Must see attractions in Cambridge

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cambridge

    Harvard University

    America's oldest college, Harvard University is one of the country's most prestigious universities. It was originally founded in Harvard Yard in 1636 by the General Court of Massachusetts with donations from Reverend John Harvard, and was intended to educate men for the ministry. Harvard University's notable alumni Alumni of the original Ivy League school include eight US presidents, and dozens of Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, went to Harvard as did actress Natalie Portman and actor Tommy Lee Jones. Tours of Harvard University campus At the time of writing, only virtual tours are available. When visitors are once again welcome on campus, they should contact Smith Campus Center for information on historical tours. Self-guided tours are also available – start with the historic buildings clustered around Harvard Yard. Harvard Yard While the university now occupies vast areas in Cambridge, Allston and further afield, its geographic and historic heart remains at Harvard Yard. This is where red-brick buildings and leaf-covered lawns exude academia, where students congregate to study and socialize, and where graduates proudly receive their degrees. Flanked by its oldest buildings, the yard's main entrance at Johnston Gate opens up to wide lawns, gracious architecture and a buzzy academic atmosphere. John Harvard Statue The focal point of the yard is the John Harvard Statue, where every Harvard hopeful has a photo taken (and touches the statue’s shiny shoe for good luck). Daniel Chester French’s sculpture, inscribed "John Harvard, Founder of Harvard College, 1638", is known as the "statue of three lies": it does not actually depict Harvard (since no image of him exists), but a random student; John Harvard was not the founder of the college, but its first benefactor in 1638; and the college was actually founded two years earlier in 1636. The Harvard symbol hardly lives up to the university’s motto, Veritas, or "truth." Massachusetts Hall and Harvard Hall Flanking Johnston Gate are the two oldest buildings on campus. South of the gate, Massachusetts Hall (1720) houses the offices of the President of the University. It is the oldest building at Harvard and one of the oldest academic buildings in the country. North is Harvard Hall (1766), which originally housed the library. Memorial Hall North of Harvard Yard, just outside Bradstreet Gates and across the Plaza, this massive Victorian Gothic building was built to honor Harvard's Civil War heroes. The impressive Memorial Transept is usually open for visitors to admire the stained-glass windows and stenciled walls. Most of the building's artistic treasures are contained in Annenburg Hall, which is not open to the public.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cambridge

    Harvard Yard

    Harvard University was originally founded here in 1636, and Harvard Yard remains the historic and geographic heart of the university campus. Flanked by its oldest buildings, the yard's main entrance at Johnston Gate opens up to wide lawns, gracious architecture and a buzzy academic atmosphere. Free historical tours depart from the Smith Campus Center, or you can take a self-guided tour.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cambridge

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a different perspective on academia. MIT has a proud history of pushing the boundaries, from its innovative architecture and oddball art to its cutting-edge technology and playful pranks. Campus tours depart from the MIT Information Center.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cambridge

    Mt Auburn Cemetery

    This delightful spot at the end of Brattle St is worth the 30-minute walk west from Harvard Square. Developed in 1831, it was the first 'garden cemetery' in the USA. Maps pinpoint the rare botanical specimens and notable burial plots. Famous long-term residents include Mary Baker Eddy (founder of the Christian Science Church) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (19th-century writer).

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Harvard Museum of Natural History

    This institution is famed for its botanical galleries, featuring some 3000 pieces of handblown, intricately crafted glass flowers and plants. There is a smaller, complementary exhibit of Sea Creatures in Glass by the same artists. Nearby, the zoological galleries house an enormous number of stuffed animals and reassembled skeletons, as well as an impressive fossil collection.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Smith Campus Center

    After a massive overhaul, the Smith Campus Center has been transformed into a fabulous 'living room' for students and visitors to congregate, study, socialize, eat and drink. The two-story lobby is abloom with 12,000 plants, growing on the living walls and irrigated by rainwater collected on the roof. Inviting outdoor spaces include street-side plazas and a rooftop terrace.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Cambridge

    Harvard Art Museums

    The 2014 renovation and expansion of Harvard's art museums allowed the university's massive 250,000-piece collection to come together under one very stylish roof, designed by architect extraordinaire Renzo Piano. The artwork spans the globe, with separate collections devoted to Asian and Islamic cultures, northern European and Germanic cultures and other Western art, especially European modernism.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

