Boston’s Harvard Square (Cambridge) – Educational Epicenter of Boston, and One of Boston’s Most Walkable Areas
Harvard Square, the historic center of Cambridge and often considered one of the educational capitals of the world, is an essential destination. History, cafes, restaurants, and museums abound. Harvard Yard and L.A. Burdick’s famous hot chocolate are just a couple of reasons to visit this cultural and energetic hub.
This area is also conveniently consolidated and easy to navigate. It is worth visiting rain or shine – there are plenty of sheltered and air-conditioned places to stop into along the streets, and the different attractions are all comfortable (provide shade, shelter, or air-conditioning). Considering nearly all of the area’s most worthwhile activities and eateries are situated within such a small radius (1/4-mile radius), Harvard Square should be on everybody’s travel itinerary (locals and tourists alike)!
Harvard Square is a particularly accessible location. With so many students, tourists and working professionals constantly walking throughout the area, the entire area is designed for pedestrians with slow street traffic, curb cuts, and convenient cross walks at virtually every intersection. The sidewalks are mostly smooth brick and wide. It is a mostly flat and maneuverable landscape. Additionally, centrally located parking and public transportation make it an especially easy area to access.
Street Parking: One and two hour paid meter parking (quarters only, Monday through Saturday between 8am and 8pm) lines most of the streets throughout the area. Parking is free all night, on Sundays and holidays. Unfortunately, there are not many accessible-designated street parking spots, although there are a few scattered throughout the area.
Parking Garages: There are a variety of parking garages throughout Harvard Square. Availability depends largely on serendipity, although the early bird usually does get the worm as the garages fill up during late afternoon and early evening. The most convenient is the Harvard Square Parking Garage because it really is located in the heart of the Square, but the others are great options too. Harvard University – 52 Oxford Street Garage is the most convenient option if you are planning on visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural Science (which we think you should!) during the weekend.
Harvard Square Parking Garage:
Address: 20 Eliot Street, Cambridge
Varying Rates, $20 for 2 hours
Note: parking costs $2 for indefinite parking anytime entering after 5pm or anytime on Sunday if you get your ticked validated by a Harvard Square establishment
Propark – Holyoke Center Parking Garage:
Address: 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
Varying Rates, $20 for 2 hours
Propark – Church Street:
Address: 41 Church Street, Cambridge
Varying Rates, $19 for 2 hours
Harvard University – 52 Oxford Street Garage:
Address: 52 Oxford Street, Cambridge
Varying Rates, $8 during weekend
Note: This parking is only available if visiting one of Harvard’s museums. If you are visiting during the weekend, a parking permit can be purchased at the museum’s admission desk for $8 (license plate number required).
Harvard Square T Stop: Ride Red Line to the Harvard Square to easily access Harvard Square with public transportation. The Red Line is fully accessible and has convenient elevator access which takes you to the heart of Harvard Square.
Car Rental: Accessible Vans of America, a company that specializes in renting out accessible equipment, offers services in Boston and can be a convenient way to access the Harvard Square.
Phone: (781) 222-0020
Uber/Lyft: Both Uber and Lyft operate in Boston and are convenient ways of arriving at the Harvard Square.
While not as prolific as some other areas in Boston, Harvard Square’s dining scene boasts a diverse and impressive selection of restaurants and quick bites. Taquerias, cafés, sandwich shops, and fine dining are among the area’s highlights.
On top of that, most of these options are extremely accessible. We have hand-picked some of the best and most accessible (TravelEz Certified) restaurants in Harvard Square.
Russell House Tavern ($$, 4 Stars on Yelp, 4 Stars on TripAdvisor)
Russell House Tavern is rated one of Cambridge’s best restaurants (Zagat, TripAdvisor, Yelp) and is conveniently located in the very heart of the Square (seconds away from the T Stop)! An awesome American-themed (and pizza-diverse) menu coupled with perfect accessibility, a beautiful atmosphere, and friendly staff make this a top notch option.
Phone: (617) 500-3055
Alden & Harlow ($$$, 4 Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
Just two streets away from the T Stop, this centrally located restaurant is one of Harvard Square’s finest dining options. An impressively curated American-themed menu offers great food in an aesthetically pleasing dining area help put Alden & Harlow at the top of any Best of Cambridge restaurant lists. It is also a particularly accessible location (in the basement of the building, but a convenient ramp makes this a non-issue).
