Cambridge neighborhood guides
Central Square neighborhood guide
Although undoubtedly gentrified, Central Square has kept its distinct, rather gritty, identity. Over the past decade or so, the former working-class area has become a desirable location for young professionals—high-priced condos and the ubiquitous chains have followed. On the plus side, so have some great restaurants and bars, making it a popular spot for going out. During the day, the square's sprinkling of unusual shops makes for an interesting browse.
Harvard Square neighborhood guide
It may be cool, but Cambridge is all about squares. The best known of these, and certainly one of the most popular, is Harvard Square. It's a people-watcher's paradise, as the bustle of bookish Harvard students, mohawked punks, camera-toting tourists, homeless panhandlers, buskers and harried businesspeople creates a diverse and colorful street scene. It is of course intimately tied to the university of the same name, which boasts a panoply of sights, monuments and eye-popping architecture within its modestly sized campus.
Kendall Square neighborhood guide
Harvard notwithstanding, some incredibly bright folks attend that other top Cambridge college, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Kendall Square. The architecture of its various buildings is wildly diverse, ranging from the neoclassical walls of Building Ten to some striking modern structures by the likes of I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry. At the heart of it all, cutting through the center of campus and radiating out from under the university's imposing dome, is the so-called "Infinite Corridor," a long passage—punctuated by unexpected art installations—that connects many of the institute's departments. MIT doesn't have the same connection with Kendall Square that Harvard has with its eponymous square, so the area lacks a striking identity. But you'll find some good bars and restaurants here, as well as a popular arthouse cinema, the Kendall Square Cinema.
Guide to music venues on Massachusetts Avenue
Storied rock clubs, bare-bones bars and raucous DJ lounges are dotted along the Cambridge stretch of this major thoroughfare, which runs from Dorchester all the way to Lexington. Embark on a live musiccrawl from the mighty Middle East in Central Square to tiny Toad in Porter Square, stopping for burgersor other cheap eats along the way.
Top Cambridge attractions
Harvard Museum of Natural History
This historic museum boasts a vast and slightly creepy collection of stuffed, bottled and dried creatures from around the globe, from llamas to coelacanths and butterflies. Fossil-mad children can gawp at dinosaur skeletons and admire the 42ft kronosaurus, a prehistoric marine reptile, while rock fans will head straight for the meteorites and gemstones. Your entry charge includes admission to the interconnected Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
This is the final resting place for Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Bulfinch and some 86,000 others. In fact, the cemetery is now so full that locals who want to spend eternity here often settle for cremation. But there's plenty of life too. There are 4,000 types of tree and 130 species of shrub alone on its 175 acres, and excellent free guided tours to help you distinguish them.
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
In the La Corbusier-designed Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the ground-floor main gallery and the Sert Gallery on the third floor host regular exhibitions by prominent international artists. The focus is on contemporary work, with a particular emphasis on photography.
Restaurants in Cambridge
Bars in Cambridge
Deep house and Guinness may not seem like the most natural match, but Phoenix Landing pulls off the hybrid pub/club marvellously. The decor is unremarkable, but the no-frills atmosphere fits well with the gritty underground sounds that find their way through the speakers. The floor is tiny, but the variety is huge: hip hop, reggae, house, techno, drum 'n' bass, new wave and dubstep all have a home here.
Cambridge music and nightlife
Five nights a week, Improv Boston is a clearinghouse for improv, sketch, and standup comedy. Wednesday night, you can get a sampling of all three at the Comedy Lab, which features experimental shows getting ready for a shot at the prestigious Friday night showcase. Recent offerings include "Twitterprov" "The Bigfoot Monologues,” and "Discount Shakespeare: As You Like It in 45 Minutes.” The Comedy Lab lets the top local talent breathe life into their weirdest comedy experiments, and you get to watch.
Shopping in Cambridge
North of the Charles River and in need of a paddling? Hubba Hubba has got the wrist action you're looking for. The shop is best known for its independently designed S&M gear and fetishwear (with more than a pinch of punk). Shop owner Suzan Phelps has been helping locals spice up their wardrobes for over 25 years.
If stepping into this Central Square spot feels a bit like revisiting your first post-college apartment, you may not be surprised to learn that owner Angela Sawyer ran the business out of her tiny Somerville flat until 2009. No Beatles LPs here—Weirdo specializes in experimental and foreign music, from free jazz to Indonesian psychedelia. The store sports a colorful aesthetic, with bobble-head dolls lining the shelves and sky-printed fabrics adorning the walls. Sections display un-ironic titles like “New Sixties” and every price tag is affixed with the slogan, “Get your freak on.” Sawyer occasionally crams people in for concerts that feel, aptly enough, like intimate house shows.
Oona's Experienced Clothing
After acquiring a new owner and a revamped interior a few years back, Oona’s went on to regain its former place as one of the best vintage stores in Boston. The unfortunate (and inaccurate) label of a “costume shop” has hurt Oona’s in the past, but another visit will show former nonbelievers that this is no longer the case. The feel is more Victorian dressing room than Halloween party store. The update is most evident in the men’s section, which has traded in its printed cowboy hats and fake mustaches for vintage Western shirts and Levis 501s. As far as the women’s section goes, the clothes are both affordable (starting at $30 for dresses and $20 for blouses) and beautiful. Everything in the store is thoughtfully handpicked—so you won’t be wasting time rifling through extra-large polyester shift dresses and little league T-shirts.
Established in 1895, Keezer's is the oldest second-hand clothing store in the country and a cherished local resource. Max Keezer started the company by going into Harvard dorms in order to buy barely worn fine clothing from allowance-starved heirs. As well as renting out formalwear (they outfit the Boston Symphony Orchestra), the shop sells second-hand and end-of-the-line men's suits, sports coats, overcoats and casualwear, all in good or mint condition, and with at least 75% off. Since stock comes from Neiman's, Louis Boston and Saks, you may find Armani and Zegna among the labels.