A 1h30 to 5h trek, depending on the time you’ll spend in museums and galleries, to be able to say you went to Harvard University! You’ll see shady yards and secluded courtyards, respectable buildings, three museums, a gallery of design, a community garden, and many outdoor sculptures.

The trek is mainly on the campus site, indoor and outdoor, and the map is an approximation of the general way you should go (details and photos below)

Highlights: Harvard Square, Harvard Yard, John Harvard statue, Harvard Art museums, School of Design, Memorial Hall, Peabody museum, archeology museum, Austin Hall, Christ church, Old Burial Ground, Harvard Coop, Lampoon castle

A: Your trek starts at Harvard Square, and if you took the T. and emerged at another exit, go to the Square first, and its famous International Newspaper stand. You’ll find there newspapers and magazines in many different languages, and you’ll be able to buy one on your way out if you don’t want to carry it now, as your trek will end here.

For now, once you got the feel of the Square- busy, and unconventional, enter Harvard Yard by the corner entrance facing you. A few steps inside the campus will be enough to give you an idea of Harvard University: big lawns with trees, red brick buildings, and students reading or playing ball games. It’s both relaxed and serious, a temple of knowledge where you’ll perhaps meet your next president with books under his or her arms.

Your first stop will be the John Harvard statue by Daniel Chester French. It’s not John Harvard however, the statue was made after a descendant of him. Nobody knows how John Harvard looked like, and he was only one of the founders of the university, but he gave it his name! It is said that students touch the foot or the statue for good luck, but it’s a myth. It explains why the statue is also named “the three lies statue”

The Harvard library is in the vicinity, and it would be tempting to climb the stairs and go inside to have a look, but it’s not open to the public. Instead, enter Emerson Hall, a few yards away, home to the Philosophy Department. There are sometimes lectures on the 1st floor, and if there are not any on the day you come, just pretend you’re looking for the calendar of the next ones! It’s an impressive building in any case, inside and out.

B:  Next, you’ll reach the Harvard Art Museums on the other side of Quincy street. A major renovation completed in 2014 combined the Fogg, Bush-Reisinger and Sackler Museums, so you now have three museums for the price of one! Western paintings, sculptures, and prints, particularly those of the German Expressionists, are on display here, as well as temporary exhibitions. Have a look at the 4th floor: it’s where restauration of artworks is done, and it seems a wonderful place to work, under skylights. You cannot enter this area, but you can look at it from behind glass doors.

C: To see more art, go next to the School of Design, also on Quincy Street, across Cambridge Street. The 1st floor hosts works by students, or thematic exhibitions related to architecture, and it is free to visit.

In front of it, on your left, is Memorial Hall, a High Victorian Gothic building used for performances, conferences, and student acts.

D: Keep walking toward the Science Center and  you’ll reach an open space with tables, chairs, and food trucks. A pathway a bit further on your right will lead you to your next stop, the Museum of Natural History and the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology.

E: The first museum has an impressive collection of fossils and stuffed animals, temporary exhibitions, gemstones of all sorts and a gallery of glass flowers that were used for teaching and are now a priceless treasure. The second showcases American Indian artifacts from the USA and beyond, and the two are connected, admission to one granting you access to the other. The buildings thenselves have the retro charm of 19th century museums.

F: Once you’ve visited them, and emerged from the Museum of Natural History main door, cross Oxford St, go under or next to the Hall in front of you and you’ll see Austin Hall in the distance, behind lawns and big trees. It’s part of Harvard Law School, and one of the most prestigious law schools in the world.

G: Walk along Austin Hall on your left until you find a path on your right toward Mass Ave. Cross Mass Ave. then the  Cambridge Common to reach Christ Church, an elegant white church whose doors are open to everyone. If you have a look inside, you’ll see it’s a pretty church. There is a path along it and Old Burial Ground, the only cemetery in Cambridge for about 200 years. It will get you to a quintessential New England street,  Farwell Place (the map here is not accurate as the pathway is not indicated), and Brattle Street will be at the end of it. You’ll take it on your left.

H: You are now in the business section of Harvard Square, with cafes, shops, and street performers. If you want to buy souvenirs or books, the Coop will be somewhere  on your left, and on Brattle Street. You do not have to be a student to shop there, but you won’t get the discounts they have!

You can also stop your trek here if you wish, and just wander in the streets. The Harvard T.  stop where you started is close by.

I: If you want to explore more however, take the John Kennedy Street at the end of Brattle Street, then Mt Auburn Street on your left.

After two blocks, you’ll see a community garden open to everyone. Students take care of it, and they put panels explaining what’s growing there. This garden is adjacent to Holyoke Place, and Lowell House, one of the twelve undergraduate residential houses of the University. If the door is not locked, enter to enjoy the two pretty and secluded courtyards that sit behind the façade. It’ll give you another idea of what Harvard University is.

Another building you cannot miss in the vicinity is the Lampoon Castle. It’s home to the Harvard Lampoon, an undergraduate humor publication, and seen from Mt Auburn St., it looks like a Prussian soldier. It got as many criticism as rave reviews for its unusual design and Wheelwright, one of the founder of the Lampoon, completed it in 1909, using a style adequately called “mock Flemish”.

Your last two discoveries will be on Linden St, a street facing Holyoke Place. Look up in the air to see gargoyles. Find an alley on your right to visit another secluded and pretty courtyard.

J: At the end of Linden Street, you’ll be on Mass. Ave, and Harvard Square will be on your left. If you visited all the museums and shops, you’re certainly done walking for the day, and it’s now time for food and entertainment. There is everything you need around Harvard Square (restaurants, theaters, movies theaters, and clubs), and it could well be where you’ll spend the evening!

If however you now want to compare the Harvard campus to the MIT campus, take the T. to Kendall/MIT and follow the Cambridge/MIT trek.

Good to know: there are restrooms in the museums and at the Coop. Benches everywhere along your trek, and plenty of food options around Harvard Square.

T-stop: Harvard Square (start and end)

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