Cambridge (Massachusetts)

MIT's Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry

Cambridge is a city in Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. It is renowned as the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both widely considered to be among the best universities in the world.


First settled in 1630 by English Puritans, Cambridge developed as an agricultural town and was not really convenient to Boston until bridges were built over the Charles River in 1793 and 1809. The latter of these opened up East Cambridge for industrial development led by furniture and glass factories. A major influx of penniless Irish immigrants fleeing the potato blight in 1845 increased the Irish population to 22 per cent in the next ten years. Toward the end of that century they were followed by immigrants from Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Germany. French Canadians and Russian Jews also came at this time. A small African American population had been growing from colonial times, attracted by the integrated schools.

The result today is a highly diverse population augmented and further diversified by brilliant men and women drawn to Cambridge over the years by Harvard, Radcliffe and M.I.T., and, in recent years, by the local high technology companies. "Cantabrigians" (from the city's Latin name, Cantabrigia) are regarded as progressive and tolerant. Decline of the industrial base in the early 1900s led Cambridge to become an intellectual center. Universities are the major employers, but cutting edge companies in information technology and biotechnology such as Akamai Technologies, Genzyme, Biogen Idec, and Novartis are located adjacent to the MIT campus in the Kendall Square area.

Cambridge now advertises itself as "a city where counter-culture still lives, classic culture thrives, and multicultural is a way of life." "Boston's Left Bank: A little funkier, a little spunkier and definitely spicier than Boston."

Get in

By plane

or (about one hour away):

By train

Amtrak train service is available to nearby Boston from many east coast cities as well as Chicago and upstate New York.

Mass Bay Transportation Authority - MBTA or "the T", :

By car

Interstate 90 to Exit 18, or Interstate 93 to Exit 27, "Storrow Drive" to Monsignor O'Brien Highway (Rt. 28) to Cambridge.

Route 2 comes into Cambridge from Interstate 95 to the northwest.

Cambridge has a great many one-way streets and most streets and roads are not on a grid system. Drivers unfamiliar with the area are well advised to have a GPS device as one wrong turn can easily result in getting lost.

By bus

The MBTA, has local regional bus service. For intercity buses, see Boston.

Get around

By public transportation

Public transportation is provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority ("MBTA"), which serves the entire Boston Metro area (including Cambridge.) The local subway system is called the "T" and can take you to most points of interest. The T's Red Line has Cambridge stations in Kendall Square, Central Square, Harvard Square, and Porter Square. The Green Line has one station in Cambridge: Lechmere.

Directions are often marked "inbound" and "outbound", with reference to downtown Boston, where all four lines converge at four stops: State (Blue and Orange), Park Street (Red and Green), Government Center (Blue and Green), and Downtown Crossing (Orange and Red).

The MBTA does not operate 24-hour service. Service begins for the day after 5:30AM and ends before 12:15AM on weekdays. Weekend schedules are slightly different and do not open until 6:30AM on Sundays. Transport still runs for a short time after this — stated times are "first train leaves the station" or "last train leaves the station" — and thus, to complete the route, will actually be in service for as much as an hour longer or an hour before, but it is imperative to find out when last service is scheduled to the stations you need, and allot time for early or late arrivals.

MBTA employees can offer information on scheduling, but are not always available at all stations. Communication between stations is complex and while significant changes will be announced, often T employees themselves are not informed of delays or minor changes. Bus stations that are not also subway stations are unstaffed.

As of July 2009, subway fare is $2 and includes transfers between all four subway lines (Red, Green, Orange and Blue) and bus fare varies between $1.50 and $5 and also includes transfers. Fares are paid via a stored value ticket available in vending machines at subway stations. Fare is discounted if using the freely available reusable plastic pass, which can be obtained at Harvard Square station, 7-11 convenience stores or Star supermarkets.

Information on fares, routes, delays and schedule changes is available at the MBTA's web site.

