From peppy squares to quaint neighborhoods, here are the best places for Harvard off campus housing, plus some handy tips on finding the perfect neighborhood.
Hey! Whether you are a new Harvard student, or are moving to Cambridge for a job, there are plenty of good neighborhoods if you’re looking for Harvard off campus housing. Looking for a new place can be daunting, as there are so many things to consider.
If you’re wondering what are the best places to live near Harvard University, I’ve rounded up a list of the top neighborhoods to consider. Plus, I’ve also added many tips to keep in mind when looking for Harvard off campus housing. From pros and cons of each neighborhood, to the nearest restaurants and grocery stores, here’s a complete guide to help you find the best off-campus housing.
Harvard Off Campus Housing: Top Places to Live in
So first, let’s explore some of the best neighborhoods that you can look for places to live in.
Harvard Square, Mass Ave, Harvard St.
Harvard Square, and the areas around are where most Harvard students live, or try to live. If you like being where the action is, this is the top choice for Harvard off campus housing. It’s the hub of all social life, and it’s where the best restaurants, book stores, and cafes are.
Harvard Square is sort of the center of the Harvard university campus.
It’s right in between the Harvard Yard, all the Harvard schools, business school campus and college dormitories. Plus, it’s near the gym, and you’ll basically be going to Harvard Square everyday anyway.
The best places to live near Harvard Square are the areas between Massachusetts Avenue and Broadway. A lot of the housing in this area is owned by Harvard University itself, however, there are still many independent buildings where a lot of the students and faculty live.
This is prime location, so housing here is not cheap. And you may also find some smaller apartments for higher costs here. However, if you don’t mind paying slightly more, you’ll find yourself in a great neighborhood. It will definitely be my top choice if I had to move to Cambridge again!
For example, I used stay at 1200 Massachusetts Avenue, which was the perfect location, just a two minute walk from Harvard Square, and the T station. It was easy to commute to wherever I wanted, and most of the places I needed to get to were within walking distance.
If you want something cheaper, go further down Mass Ave. Anywhere between Grafton Street and the Cellar is close enough to Harvard Square and still very nice. Plus you get access to the Cellar and their yummy rosemary fries. What’s not to like?
Pros: Right within campus, near restaurants/ dorms, 2 minute walk from Harvard Square, safe, beautiful place.
Cons: Far from grocery store, but you can take the T.
Nearest grocery store: Star Market, Porter Square.
Closest restaurants: Au Bon Pon, Grafton Street, Daedalus, Hong Kong, Dunkin’ Donuts
Nearest T station: Harvard Square
Nearest bus stop: Harvard Square, a few along Massachusetts Ave & Harvard St
Good for students of: GSAS, HKS, HBS, GSD, Radcliffe, GSE, SEAS
Around Oxford Street
Oxford Street has some of the Harvard graduate schools and dormitories, such as the GSAS dorms (where I lived during my time at Harvard). Plus it’s right next to Harvard Law School. Go north and you will find a lot of good Harvard off campus housing, between Mass Ave and Somerville Avenue.
This area will be one of the best places to live near Harvard University for students of GSAS, HLS, GSD, GSE and SEAS. Since I used to live in a dorm on Oxford Street, I know this area is safe, near grocery stores and restaurants. Plus it’s a beautiful neighborhood, and you’ll be in close proximity to the HLS lounge and cafeteria, which has great fries.
Pros: Close to campus, grocery and dorms, walking distance from Harvard Square, safe, beautiful place.
Cons: Far from Charles river, HBS, relatively far from T-station.
Nearest grocery store: Star Market (there are two).
Nearest restaurants: Zoe’s, Sugar & Spice Thai, Upper Crust Pizzeria, Bourbon Coffee
Closest T station: Porter, Harvard Square
Nearest bus stop: A few along Massachusetts Ave & Somerville Ave
Good for students of: GSAS, HDS, HLS, GSD, GSE and SEAS
If you’re wondering, “Where should I live around Cambridge?” here’s one of the top choices. Central Square is located between MIT and Harvard university, so it’s a great place to find Harvard off campus housing if you’re taking classes at both the universities.
Central Square has its own T station (metro/subway/underground train), so it’s a great place if you want to take the train to Boston. Of course, it also has very frequent bus services that can take you to the mall, Boston, MIT or wherever you need to get to.
It’s a bit far to walk to from Harvard Square, but there are a lot of cheaper housing options in this neighborhood.
It’s not that safe at night, so I would advise you to avoid late nights alone.
I used to live on the south side of Central Square. I didn’t particularly like it, mostly because it was not walking distance from the campus. But it was cheaper than living on campus, which I appreciated, especially after graduation. The bigger the house, the lower the rent per person, so Central Square is the perfect place to stay in if you have a lot of roommates.
Central Square, especially the place between Memorial Drive and Central, is also really near the Harvard Business School campus and the Charles River. So it is also a good location for HBS students, and you can take walks along the Memorial Drive every evening, which is pretty beautiful.
Pros: Between MIT & Harvard, restaurants, near T station, walkable from Charles.
Cons: Far from Harvard Yard, not walkable from grocery stores and Harvard Square, some areas may be unsafe at night.