Phone: (617) 864-2100
L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates [Café] ($$, 4½ Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
This chocolatier and café is renowned one of the best in the country, and deservedly so. If you are looking for the hot cocoa of a lifetime or an assortment of amazing handmade chocolates, this is the place to go (doubly so on an overcast or rainy day). The location is also spacious with accessible accommodations and good seating options (although be prepared for seats to be full during crowded hours).
Phone: (617) 491-4340
Felipe’s Taqueria ($, 3½ Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
Felipe’s is centrally located (directly outside one of the Harvard Square T Stop entrance/exits) tasty, and affordable. Arguably the best Mexican food in the area, Felipe’s Taqueria is a fun dining choice for lunch, dinner, or late night dining (open until midnight).
This taqueria is also very well designed from an accessibility standpoint. It has elevator access to accessible seating on each floor (including a basement bar, rooftop bar, and additional floor of seating). It is important to note, however, that it is not a traditional sit-down and order format. Rather, to order and pay for your food, you must wait in line and explain to staff what you want as the prepare your order in a build-your-own format. We recommend not going during peak hours (prime lunch and dinner times) to avoid lines, and asking the person who rings up your order to carry your food to your desired table for you. With that said, it is still a very accessible location and is one of our favorite Harvard Square restaurants!
Phone: (617) 354-9944
Henrietta’s Table ($$$, 3½ Stars on Yelp, 4 Stars on TripAdvisor)
Located in The Charles Hotel about three blocks to the southwest of Harvard Square’s center, this restaurant is a simple and easy option with solid food. It is accessible by entering the elegant The Charles Hotel’s main entrance and taking a lobby elevator to the hotel’s second floor to reach the restaurant. The restaurant (as well as the hotel) is very spacious and comfortable and is a totally hassle-free dining choice.
Phone: (617) 661-5005
Attractions/Things to Do
Exploring history and art museums, walking along the Charles River, and wandering one of the world’s most legendary universities are among the incredible list of totally accessible activities to do within a short walking distance of the Harvard Square’s center. All of the following attractions and activities are less than a ten-minute walk from the Harvard Square T Stop.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History & The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
These two Harvard museums are must-sees for museum lovers, botanical lovers, and history lovers. We recommend touring both museums during the same exhibit since admission ($12 Adult Admission) at one works for both adjacent collections. The self-guided tour takes most about 1.5-2 hours, although it depends on what speed you want to go at. Elevators, accessible restrooms, ample areas to sit, water fountains, and extra wheelchairs/walkers on hand make these museums very accessible and manageable for any visitor!
While the Paul Revere House is the more famous exhibit, the Hichborn House (adjacent to the Paul Revere House) is also a notable attraction. It is worth noting that the Hichborn House’s second floor is not accessible, but a photo book of the second floor is available to view and you will only be charged half-priced admission if accessing the second floor is not feasible for you. The Hichborn house is viewable through guided tour only, so call ahead to see what times they are offering tours for the day you are there! Additionally, some doorways are too narrow for wheelchairs and scooters to fit through, but the majority of the houses are exportable regardless of mode of movement.
The Peabody Museum is one of the world’s first and most important anthropology museums. Appalling collections of Mayan monuments and an illustrative exhibit showing the lives of Lakota warriors are just a couple of reasons to check out this renowned museum.
Then there’s the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which is one of Boston’s most famous museums. Sixteen galleries of animals, dinosaurs, and meteorites, along with the world-famous collection of 2,000 glass flowers, should be enough to keep your attention throughout the tour.
Not only are these two completely accessible museums independently amazing, but they share the same building and can both be toured with the purchase of a single admission ticket! For hassle-free accessibility, we recommend beginning your tour through the galleries with entering the Peabody Museum first via the Tozzer building entrance (about ten feet to the right of the museum’s main entrance). You can drive your car to this entrance to drop off passengers, but you cannot park there. If you want to park nearby rather than walk to the entrance, we recommend parking at Harvard’s 52 Oxford Street Garage (details above in “Parking” section). The museums are also an 8-minute walk from the heart of Harvard Square.
