Harvard may be Cambridge’s undeniable claim to worldwide fame, but that is not to diminish the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, superb restaurants, unique shops, and colorful bars lying just beyond the school’s gates. Harvard Square, with its international newsstands, name-brand shopping, and numerous coffeehouses, is a heady mix of urban bohemia and Main Street USA. To the northwest, the heavily residential city of Somerville has become a magnet for young artists, musicians, and social media practitioners. Quirky shops and bars fill its squares.
While its stellar reputation might suggest visions of ivory towers in the sky, Harvard is a surprisingly accessible, welcoming place. Still, too often, visitors limit themselves to what is visible from the Yard: Massachusetts Hall, the Widener Library, maybe University Hall. But with other buildings by Gropius and Le Corbusier, top-notch museums, the eclectic Harvard Square, and performing arts spaces such as the Loeb Drama Center and Memorial Hall’s Sanders Theatre lying just beyond the Yard, Harvard provides every incentive to linger a while (see Harvard University).
32 Quincy St • 617 495 9400 • Open 10am–5pm daily • Adm • www.harvardartmuseums.org
Harvard has some of the world’s finest collegiate art collections. The Fogg, Sackler, and Busch-Reisinger museums, which make up the Harvard Art Museums, share space in a Renzo Piano-designed facility. Visitors will enjoy the surprising juxtapositions of Chinese bronzes, Greek vases, medieval altarpieces, and German Expressionist paintings with a visit to all three museums.
Peabody Museum; 11 Divinity Ave; 617 496 1027; open 9am–5pm daily; adm • Museum of Natural History; 26 Oxford St; 617 495 3045; open 9am–5pm daily; adm • www.hmsc.harvard.edu
Its ongoing commitment to research aside, the Peabody Museum excels at illustrating how interactions between distinct cultures have affected peoples’ lives and livelihoods (see Peabody Museum). Its North American Indian exhibit displays artifacts that reflect the aftermath of encounters between white Europeans and Native Americans. The Museum of Natural History delves even deeper in time, exhibiting eons-old natural wonders.
Whether you’re cheering the rowers of the Head of the Charles Regatta or watching the “T” cross Longfellow Bridge through a barrage of snowflakes, the banks of the Charles River offer a fantastic vantage point for taking in Boston’s celebrated scenes. On summer Sundays, the adjacent Memorial Drive becomes a sea of strollers, joggers, and rollerbladers.
41 2nd St • 617 577 1400 • Open 10:30am–6pm Mon–Fri
Housed in a beautiful 19th-century courthouse, the MAC presents a range of performance and visual art exhibitions which promote cross-cultural exchange, including summer programs in local parks. A unique feature is the encouragement of dialogue between audience and artist after performances and openings.
Often overlooked, Inman Square is possibly Cambridge’s best-kept secret. Home to popular restaurants and cafés such as S&S Deli and 1369 Coffee House, the hip Bukowski Tavern, plus Christina’s delectable ice creams, Inman rewards those who are willing to go out of their way to experience a real-deal Cambridge neighborhood.
With its cooler-than-thou coffee shops, lively bar scene, affordable restaurants, and the renowned Somerville Theatre, Davis Square, Somerville, stands as the area’s most desirable neighborhood for many young Bostonians. And with prestigious Tufts University a 10-minute walk away, the square’s youthful spirit is in a constant state of replenishment.
105 Brattle St • 617 876 4491 • Open Jun–Oct; tours 9:30am–5pm Wed–Sun • www.nps.gov/long
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow can be credited with helping to shape Boston’s – and America’s – collective identity. His poetic documentation of Paul Revere’s midnight ride immortalized both him and his subject. In 1837, Longfellow took up residence in this house, a few blocks from Harvard Yard. He was not the first illustrious resident of this house. General George Washington headquartered and planned the 1776 siege of Boston in these rooms. The building is preserved with furnishings of Longfellow’s family life, and houses the poet’s archives.
Science Park • 617 723 2500 • Open 9am–5pm Mon–Thu, Sat & Sun (Jul–Sep: to 7pm), 9am–9pm Fri • Adm • www.mos.org
Exploring the cosmos in the Hayden Planetarium, hitting the high notes on a musical staircase, experiencing larger-than-life IMAX films in the Mugar Omni Theater – the Museum of Science certainly knows how to make learning enjoyable. In addition to these attractions, the museum hosts blockbuster shows like Harry Potter: The Exhibit. Live presentations take place throughout the day.