By taxi

A taxi trip of a mile or less costs $5, excluding tip. Most of the major tourist areas will be a $10–25 fare. A trip to Logan Airport can cost up to $55, including tip, tolls and any waiting time. Flat rates are set for trips to Logan Airport from each hotel in Cambridge, which include all but luggage handling and gratuity.

Taxis are abundant in Harvard Square and Central Square, with many being queued up waiting for fares. The places that they will queue are designated as cab stands by street signs. Taxis are less abundant in Porter Square and rare near Alewife and Lechmere.

It is possible to signal a taxi from the sidewalk by waving an arm or a hand — a taxi cruising for fares is watching the crowds for this — and have it stop for you; however, taxi drivers from towns and cities other than Cambridge are heavily penalised if they accept passengers flagging them down on the street. This rule is not always rigorously followed, but taxi drivers from Boston, Brookline, Somerville and other towns will be wary of street pick-ups.

Taxis are regulated by the Cambridge Licence Commission, which sets fares and handles complaints.

The two primary taxi companies in Cambridge are:

By bicycle

Cambridge is perhaps the most bicycle-friendly city in the Greater Boston area and probably has the most people who use bikes to commute and just to get around. While there are few bike routes, most major streets have bike lanes, and many minor streets do too. Car drivers tend to be aware of bike riders and generally respect bike riders' right of way. All of these features make Cambridge the safest place to ride a bike in Greater Boston.

Lock your bike when you park it! Bike thieves are skilled and quick. Be sure to lock your front wheel in addition to your frame, and your back wheel too if it is a quick-release.


City hall


Presidential places


Seasonal events





The Great Dome at MIT

Many visitors to Cambridge are there to see its two major universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, either as tourists or as prospective students. Both universities have extensive information for visiting prospects. As this typically varies with type of student (graduate, undergraduate) and program of study (for graduate students), prospectives are best advised to visit the school websites that interest them.

Harvard Yard, located right by the Harvard stop on the Red Line subway, is the center of Harvard College and a favorite of tourists, who can often be seen taking pictures of each other at the statue of John Harvard, located in front of Massachusetts Hall.

In the shadows of these two giants are other fine schools.



With a dizzying array of options, and slightly less stringent liquor laws, Cambridge is every bit as much a dining destination as Boston. Many restaurants cluster around Harvard and Central Squares. If you're willing to stray a bit beyond the subway stops (and you should be), you'll quickly discover many less-travelled neighborhood gems.







One budget option is to peruse Boston for temporary listings for people who are gone for a week or a month and trying to rent out their apartment. In the summer, you might find a bedroom for $200–300/week, which is a lot cheaper than a hotel.

Bed and breakfasts



Stay safe

Cambridge is generally very safe, though it is a city and the standard precautions should be observed. The neighborhood of East Cambridge, which is near the Charlestown border and on the Charles River, usually has the city's highest crime rate (of course, this observation is relative to the Cambridge's low crime rate overall).

As a rule, most crime in Cambridge that might affect a traveller is property crime. Parked vehicles with electronic equipment visible — laptops, mobile phones, GPS units, iPods, and the like — are the most likely to be targeted.

Pepper spray is considered a weapon in Massachusetts, and is sold only by licensed dealers to persons who have obtained a firearms identification card. Out-of-state visitors should be advised that Massachusetts does not honor firearms licenses from other states.

For more information, go to the Cambridge Police Department's website .


Greater Boston uses 10-digit dialing. This means you need to include the area code whenever you are making a call. The standard area code is 617, but some phone numbers, especially cell phones, use the new 857 overlay.


Houses of worship


Go next

Routes through Cambridge

Lowell Arlington  N  S  Becomes
Concord Arlington/Belmont  W  E  Boston END
Becomes  N  S  Boston Plymouth
Fitchburg Belmont  NW  SE  Boston END
END  N  S  North End Downtown Boston
END  N  S  Beacon Hill Downtown Boston

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.