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Home to two of America's most prestigious universities (Harvard and M.I.T), Cambridge exudes a certain intellectual quirkiness. A mix of historical haunts, student hang-outs, alternative art and culture venues, vintage clothing shops, bookstores and ethnic restaurants, the city is, well, really cool. Although it is located just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge has a distinct vibe that is noticeable immediately. Often referred to as the republic of Cambridge, this city is home to active local politics with a decidedly liberal bent.
Start at Harvard Square, a hub of activity and mishmash of trendy stores, outdoor cafes and colorful local characters. "The Sqaure,"as locals call it, has lost some of it's funky flair in recent years as chains have increasignly taken over the real estate here, but it is still home to a great mix of people, shops and restuarants. Pick up a walking tour map at the visitors information booth in the center of the Square. The route will take you past many important landmarks including the Mount Auburn Cemetery, Tory Row and the Longfellow National Historic Site.
Harvard University offers student-led tours through the illustrious buildings and monuments of its sprawling campus. Art and architecture buffs should meander around the M.I.T campus, which includes outdoor sculptures by masters such as Picasso and 20th-century buildings designed by modern greats like Eero Saarinen and I. M. Pei. Along the way, browse through bookstores, stop to watch street performers and grab a coffee at an outdoor café to take in all this captivating city has to offer.
If you enjoy architecture, venture just beyond Harvard Sqaure to Brattle Street, home to many of the city's oldest and finest homes.