Here are a few cafes that may help fill that void and take your mind to a happier place:
1) Jenny's Cafe, Harvard Art Museums
The first choice is actually right here on campus, in a museum less than half the College has probably ever stepped foot in. Tucked away in the far right corner of the museum's first floor atrium is the quaint Jenny's Cafe. Pick up anything from the most delicately prepared caffe macchiato to a gluten-free lasagna prepared in the professional kitchen located in the basement of the museum. The staff are some of the friendliest I've ever encountered in a cafe. While Jenny’s has some seating, it is relatively small. But don’t worry, there are tables and chairs just outside the cafe in the atrium. The minimalist, clean design of the newly renovated museum makes for a prime study spot and if you’re looking to take advantage of that limited daylight, no better place than this window haven.
2) Starbuck's Coffee, in a land far, far away (468 Broadway, Cambridge– and in Harvard speak, 2 minutes beyond Pennypacker)
Now don't judge me. This post is not about finding the most hipster (or whatever millennial term you want to go for) coffee shop, but instead some of the best places to study and get a cup of joe. It's a Starbucks, so not much to say about the interior: black chairs, dark brown tables– but this one is almost always empty. No need to worry about flocks of tourists, noise and preteens desperate for pumpkin spiced lattes. This Starbucks is well removed from College culture, so you can sit down, enjoy your beverage of choice, use their free wifi and crank out some work. You certainly won't have to bring headphones with you.
3) Crema Cafe
Crema has been serving Harvard students and local Cantabrigians for 7 years now, and from my experience, it has never failed to deliver. Their coffees are fantastic (especially the cappuccinos), though on the pricey side as far as coffee in the Square goes. The downstairs and outdoor seating areas seem to be more for socializing and meetings, but walk up the flight of stairs and you will be welcomed by a sea of Macbook Pros. Crema is one of the busier cafes in the area, so you will need some earphones if you’re going to be productive, but there’s definitely something to be said about the energy and vibe they have managed to create. I recommend it, that is if you can find a seat.
4) Algiers Coffee House
Originally solely a coffee house, this chic middle-eastern hangout has upped the ante over the last few years and now serves full meals as well as Middle Eastern bites. The exotic fusion teas, especially the mint, are delicious, and you can tuck into their signature falafel while cramming for a test, or use the upstairs area, which has especially good light, to crank out that paper. They play some Middle Eastern background music, and again, the energy of this place is top notch.
5) 1369 Coffee House (if you walk towards Central Square, it's on Mass Ave)
Jump on your bike and head down Mass Ave until you see blue neon lights and the most plain, white logo reading “1369 Coffee House”. The coffee and teas here are carefully prepared and pretty reasonably priced by local standards. When I walked in, I got the vibe that this place was made to be a Lamont away from Lamont. Each table, though accompanied by two chairs, is about big enough to fit a laptop, a textbook and a cup of coffee on. All you need to get through that work, no? If you head in at a relatively quiet hour, you may be lucky enough to get an elevated table, which comes with a lamp. The energy is sedated and peaceful, so I got the impression that this wasn’t a social space, rather a place for contemplation and essay planning. Definitely give it a try.
This list is by no means exhaustive but should give you a sense that there are many places beyond the Harvard microcosm that you can venture to for a bit of study. Try these with an open mind and hopefully you may discover your new favorite study spot.