77 Massachusetts Ave • 617 253 4795 • List Visual Arts Center: 20 Ames St, Cambridge • 617 253 4680 • Open noon–6pm Tue–Sun (to 8pm Thu) • MIT Museum: 265 Massachusetts Ave; 617 253 5927; open 10am–5pm daily (to 6pm Jul–Aug); adm • www.mit.edu
MIT has been the country’s leading technical university since its founding in 1861. Its List Visual Arts Center exhibits work that comments on technology or employs it in fresh, surprising ways. Also of note is the MIT Museum, with its interactive exhibits on such fascinating topics as artificial intelligence, holography, and the world’s first computers.
The performing arts form part of the character of Cambridge and Somerville. The ornate Somerville Theatre draws nationally recognized musical acts, while the Loeb Drama Center (64 Brattle Street, 617 547 8300) stages The American Repertory Theater’s daring, top-notch productions. And Harvard student-produced pieces grace the Hasty Pudding Theater’s stage (12 Holyoke St, Cambridge, 617 495 5205).
Begin your morning with a cup of gourmet coffee and light breakfast at the popular Diesel Café on Davis Square. Next, ride the “T” inbound to Harvard and head straight to Out of Town News (0 Harvard Sq) to peruse the mind-boggling selection of international newspapers and magazines. Visit Harvard Yard and the John Harvard Statue and then walk east to Quincy Street and north to the Harvard Art Museums. Walk south to Massachusetts Avenue, and turn right to legendary Mr Bartley’s (1246 Massachusetts Ave) for a lunch of speciality burgers and sweet potato fries.
Ride the “T” inbound to Central Square, and walk southeast along Massachusetts Avenue to the MIT Museum, where exhibits of scientific, artistic and technological innovations reflect the creative energy of MIT. Return to Central Square and ride the “T” to Park Street. Then ride the Green Line “T” to Science Park and the Museum of Science. In this museum you can choose from 700 interactive exhibits, take a virtual tour of Acadia National Park, which showcases a specimen of every bird found in New England, learn about nanotech-nology, and explore the biology of human life. Then retrace your route on the “T” to Central Square, where you can sit back and enjoy a refreshing glass of Guinness in the convivial atmosphere at The Field (20 Prospect St).
5 Brattle St, Cambridge
From aluminum ring binders to spring-clip photo frames, Black Ink features quirky items you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
416 Highland Ave, Somerville
Packed with handmade crafts, art by local artists, and goods from indie designers, this hipster Davis Square boutique playfully advertises “shiny things for your nest.”
1735 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge • Closed Mon
In addition to some utterly lovely antique map reproductions, this shop stocks MBTA-themed items such as mugs, key chains, tote bags and toy trains and buses.
1731 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge • Closed Mon & Tue
Abodeon stocks an eclectic mix of modern and vintage home furnishings, bath and beauty products, jewelry, lighting fixtures, and other clever accessories.
2 Ellery St, Cambridge • Closed Sun
If Cambridge’s Puritanical founders could see it now... fetishist accessories, spiked belts, leather corsets, and not-so-innocent toys line the shelves of this risqué boutique.
99 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge
New England’s oldest comic bookstore keeps its faithful customers happy with an extensive back-issue selection, graphic novels, rare imports, and all the latest indie comics, along with toys and T-shirts.
1210 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
This secondhand store has been stocking vintage as well as modern clothes since 1972.
1100 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
Board games, card games, role-playing games, word games, action games, puzzles… if someone plays it, Games People Play either sells it or can order it in for you in a couple of days.
6 Brattle St, Cambridge
Harvard Square’s oldest culinary store specializes in gourmet foods and beverages from around the world. You can also buy made-to-order deli sandwiches for lunch.
1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
Take a trip to Asia in this renovated 1928 Art Deco building, housing a Japanese-style noodle hall and a gift shop with all sorts of wonderful Far Eastern ephemera.
Memorial Drive is a magnet for joggers and rollerbladers. On summer Sundays, the road closes to vehicular traffic and becomes the city’s best people-watching spot.
Bounded by JFK St & Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
On and around this sunken brick platform, street musicians, protesters, punk rockers, and uncategorizables create a scene worthy of a Life magazine spread.
25 Bow St, Somerville • 617 623 9710 • $
Sunday brunch at the Neighborhood brings throngs intent on securing seating beneath the outdoor grape arbors. Equally coveted are the Portuguese breakfast bread platters.
1369 Cambridge St, Cambridge • 617 576 1369 • $
Set on Inman Square, this branch of 1369 has poetry readings, mellow music, and courteous staff, which give it a neighborly atmosphere.
40 Brattle St, Cambridge • 617 876 6837
A Harvard Square institution, the Brattle screens cinema greats daily. Visiting on a rainy afternoon? Take in a 2-for-1 Fellini double feature for under $15.
