Because of its great literary history - writers such as Henry James, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, e.e. cummings and many more have strong connections with Cambridge - and large student population, Cambridge actually boasts more bookstores per capita than any other city in the world. Over 20 bookstores can be found in and around Harvard Square alone so if you don't have time to visit them all, I suggest stopping by the Harvard Book Store. The used books section dowstairs is really worth looking at as you are sure to make some great finds at a great price. They also have a remainders section (new books at great discount prices) and of course you'll have no problem finding great classics or best-sellers!
What to buy: Instead of buying some cheesy souvenir, why not get a book by one of the many great and legendary Boston area authors?
What to pay: There are really great discounts on used books
Newbury Comics started as a comic store, but is now known more for it's vast CD collection, along with wacky toys, posters, and other bric-a-brac. Always a good time and great prices. The staff is very smart in all things music related. Plus I love their logo!
What to buy: CD's
What to pay: below average
My absolute favorite store in Harvard Square - of course, since it's a bookstore related to travel, that's not much of a surprise. if you love to travel, this store is heaven! They sell guidebooks, maps, globes, atlases, picture books and travel literature related to every corner of the planet.
What to buy: Guidebooks and maps to help you plan your next trip...travel essays to keep you dreaming...or a copy of "1000 Places to See Before you Die" for inspiration.
What to pay: $5-$500, depending on what and how much you want. Some of the top end globes are quite expensive, but beautiful.
Harvard Book Store is one of the best independent book stores we've come across on our US travels, with an impeccable selection of history and politics books in particular. They've marked the shelves so that students can easily spot the books they need for core courses, but there's far more here than just the required reading. They also have an excellent fiction section, as well as their famed discount selection downstairs, but what really marks this place out, on every visit, is the friendly, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable staff, who really invest themselves in the store.
Since we buy plenty of books, we've benefited, too, from their frequent buyer program, well worth signing up for.
What to buy: Check out the basement for reasonabley priced used books - fiction, text books, and much, much more!
What to pay: They are competitive on new book prices: please, go here instead of one of the chain stores!
From Central Square to Harvard Square, you'll find lots of great shopping in Cambridge. Last time I was there, I went to the Curious George Shop in Harvard Square, which is stocked with all kinds of cool stuff for kids. It's not just Curious George related stuff. You'll find lots of educational toys and books. I bought my nephew a firetruck placemat which will hopefully encourage him to come to the dinner table when Mommy and Daddy ask him to. Hmmmm?? It will only work if he's not playing with the five other firetruck toys he has.
Cardullo’s is a real Harvard Square institution, the place to get some odd-ball Swedish cracker, the chocolate you crave from England, an exotic tea combination or some of the best olives in the area. The stock has grown to fill every corner of the store, and the aisles are made for the fairly slim (ironically, given the rich products that are to be found hiding un there). You might have to search around for a while to get exactly what you want, but you can be sure you’ll find at least five other things you desperately need along the way. They also do exceptionally tasty sandwiches, stacked full of the deli ingredients arrayed along one side of the store; you’ll have to cart your masterpiece away, however, unless you manage, in the nicer weather, to snag one of the two outdoor tables.
You can search their website to see if they have what you want!
Oona's sells vintage clothing, hats, jewelry and accessoriesfor both men and women. It is an interesting store, worth visiting even if you don't plan to buy anything. Some of the clothes are quite lovely, but you can also find very low-priced items, especially on the outside racks. This store has been here forever and has become one of our beloved Cambridge institutions.
This shop is an excellent place to browse. The floorspace is HUGE with racks and racks of clothing everywhere! There's are sections for men, women, & children. Contempory clothing, vintage clothing, & local designers are in their own space. Racks are labeled (skirts, gowns, prom dresses, suits, coats, jeans etc) & are color coordinated.
What to buy: With over 40,000 pieces of clothing, you are bound to find something you like. They have vintage clothing from the 1940s and up. Handbags & linens. Shoes are downstairs.
They also have a "Dollar-a-Pound" store downstairs where all the clothes you buy there is weighed & you pay only $1/lb. What a deal!!
What to pay: Prices vary
Schoenhof’s is one of very, very few bookstores on the east coast that you can walk into and walk out with The Little Prince in Tagalog, for example. On site, they have an extensive selection of books in a dozen major languages (and representative titles in fifty more), children’s books, magazines, and instructional materials for hundreds of languages. Need a linguistic analysis of Dravidian languages, or a study of Basque in modern society? There’s an info desk manned by helpful and informative people who can order pretty much anything, or your can order online.
In a scholarly town chock full of good book shops the Harvard Book Store still manages to rise above the crowd. A true independent, this book store is full of character. Although each of it's sections may seem small compared to the Barnes & Nobles superstores, the books stocked in each section are carefully chosen, each one meriting its place. Of particular note are the excellent Staff recommendations, which are sure to lead you into undiscovered literary pleasures; the discounted overstock new books next to the door; and the great remainder and used book section downstairs - ideal for the budget traveller. If you plan on staying in the area and buying lots of books make sure you get a member card for a 20% discount for you next purchase for every $100 of books bought.
This shop, which is run by a non-profit agency, sells handicrafts made by artisans from mostly third-world countries who are paid fairly for their work. Goods include ceramics, jewelry, figurines, baskets and textiles.
There's a famous store in Harvard Square called Leavitt and Peirce, filled with tobacco, pipes, cologne, and all manner of manly things, but tucked away in a corner at the rear of the store there's an alcove of gold, silver, amber and many other kinds of jewelry. They have items from around the globe, with many pieces from Latin America. The staff are very helpful, and the selection is excellent, with jewelry across a wide price range. Despite the unlikely location, it's easily one of the best jewelry stores in Harvard Square, and it's always nice to come across a truly independent store these days.
This busy mall is at near the intersection of Memorial Drive and the McGrath Highway. It contains all of our favorite store - Apple Store, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft, Victoria Secret, H&M (women's clothes only), Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Best Buy, and much, much more. Plus, when you are tired of shopping the food court, Starbucks, and Cheesecake Factory are there to get you fueled up for more shopping.
The Globe Corner used to be located on Church St in Harvard Square, and we were very disappointed when the place closed down - only to be equally delighted when we discovered that they re-opened a few streets away. The new location is a little bigger and more open than the old character-filled locale, but the key thing is that the selection of books and maps has remained the same. It's THE place to go for run-of-the-mill guidebook, obscure maps (a friend got a walking map for Mongolia here) and travel literature from around the world.
The staff have always seemed knowledgeable and helpful, ordering books that were not in stock, and giving suggestions for alternatives.
What to buy: Each month they discount items related to a rotating travel destination! Who knows were the discount will inspire you to visit!?!
Cambridge is not the best shopping destination in New England, but Cambridgeside Gallery collects most of the chain stores under a single roof. Quite easily accessible from downtown Boston, too, the Gallery offers an easy way to browse through the basic stuff and offers.
There is a plenty of clothing stores, some shoe stores, Wolf Camera, Borders bookstore (pretty well stocked, by the way), the usual widget stores, and a food garden. There is a good sushi bar and California Pizza Kitchen is also a good choice for food, especially when travelling with children.