Somerville

Somerville is a city near Boston.

Understand

Somerville has managed to hold onto its blue-collar roots while at the same time gentrifying. It's fairly ethnically diverse, with populations including Irish, Italians, Portuguese, Brazilians (probably the largest ethnic minority), Haitians, Tibetans, Indians, Chinese, and others. It is still the most densely populated city in New England (about 80,000 people in four square miles), so visitors will find lots of purely residential territory between the "fun" areas: Davis Square, Porter Square, Union Square, and Powderhouse Square (the location of Tufts University). Other notable neighborhoods include Union Square and Winter Hill, erstwhile home of the "Winter Hill Gang", the organized crime group headed by Whitey Bulger in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as East Somerville, probably the last non-gentrified area, which has a substantial immigrant population.

Somerville has a number of "squares", which are areas where several of the larger roads come together and which have various stores and parking. Navigating Somerville is easier if you consider the major squares as "hubs" connected by main streets as "spokes." The major squares include Davis Square, Teele Square, Powderhouse Square, Union Square, Magoun Square, and Ball Square. Many intersections have small plaques dedicating them as squares named after notable Somerville residents, frequently war veterans, but these areas are never actually referred to by those names.

Neighborhoods

Winter Hill, Located roughly north of Highland Avenue and west of the McGrath Highway, Winter Hill is home to a mix of restored homes and aluminium-sided fixer-uppers, replete with china gnomes and bathtub Virgin Marys. Once known as the home base of Irish gangsters Whitey Bulger, James "Buddy" McLean, Howie Winter and the notorious Winter Hill Gang, Winter Hill is now, like much of the rest of Somerville, experiencing gentrification and a resulting rise in property values and rents. Despite these changes, the area continues to hang onto its neighborhood flavor and is home to a large community of Irish, Italians, Brazilians, Portuguese, Cape Verdeans, and other ethnic groups.

Davis Square, This is a great late-night summer hangout, especially given that J.P. Licks is here. (J.P. Licks is a trendy local ice cream shop, also seen on Newbury Street in Boston.) It's right on the Red Line, and also a major bus transfer point. Tons of college folk linger in the brick plaza. The Somerville Theatre doubles as a movie house (showing first- and second-run films, as well as arthouse fare) and music venue. The basement level of the Somerville Theatre also houses the "Museum of Bad Art," (MoBA), a small and profoundly eclectic collection that never fails to astonish. Davis Square has several coffeehouses, most notably the locally owned Diesel Cafe on Elm Street, that draw people day and night.

Teele Square, Just up the street from Davis Square (heading west) it has a lot to offer in way of local restaurants. It's less crowded than Davis Square and less trendy. Head up this way if you're looking for good subs and pizza (Angelina's), Mexican food (Rudy's), or multi-ethnic Mediterranean fare from the Balkans and beyond (Sabur).

Union Square, It is not on the Red Line, so it's a bit off the beaten path. It is only a 15 minute walk from the Sullivan Square Orange Line station, and there are MBTA buses arriving from Central, Harvard, Porter, Davis, Lechmere, and Sullivan Square T stops. (It's a nice walk in good weather from the West, but the neighborhoods to the East are less nice.) There are a number of Brazilian restaurants and stores around, including a Brazilian butcher-slash-convenience store. The Brazilian community extends to Inman Square (Cambridge) and there's another pocket in Allston. There's also Indian, Mexican, and Peruvian fare here. Bloc 11 cafe is an excellent locally-owned coffee houses. Union Square is a nice, brick-based New England intersection of many roads. Ongoing improvements to the square include benches created by local artists. As of mid-2010, major reconstruction of Somerville Avenue (as it travels from Porter Square to Union Square) is nearing completion, bringing with it an improved streetscape with better lighting, more traffic lights, and raised pedestrian crosswalks. The Brickbottom Artists Studios are just outside of Union Square, under the McGrath Highway.

Get in

By plane

Fly in to Logan International Airport in Boston. A taxi from Logan to Somerville can cost anywhere between $20 and $35 depending on the location in Somerville, the route taken, and time of day.