Nearest grocery store: Hmart (Asian), Shalimar (Indian grocery store) (Grocery-hunting is Central’s biggest problem)
Top restaurants nearby: The Asgard, The Coast, Clover, Life Alive Organic Cafe, La Fabrica Central
Nearest T station: Central Square
Nearest bus stop: Central Sq, lots on Mass Ave, a few along Pearl, Magazine, Pleasant & Green St.
Good for students of: MIT, HBS, GSAS, HKS.
Inman Square is exactly between MIT and Harvard, so it’s one of the best places to find Harvard off campus housing for couples from the two universities or if you take classes at MIT. Housing here is affordable and you can find a larger house for the same amount you’ll spend living on-campus.
Inman square also has a good grocery store, Indian restaurant and many other cool places to eat. Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream is one of the best ice-cream spots in Cambridge, MA so that’s a big plus. Plus there’s a pharmacy and a main bus stop there.
Pros: Between MIT & Harvard, grocery and restaurants/ice-cream, generally safe.
Cons: Far from Charles river & HBS, far from Harvard square.
Nearest grocery store: Whole Foods Market, Hampshire Market
Nearest restaurants: Punjabi Dhaba, Christina’s, The Druid, City Girl Cafe, All Star Pizza Bar
Closest T station: Harvard, Central Square
Nearest bus stop: Inman Sq, a few along Beacon, Cambridge St.
Good for students of: MIT, HDS, GSD, SEAS, HLS, GSAS.
Beacon Street & Washington Street
This neighborhood is really lovely, safe, as well is very close to the campus. I lived there for a short period of time after my graduation, and I perfectly enjoyed it. My house was right next to The Biscuit, a local coffee shop where I went everyday and they have the freshest baked goods! I was also near an Indian restaurant, a Thai place, and a wine store.
This neighborhood is just a 7 minute walk from Harvard grad schools like HLS, GSD, and SEAS. So it’s one of the best places to look for Harvard off campus housing if you’re in any of these schools. The walk to Harvard campus is through Kirkland Street, which hits Graduate School of Design, and is a beautiful street. Plus, a grocery store and a laundry are also within the neighborhood. I miss it!
Pros: Close to campus, grocery and restaurants, safe, beautiful place.
Cons: Far from Charles river, 15 minute walk from T station/ Harvard Square.
Nearest grocery store: Market Basket, The Wine & Cheese Cask
Nearest restaurants: The Kebab Factory, The Biscuit, Thai Hut, Beacon Street Pizza, Savenor’s Market
Closest T station: Harvard Square
Nearest bus stop: Beacon & Washington St, a few along Beacon, Washington & Kirkland St.
Good for students of: GSD, GSAS, HLS, GSE and SEAS
Union Square is located a bit far from the main Harvard university campus. But it’s a good place to look for Harvard off campus housing, especially for families because it’s a good, quiet neighborhood.
There are a lot of restaurants and bus stops here. And it’s right next to Target and Market Basket, my favorite grocery store near Harvard University.
Pros: Quiet, close to grocery and restaurants, generally safe place.
Cons: Not walkable from Charles river, Harvard Square & T station.
Nearest grocery store: Market Basket, Target.
Nearest restaurants: Union Square Donuts, Bronwyn, The Neighborhood, Juliet, Sushi.
Closest T station: Harvard, Central, Kendall
Nearest bus stop: A few along Somerville Ave, Bow St, Washington St.
Good for students of: HLS, GSD, GSE, HDS and SEAS
Porter square is the T station on the north of Harvard University. It’s one of the best places to live near Harvard university if you’re a student of Harvard Law School because it’s really just a 10 minute walk from the campus.
Porter square is the main hub if you want to be near utilities. It has a CVS and a shopping center with a grocery store. A bank, lots of hair salons and restaurants are also nearby. The only problem is that it’s not easily walkable from Harvard square, so you’ll have to take a bus or train every time you want to get there.
Pros: Close to T station, grocery and restaurants, generally safe place.
Cons: Far from Charles river, Harvard Square & Harvard Yard.
Nearest grocery store: Star Market
Nearest restaurants: Bourbon Coffee, Christopher’s, Anna’s Taqueria, Cafe Zing, Passage to India, Sugar & Spice
Closest T station: Porter Sq
Nearest bus stop: Porter Square, plenty on Mass Ave and Elm St.
Good for students of: HLS, SEAS, GSD, HDS
Davis Square is the T-station further up north from Porter Square. It’s too far for walking from the Harvard campus. So it’s a good idea for families, or if your partner is not a Harvard student.
One of my friends used to live in Davis Square and liked it a lot, especially because they wanted a place that was quiet and slightly separated from campus. So if that’s something you want, it’s a great place to search for Harvard off campus housing. On the upside, Davis Square does have a lot of really nice restaurants like Mr. Crepe.
Pros: Quiet, close to T stop, grocery and restaurants, generally safe place.
Cons: Far from Harvard campus.
