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Charles Hotel-Harvard Square 4.0

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Upscale hotel in the heart of Cambridge, two blocks from Harvard Square
  • Classic New England-style rooms with flat-screen TVs, Bose radios, and minibars
  • Stylish marble bathrooms with scales, bathrobes, and in-mirror TVs
  • Two on-site restaurants, including stylish country-inspired Henrietta's Table
  • Noir bar serves classic cocktails; Regattabar is a renowned jazz club
  • Free access to adjacent fitness center, with heated lap pool and steam room
  • Large, on-site spa and salon offering massages, beauty treatments, and more
  • Pet and family friendly with kids' menus, high chairs, cribs, and other extras
  • Seasonal ice skating rink and free bike rentals 
  • 24-hour room service and concierge 
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout
  • Parking, plus car rental desk on-site (extra fee)

Cons

  • Across the river from Boston proper and most tourist attractions
  • Parking is pricey
  • Breakfast costs an extra fee

Bottom Line

The upscale, 294-room Charles Hotel strikes a good balance between rustic New England charm and modern luxury. Traditional rooms pair classic Shaker furniture, leather chairs, and paneled walls with high-end amenities like 55-inch flat-screen TVs, minibars, Bose radios, and marble bathrooms with in-mirror televisions. The hotel has two restaurants -- Henriette's is particularly charming -- plus a bar off the lobby and a jazz club. There's also an on-site spa and salon and guests have free access to a multi-story fitness complex next door. Still, the hotel's biggest selling point might be its location just two blocks from Harvard Square. The Charles is the natural choice for anyone visiting Harvard, though those on the lookout for more intimate option may want to consider Hotel Veritas -- it's a smaller, boutique hotel, but it lacks the extensive features of The Charles.

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Scene

Upscale hotel with classic New England style; frequented by celebrity scholars in the Harvard orbit

The upscale Charles Hotel, situated in a 10-story red brick building, offers a distinctly homey-yet-high-end New England feel. In the lobby, tiled floors are covered in patterned area carpeting, leathery couches provide cozy seating, and brick accent walls are paired with traditional wood furniture, like the wall-spanning shelves featuring books signed by authors who have visited the hotel. VIP guests are frequent -- Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Michael J. Fox, David Bowie, and others have all stayed here. The lobby is stylish and spotless, to be sure, though it's more understated than dazzling. There are plenty of other property features that standout, many of which have been a part of the hotel's extensive renovations that began in 2010. Henriette's, renovated in 2012, is a charming restaurant featuring full-on country style: a sage green wood paneled bar, a pig mascot appearing throughout, and chalkboard menus. In addition to its celebrity guests, this upscale spot is a favorite haunt among celebrity scholars and Harvard alums and their families. 

Location

In the heart of Cambridge, just around the corner from Harvard Square

Map of Charles Hotel-Harvard Square

The Charles Hotel Harvard Square is located in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston proper. Ideally located for guests who want easy access to Harvard, the hotel is a favorite among the university's alum and families. The Harvard Kennedy School of Government is right across the street and other major campus destinations are in easy walking distance. The bustling Harvard Square is just a three-minute walk away and is full of shops and restaurants. For guests who primarily want to explore Boston proper, this might not be the ideal location, though main city sights are easily accessible via the Harvard Square T stop (Red Line), a five-minute walk from the hotel. MIT and Boston Common are right along the Red Line, a six- and 12-minute ride respectively. Logan International Airport is about 45 minutes away via public transit. Valet- and self-parking are available, but both cost extra fees, and there's a car-rental desk on-site. During warmer months, bike rentals are available for free through the hotel.

