Living in Central Square, Cambridge

When I was looking for places to live once I got into HGSE, I found myself gravitating to all of the nice pictures online. Whether it was Craigslist or a website from a realtor, there were some pictures that just called to me—sunlight, a nice kitchen, big, open spaces.

Visiting these homes was another story… I learned that you should not base your decision on pictures and should be very aware that Photoshop is a real tool used by many people in order to make something look nicer than it actually is.

My blog post is not about my process, however. I want to talk about why I chose to live in Central Square.

For the past two years, I was living in rural New York where there was little access to good restaurants, nightlife, things to do in the immediate vicinity, and nice places to walk. When I made the decision to move to Cambridge, I was overwhelmed by the many options available to me, but I knew for sure that I wanted the following:

  • Walking distance to grocery stores/restaurants
  • A neighborhood feel with the perks of living in a city (being close to the T stop)
  • A separate life from school
  • Proximity to running trails/biking trails
  • Pet friendly

Other than those minor details, I was open…

I recognized that my qualifications for my new home were limiting, and I learned that there were some things I would have to be more lenient on. However, when we found the perfect blue house 8 minutes from Central Square, I was sold. It had everything!

Central Square is located a mile away from campus. It’s easily accessible by foot, train or bus, and feels completely separate from Harvard Square and Kendall Square. The population is much less student-heavy, but still has a fair share of young adults. Central also has every store imaginable—you can go three blocks and achieve just about all your shopping. Hmart, a wonderful supermarket with a Korean flare, has both delicious produce and food, as well as ample samples on the weekend. CVS is located very close by, as is a co-op food store. Trader Joes and Whole Foods are just a 10-15 minute walk from the T stop. There is an outdoor apparel shop, the best ice cream I have ever had (Toscanini), a vegetarian restaurant, two dumpling restaurants, a restaurant that specializes in small plates, a Tibetan food restaurant… I could go on and on. Central Square truly has everything.

But the aspects of Central Square that I now enjoy span far more than just the number of great restaurants. I have come to appreciate the separateness from campus—I need that distance from the place I go to school every day. I love the culture and vibrant scene Central Square has to offer—Graffiti Alley is an artist’s mecca. There are festivals almost every weekend around Central Square, and it’s easy to make your way down to the Charles River to watch Head of the Charles or just sit by the river and people watch.

There are, of course, downsides to living in Central Square, as well. The primary one is cost—because it’s a desirable neighborhood, the rent is a bit pricier than some other areas around Harvard. This is definitely something to consider, but having two roommates really helps mitigate the money issue.

When thinking about where to live, listen to your gut. Don’t jump on the first house you see. Take your time and start early. It may seem ridiculous to start a few months before you begin school, but apartments go quickly here, and it helps to know what you want. Get to know the different neighborhoods. Allston is very different from Cambridge which is very different from Watertown. Also, ask questions. Everyone at HGSE is here to help you navigate the search and help you solve problems that may arise. Someone has been through what you’re experiencing with housing troubles before, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Some questions to think about:

  • How close to campus do you want to be?
  • Do you need central air conditioning?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you want to be in a house or apartment building?
  • Are you okay paying for heat?
  • How close to a T stop do you want to be? (Think about the winter)
  • What are three things you just will not sacrifice in your housing search?

Written by Mia Ritter

Mia Picture


Mia Ritter grew up in New York City before going to college at Grinnell College in Iowa. After college, and after she realized she wanted to go into college access/college counseling, Mia worked at Hamilton College in the admission office. Realizing she wanted to further her career, Mia went on the graduate school search, and found HGSE. The Prevention Science and Practice (PSP) program spoke to her, and Mia is now a Ed.M. candidate in the adolescent counseling strand of PSP.