Photos by: Charlotte Holah Zaynab Khan and Lewis Andrews

Ever wondered what it feels like to finish top of the ballot? Even worse, have you found out the best rooms were within your grasp, only for them to be well-protected secrets? Varsity’s own nosiness, or rather “investigative skill”, has ensured that you can feel the envy all the more.

Before setting off I had hoped for hidden fireplaces, trap doors and secret tunnels, all of which are still yet to see the light of day. However, what was found did not disappoint. We ruled out size as a criterion, as it was not considered a unique enough feature. Instead it was all about quirk, and the rooms that follow are dripping with it.

Gonville & Caius: The Turret Room

The view from the roomAlex Parnham-Cope

A mighty journey up a set of stairs is followed by another steeper set. It isn’t the highest room in Cambridge for nothing. But once atop the spiral staircase, the Caius “Turret Room” hits you with a stunning picture of King’s Parade in its majestic entirety. A viewing platform is only a stone’s throw away, where people pay for this very experience. I had seen this room from below many times, and the current inhabitant Juliette admits that people are frequently “looking up into the room and taking photos”. It is “great for watching people all day – I even witnessed a proposal whilst sitting on the window edge”. “Aside from moving,” she adds, “you get used to the stairs.” While I was there, a free runner flashes past the window and onto the adjacent Senate House roof. In this room, you are clearly best placed to spy all of Cambridge’s happenings.

Newnham: The “Princess” Room

The view from the roomZaynab Khan

The mythic “Princess Room” is straight out of Romeo and Juliet. It took some time ascertaining whether this title actually referred to a real room or was a product of some English student’s imagination. Not one, not two, but three (yes three!) balconies surround the circumference. Aneesa admits that it gives “royalty vibes” with an immense window framing the grounds below, which ensures that “family and friends want to come round to see it”. To get there, one has to walk across the largest corridor in Cambridge, as if the aura of an English manor wasn’t already strong enough. Aneesa notes her mornings are flooded with sunlight, and concludes by pointing to a mysterious button next to a bricked-up fireplace. Though nothing happens when pressed, there is a sense that there are further secrets to be uncovered.

Zaynab Khan

Magdalene: The Tapestry Room

Lewis Andrews

Hearing of this room, it is easy to anticipate a costly rent and a butler at the door. However, this room is of the lower rent bands, smaller than the others on its floor and is hidden amid an unassuming building off-campus. Hand-painted Italian frescoes adorn all four walls, surrounding the inhabitant with tapestry-esque finery. Engineer Andrew says that he finds the room “surreal”, and is “relieved to have the Perspex preventing damage, as it’s easy to bump into”. Old graffiti on parts of the Perspex, including a celebratory “living la vida loca”, confirms that protection is needed. Despite being a Magdalene property, it is Tit Hall that it overlooks – proudly showing off what they are missing out on. “I didn’t even ballot that high,” he admits, “it’s just most people don’t know about it”. We apologise if you were already in the know, and have now ruined your chance of securing it next term.

Queens’: The Timbered Room

Charlotte Holah

It is hard to believe that this oak fantasy, with beams aplenty, is not a nearby cottage. There is a main living room with two separately attached bedrooms, enough already to earn a nomination to be on this list, but also a kitchen to seal its position here. Charlotte points out the lifestyle that the room can therefore accommodate: “If you’re staying up, late night pasta is right there – you never have to leave the room.” The bright pink sofa adds a splash of colour amid the ancient wood (with the space apparently being there “since the beginning of the College”). With such an abundance of legroom, it is no surprise that the spot has become a “central hub in Queens’”, be that for rowing meetings, pre-party preparations or the parties themselves. Such is the number of visitors, the wall is covered in signed Polaroids of those who have stopped by (à la Gardies).