Rooms

Classic New England style paired with upscale amenities like 55-inch flat-screen TVs and Bose radios

With a 2016 renovation costing $20 million, the rooms at the Charles represent the best the hotel has to offer. The homey, New England theme is reflected in the leather wingback armchairs, plaid carpeting, board-and-batten paneled walls, and furniture with classic Shaker details. The color palette is largely cream, with country-blue in the rugs and brown leather and wood accents. Minibars are stocked with some of the usual suspects -- beer and liquor, for example -- but also include super-food snacks featuring quinoa and kale. And while most hotel rooms' stock picture-heavy travel magazines, the Charles has copies of "The Atlantic," plus daily "New York Times" delivery during the week. Oddly, there's no in-room coffee and tea service, though these are available from the restaurant for free and room service is available 24 hours.

The electronics are impressive: 55-inch flat-screen TVs, Bose Wave radios, free Wi-Fi, and Seura "in-mirror" televisions that are embedded into bathroom mirrors. Bathrooms have been refreshed with Carra marble floors and walls and showers with rainfall showerheads or shower/tub combos. Bathrooms include robes, illuminated magnifying mirrors, scales, and high-end C.O. Bigelow bath products. 

Standard Rooms measure about 275-square-feet, which is about average for Boston hotels. Suites exceed 400 square feet and the Presidential Suite is a massive 1,195 square feet with a master bedroom, living room, dining room, office, and Italian marble bathroom.

Features

Two restaurants, two bars, an on-site spa and salon, free access to adjacent fitness facilities, and high-end services

With two restaurants and two bars, the quality and variety of the hotel's on-site eateries is impressive. The main restaurant, Henrietta's Table, is well-liked among guests and has a stylish, country feel. (It's named for the chef's late beloved pet pig, includes a gift shop that sells cookbooks, prepared foods, and stuffed piglets.) It serves regional fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and makes use of fresh, local ingredients -- though breakfast costs an extra fee. During our 2016 visit, the hotel's on-site Italian restaurant, Rialto, was being completely redone to make room for a new restaurant, Benedetto, which will be an upscale Italian joint with a bar, pasta table, and seasonal outdoor seating. 

In addition to the restaurants' bars, the hotel also has a bar off the lobby, Noir, which features a low-key 1940s theme, seasonal outdoor seating, classic cocktails, and late hours (renovations are planned for 2017). The bar even hosts events like paint nights. Regattabar, on the third floor, is a renowned jazz club in its own right that also hosts private parties. The hotel offers 24-hour room service.

While the Charles doesn't have its own fitness facilities, guests are offered free access to the adjacent Wellbridge Health and Fitness Center. Affiliated with but not owned by the hotel, it features an indoor heated lap pool, whirlpool, steam room, exercise rooms, and one-on-one fitness training. Some guests find some of these facilities slightly dated and the pool small (it's a lap pool, not a full-sized pool), but overall, the facilities at this multistory complex far exceed what one would find in a typical hotel gym. The property also features a seasonal ice skating rink right outside the hotel, which is open to the public. In warmer months, bike rentals are available free of charge. 

The 4,000-square-foot Corbu Spa & Salon is a 2011 addition to the hotel and offers couples and single treatment rooms where guests can receive massages, facials, waxes, manicures, hair treatments, and more. Plus, the spa uses local ingredients for many of its scrubs and other products. 

The hotel offers high-end services like turndown service, a 24-hour concierge, and a host of amenities on request (humidifiers, heating pads, or book lights, for example). There's also same-day laundry service, a rent-a-car desk on-site, meeting rooms, and a hallway computer nook with a computer and printer. The lobby library includes many copies of books signed by authors who have visited The Charles. Wi-Fi is free throughout the property. Valet- and self-parking are available, but cost an extra daily fee. For guests traveling with children, there are cribs, high chairs, kids' menus, board games, night lights, outlet protectors, and a selection of children's books. The pool offers kids' swim hours, too. Dogs are welcome but cost a one-time extra fee.

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Things You Should Know About Charles Hotel-Harvard Square

Address

1 Bennett St, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States

Phone

(617) 864-1200

Also Known As

  • Charles Hotel Cambridge
  • Charles Hotel in Harvard Square

Room Types

  • Boston Suite
  • Cambridge Suite
  • Deluxe Room
  • Executive Deluxe/King Charles Suite
  • Presidential Suite

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