Nearest grocery store: Foodland, Pemberton, Stop & Shop
Nearest restaurants: Mr. Crepe, Flatbread, Greek Corner, Plenty in Davis
Nearest T station: Davis Sq
Nearest bus stop: Davis Sq, plenty on Elm St, Highland Ave
Good for students of: Any
How to Find the Perfect Harvard Off Campus Housing
Let’s go over a couple of tips to keep in mind before you look for housing near Harvard.
1. Be in Cambridge, not Boston.
If you’re a Harvard student, you have to be in Cambridge, Massachusetts when you’re looking for Harvard off campus housing. When I was about to move to Harvard for my first year as a student, I was wondering if I should look for places in Boston too. But most neighborhoods are just too far to commute daily, especially when you’re a student.
2. Try to look for housing as close as possible to your school.
Not only is the class schedule very hectic, there are always impromptu meetings with professors, group projects with your classmates, and unplanned social events on campus. Living somewhere that’s not at walking distance can get tiresome very quickly, when you’re just trying to find an extra hour to sleep.
Plus living near your school will be very helpful in the winter months, when you won’t want to walk too much for classes every morning through snow. Especially, if you’re going to get on campus part-time employment, finding Harvard off campus housing near your school is doubly helpful.
3. Remember that you’ll be walking to school daily.
Keep in mind your daily route to school and choose something that makes it easy to commute for you. When I first moved in, I was wondering if I should get a car. But later I realized that Cambridge has a big parking problem and most of the students don’t get cars. There’s just walking, which gets terrible during the snow days, which is most of the academic year.
Cambridge has a great public transportation system, with the Metro (called T) and buses. However it also has an evening shuttle service, which will take members of the Harvard community anywhere within the campus between 7 pm and 3 am. So you can make use of that if you’re located near campus.
4. Be as close as possible to Harvard Square.
Your housing should be as close as possible to Harvard Square, where you will be hanging out with all your friends. It’s where all the restaurants are. And it’s where a lot of the social activities take place, and it’s right in the center of the campus, near all major Harvard buildings.
5. Be located within campus or near it as much as possible.
Ideally, your Harvard off campus housing should be “within campus”, or as close as possible to it. Places like Harvard Square, and the building is next to the dormitories are some of the best places to live in.
6. Consider a year-long lease, your class schedule & furnishing.
Harvard off campus housing (even on-campus) operates on a yearly-lease-basis. So before you sign the lease, make sure to consider what all schools you’ll be taking classes at in the next semester too. For example, if you’re a student at Harvard Kennedy School, you may want to take a class at HBS. Cross-registered students may want to find accommodation that’s not too far from the other school.
If this is your first year at Harvard, it may be difficult to imagine how your second semester will look like, but most students do end up taking some cross-registered class at some point. Also, consider whether you want a furnished apartment or you want to decorate it yourself. Furnishing is a costly affair, so it’s only worth it if you’re going to be living in a house for at least two years.
Cost of Living for Harvard Off Campus Housing
If you rent a studio or 1BHK, the rents are around $600-1200 per month, depending on the location. Shared housing is cheaper per person, cost can be anywhere between $350-600 per room for a 2-4 BHK. So it’s a good idea to check your school’s email list or Craigslist for any openings. Or post an opening of your own.
Also: NEVER make a payment to any apartment without looking at it from the inside first. Beware of those Craigslist scams.
Checklist to Keep in Mind When Looking for Harvard Off Campus Housing
Here’s your basic checklist of what to keep in mind when living off-campus:
Safety: There are no real parameters here, so just ask your professors or classmates for opinions on the place you’re considering. Look it up in Google street maps. If there’s a pharmacy or lot of restaurants nearby, or bus stops, or it’s near campus, it’ll be usually safe.
Commute: The place should be within a 5 min walk to a bus stop and hopefully a T station, since you may have to go shopping for groceries, socializing or other things frequently. Plus, lots of students take classes at other schools or at MIT, so being close to a bus or T stop is always helpful.
Close to School: Make sure your school is not too far from home. School is where you’ll be spending most of your time, so it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to walk there, since that’ll give you the opportunity to go home for a quick nap or lunch between classes, if required.
Restaurants, Laundry & Grocery
Restaurants: Ideally, the place should have at least 2-3 restaurants within a 5 minute walking distance, for those busy weekends when you have to do laundry but didn’t get time to do groceries (and it’s snowing and you have homework to do).
Laundry: One thing most students forget to check when looking for Harvard off campus housing is the nearest laundromat. It’s very important to have one within a 5-7 minute walk, since it’ll get tough to carry all your clothes during snow-time.
Grocery Stores: Ideally your off-campus house should be no more than a 12 minute walk to a grocery store. Most students take weekly trips to get groceries, and grocery bags get heavy. Plus it gets tough to carry them when it’s raining or snowing, since Cambridge is a very windy place. The nearer you are to decent grocery places, the healthier you’ll be able to eat, and the lesser you’ll have to spend on eating out.
Beware of Craigslist Scams: Last but not the least, avoid those scammy posts on Craigslist where someone is trying to lease a too-good-to-be-true apartment at a really affordable price. They’ll try to get you to pay the advance rent without actually letting you check the place out in person.
Hope all these tips were helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll try to answer them below.
All the best!