    One ticket covers admission to both of the university's esteemed science museums: the Harvard Museum of Natural History, with the famed glass-flower exhibit, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, with its excellent collection of artifacts from indigenous cultures.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Tory Row

    Heading west out of Harvard Square, Brattle St is the epitome of colonial posh. Lined with mansions that were once home to royal sympathizers, the street earned the nickname Tory Row. Nowadays, it's a delightful place for a stroll to admire the gracious homes and glean some history from the environs.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Longfellow House

    Brattle St’s most famous resident was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose stately manor is now a National Historic Site. The poet lived here from 1837 to 1882, writing many of his most famous poems, including 'Evangeline' and 'The Song of Hiawatha.' Accessible by guided tour, the Georgian mansion contains many of Longfellow’s belongings and is surrounded by lush period gardens.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

    Science-lovers and history buffs can geek out at this small but fascinating museum. Located inside the Harvard Science Center, it showcases a selection of the 20,000 items in the university collection, some of which date to the 15th century. Look for the geometric sector designed by Galileo, and the clocks illustrating the development of modern timekeeping.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    MIT Museum

    Only the mischief-makers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would come up with the kind of quirky stuff that's on display here. An exhibit on artificial intelligence, for example, traces the birth of robotics at MIT, featuring some longtime favorite robotic friends, Kismet, Cog and Troody. Sculptor Arthur Ganson explores the fine line between art and engineering with his display of interactive sculpture. Additional temporary exhibits are varied and intriguing.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology

    The centerpiece of the Peabody is the impressive Hall of the North American Indian, which traces how these peoples responded to the arrival of Europeans from the 15th to 18th centuries. Other exhibits examine indigenous cultures throughout the Americas, including a fantastic comparison of cave paintings and murals of the Awatovi (New Mexico), the Maya (Guatemala) and the Moche (Peru).

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Ray & Maria Stata Center

    The Stata Center for Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) was designed by the renowned architect, Frank Gehry. Like something out of Dr Seuss, it is composed of whimsical, colorful shapes and tilting metallic towers.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    List Visual Arts Center

    The stated goal of the List Center is to explore the boundaries of artistic inquiry – to use art to ask questions, not only about aesthetics, but also about culture, society and, of course, science. Rotating exhibits push the contemporary art envelope in painting, sculpture, photography, video and just about every other medium imaginable.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Cambridge Common

    Opposite the main entrance to Harvard Yard, Cambridge Common is the village green where General Washington took command of the Continental Army on July 3, 1775. Dawes Island at the south end pays tribute to William Dawes, the 'other rider', who on April 18, 1775 warned that the British were coming (look for the bronze hoofprints embedded in the sidewalk).

  • Sights in Cambridge

    John Harvard Statue

    The centerpiece of Harvard Yard is this sculpture by Daniel Chester French, known as the `statue of three lies'. John Harvard was the university's first benefactor, who donated his library in 1638, but he was not the founder of the university, nor was it founded in 1638, as indicated on the statue's base. Finally, the statue doesn't even depict Harvard, since there was no image of him to copy. Instead, it's a random student who will forever be misidentified.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Christ Church

    Cambridge’s oldest church was designed in 1761 by America’s first formally trained architect, Peter Harrison (who also designed King’s Chapel in Boston). Washington’s troops used it as a barracks after its Tory congregation fled. Adjacent to the church, the Old Burying Ground is a tranquil Revolutionary-era cemetery, where Harvard’s first eight presidents are buried.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Massachusetts Hall

    On the south side of Johnston Gate, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest building on the Harvard campus, dating from 1720. Originally it was a dormitory building, home to 64 students. During the War of Independence, it was occupied (and much damaged) by revolutionary militiamen. Nowadays, it houses the offices of the President of the University and is not open to the public.

  • Sights in Cambridge

    Harvard Hall

    On the north side of Johnston Gate, Harvard Hall is one of the two oldest buildings on campus, dating to 1766. (The other is Massachusetts Hall, directly opposite.) The original building on this site burned in a fire in 1764, along with thousands of books and scientific instruments that were contained in its library.