Cambridge in Massachusetts: The Other City Across the Charles River

Boston might be the epicenter of history and culture but Cambridge in Massachusetts, the other city bordering the Charles River, has a charming character of its own. It manages to blend the charms of a typical New England town with the advantages of an urban city. Small boutique shops and family-run restaurants are more common here than chain establishments, and traditional pubs are the staple of nightlife rather than rowdier nightclubs. The city, however, is well connected, with the “T” running through the center of town, making it convenient for someone visiting Boston to stop by and explore this brainy town. Here are a few tips on what to do in Cambridge MA .

What to do in Cambridge MA
Cambridge in the Fall (Image via Flickr by Jelly Dude)

Getting to Cambridge, Massachusetts from Boston

Getting to Cambridge has never been easier thanks to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. The “T”’s red line has stops in Cambridge’s main squares including Kendall, Harvard, and Porter. A one-way trip takes less than 20 minutes from South Station. You can also cycle from almost anywhere in Boston into Cambridge. Boston is a bicycle friendly town and has designated bicycle lanes on streets and bridges. Hubway is Boston’s bicycle sharing system. You can rent a bicycle for 24 hours for a mere $6. If you opt to cycle, you can take comfort knowing that you are doing something good for the environment. The views of the commute are also better.

What to do in Cambridge MA
Harvard Bookstore

What to do in Cambridge MA: The College Town

Cambridge in Massachusetts is a bona fide college town , with two premier institutions calling the city home—Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Harvard sits in the heart of Cambridge and is the United States’ oldest university. Its part in in shaping the city’s culture is undeniable and largely the reason why the school itself is synonymous with Cambridge. MIT is a well-respected institution that focuses on scientific and technological research. In addition to the campuses themselves, both universities have museums worth visiting like the Harvard Museum of Natural History and MIT Museum.

What to do in Cambridge MA: Stata Building MIT
Stata Building MIT (Image via Flickr by Slack12)

The Liberal City

The influx of immigrants in the 19th century and the continuous arrival of worldly scholars have greatly influenced Cambridge’s liberal philosophies. Locals welcome diversity, thrive on a multicultural way of life, and are more tolerant of change. Cantabrigians, the colloquial term for local residents, value individuality and the preservation of culture, which contributes greatly to the charm of the city. Only in Cambridge will you find a shop specifically selling items made of hemp or a bookshop with a section on banned prints.

Underrated Accommodation

You do not have to visit a university to stay in Cambridge. In fact, visitors to Boston looking for accommodation that exude charm and elegance without the exorbitant prices will likely find them in Cambridge. Numerous inns offer a more intimate atmosphere for less than half the price of Boston hotels. The Mary Prentiss Inn is a colonial style inn not too far from Harvard Square. These comfortable rooms in a beautiful and historic home in the heart of the square start $159—a bargain compared to Boston’s The Gilded Lily, whose rates begin at $230.

What to do in Cambridge MA: Mary Prentiss Inn
Mary Prentiss Inn

Quirky Shopping and Local Dives

If there is one fun word that sums up the overall ambiance of Cambridge in Massachusetts, it is quirky. Roam the city’s main artery and you will find vintage clothing stores and shops catering to single items like stationery, hats, books, and antiques. There is a corner store that was once a garage, now aptly named The Garage. It sells anything and everything you could possibly want but not necessarily need. Over the past few years, there has been an emergence of fine dining in Cambridge but local favorites like Mr. Bartley’s and BeanTowne Coffee House remain institutions amid the fusion invasion.

What to do in Cambridge Ma: BeanTowne Coffee House
BeanTowne Coffee House

Visit Cambridge USA to find more information about what to do in Cambridge MA and check out Traveling With Iris’ blog for further practical travel tips.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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