There are so many cliché ways to be a tourist in Boston, primary among them the Freedom Trail. I recommend getting out of Boston proper and seeing Cambridge, with its many storied university campuses. But even then, most approaches to Cambridge are clichéd.
I’ve got just the fix for that: the Harvard University Art Museums.
Located immediately to the east of Harvard Yard at the intersection of Quincy and Broadway, the Museum gets largely overlooked by folks eager to see the more typical features of Ivy League campuses. Little do they know the art treasures they are strolling past.
If you are a fan of 19th Century European painters, the Wertheim Collection will keep you intrigued for hours. All the impressionists are represented in quantity. In addition to Van Gogh.
There’s also an impressive ancient Egyptian collection, with some intriguing portraits painted during the early Christian era. These look so incredibly vivid for being 2000 years old. You need to see them personally to appreciate it.
The museum courtyard features a nice little cafe, which serves food of mediocre quality, but in a setting very conducive to chatting with a friend about pieces you’ve just enjoyed. I took great pleasure in surveying my fellow café goers and feeling quite confident that I was likely the only non-local there.
My favorite piece is one of the George Washington portraits of Charles Willson Peale. Students of American art history will recognize his name as arguably the first great American painter.