Best Places to Live Near Harvard University: Living Off-Campus

From peppy squares to quaint neighborhoods, here are the best places to live hear Harvard University, plus some handy tips on living off-campus.

harvard-off-campus-housing tips where to live dorms

Hey! Where are your new Harvard student, or are moving to Cambridge for a job, there are plenty of good neighborhoods in and around Harvard University. Looking for a new place can be daunting, 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 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.

Best Places to Live Near Harvard University

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 mass ave harvard street

Harvard Square, and the areas around are where most Harvard students live, or try to live. It’s the hub of all social life, and it’s where the best restaurants, book store, and cafes are. Harvard Square is sort of the center of the Harvard university campus, right in between the Harvard Yard, all the Harvard schools, business school campus, college dormitories. Plus, it’s near the gym, and you’ll basically be going to Harvard Square everyday.

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.

harvard square mass ave harvard street 1

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.

harvard street broadway near harvard square living off campus

Pros:Right within campus, near restaurants/ dorms, 2 minute walk from Harvard Square, safe, beautiful place.
Cons: Far from grocery store, but you have the T.
Nearest grocery store: Star Market (there are two).
Nearest 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. Plus it’s right next to Harvard Law School. Go north and you will find a lot of good 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, restaurants and even near Central Square T station. 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.
Nearest grocery store: Star Market (there are two).
Nearest restaurants: Zoe’s, Sugar & Spice Thai, Upper Crust Pizzeria, Bourbon Coffee
Nearest 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

Central Square

central square cambridge massachusetts

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 live in 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 Living Off-Campus harvard MIT

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, grocery and restaurants, near T station, walkable from Charles.
Cons: Far from Harvard Yard, not walkable from Harvard Square, some areas may be unsafe at night.
Nearest grocery store: Hmart (Asian), Shalimar (Indian grocery store),
Nearest restaurants: 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

inman square best places to live near Harvard University

Inman Square is exactly between MIT and Harvard, so it’s one of the best places to live near Harvard University for couples from the two universities or if you take classes at MIT. Inman square also has 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, not walkable 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
Nearest 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

beacon washington street cambridge ma best places to live near Harvard University

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 live near Harvard University 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
Nearest 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

union square

Union Square is located a bit far from the main Harvard university campus. But it’s still one of the best places to live near Harvard university, especially for families because it’s a good, quite neighborhood, and Target is just nearby. There are a lot of restaurants and bus stops. And it’s right next to Market Basket, my favorite grocery store near Harvard University.

Pros: Quiet, close to grocery and restaurants, generally safe place.
Cons: Far from Charles river,  Harvard Square & T station.
Nearest grocery store: Market Basket, Target.
Nearest restaurants: Union Square Donuts, Bronwyn, The Neighborhood, Juliet, Sushi.
Nearest 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

Where should I live around Cambridge porter square

Put a 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. What is square is the main hub for if you want to be near everything, it has a CVS, shopping center with the 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
Nearest 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

davis square off campus harvard university housing students

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. 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 Places to Live Near Harvard University

shilpa ahuja harvard university how to get into

Let’s go over with 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 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. 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, a place near your school is doubly helpful.

harvard university graduate school of design housing

3. Keep in mind 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. Cambridge has a big parking problem answer 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. Plus, 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 I 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 buildings.

5. Be located within campus or near it as much as possible.

Ideally, your 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.

Cost of Living

harvard university campus charles river hbs business school

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.

Checklist to Keep in Mind When Looking for Best Places to Live Near Harvard University

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 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.

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 is where is the nearest laundry place. It’s very important to have one within a 5-7 minute walk, since it’ll get touch 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.

Close to School: Last but not the least, 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.

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!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Satvant Singh

    November 7, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    So helpful, thanks for the info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

To Top