#boston travel guide
Getting Around Boston
Boston, the capital of Massachusetts and the largest city in New England, features neighborhoods with names and identities that still hold strong to their colonial beginnings. Most neighborhoods began as cities of their own before they were incorporated as one. Therefore, many streets may have a duplicate in other parts of town.
Accessible via South Station, Aquarium, State Street and Downtown Crossing subway stations.
Downtown Boston is the most tourist-heavy area, with most of the city’s highlights, including the start of the 2 -mile Freedom Trail and the Boston Tea Party site. Families should start their city tour here for the Children’s Museum and the New England Aquarium alone. Downtown is also the commercial and financial heart of the city, so modern offices share blocks with historic buildings and colonial sites. Saunter along Washington Street and stumble upon Downtown Crossing (at the intersection of Washington and Summer streets, where Winter Street turns into Summer Street). This humming area overflows with fast-paced pedestrians, theatergoers making their way to the Opera House and street vendors selling their wares.
Accessible via the North and Haymarket subway stations.
Boston’s Little Italy can be found in the North End neighborhood (which, as the name suggests, is just north of downtown). The Freedom Trail winds through the North End past historic sites like the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House. However, be sure to step off and explore the neighborhoods outside of the colonial buildings for the area’s Old World feel. On Hanover Street and Salem Street, you’ll find a handful of restaurants and shops with an Italian flair. You’ll also encounter the vibrant Faneuil Hall Marketplace. a popular market for tourists and city-dwellers, alike.
Accessible via the Back Bay and Prudential subway stations.
The South End is an up-and-coming area and the heart of the city’s gay community. Recently renovated with an artsy and cultural twist, this diverse and stylish neighborhood is home to beautiful homes from the 19th century. If you’re looking for a souvenir, be sure to pop inside one of the South End’s eclectic furniture and handmade craft stores lining Washington Street and Harrison Avenue. And if you happen to be in town on a Sunday morning, head to the vibrant SoWa Open Market to blend in with locals weaving through stands filled with antique arts and crafts, vintage jewelry and colorful fruits, veggies and flowers.
Accessible via the Bowdoin, Charles/ MGH and Park Street subway stations.
For a taste of Boston life in the old days, wander along Beacon Hill’s charming, brick-lined streets, located west of downtown. Largely residential, the area’s cobblestone streets and historic homes date back to the early 19th century. Mount Vernon Street and Charles Street are the main highlights for those looking for picture-perfect photo-ops and one-of-a-kind antiques.
Beacon Hill’s portion of the Freedom Trail includes the oldest public park in the country, Boston Common. Simply referred to as “the Common,” it was originally created in the 1600s. Southeast of the Common, the small but lively Chinatown is packed with restaurants and grocery stores.
Accessible via the Back Bay and Copley subway stations.
Sitting just off the Charles River Basin southwest of downtown, the Back Bay features some of the most expensive properties in Boston. Often compared to San Francisco ‘s fashionable Nob Hill area, the Back Bay neighborhood features glamorous mansions, trendy shops and chic cafes. At one point in its history, it was a sign of wealth and social standing to live here. Today, you will find both residents and tourists admiring Back Bay’s architecture and strolling along charming Newbury Street, lined with swanky boutiques and marquee galleries.
Accessible via the Museum of Fine Arts, Kenmore, Fenway, Ruggles and Massachusetts Avenue subway stations.
Located to the west of downtown is Kenmore Square. This scenic area consists of trees and colorful flowers, and shops and bars catering to Boston University college students that often fill the area. As you wander along the gas lamp-lit streets at night, past high-end shops and restaurants, you’ll find the lively Lansdowne Street, which cranks up the cool factor with buzzing dance clubs, jazz clubs and jam-packed pubs.
Accessible via the Kenmore or Fenway subway stations.
You’ll find the Fenway just south of Kenmore Square. The area’s main draw is Fenway Park. the adored home of the Boston Red Sox, and the stadium to visit if you’re a baseball enthusiast. If you’re in town for a home game and can afford to shell out some extra dough for a seat, you won’t want to miss cheering alongside Sox fans inside the Green Monster. Other highlights here include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall.
Accessible via the North Station subway station.
One of Boston’s most historic areas, Charlestown lures culture hounds in pursuit of well-preserved pieces of history, like the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. But another main draw is the spectacular scenery; climb the 294 steps to reach the top of Bunker Hill and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping city views from its observatory. Though you won’t find many hotels in this isolated residential area, you will notice a few upscale high-end restaurants sharing blocks with charming 19th century row houses. Charlestown is located to the north of Boston proper on a peninsula across the Charles River. To reach Charlestown, walk across the Charlestown Bridge from Boston’s North End or take the T train’s Green or Orange line and hop off at the North Station stop.
Accessible via the Central Square, Harvard Square and Porter Square subway stations.
Although not in Boston proper, Cambridge is only a short ride northwest on the subway. The heart of this separate city is Harvard Square, which sits next to prestigious Harvard University and northwest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Academia-themed boutiques and ethnic eateries fill out the area. When you’re not brushing shoulders with intellectuals in a Harvard Square book store, wander along Brattle Street to pick up a pastry and admire 18th-century homes. There are also a bevy of museums here including the highly-recommended Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum and the Peabody Museum.
Though its unlikely that encounter any major crime as a Boston visitor, it’s still wise to stay vigilant of your surroundings, especially if you decide to branch away from tourist areas to explore off-the-beaten-path spots. Like in any other large city, keep track of your belongings and stick to well-lit and crowded streets, particularly at night. And be sure to steer clear of vacant subway cars in the evening and avoid visiting urban parks after dark. It’s also a good idea to carry extra cash and the number of a reliable cab company if you plan to enjoy a fun night out on the town. Stay especially alert in areas like Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan, which are all south of Boston proper, where reports of crime are not uncommon.
The best way to get around in Boston is by walking. And when your itinerary takes you out of the city center, the second best mode is the efficient “T” subway system, which includes subways, trains and trolleys along five separate lines. You can easily take the Blue Line from Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) to downtown Boston. Cabs are another excellent option: Boston isn’t a huge taxi town, but you can find them at several cabstands throughout the city and lining up outside of major hotels. However, we do not suggest renting a car and driving yourself: Narrow, one-way roads and expensive parking make driving an avoidable hassle.