Fodor's Expert Review Harvard Square

Harvard Square Plaza/Square
Free Fodor's Choice

Tides of students, tourists, and politically charged proponents are all part of the nonstop pedestrian flow at this most celebrated of Cambridge crossroads. Harvard Square is where Massachusetts Avenue, coming from Boston, turns and widens into a triangle broad enough to accommodate a brick peninsula (above the T station). The restored 1928 kiosk in the center of the square once served as the entrance to the MBTA station, and is now home to lively street musicians and artists selling their paintings and photos on blankets. Harvard Yard, with its lecture halls, residential houses, libraries, and museums, is one long border of the square; the other three are composed of clusters of banks, retailers, and restaurants.

Time in the Square raises people-watching to a high art form. On an average afternoon you'll hear earnest conversations in dozens of foreign languages; see every kind of youthful uniform from slouchy sweats to impeccable prep; wander by street musicians playing guitars... READ MORE

Tides of students, tourists, and politically charged proponents are all part of the nonstop pedestrian flow at this most celebrated of Cambridge crossroads. Harvard Square is where Massachusetts Avenue, coming from Boston, turns and widens into a triangle broad enough to accommodate a brick peninsula (above the T station). The restored 1928 kiosk in the center of the square once served as the entrance to the MBTA station, and is now home to lively street musicians and artists selling their paintings and photos on blankets. Harvard Yard, with its lecture halls, residential houses, libraries, and museums, is one long border of the square; the other three are composed of clusters of banks, retailers, and restaurants.

Time in the Square raises people-watching to a high art form. On an average afternoon you'll hear earnest conversations in dozens of foreign languages; see every kind of youthful uniform from slouchy sweats to impeccable prep; wander by street musicians playing guitars and flutes; and wonder at how students reading text books out in the sunshine can get any work done among the commotion.

The historic buildings are worth noting. It's a thrill to walk though the big brick-and-wrought-iron gates to Harvard Yard on up to Widener Library, the University's flagship library. More than 50 miles of bookshelves snake around this imposing neoclassical structure, designed by one of the nation's first major African American architects, Julian Abele. It holds more than 3.5 million volumes in 450 languages, but is unfortunately not open to the public.

Across Garden Street, through an ornamental arch, is Cambridge Common, decreed a public pasture in 1631. It's said that under a large tree that once stood in this meadow George Washington took command of the Continental Army on July 3, 1775. A stone memorial now marks the site of the "Washington Elm." Also on the Common is the Irish Famine Memorial by Derry artist Maurice Harron, unveiled in 1997 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of "Black ’47," the deadliest year of the potato famine. At the center of the Common a large memorial commemorates the Union soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. On the far side of the Common is a fantastic park and newly renovated playground.

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Plaza/Square Free Fodor's Choice Family

Quick Facts

Cambridge, Massachusetts  02138, USA

www.harvardsquare.com

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