Just north of Cambridge and only three miles from downtown Boston is the compact little city of Somerville. Heaps of arts and culture are conveniently packed into just four square miles. In fact, only New York City has more artists per capita—perhaps that’s why Somerville is sometimes called “the Brooklyn of Boston.” A young, growing community, Somerville’s residents find home in colorful triple-deckers, trendy lofts, and brand-new mid-rise condominiums, with expanding waterfront property along the Mystic River.
Somerville is older than even Boston itself. Though it was home to Native Americans for centuries, the area was first settled by Puritans in 1629 as a western expansion of Charlestown. At first, most of Somerville was grazing ground nicknamed “Cow Commons.” As Boston burgeoned nearby, Somerville’s population grew as well. By the Revolutionary War, Somerville had become an important strategic location for the patriots’ militia. Paul Revere’s infamous ride took him through Somerville, and the Continental Army camped at Prospect Hill. On New Years’ Day 1776, George Washington raised the Grand Union Flag—America’s first flag—on the hill. Today, beautiful Prospect Hill Park features a stately turret monument, built in 1903 to memorialize Somerville’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. A replica of Washington’s flag waves atop it.
Until the Industrial Revolution, the area was inhabited mostly by British farmers and brickmakers. In the mid-1800s, immigrants moved to Somerville from Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Russia, and other primarily European countries. Soon, Somerville became well-known for its meatpacking industry, and the town’s population skyrocketed. After the turn of the century, automotive manufacturing boomed. Following World War II, however, Somerville faced deindustrialization and an economic downturn. Highway projects displaced residents, and the closing of automobile and meatpacking plants led to tough times for many Somerville families.
In the late 1980s, the expansion of the Red Line to Davis Square linked Somerville back to Boston’s urban opportunities, and catalyzed community revitalization. Young artists and Tufts college students, as well as families from Brazil, Nepal, Haiti, India, and El Salvador, moved in. They brought new ideas, cuisines, and artistic expression. With Cambridge’s rapid STEM innovation expanding into the 2000s, Somerville’s closeby real estate was in high demand once again. Today, Somerville takes pride in its multiculturalism and thriving arts scene. The city is a diverse, on-trend place to live and work.
Like nearby Cambridge, Somerville centers around its squares: Davis Square, Union Square, Assembly Square, Ball Square, Magoun Square, and Powder House Square. Each one has a unique, distinct commercial and residential flavor. Assembly Square features a plethora of shops and chic condos at Assembly Row, a new development along the Mystic waterfront. Davis Square combines the urban convenience of a Red Line T stop with a relaxed town-center feel, full of brick buildings and time-honored neighborhood-classic eateries. Union Square mixes newer mid-rises with multi-family homes, with plenty of trees lining the streets around the famous Prospect Hill monument.
Arts-centric Somerville has galleries, museums, and boutiques galore. Grab a bite at one of the city’s cafes, diners, taverns, or restaurants—you’ll find delicious cuisine from a stunning variety of cultures. Stop by the Somerville Theater to catch a movie, where you can enjoy ice cream as a concession snack, and then venture downstairs to the Museum of Bad Art—yes, that’s right—for a particularly quirky art exhibit. Don’t forget to catch the annual Fluff Festival, a sweet celebration of marshmallow fluff and its 1917 Somerville origins.
- Queen of Swords
- Loyal Supply
- What’s Nü
- E. Scott Originals
- High Energy Vintage
- Blue Cloud Gallery
- Monadnock Glass Arts
- Davis Squared
- Kelly’s Diner - American Retro
- Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar
- Lyndell’s Bakery
- Noor Mediterranean Grill
- Redbones - Barbecue & Bar
- The Painted Burro - Mexican
- Posto - Italian
- Qingdao Garden - Chinese
- Olde Magoun’s Saloon - Irish Pub
- 3 Little Figs - Cafe
- Union Square Donuts
- Giulia - Italian
- Pikliz International Kitchen - Caribbean
- Kor Tor Mor - Thai
- Manoa Poke Shop - Hawaiian
- Istanbu’lu - Turkish
- Tasty Mo:Mo: - Nepalese
- Dali Restaurant & Tapas Bar - Spanish
- Field & Vine - New American