Boston is a city of welcome contradictions, where historic meets hip and stylish sophistication meets old-school New England charm.
As a legendary mecca for foodies, families and history buffs alike, Boston offers something for everyone. Visitors can look forward to enjoying a stroll through the Public Garden, a succulent seafood dinner on the Boston Harbor or a restful afternoon spent at the HarborWalk.
Boston’s neighbourhoods are legendary for their distinctive offerings, each with their own culture and flavor. Exploring Boston is like a one-stop globetrot.
(Source: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)
As Fenway Park marks its centennial, the surrounding neighbourhood – long a bastion of baseball and body shops – is enjoying a grand slam of a revival.
Throughout decades of losing by the Red Sox, Fenway was a place to watch a ball game, get an oil change or hit a dodgy nightclub. But around the time of the Sox’s cathartic 2004 World Series victory, this working class ’hood, named for the adjacent Back Bay Fens park, experienced an influx of young professionals. Today’s Fenway pulses with hip bars, inventive chefs and avant-garde galleries. It’s still the best place to munch a Fenway Frank and catch a game in Major League Baseball's oldest stadium. But the area's enthusiasm is no longer restricted to the field; Bostonians know a winner when they see one, and now everyone's cheering for the Fens.
Boston is shaking off its Puritan image and becoming a 21st-century hub for fashion, food and fun.
Somewhere along the line, the city of Boston earned a reputation for being tightly buttoned-up, dominated by academics and politicians with little thought towards style or, frankly, fun. But reports of the town’s enduring stodginess or heightened sense of propriety have been greatly exaggerated. And while the Boston prepster still exists, the incidence of men in lobster-embroidered khaki pants courting cableknit-clad girls is decidedly in decline. Instead, Boston has emerged as an increasingly hip, world-class city with a healthy respect for its history bolstered by an ever-modern sensibility. What’s remarkable is how seamlessly old and new come together.
Like many of Europe’s prettiest cities, Boston is cut into two by a river. The Charles River snakesthrough town, separating Boston from Cambridge (fall is high season here as coed rowers hit the open water, creating a postcard perfect scene for runners and bikers). Home, of course, to Harvard University and MIT, Cambridge is filled with students and fantastic dining options (Oleana, Sofra and the recent soul food smash hit Hungry Mother, to name just a few). Some might say the best thing about Cambridge, however, is its million-dollar views of Boston. Directly across the river, Beacon Hill is alternately preppy and political – shoppers there peruse boutiques of canvas bags and yellow rain slickers, while pols on break from City Hall scarf sandwiches at The Paramount – and, with the addition of the chic Liberty Hotel, a bit posh as well. The hotel opened in 2006 near the picturesque Public Garden in the site of a former jailhouse (you’ll find many of its original features in the lobby bar, Alibi, and restaurant Clink). Rooms come nicely equipped with plasma TVs, Molton Brown products and, on one day each April, views of Boston Marathoners trotting by. Not to be missed, the ground-floor restaurant Scampo, from legendary local chef Lydia Shire, serves up top-notch Italian food, including the already-famous broccoli rabe pizza, inspired by Boston mayor Tom Menino’s love of the leafy vegetable.
Also on view from Cambridgeside are the townhouses of the Back Bay, adjacent to the Hill. Its iconic main drag, Newbury Street, offers superb people watching (beware of newlyweds and expectant parents Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, who own a penthouse nearby) and endless opportunities to defy the recession at locally owned, high-end shops like Louis Boston, Alan Bilzerian and Serenella (as well as the more familiar Burberry, Valentino and Chanel). The North End, recently reconnected to the rest of the city following a 20-year construction project nicknamed the Big Dig, is rich in Italian history and cuisine, though short on parking spots. Try Neptune Oyster for classic New England seafood with an Italian flair.
Over in the up-and-coming Fort Point Channel neighbourhood, the stunning Institute of Contemporary Art has provided the most significant recent change to the city’s skyline. Designed by the internationally acclaimed firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the place is perennially packed, with forward-thinking shows featuring the likes of street artist (and Obama portraitist) Shepard Fairey and installation artist Tara Donovan, and guest appearances by chefs, musicians and puppets in a glass-walled amphitheatre overlooking Boston Harbor.
