Set across the Charles River from Boston, spanning an area of roughly 18.4 square kilometers, the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts is home to two prestigious global institutions and a young international crowd that resonate with the progressive and eventful pulse of the city. Cambridge attracts a throng of tourists every year that immerse themselves into Western cultural history at the classical learning institutions, varied museums and neo-classical landmarks within the city. From cultural indulgence to natural getaways, this list ensures a holistic experience of “Boston’s Left Bank”.   

1. Harvard Art Museums

One of the world’s finest art institutions, the Harvard museum is part of Harvard University. It comprises three culturally varied museums united together in the recently renovated facility designed by celebrated architect, Renzo Piano. The oldest of the three, Fogg Museum, opened in 1896 and delves into Western paintings and impressions from the Middle Ages to contemporary times. The Busch-Reisinger Museum presents an exclusive collection of study devoted to German-speaking countries while the Arthur M. Sackler Museum explores the history of Asian countries and Islamic art. The architecture of the museum itself is worth admiring where historic and modern spaces traverse together flawlessly under the majestic glass roof. 

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2. Harvard Museum of Natural History

With over a quarter-million visitors per year, the Museum of Natural History founded in 1998, is one of the most frequented tourist spots in Cambridge. This results from its unique collection of fossils, rare dinosaurs and reptile skeletons, meteorites, dazzling gemstones, and the globally famed Blaschka ‘Glass flowers’. The permanent exhibitions and special showcases provide an unparalleled insight into science and evolution with hands-on experience for children and enriching lectures for adults. This realm of vast knowledge is housed within well-curated galleries, accessible through winding staircases and awe-inspiring hallways.

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3. Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site

Abode of celebrated American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and headquarters of General George Washington during the American Civil War, this historic site at 105 Brattle Street is a reminiscence to America’s astounding literacy legacy. Apart from being a favored destination among artists, authors and thinkers, this eighteenth-century, mid-Georgian piece of architecture with a sprawling New England style garden also appears frequently on the bucket list of architects and designers. The historic home hosts varied occasions such as re-enactments from American history, music concerts, poetry readings while welcoming tourists around the year.   

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4. Harvard Square

Cambridge has evolved around multiple squares, one of which is Harvard Square, a traditional historic core and currently the central business district of the city. Designed as a triangular plaza at the intersection of Battle Street, John F. Kennedy Street, and Massachusetts Avenue, Harvard Square offers an array of traditional bookstores, popular cafes and aromatic bakeries frequented by Harvard students and renowned theatres reliving Cuban ballet and folk music. At the colorful Harvard Square, one can catch glimpses of stunning street performers and contemporary public art, admire the eye-popping architecture of adjacent structures, visit the Lumen Eclipse exhibit for world-class canvas, or simply indulge in local food at outdoor patios.  

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5. MIT Museum

Bringing to the world, the finest research of the institute in the fields of art, science and technology, the MIT Museum engages visitors in a nexus of permanent exhibitions, international events, hands-on demonstrations and fun-filled activities. Initiated in 1971, the galleries navigate through maritime history, artificial intelligence, holography, robotics and kinetic arts among others. Infusing artwork with technology, the museum is designed to encourage innovation and learning. The Museum also plays host to the winter FebFest and Cambridge Science Festival in the spring along with permanent science-themed stores attracting a continuous flow of curious minds throughout the year. 

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6. Mount Auburn Cemetery

Envisioned as America’s first garden-style cemetery, the Mount Auburn Cemetery founded in 1831 draws inspiration from Parisian Père Lachaise. The graveyard is a romantic interpretation of history with traditional sculptures appearing to be painted on the canvas of nature. Amidst the secluded forestry, visitors beckon upon tombs of noted American figures, historical monuments, and winding pathways leading to the tastefully designed Washington Tower that provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding city. This protected site is also home to a bird sanctuary and serves as an arboretum and a safe shelter for wildlife. 

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7. The Hahvahd Tour

The Hahvahd Tour as pronounced in Cambridge is a student-led walking tour enabling tourists to experience the inside of the world’s most prestigious university. For the lone wanderers, a downloadable application allows for a self-guided tour. The tour is scripted around three themes, that is, Insider Information, Famous Harvardians and Harvard History. During the 70 minutes Expedia, one becomes familiar with major Harvard attractions such as The Science Centre & Memorial Hall, Widener Library, John Harvard Statue, Harvard Lampoon, and Johnson Gate. Walking through the Neo-Classical hallways of the Alma Mater of the world’s eminent personalities fills visitors with inspiration and awe.     

