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The Best Things to Do in Cambridge and Neighboring Somerville, Massachusetts


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Across the Charles River from Boston lie the vibrant and historic cities of Cambridge and Somerville, where some of the world’s most acclaimed academic institutions ground the area’s diverse cultures and rich architecture.

Home to Harvard, MIT, and Tufts University, the neighborhoods that make up Cambridge and Somerville have all the benefits of a college town—a population of bright young minds, and colorful food scenes—with plenty for those who are long past their school days . In short, Camberville (the local portmanteau for these adjacent neighbors) offers a playful alternative to Boston’s brusque beauty.

Whether you’re in town visiting schools, venturing out of Boston to eat at an acclaimed restaurant, or choosing to stay a while in the area, experiencing Cambridge or Somerville is an essential part to any Boston visit these days. Both cities are an easy bike, bus, or train ride across the Charles River—and a Red Line train’s view from the Longfellow Bride offers arguably the most iconic view back at Boston—but offer their own totally distinct cultures.


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Here’s how to experience bookish Cambridge and cozy-cool Somerville on your next trip to the Boston area.

All listings featured in this story are independently selected by our editors. However, when you book something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Octopus at Cassie Piuma’s Somerville restaurant, Sarma

Kristin Teig

A mezze spread at Sarma

Kristin Teig

Where to eat and drink

It’s impossible to have a conversation about restaurants in Cambridge without mentioning Oleana: Helmed by James Beard winner Ana Sortun (also of Sofra), Oleana’s kitchen has been a mainstay of the Cambridge dining scene since 2001 and has garnered countless accolades for its bold, Middle Eastern fusion small plates. But just as impactful as the food is the role Oleana has played as a launching pad for many of the Boston-area’s most acclaimed chefs: Oleana-trained local Cassie Piuma, for example, co-opened Sarma in Somerville alongside Sortun in 2013, and has received six nods from the James Beard Foundation for the casual spot’s Turkish-inspired tapas. Reserve a table well ahead of time, and don’t miss the skewers, Black Sea Cornbread, or extensive cocktail list.

In Cambridge’s Central Square, Pammy’s also offers outstanding food in an unstuffy setting. The brainchild of partner team Pam and Chris Willis, Pammy’s menu highlights simple ingredients in powerful flavor combinations: think baby beets served with goat yogurt and spring onions, fava bean pasta in a buffalo cream with chili oil, and simple crudes and tartares. The $69 three-course pre-fixe is a choose-your-own-adventure, with the whole menu up for grabs in every course.

The central courtyard at Bow Market

Carlie Phoebus

Empanadas and flans from Buenas at Bow Market

Carlie Phoebus

In Somerville’s Union Square, Bow Market is a new urban courtyard surrounded by small outposts from local favorite chefs and creatives, from pizza and street food windows to a patio-flanked brewery and indoor natural wine bar.

If you’re looking to feast on Filipino-American fare, the story of Bow Market’s Tanám and its chef Ellie Tiglao’s story is an essential Camberville one: Tiglao came to the area as a Harvard neuroscientist before deciding to pursue her love of food, and the resulting queer-led co-op is a space for creativity, community, and education. Tanám’s over-the-top, Kamayan-style feast features crispy lechon, mussels in a gingery coconut cream, and much more, often served communally atop a banana leaf. Sit outside or reserve their private room for up to 10 people, and don’t miss drinks mixed with flavors like ube and calamansi juice.

If wine is more your speed, follow the pink neon glow to Rebel Rebel wine bar, where pop music plays, wall posters read “SEX, MONEY, POWER,” and warm bartenders pour generous glasses at a tight, L-shaped bar. Sommelier Lauren Friel (also an Oleana alum) has created a space that defies all expectations of New England with an atmosphere that is spunky and unpretentious, relaxed and eclectic, yet still nuanced and producer-focused. “It’s just wine, and that’s OK,” Friel preaches. This approach has landed Rebel Rebel countless accolades, including the short list in Best Wine Program for the 2022 James Beard Awards.

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