Once inside, you can purchase your admission ticket and pick up maps to the museums that diagram the different floors and exhibits, all of which are accessible. From there, explore the galleries on the first floor and then the fourth floor (accessible via elevator). Finally, take the elevator down to the third floor and view what you want before using the third floor entrance to the Harvard Museum of Natural History! The Natural History Museum is equally accessible, with the entire museum being on one floor. Take in the amazing exhibits before returning to the Peabody Museum where you began your tour to exit.
[Peabody Museum Info]
Phone: (617) 496-1027
[Natural History Museum Info]
Phone: (617) 495-3045
Browse Eclectic Bookstores, Boutique Shops, and Cafés
Harvard Square is a buzzing, eclectic, and fun area that makes for a wonderful and unique wandering experience. The are enough bookstores, vintage record stores, cute boutique shops, and cafés to fill an entire day of exploring! With all of the area’s other activities, we do not recommend spending your entire day doing this, but we do think you should take advantage of the opportunity to poke around these nearby places and check out the ones that pique your interest!
Harvard Art Museums
Technically a collection of three separate museums, The Harvard Art Museums offer an amazing collection under one roof ($15 Adult Admission). Exhibits showing pieces dating back to over 2,000 years ago and coming from all parts of the world, this museum has a ton to offer. The museum’s self-guided tour takes most 1.5-2 hours to view the entire collection, but you can take however long or short your heart desires! Educational staff throughout are always available to answer whatever questions you may have. There is also a café on the first floor in case you want refreshments or a little snack at any point!
The museum is totally accessible, including easy ramp access to each entry, elevator access to each floor, centrally located seats on each floor, accessible restrooms and water fountains, wheelchairs and walkers for loan in the entrance, and comfortable climate-controlled temperatures. It is a 7-minute walk from the heart of Harvard Square. If you are driving, we recommend accessing via the Quincy Ave. or Broadway. If accessing from Quincy Ave., there is an easy drop-off area outside the lane of traffic immediately in front of the ramp entrance. This street also includes two designated accessible parking spots directly across from the ramp entrance. If accessing from Broadway, read the information from the museum’s website listed below:
From website: “Visitors arriving via paratransit van or similar are recommended to use the entrance on Broadway, which allows a right-side exit from the vehicle. Accessible parking is available in the Broadway Garage, located at 5 Felton Street. (Please note that the garage has a 6 ft. 8 in. height limit.) Parking permits can be purchased online; visitors without an assigned code can use “Visitor to Campus” as their department and 7700 as their department code in the online ordering system.”
Phone: (617) 495-9400
Harvard Yard & John Harvard Statue
There is no better way to get a glimpse of America’s oldest college (1636) than walking through the heart of the Harvard University. Students running to class, tourist groups marveling at the location’s fun and extensive history, and prospective students hoping to maybe attend this prestigious university fill Harvard Yard. The Yard is surrounded by some of the oldest and prettiest academic buildings in the country. Regardless of the time of year, the Yard’s beautiful aesthetics and contagious energy are great reasons to pay a visit.
The famous John Harvard Statue is located in the center of Harvard Yard, and is a fun piece of campus history. Take your picture with and touch the shoes of the ‘statue of three lies’ (another name for the John Harvard Statue, visit to find out why it has this name!) for good luck and continue on with the rest of your walk through Harvard Yard.
Harvard Yard is extremely accessible, with smoothly paved and wide paths crossing throughout the area. All Harvard buildings surrounding the area are completely accessible (ramps, accessible restrooms, etc.). There are also numerous places throughout to sit and and absorb the beauty of the scenery and energy.
The Garage was once an actual garage, but has since been converted into a mini-mall filled with quick bites (Jefe’s Taqueria, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Subway, etc.) and fun stores (Newbury Comics, Hempest, Audio Lab, Anime Zakka) that show off the hipstery edge of Cambridge. The location is completely accessible with a spacious layout along with an elevator, ramps, and escalator. There are multiple entrances to this location, but the only accessible entrance is on John F. Kennedy Street. The Garage is a great stop if you want to grab something quick to eat or browse some cool stores!