449 Broadway, Cambridge • 617 349 4040
Families with children, dog-owners tending to canine playgroups, and locals cover the lawns in warm weather. Indoors, folks stretch out in armchairs with a book and free Wi-fi.
40 Prospect St, Cambridge • 617 576 1253
The improvisational comedy troupe here will often explore the offbeat side of Boston life and welcomes audience participation.
47 Palmer St, Cambridge • 617 492 7679
The subterranean epicenter of New England’s thriving folk music scene regularly welcomes nationally renowned artists. It also has an on-site restaurant, The Kitchen, which serves dinner and Sunday brunch.
Summer in Somerville is epitomized by one thing: baseball at the playground. On most weeknights, you can watch energetic youngsters take their swings.
50 Church St, Cambridge • 617 547 0950
This Harvard Square hangout, owned by locals, is a serene, tranquil place to settle in with a cup of exotic tea and healthy pastries, sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
472–480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge • 617 864 3278 • Adm
A live music club to rival any in New York or Los Angeles, the Middle East rocks its patrons from three stages and nourishes them with delicious kebabs and curries.
52 Church St
Harvard Square’s primary live gig venue attracts a wide assortment of acts. The front room doubles as a trendy restaurant and lounge, and it’s open into the small hours every night of the week.
1 Bennett St, Cambridge • Closed Sun & Mon
Befitting its location in the sleek Charles Hotel, Regattabar offers a refined yet casual setting for watching jazz giants. Shows sell out quickly.
247 Elm St, Somer ville • 617 776 6896
This friendly Irish bar features live music almost every night, and the performances range from Irish sessions to bluegrass to swing and jazz. The backroom has comedy, step-dancing, and a weekly open mic.
3 Beacon St, Somerville
A relaxed vibe, cheap beer, and diner-style food such as chicken-and-waffles and Sloppy Joes makes Trina’s the preferred hangout for a generation of Somerville-Cambridge hipsters.
1238 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge • Comedy club closed Mon
Chinese food at ground level gives way to a bustling lounge on the second floor and a rauc ous comedy nightclub on the third. Tuesday night features a comic magic show.
292 Hampshire St, Cambridge
Forty draft beers, homey bistro food, and an inventive cocktail program attract an eclectic crowd, from hipsters to software geeks.
1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
Just outside Harvard Square, the Lizard Lounge attracts a young, alternative rock- and folk-loving crowd with the promise of good live music and a small cover charge.
738 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
Live local rock performances, poetry slams, open mic nights, and other such events light up the small but lively stage at this blue-collar beer bar in Central Square.
13 Brattle St, Cambridge
Beat is a modern beer hall that serves over 24 beers on draft, craft cocktails, and delicious pub fare in a convivial setting. The bar features communal tables and live music.
134 Hampshire St, Cambridge • 617 661 0505 • Closed L daily • $$$
Chef Ana Sortun’s mastery of spices is evident in Oleana’s sumptuous Middle Eastern cuisine, served in a casually elegant dining room and a pretty courtyard with a fountain.
425 Washington St • 857 259 6585 • $$$
Chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main fame showcases his simpler, yet creative, home-style dishes in casual environs. Try the unique cocktails.
853 Main St, Cambridge • 617 497 5511 • $$$
“Nose-to-tail” fine dining is the style at Tony Maw’s main venue. The menu changes daily, and includes six- and eight-course tasting versions.
187 Elm St, Somerville • 617 625 0600 • Closed L Mon–Sat • $
Handmade pastas, Naples-certified pizza, and wood-grilled meats and fish make Posto one of the most popular restaurants in Davis Square.
300 Technology Sq, Cambridge • 617 576 3000 • $$
This elegant restaurant serves innovative locavore dishes. Craft beers attract the coders while good wines soothe the biotech execs. Its summer patio is a real plus.
55 Chester St, Somerville • 617 628 2200 • $$
Redbones’ kitchen creates some of the best barbecue north of the Carolinas, and the atmosphere is emphatically Southern.
502 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge • 617 576 1900 • Closed L daily • $$$
Delightful Mediterranean dishes and innovative cocktails make this friendly bar-restaurant a go-to place for food and drinks.
500 Technology Sq, Cambridge • 617 758 4444 • $
Food is served as early as 7am at this bakery-café, and continues into the night with New American comfort food and pizzas.
1166 Cambridge St, Cambridge • 617 876 0286 • Closed L Mon–Sat • $$$
Excellent farm-to-table dining venue that re-invents New England cuisine with dishes such as seared scallops with tomatillos. Sunday brunch is a major foodie scene.