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Essential Cambridge: Where to go, eat and stay in the Massachusetts city

Spend the night at the charming Kendall Hotel.

Spend the night at the charming Kendall Hotel. Photo Credit: The Hydrilla

Many New Yorkers have a somewhat, shall we say, contentious relationship with Boston. So it's understood if you don't want to give the city your tourism dollars. But what about Cambridge, just across the Charles River? Often lumped in with Boston, this Massachusetts city has a lot to offer in its own right. And the Red Sox have nothing to do with it.


Beat Brasserie: From the same owners of the beloved Beehive in Boston, this spot is a local favorite for its delicious bowls (there's Azteca, Earth and Thai variations) and appetizers like Buffalo Cauliflower. Try one of the wines on tap -- co-owner Bertil Jean-Chronberg works directly with boutique American wineries -- that allow you to get wines by the glass that are usually only available by the bottle. Plus, there's great live jazz, blues and world music nightly. 13 Brattle St., 617-499-0001,

Sofra Bakery: Famed Cambridge-area chef Ana Sortun opened this cozy Mediterranean spot to accompany her upscale Oleana. There's meze like hot pepper labne and warm buttered hummus along with more substantial dishes including spinach falafel, sausage pita and butternut squash gozleme, a Turkish stuffed pastry. Leave room for treats like oatmeal fig cookies and sesame financiers and grab spice mixes and meal kits to take home. 1 Belmont St., 617-661-3161,

Craigie on Main: This Cambridge institution is the perfect place for a celebratory meal. Splurge and get the six- or eight-course seasonal tasting menu ($98-$118). Expect delicacies like house-made chestnut conchiglie with veal sausage ragout, veal sweetbreads and lovage. Bonus: there are also amuse-bouches that don't count as courses. 853 Main St., 617-497-5511,


The shopping in Cambridge is diverse, with vintage shops, hole-in-the-wall bookstores, and eclectic boutiques. Favorites include Nomad (1741 Massachusetts Ave., 617-497-6677,, which carries fairly traded treasures like jewelry and folk art from around the world, and Bryn Mawr Bookstore (373 Huron Ave., 617-661-1170,, which sells used and rare books.

Chef Sortun shops at Formaggio Kitchen (244 Huron Ave., 617-354-4750, for gourmet food like bucheron cheese and black truffles. Refuel at another Sortun favorite: Hi-Rise Bread Company (1663 Massachusetts Ave., 617-492-3003,, which offers yummy sandwiches and pastries -- try the jam-filled brioche.


MIT Museum: Nerds of all stripes, this is the place for you. Or really anyone interested in the scientific and technological innovations of the modern world. There's a section dedicated to MIT's robot studies and an exhibit of holograms -- the museum holds the largest collection of holograms in the world. 265 Massachusetts Ave., Building N51, 617-253-5927,

Jose Matteo Ballet Theatre: Located in the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, Jose Matteo has transformed this architectural gem into a top-notch performance space and dance school. Catch "Works of Love," running Feb. 6-22. $42, 400 Harvard St., 617-354-7467,

The Brattle Theatre: Sometimes when it's cold out all you want to do is go to a movie. Fortunately, Cambridge has one of the best art-house cinemas in the country. Around since 1953, it specializes in repertory programming. From Feb. 23-March 5 there's a David Lynch series, with screenings of "Dune," "Blue Velvet," "The Elephant Man" and more. 40 Brattle Theatre, 617-876-6837,

The Middle East: This longtime local favorite hosts musicians from across the country, oftentimes before they make it big. The basement space is barebones, but you can't beat seeing a band like TEEN (March 6, $16) in an intimate space while you munch on falafel. 472-480 Massachusetts Ave., 617-864-3278,


Hotel Marlowe: This Kimpton hotel has the details that can make a stay go from fine to excellent: free coffee and hot chocolate every morning, complimentary wine tastings every afternoon and modern rooms with views of the Charles River. The on-site restaurant, Bambara, was also recently revamped. 25 Edwin H. Land Blvd., 800-825-7140,

Kendall Hotel: A charming hotel with American folk art décor that's in a refurbished firehouse, there's a wine hour Monday through Thursday and a daily breakfast buffet that's included with your stay. Located right across from MIT and its T stop, it's easy to get anywhere in the city. 350 Main St., 866-566-1300,

Hotel Veritas: If you must be in Harvard Square, this is the place for you. The rooms are warm and cozy thanks to under-floor radiant heat. While the place is small, the friendly staff and free Nespresso coffee, Stash Tea, juice, soda and pastries more than make up for it. 1 Remington St., 617-520-5000,

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