Just across the Charles River from Boston, the city of Cambridge is often considered an uber-intellectual, liberal enclave—“Boston’s Left Bank” or “The People’s Republic of Cambridge.” Home to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge attracts brilliant academics from around the world.
Bostonians and locals refer to Cambridge residents as Cantabrigians, rooted in the city’s Latin name—Cantabrigia. Yet defining a Cantabrigian is not so straightforward, particularly in such a cultural melting pot. English Puritans settled the city in 1630. In the 19th century, Irish immigrants escaped the potato famine to Cambridge and boosted the population 22 percent. Polish, Italian and German transplants soon followed. The city's historical makeup has resulted in today's extremely diverse population of 105,000.
Visitors arrive from Boston by hopping on the Red Line and crossing the Charles River. A top attraction in Cambridge is Harvard Square—the center point of the city, where John F. Kennedy Street, Massachusetts Avenue and Brattle Street converge. Book stores, bars and cafés pepper the area that is alive with an eclectic mix of mathematicians, poets and musicians, working students and wealthy alumni. In the middle of Harvard Square, at the information booth, volunteers hand out area brochures and maps.
Many of the top attractions in Cambridge are within a pleasant walking distance of Harvard Square. A stroll along Brattle Street leads to Tory Row, a residential neighborhood of 18th-century homes, once occupied by British residents loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War. While visiting Cambridge, history buffs also stop at 105 Brattle Street, the butter-yellow mansion of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. General George Washington set up headquarters here during the Siege of Boston from 1775 to 1776. Visitor tours are available.
Just off Massachusetts Avenue, around the corner from Harvard Square, lies world-renowned Harvard University. Student-led tours are free, and visitors meet at the Events & Information Center in Holyoke Center. Also on campus, see the Harvard Museum of Natural History, connected to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.
About a mile from Harvard Square is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nestled on the Charles River bank, across from Beacon Hill and Back Bay. During a free campus tour, art aficionados eye outdoor sculptures by Picasso, and modern architecture such as the Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry.
While visiting Cambridge, a jog or stroll along the Charles River completes the journey. Approximately 10 minutes from any point in the city, the river walk provides views of the Boston skyline, Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, and the spires of Harvard University.
Mount Auburn Cemetery is located on the west side of Cambridge, at the intersection of Brattle Street and Mount Auburn Street. The most famous burial place in the Cambridge and Boston area, Mount Auburn was dedicated in 1831 as the first garden cemetery in the U.S. It should be no surprise that well-known intellectuals, such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and B. F. Skinner, are buried here. Story Chapel visitor center displays exhibits and provides information on tours.