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For a truly educational experience pay a visit to Harvard University, the oldest institute of higher learning in the U.S. Universities don’t come much more prestigious, or prettier, than Harvard. Founded in 1636, it’s one of the “Ivy League” schools. This term refers to a group of eight elite northeastern US universities known for their high academic standards. It was first coined in the 1930s and referred to football competition between older universities, with ivy-covered buildings.
Harvard University is just outside of Boston proper, on 380 acres (154 hectares). Set aside at least two hours to experience the atmosphere, architecture, museums and shops.
The university was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, who bequeathed half of his estate and his 320-volume scholarly library to one of the colleges. The staff were so pleased with the donation that the university was renamed in his honor.
There are many entrances to the university. Check out the ornate, Georgian Revival-style Johnston Gate, and then head for the Harvard Information Center in the Holyoke Centre Arcade. Learn about the history of Harvard, stock up on maps and gather brochures on the university’s architecture. Historical tours depart several times daily from the information center. These student-led tours run for about an hour. Or, take your time with a self-guided tour, made easy with a tour pamphlet which is available for a small cost.
The iconic Harvard Yard serves as the 25-acre (10-hectare) heart of the university. This is where you’ll find some of the campus’s most significant architecture, including the Wren Building, Sever Hall and University Hall. Don’t miss the Widener Library, a Beaux Arts masterpiece completed in 1915. It’s easy to lose yourself in the library’s 57 miles (92 kilometers) of shelving, which houses 3 million volumes.
Harvard features some notable museums, including the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, as well as the Harvard Art Museums (comprising the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums). And when school’s over for the day, join students and faculty in the many bars and cafés around Harvard Square.
Harvard University is in Cambridge, a city four miles (seven kilometers) from Boston. Take the subway, a bus, or your car from the city. On-campus parking is available for a fee. The Harvard Information Center is open Monday through Saturday.
Get the most out of your time at Harvard University. Below is a list of the most popular activities:
Take a look at our Cambridge things to do page to learn about even more activities while you're in the area.
This Cambridge hotel is located in the heart of Harvard Square's cafes, shops, and entertainment, and is two blocks from Harvard University and two miles from downtown Boston.
Located in historic Back Bay, this hotel just completed a $100 million dollar renovation, and is 3 miles from Logan International Airport and 200 yards from the Boston Common and Public Garden. The hotel is easily accessible to Newbury Street shopping.
Located in the heart of Cambridge, this romantic hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Harvard Square, Harvard University, and Semitic Museum. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University are also within 2 mi (3 km). Harvard Square Station is 6 minutes by foot and Central Square Station is 13 minutes.
Popular with vacationers and students' families, Harvard Square Hotel is located among Harvard Square's restaurants and shops, 3 blocks from Harvard and 1 block from the subway.
Located in West Cambridge, this apartment building is within a 5-minute walk of American Repertory Theater, Harvard Square, and Harvard University. Semitic Museum and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are also within 2 mi (3 km). Harvard Square Station is only a 4-minute walk and Porter Square Station is 21 minutes.
Located in the heart of Cambridge, this bed & breakfast is within a 15-minute walk of Semitic Museum, Harvard Square, and Harvard University. Hynes Convention Center and TD Garden are also within 3 mi (5 km). Harvard Square Station is 12 minutes by foot and Central Square Station is 20 minutes.
Situated in Cambridge, this hotel is close to American Repertory Theater, Harvard University, and Semitic Museum. Also nearby are Harvard Law School and Harvard Square.
Situated in the historical district, this apartment building is within a 10-minute walk of Harvard Square and Harvard University. Semitic Museum and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are also within 2 mi (3 km). Harvard Square Station is 8 minutes by foot and Central Square Station is 14 minutes.