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8. Fresh Pond Reservation

The Fresh Pond Reservation is a sprawling park and nine-hole golf course, enveloping the perimeter of the Fresh Pond that is a natural pond turned reservoir for Cambridge city water supply. The reservation consists of a 2.25-mile trail with unique flora and fauna and a constantly shifting scenery from meadows to woodlands and ponds to wetlands. The mystical trail starting at Neville place especially attracts bikers, cyclists, running enthusiasts, bird-watchers and nature admirers. The layout of the Reservation enables entry from multiple points and encourages universal accessibility with benches at multiple locations and mild grade pathways. 

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9. Memorial Hall

This striking High Victorian Gothic building in Harvard serves as a Memorial Hall honoring the sacrifices of Harvard men during the American Civil War. In actuality, the Hall encompasses three divisions dating back to 1875. At the center is the chambers of the Memorial Transept with a 190-foot tower and ornamented stained glass windows. On the East is the famous Sanders Theatre hosting academic ceremonies and musical concerts. Partially towards the west, is the long, timber-roofed Annenberg Hall displaying portraits of famous Harvard men and used as the freshman dining hall. The Memorial Hall is a historic location symbolic of American commitment. 

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10. American Repertory Theatre

For the performing arts-lovers, The American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) is one of the best places to drop in to witness unique American dramas, period plays and soulful musicals. Started in 1980, this professional theatre on Brattle Street has been redefining art across cultures to become the recipient of multiple Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. The theatre also hosts the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training and the Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club, evolving into a fundamental cultural resource for the arts community.  

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11. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Yet another museum on the list! However, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is rather unique being one of the oldest and largest museums exclusively dedicated to anthropology. While majorly dominated with exhibits concerning North American civilization, the museum also includes multiple archives from Europe, Asia and Africa. Inside the museum, one can encounter towering totem poles of the Native Americans and the life-size Maya sculptures of the Mezo-American era. The museum building connects with the Harvard Museum of Natural History towards the North and only a short walk away from Harvard Square.   

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12. MIT Stata Centre

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presents some of the finest institutional buildings designed by the likes of Eero Saarinen and William Welles Bosworth. One such whimsical and Seussian insert worth witnessing is the MIT Stata Centre designed by Architect Frank O. Gehry as a stunning example of deconstructive architecture. Intended to foster creative interactions and innovative ideas among the inhabitants, the spaces flow unexpectedly from common spaces to collaborative workplaces through a maze of corridors, concealed courtyards and eccentric floor plans. The bold angular exteriors often leave visitors divided on their liking for this unusual creation.

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13. Bondir Cambridge

Bondir is a cozy getaway in the old residential neighborhood called the “The Port”. A French farmhouse turned dine-in, Bondir serves authentic Cambridge cuisine prepared by top chef and owner, Jason Bond. The small restaurant located a few miles from the ocean illustriously reminisces the English dining experience with carefully chosen details, hand-made dishes, elegant lace curtains and earthenware pots with bright flowers. Locals and tourists favor this feast for its farm-fresh, organic ingredients, sea-food specialties and a limited but unique assortment of world-class wine.    

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14. Central Square, Cambridge

Central Square in Cambridge features historic churches, rich periodic architecture, vibrant art culture and diverse nightlife. Serving as a traditional downtown, the Square is a mixed-use district, central to Harvard University on the West and MIT on the east, and surrounded by dense residential neighborhoods. At the heart of the square sits the City Hall and Lombardi Building, with the famous YWCA and the busy Central Square Station nearby, making the Square to be listed under the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The distinctive characteristic of the square with outlets of international chains, ethnic restaurants, high-end pubs has made it a favorite among young professionals and business tourists.  

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15. Modica Way

The Richard B. “Rico” Modica Way in Central Square is not your usual alley, it is an 80-feet stretch of public walkway paying homage to America’s graffiti culture and spontaneous street art. From expressing solidarity on varied social issues to celebrating the popular youth culture, this hidden alleyway has been an open canvas for famous and local artists alike. The colorful, pseudo-stained glass plastic canopy creates a dynamic play of hue and shadows for on-lookers to constantly admire. This stretch is a stunning example of a contemporary public space that encourages pedestrians to slow down and look up from their phones.

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Author

Jagriti Jhunjhunwala, is an Architect and an Urban Designer, suffering from an obsessive need to bring forth stories of people and places through the lens of humanity. Keeping quiet is not one of her many skills, so do ping her on Instagram (@thatshillonggirl) for a stranger's perspective on absolutely anything. Although, you should know, she is rumoured to be a feminist.

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