Contemporary rooms and a great location near Central Square -- right on the edge of the MIT campus -- make this 210-room boutique a solid upper-middle-range option in Cambridge. There's no pool, and the rooms are relatively small, but Le Meridien still stands out as a reasonably priced but upscale alternative to the fusty New England aesthetic that dominates area hotels.
Le Meridien brings a sleek, European tinge to a neighborhood mostly awash in classic New England fustiness. The location doesn't quite put you in easy walking distance of Harvard Square, but the hotel is close to plenty of dining and shopping options. In spite of its lack of a pool and minimal services, Le Meridien stands out as a good deal.
A lot of Boston and Cambridge hotels go for the classic, American feel: traditional furnishings imbued with an air of New England fustiness (see the Hotel Commonwealth). The 210-room Le Meridien opts out of this format, instead favoring a sleek, shiny, and slightly futuristic approach. The lobby has glassy crystal chandeliers, low tables, and curvy couches, and hallway signs indicating not elevators but "lifts" establish the hotel's aspirations to European chic. The rooms have plush pillow-top beds, great electronics, and a pair of intriguing bedside lamps that dangle from the ceiling on thin, silvery wires. The hotel is starting to show some wear and tear, however.
When it comes to on-site amenities, Le Meridien, like many boutiques, doesn't exactly dazzle. It has all the expected features -- business and fitness centers, an on-site restaurant -- but they're adequate at best. A lovely, 3rd-floor garden, however, is a nice escape when the weather permits. And while Le Meridien's staff was always friendly and helpful, it's not the sort of place where they insist on carrying your bags.
Even with those minor reservations, Le Meridien is a solid choice if you're visiting Cambridge and don't have much need for amenities. By contrast, the rooms at the nearby, businessy Hyatt Regency aren't as plush, but guests of the Hyatt do get a lovely pool and a far superior, state-of-the-art fitness center -- and usually pay lower rates. And while Le Meridien puts you pretty close to Harvard (a short drive or a long walk), you can get within two blocks of it at the more expensive Charles Hotel.
Not big on service, but this seems to fit with the casual-chic vibe
When I arrived, a bellman helped me with my bags from my cab to the front desk, but no one offered to carry them up to the room. This seemed to fit, though; this isn't the sort of hotel that has a huge staff presence, with employees watching your every move and waiting to offer assistance. When my room key stopped working halfway through my stay, the front desk attendant politely granted me a new one after checking my ID. All of my interactions with staff members were professional and cordial.
A great location just a few blocks from diverse eating and shopping options in Cambridge's Central Square
Situated to the northwest of Boston, just across the Charles River, Cambridge seems at once part of and distinct from the city. It provides much of the classic and academic -- some would say dowdy -- imagery for which Boston is known: stately red brick townhouses; the sight of rowers launching from ancient boathouses on the banks of the Charles; the almost colonial atmosphere that envelops Harvard, the nation's oldest university. And yet Cambridge virtually buzzes with energy; biotech companies, startups, and the studious whir of college town activity combine to make it one of the country's most vibrant intellectual centers. Cambridge is also home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and just as Harvard exudes a musty air of American influence and success (Kennedys, Roosevelts, Obama), MIT proudly embraces its own brand of nerdiness: Where else do you find a street named Galileo Galilei Way?
Within easy walking distance to shops and restaurants on Central Square's Massachusetts Avenue
Three blocks to the Central Square stop on the T (Boston's subway system)
Five- to 10-minute drive to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox
Five-minute drive (or a bit of a walk) to Harvard Square, with shops, restaurants, and Harvard University
10- to 15-minute drive to Faneuil Hall, a historic marketplace and modern-day mall
10- to 15-minute drive to the 52-acre Boston Common public park, and the start of the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail that passes through 16 historical Boston landmarks
Rooms have plush bedding and quality electronics, but they're on the small side
The Meridien's rooms are a bit on the small side (240 square feet), and have a chic black, white, and gray color scheme. The pillow-top beds are adorned with a textured Le Meridien brand duvet (lovely even if it's polyester), a down comforter, and PrimaLoft brand pillows (an allergy-conscious alternative to down pillows). Contemporary, high-quality furnishings include a marble-topped desk, leather swivel chair, and a somewhat ultramodern armchair. A pair of intriguing lamps, supported by silvery wires hang from the ceiling above the bedside table; I'd never seen anything quite like them. However, the rooms are starting to show some wear.
Standard rooms are on the small side for the area, about 240 square feet.
Up-to-date electronics include a 36-inch LG flat-screen TV with pay-per-view movies and HBO (though, disappointingly, my HBO signal didn't work), and an MP3-enabled alarm clock; guest floors only accessible with room key
Small bathroom has a Kohler vanity-top sink, stainless steel hardware, a bath/shower combo, and Le Meridien-brand toiletries; only one bar of soap was in my bathroom, though, so I had to transfer it between shower and sink.
Le Meridien's on-site features hardly dazzle, but they do the trick. And since there's a lot to do near the hotel, it's not the sort of place where you feel marooned and limited to what's on-site. By contrast, the Hyatt Regency has a wonderful pool and superior fitness center but is a bit isolated from area attractions.
4th-floor fitness center has Technogym brand equipment: two stationary bikes, two elliptical machines, three treadmills, and large multi-use weightlifting machine, in addition to Hampton-brand free weights, a scale, towels and a water cooler; all cardio machines have individual video screens.
Pleasant outdoor garden, with tables and benches amid well-tended trees and flowers.
Guests get free admission to the MIT Museum, two blocks away
A 24-hour, lobby business center, offers free Internet access on its two computers, as well as free printing and copying
The entire 2nd floor of the building is a Star Market supermarket, but the hotel doesn't have direct access. It's accessible from street level.