that a first time visitor to Cambridge is coming for the purposes of leisure and pleasure. A business traveler, who would more normally be described as a business traveler rather than a “visitor”, will often have a set cache of hotels, bed and breakfasts or serviced apartments to choose from, ratified by his or her purchasing department and potentially even tied to it by membership deals and loyalty cards.
As such, the business traveller, on his or her first trip to Cambridge, is likely to stay either in an approved hotel or an approved serviced apartment, depending on the duration of his or her stay. As a rule of thumb, stays of less than one working week are normally completed in an hotel; while a stay of more than one working week may be done in an apartment.
The reason for this is simple enough – no-one likes staying in hotel rooms for business purposes for more than a few days. A business person needs a routine and a way to relax outside of work hours – and that means, in longer than one week visits, finding somewhere that gives him or her a much more realistic feeling of being at home when he or she is not in the office.
So to return to our leisure traveler – the best place to stay is really the place he or she can afford to stay, given the other budgetary constraints of his or her trip. Assuming a normal budget – no shoe strings, then, but no extravagance either – the leisure traveller may choose between bed and breakfast houses; hotel chains; rooms in inns; and (depending on the time of year) rooms in some of the University colleges.
This last option is sometimes open to the business traveler as well, again depending on the time of year and the purpose of the visit. Some colleges host conferences throughout the summer, for example, and use their own bedrooms as the accommodation for delegates.
Where the chance is given, sleeping in one of the older University colleges can be an experience well worth having. The quadrangles are still guarded by porter’s lodges, and the guest will have to sign in and out with a porter on entry and exit – in a fashion reminiscent of nothing so much as old school novels or Porterhouse Blue. To the uninitiated this can be an endearing experience – a chance to stay centrally and really soak up the character of the town.