The Hahvahd Tour
If you want a fun walkthrough of Harvard’s history along with a slew of fun facts and stories, the Hahvahd Tour is the tour for you. Begun by Harvard alumnae and guided by Harvard students, this fun tour will take you through Harvard Yard and surrounding areas. It costs $12 per person if you book physically, but only $10 if you book online (find booking link below). Depending on the time of year, they run tours every 30 minutes, leaving from the center of Harvard Square (directly beside the T Stop) and ending at The Harvard Shop a couple of blocks down. The tour is accessible in that it does not stop at any inaccessible or difficult locations. With that said, the speed of the tour can vary depending on the size of the group. Tours last about 70 minutes and cover a little less than a mile in that time.
Booking Link: http://www.trademarktours.com/harvard-tour/booking/
Phone: (855) 455-8747
John F. Kennedy Park & Memorial Drive (The Charles River)
The peaceful JFK Park is a short walk from the center of Harvard Square and overlooks the scenic Charles River. There are plenty of benches to stop and enjoy the view of joggers, artists, and rowers moving across the water.
JFK Park is a stop on Memorial Drive, a paved trail that runs along the Charles River. If you want a nice walk along the water just outside of the bustling Harvard Square, this is the place to do it! The path is very well maintained, and although it is often busy with cyclists and joggers, everyone goes at their own pace, so feel comfortable doing the same!
Mt. Auburn Cemetery
This cemetery is the country’s first “garden cemetery” dating back to 1831, making a walkthrough of the location a beautiful tour of gorgeous botany, beautiful birds, and famous burial plots.
The cemetery has a shorter mile-long path and an extended 2-mile-long path. While you can certainly walk the path, most visitors drive along the paths throughout the cemetery and simply stop at locations that interest them. Like any self-guided tour, the length of the tour is completely up to you, but it is reasonable to spend at least an hour learning about the vegetation, wildlife, and history of the area.
Since the cemetery is a 30-minute walk/7-minute drive from Harvard Square, we recommend driving to this famous destination either on the way to or from the Square. With the exception of the Washington Tower overlook (which requires climbing a number of stairs to enter), the cemetery is completely accessible – wide paved pathways, scattered seating, the ability to use a car, and an air-conditioned and accessible visitor’s center make Mt. Auburn Cemetery a very accessible location.
Phone: (617) 547-7105
The Charles Hotel (4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
The Charles is one of the most impressive and luxurious hotels in Cambridge. While pricier than other sleeping options, this hotel is the most conveniently located (three blocks away from the center of Harvard Square, overlooks the pristine Charles River) and the prettiest near the Square. It is especially accessible, featuring convenient parking options, valet parking, a spacious and open layout, and extremely helpful staff to name a few benefits.
Additionally, the hotel is home to a list of solid three separate restaurants in its interior (Benedetto, Noir, and Henrietta’s Table). Legal Sea Food’s Restaurant and Corbu Span and Salon share the courtyard with the hotel as well.
Phone: (617) 207-6880
Harvard Square Hotel (4 Stars on TripAdvisor)
This hotel is a convenient and affordable lodging solution conveniently located just two blocks removed from the epicenter of Harvard Square. Harvard Square Hotel is very accessible and houses 1 room with a roll-in shower and 3 accessible-designated rooms. It also has convenient parking ($25/day, $35 overnight) and drop-off area. Although the hotel does not have any internal restaurants, there are more than enough eating options just steps away from the site!
Phone: (617) 864-5200
Garrett’s Recommended Itinerary
Total Time: 5 hours
Total Distance: 2 miles
1. Arrive via car at Harvard Square Parking Garage.
2. Walk to the T Stop to schedule and take the Hahvahd Tour to discover Harvard Yard and surrounding area. [1 hour]
3. Walk from The Harvard Shop (where the Hahvahd Tour ends) to Russell House Tavern for a delicious afternoon brunch or lunch! [1 hour 15 min]
4. Head on over to the Harvard Art Museums to appreciate one of Boston’s best art collections. [1 hour 30 min]
5. Take the short walk along Massachusetts Ave. towards L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates (feel free to stop along interesting shops along the way!) where you are guaranteed to taste some of the best hot cocoa and chocolate in the country in a quaint café atmosphere! [30 min]
6. Return to Harvard Square Parking Garage to leave the area.
7. On your way out of town, take the detour to Mt. Auburn Cemetery to drive through and observe one of America’s prettiest cemeteries. [45 min]