Travel Advisory: The Charles Hotel
If you’re anything like me, you’ve driven past The Charles Hotel in Cambridge’s Harvard Square more times than you can count. Maybe you’ve taken in a show at the hotel’s world-famous jazz club, the Regattabar, or enjoyed a cocktail at Noir, The Charles’ stylish, 1940s-themed nightclub. But most likely you’ve never considered spending a weekend there. You might think of it as being too close to home to qualify as a “real” getaway spot, or maybe you’re squeamish about mixing with the tourists.
As it happens, I was lucky enough recently to spend a night at The Charles, and if its fantastic location — within walking distance of the Charles River, Harvard University, the MBTA, and an abundance of theaters, museums, shops and restaurants — isn’t enough to sway you to book a short stay, then its elegant, comfortable rooms, great restaurants and impressive city views should be. The hotel also offers its guests the use of its designated parking garage, with an option for valet parking, which you know is a premium perk if you’re familiar with the parking situation in Harvard Square.
Located on land that once was slated to be the home of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum — which ultimately was built a few miles away in South Boston — The Charles often hosts celebrities, politicians, artists and other notable folks as well as a large number of international travelers. (Famous guests include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and the Dalai Lama.)
Although The Charles’ location makes it a great hub for taking advantage of the area’s cultural offerings, including those in nearby Boston, the hotel is the kind of place you don’t have to leave unless you really want to. In addition to Noir and the Regattabar, The Charles is home to two first-rate restaurants, Rialto and Henrietta’s Table. The more upscale of the two, Rialto serves Italian-inspired cuisine using seasonal New England ingredients. Rialto’s elegant decor and understated ambiance make it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner or quiet celebration.
Reminiscent of a French bistro, Henrietta’s Table — located on the ground floor of The Charles, just across from Rialto — offers farm-to-table fare in a comfortable, informal atmosphere. The energy created by its open kitchen makes Henrietta’s Table a fun place to share a meal. The food is simply prepared, locally sourced and very high quality, with the source farms and producers often noted on the menu. Henrietta’s Table serves breakfast, lunch and dinner — and some of the best coffee I’ve had anywhere.
Both restaurants offer outdoor seating during the warmer months.
A number of weekend packages are available on The Charles’ website, including one that features a visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and one for families with younger kids. Hotel amenities include morning newspaper delivery, 24-hour room service, same-day laundry, a lobby gift shop and library, an on-site gym and pool, complimentary bike rentals, and a full-service spa and salon. The Charles Hotel is also pet-friendly.
On weekends from late May through November, The Charles’ courtyard is home to the Cambridge/Charles Square Farmers Market. The Regattabar Kids Summer Music Series, beginning in , will feature music especially for young children, allowing little ones a rare visit to the famed club.
So hop in the car some Friday afternoon this spring or summer and head to The Charles Hotel in Cambridge for a relaxing, well-deserved break. To ensure the best view, ask for a room on the 9th or 10th floor when you make your reservation.
The Charles Hotel