The Secret Life in King’s College Cambridge

The information you can’t get anywhere else

Half of the blogs online about visiting Cambridge will mention King’s College, but we can give you insider knowledge on King’s College from the perspective of a member of the institution. If you’re curious about King’s College, not just as a tourist attraction, but as an academic powerhouse, drinking spot as well as home to hundreds of people, then keep reading. 

The culture of king’s

All colleges have a mix of political beliefs, but King’s College Cambridge is renowned for being more radically left-wing. The soviet flag was repeatedly drawn onto the walls of the bar, and so eventually, a flag was put up to prevent vandalism and to validate the political inclinations of many of the students. For years after this, a debate ensued around taking it down until it was removed. Although the flag is gone, King’s remains notorious for it’s political culture.

King’s remains one of, if not the most, enthusiastic about ensuring that lower-income students feel accommodated for at Cambridge. King’s College is wonderfully vibrant in diversity – and the students constantly monitor any issues that might prevent someone from feeling unwelcomed. The student body is strong, vocal, and eager to combat any intolerance of differences that occur in the local area. 

At all other colleges, cloaks similar to graduation gowns, are worn as the necessary attire. At King’s College formals, you would fit in much better with glitter eyeshadow and something risque (regardless of sex). Other than the venue and food, the formals are anything but formal.

The atmosphere is playful, musical and loud. At other colleges, the meal typically begins with a reading in Latin and the hitting of a gong. At King’s College, it’s the polar opposite: entertainment is brought in between courses such as breakdancers, magicians, or the world-renowned King’s Chapel Choir doing their own rendition of charting bops.

Hidden rooms you don’t know about

As a visitor to King’s College, you’ll likely only be granted external views from the outside of the buildings – apart from the amazing chapel which you can book tickets for here. We can tell you much more about the unseen interior and how it functions as a miniature university campus.

The windows of the coffee shop look out onto King’s Parade, just opposite the Corpus Clock. This is a small and friendly cafe filled with students who prefer to work with easy access to caffeine and sugary fuel. The prices are modest and the staff are smiley. There are plans underway to completely rebuild the coffee shop in a more modern and open manner – King’s always has some construction projects on the go!

Situated in the middle of the grounds lies the wine cellar. A member of staff is often on hand to advise and select the perfect bottle for your needs. Students will often visit the day of a formal to retrieve the drink of choice for the evenings ongoings. For nights to let your hair down, once or twice a term, the college opens up its own miniature club – The Bunker – which sits underground. The attendees of these nights typically will not be seen at their 9 am lecture the following day.

Taken from the roof of King’s College Chapel

For those who prefer to get their essays ticked off, the library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can read our blog on the best libraries in Cambridge to find out more about the atmosphere and appearance of King’s College Library – but in essence, it has retained it’s classical Cambridge-esque appearance rather than the more modern and open look that other colleges like Magdalene have adopted with their libraries. Their website has a virtual tour for you to explore the library like an academic street view on Google Maps. You can see the archway where the library is located on our punting tours.

The college bar is a main feature of any student building. During the day, the bar is used as a quiet place to study until the music turns on in the evening and the drinks start pouring.


The operation of the college relies on multiple departments such as the porters, the provost, the KCSU and the catering team. In essence, the provost plays the role of a live-in headmaster. The provost has their own lodge located on site with a private garden – occasionally opened up to students to respectfully wander. It’s called a lodge but has spaces that resemble sitting rooms in Buckingham Palace.

The catering team are a vital part of college life in and out of term time. They have responsibility for the menus at grand banquet-like events as well as the Sunday fry-up for hungover students. The staff build friendly relationships with the students that they feed day in and day out and they form a decent part of the college culture, especially those working behind the college bar.

The KCSU is the student-led body of the college. Each member is elected to represent the student voice within the institution. They meet weekly to review the issues of the week and pass motions to implement new ideas. The ‘Ents officers’ have the important responsibility of designing and executing each formal. As mentioned, these formals are often the highlights of the term and students compete for the limited tickets available. There’s a lot of pressure on the ‘Ents Officers’ to execute these blowouts.

Unlike all other colleges, King’s themes their formals. The KCSU Ents Officers typically have a formal to celebrate holidays like St Patrick’s Day, Valentines Day and Halloween. When there is no holiday to celebrate, there may be a Y2K formal, intergalactic, Hogwarts, or anything else that the students might fancy. You can imagine the creativity that goes into the outfits for these themes.

Frequently asked questions about king’s:

What is special about King’s College Cambridge?

You only need to look at it to have some idea as to why it’s so famous. It’s undeniably beautiful and grand. That’s without mentioning the history, culture, political contributions and academic success. Our punting chauffeurs often refer to it as the ‘postcard college’ because King’s is used as the go-to Cambridge image.

Is Kings College Cambridge left wing?

In short – yes. All colleges have a mixture of students with a range of beliefs but King’s has been known both past and present as the most bold in their left-wing leanings.

How hard is it to get into King’s College Cambridge?

Students apply to study a specific degree but also apply for the college that they want to join. Students apply from all over the world. Because of this, King’s College has to consider more than just the grades on paper because countries have a range of examination processes. Often, the interview is a key deciding factor. There is no strict formula for how they judge each applicant, and all subjects have their own ways of deciding. You can read their own way of describing the qualifying factors here.

Who went to King’s College Cambridge?

John Meynard Keynes – one of the most famous and influential economists in the Western world as well as a main political player in World War I. In fact, he was at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 which ended the war. 

Alan Turing – the amazing computer scientist who set the groundwork for modern technology whilst simultaneously being a gargantuan force behind the British victory in World War II.

With these two members of King’s alone, we have very important people for both World Wars! Our punting tours include wonderful anecdotes about King’s College that you can learn more from.

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