Café Pamplona


1959 – present


2 Bow St., Harvard Square


Cozy old world café, Spanish-American Bohemian




The story of Café Pamplona is a very American one. Owner Josefina Yanguas left her war-torn country in 1950 for Cambridge and made a comfortable life for herself here. She opened Harvard Square's first café as "a place for people to meet openly and express themselves in public" - a far cry from the vibe of Fascist Spain. This humble, old world café, is housed in a structure designated a historic landmark. Pamplona became a gathering spot for writers, artists, philosophers and students to sip espresso or enjoy the pressed ham sandwiches and homemade sopa de ajo. Although it has changed today, the Spanish custom of male-only waiters was the norm here for decades. Josefina went on to run the more formal Iruña, a Spanish restaurant set back off JFK St. in Harvard Square, and became a beloved, motherly figure in the community for half a century – even begetting the honor of the key to the city by the mayors of Cambridge and her native Pamplona.

Photo by Rain Robertson