By Alexia Simitian
Photography by Ellen Clouse
Harvard Square has been historically significant ever since George Washington took command of the Continental Army there in 1775. In the 19th century, it was a center for abolitionist enthusiasm and in the 20th century it became famous for its anti-Vietnam War protests. But today Harvard Square—located right next to Harvard University—remains home to a vibrant and living community that has been a gathering place for academics, authors, poets, publishers, printers, teachers, students and booksellers.
Between coffee shops and cafés with free Wi-Fi, burger joints, movie theaters, good shopping spots, candy shops and stores filled with all types of knick-knacks, the square is a student’s Wonderland.
“Harvard Square has everything you could possibly need in one place. I’ve been here for almost a year and I’m still finding new places to explore,” said Erin Ozturk, a Harvard freshman.
Cambridge can be a tricky place to maneuver for those who have never been to the Harvard area. The Buzz is here to help with some of the stops you must make on your visit to the other side of the Charles.
Cardullo’s Gourmet Shop is a specialty food store on Brattle Street where every shelf is filled to the brim with freshly prepared foods from around the world. With various free samples and employees always ready to help, this shop has a way of making a customer feel comfortable yet adventurous enough to try something new every visit. A walk through this store gives you an affordable range of options. They sell foreign brands of items like coffee and tea, wine, chocolate, pastries and pasta. In addition, Cardullo’s has a small café where customers can purchase from the likes of fresh coffee and sandwiches, as well as homemade sweets. It is entirely likely to leave Cardullo’s carrying a bag full of food you have never heard of but cannot wait to try.
On your way back to the center of Harvard Square, you might pass the Brattle Theatre, a not-for-profit single screen movie theater that was established by Henry Longfellow’s brother in 1871. As the only independent cinema in all of Cambridge, a night at Brattle can include either a foreign, independent, or classic film for $11. It has an old-fashioned feeling, but there is a recently opened café directly above the theater, which is the perfect place to eat beforehand.
After passing the center of Harvard Square and continuing down Mass. Ave., you may come upon the Harvard Book Store. Established in 1932 as a place for Harvard students to buy used textbooks, it has transformed into a place known for its extraordinary selection of new, used and remaindered books. It’s easy to get lost here, browsing the rows and shelves for a diverse range of books for completely affordable prices for any college student. This is the must-visit for any true book lover. One of the most remarkable parts about the Harvard Book Store is their series of author events, taking place almost every day, that in the past have hosted authors from Al Gore to Stephen King.
Less than a minute walk past the Harvard Book Store brings you to the famous Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burger Cottage. Voted ‘best burgers in America’ according to the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bartley’s is a local favorite where each visit is an experience. The walls are covered in Boston and Cambridge-related posters and picture frames. The atmosphere is loud and vibrant. The best thing about Mr. Bartley’s is its rotation of creative and ever-changing names for specialty burgers. For instance, on their current menu, you can order from the options of “The Next President ‘God Help Us’,” “The Rob Ford,” “The Snoop Dogg,” “The LeBron James” and even “The Donald Trump.”
Harvard Square is only a short T or Uber ride across the Charles River, but it feels like you are no longer in Boston. It’s an escape from the same sidewalks you see every single day on Commonwealth Ave. and the perfect way to spend a weekend day or great place to study for your next midterm. Whatever your reason for visiting, Harvard Square is the place that undoubtedly has whatever you might be looking for.