One of the two subway stops in Somerville is the Davis Square stop on the Red Line. To reach Davis with mass transit, take the Silver Line bus service to South Station, then transfer to the Red Line. The silver line is free and the trip to Davis should take 45 minutes to an hour. The second stop is Sullivan Square Orange Line stop. To reach Sullivan Square, one can either change from the Red Line at Downtown Crossing to the Orange Line or take the Blue Line from the airport and change to the Orange Line at State Street.

Other places in Somerville can be reached on buses from Lechmere which is on the Green Line. To reach the Green Line, one can change from the Red Line at Park Street or take the Blue Line from the airport and change to the greenline at Government Center.

By train

Take the MBTA Red Line to either the Davis Square or Porter Square Stations. If you're coming from downtown (e.g. South Station) you'll want to hop on an Alewife/Harvard bound train.

You can also take the Orange Line to Sullivan Square and then take one of the MBTA busses up Broadway through Winter Hill and beyond.

Should you be coming from northwest of Boston (e.g. Fitchburg) you can also ride the MBTA Commuter Rail.

By car

From points North: You can get to Somerville in two ways:

  1. take Interstate 93 and get off at exits 29-31
  2. take Route 3 and park at the Alewife station on the MBTA Red Line. Take the inbound Red Line to Davis Square. This is advisable on the weekends, as parking can be hard to find near Davis Square.

By bus

The MBTA bus system will take you from Sullivan Square (Orange Line) through Somerville on to Arlington center and Medford. You can also get to Somerville by bus from Lechmere Station (at the end of the Green Line in Cambridge, near the Cambridgeside Galleria and Boston Museum of Science).

Get around

By mass transit

Somerville is covered by many MBTA (Mass Bay Transit Authority) bus lines, and has two subway stations (the Davis Square Red Line stop and the Assembly Square Orange Line stop) inside the city limits and several others within a few blocks of the city limits. Expansion of the MBTA Green Line light rail to include a number of stops inside the city limits is planned, but unlikely before 2017.

By taxi

Somerville has several taxi businesses. There are cab stands in Davis Square, but in most of the city cabs must be called by telephone.

By bicycle

The Minuteman Bike Trail, a converted railway right of way, the main branch of which runs from Bedford to Alewife (in Cambridge) extends through Davis Square and a bit further to Cedar St., parallel to Highland Ave.

See

Do

Most tourists spend their time near Davis and Porter Squares (within walking distance of each other, Porter actually mostly being over the Cambridge border). Residents sometimes avoid the crowds and hit their favorite spots in Union Square and the Winter Hill area, further from the T subways but still quite accessible.

Davis Square attractions

There are also numerous bars and restaurants as well as various shops, some of which are mentioned below.

Elsewhere

Annual events

Learn

Tufts University is a major American research university. The main campus is located next to the Powderhouse Square area, and includes the undergraduates and most graduate schools, including the Fletcher School of International Diplomacy. The Medical school and several other health sciences graduate programs and laboratories are located in downtown Boston next to Chinatown, while the Veterinary school is halfway across the state in Grafton, Mass.

Work

Somerville is largely residential, with some retail and professional services, a hospital, and some light industry such as cabinet makers, printing companies, and some very small junkyards. Somerville residents span a wide economic spectrum, and thus hold all sorts of jobs within the greater Boston area.

Buy

Davis Square


Elsewhere

Eat

Including supermarkets and convenience stores, Somerville has nearly 200 places to get food. It's home to many restaurants, from low-priced pizza and ethnic finds to elegant dining.

Davis and Teele Squares


Union Square

Ball Square

Everywhere else

Drink

Sleep

Somerville is, as mentioned elsewhere, a heavily residential area; hence, there are few hotels. Although there are plans for a hotel in West Somerville (i.e., in Davis Square), currently no hotels exist. Many more options are available in Cambridge or in one of the outlying suburbs along Route 93 or Route 95. Harvard Square has several hotels and is easily accessible to many parts of Somerville with mass transit.

Mid-range

Stay safe

The area around Sullivan Square and the Assembly Square Mall is a bit desolate after dark. You have to walk under the highway and there are several dive bars nearby. If you find yourself at Sullivan Square after dark, you might want to stick close to the bus stops where there are plenty of people around.

Go next

Boston, Cambridge, the North Shore are nearby. All of New England can be reached in a few hours.

Routes through Somerville

Manchester Medford  N  S  Boston Canton


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, November 09, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.