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It's Hip to Be Square

In Cambridge, any commercial area where three or more streets meet in a jumble of traffic and noise has been dubbed a "square." (There are literally hundreds, though most are just simple intersections.) Harvard Square draws the most visitors, but several other neighborhood squares exude their own charms. These are a few of our favorites; if you want to see where real Cantabrigians hang out, head here.

Central Square, at Massachusetts Avenue (known by locals as "Mass Ave."), Prospect Street, and Western Avenue, has Irish pubs, ethnic eats, music clubs, and a row of furniture stores. Cambridge's city government is here, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon lived in the neighborhood. For good eats, check out the Baraka Café (80 Pearl St.) or Green Street (280 Green St.). The Central Square T stop is on the Red Line.

Somerville's Davis Square is just over the border from northwest Cambridge and easily accessible on the Red Line. This funky neighborhood near Tufts University is packed with great eateries, lively bars, and candlepin bowling. Harvard Square can sometimes feel a little tired after midnight, but there's still a lot of energy here late at night. At the Somerville Theater (55 Davis Sq.) you can enjoy cheap first-run movies ($9), excellent popcorn, and even beer and wine with your feature. Check out the hilarious Museum of Bad Art in the basement before or after your flick. The Davis Square T stop is on the Red Line.

Impossibly hip Inman Square, at the intersection of Cambridge and Hampshire streets, has a great cluster of restaurants, cafés, bars, and shops. This place is just plain cool. Some highlights include Christina's (1255 Cambridge St.), where you can enjoy some wildly inventive ice cream, and Punjabi Dhaba (225 Hampshire St.), a perfect stop for cheap-but-good late-night Indian food and outstanding people-watching. Sadly, there's no T service to Inman, but you can get here from Harvard Square or Central Square on foot; it's near the intersection of Hampshire and Cambridge streets.

At Kendall Square, near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the heart of the city's thriving biotech industry, an art-house multiplex shows first-run films. The square is also a stone's throw from the Charles and a short walk from riverside restaurant Dante (40 Edwin H. Land Blvd.). The Kendall Square/MIT T stop is on the Red Line.

Porter Square, about a mile northwest of Harvard Square on Mass Ave., has several shopping centers and, within the nearby Porter Exchange, Japanese noodle and food shops. As you walk north (away from Harvard) past the heart of Porter Square, you'll pass pretty much every ethnic eatery imaginable, many of them excellent and far cheaper than Harvard Square restaurants. Standouts include the Cambodian-French fusion Elephant Walk (2067 Massachusetts Ave.) and Greek Corner (2366 Massachusetts Ave.), but you'll also find Indian, Chinese, Thai, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, and Himalayan. There are also quite a few unique shops along the way. The Porter Square T stop is on the Red Line.

Updated: 2014-04-16

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