More than any one physical landmark, though, it’s really an ever-changing nature that so embodies Boston now. Students no longer study here, then move. Cambridge scientists are changing the world, one invention at a time. Industries of art, fashion, design and food are flourishing. Nowhere is all that more evident than in the South End, a once-gritty neighbourhood that’s been turned over to artists, chefs, writers and entrepreneurs – and their dogs.
The neighbourhood’s Peters Park is a favourite of the four-legged and their owners alike for, both the park’s vast lawn space and its proximity to the various chewy cow ears and smoked pig parts at the highly trafficked Polka Dog Bakery.
In recent years, the South End’s dining scene has reached epic heights, becoming the sort of place known for its lust of culinary adventure and $18 glasses of wine. It is, invariably, where the city comes to eat. There are the classics, like Hamersley’s, Petit Robert and Aquitaine, whose hand-cut fries are worth their cholesterol count and where the floor-to-ceiling windows provide ample opportunity to spy on passersby. And then there are the welcome newcomers, working together to swiftly transform the neighbourhood into one of the country’s most exciting foodie destinations. Across the street from Aquitaine on a formerly dingy corner of Waltham and Tremont, local chef Barbara Lynch has created a mini-empire, simultaneously opening anti-clam shack B&G Oysters and wine and charcuterie bar The Butcher Shop (which also sells local meat) on opposing corners. Plum Produce, an organic vegetable boutique (offering an ever-changing seasonal selection, from the humble potato to the princely pluot), and Stir, a classroom and cookbook shop, soon followed. If you thought Bostonians were conservative, just watch them spend $8 on a single heirloom tomato. Rocca, which draws inspiration from the Italian coastal region of Liguria, also comes with considerable credibility in the form of longtime chef and restaurateur Michela Larson. Housed in a former eyelet factory in the SoWa (that’s South of Washington Street) section of the South End, the restaurant specializes in hand-rolled pasta, house-made gelati, crowd-rousing drinks, and a patio that’s warm and inviting almost right up to the first snowfall.
Having almost single-handedly revitalized a dusty stretch of Washington Street, tapas joint Toro is packed nightly with a mix of hipsters, local media types and food-lovers who come to eat bacon-wrapped dates and garlic-grilled corn under the watchful eye of a massive taxidermied bull’s head. Another spot for ethnic-inspired fare, tiny Orinoco Kitchen is hidden deep in the South End, but worth the hunt. It’s a bustling scene, filled with pretty people listening to Nuevo Latino music and munching on doughy arepas and cheesy empanadas made from recipes that once belonged to Chef Carlos Rodriguez’s grandmother back in Caracas. Your instincts might be to skip the overplayed molten chocolate cake, and you’d be right—anywhere else.
After dinner, a diverse crowd of yupsters, neighbourhood artists and suburban thrill-seekers flocks to the Beehive, Boston’s first club for the 30+ set, for live jazz, tasty Mediterranean fare and a supper club feel. (More than a year later, eager patrons remain willing to wait in line, in the rain, to get in.) Housed within the South End’s Boston Center for the Arts and accented with works by local artists, the subterranean setting projects an authentically bohemian vibe, while strong drinks poured by popular Boston bartenders promise a good buzz for the buck. For a memorable morning-after brunch, Stella’s omelettes, crispy fries and spicy bloody Marys are among the city’s best, and the company is most definitely fashionable.
A smattering of choice boutiques has also made the South End a worthy competitor to the more crowded shops of Newbury Street. Ideal for pleasing the hostess, mother-in-law or boss, floral shop Twig puts out arrangements that are cleanly artistic, thoughtful and fresh enough to last a week (bonus: a DIY option accommodates those on carnation budgets). South End Formaggio, meanwhile, might be one of the city’s best-kept secrets: the gem of a gourmet shop along Shawmut Avenue provides all the fixings for an artisanal picnic (bacon scallion potato salad, Niman Ranch meatloaf) and then some (chocolate penguins, Tuscan fruit preserves, handmade caramels).
Meanwhile home-accessories store Diseño is jam-packed with sleek imports from across South America – Brazilian wood tableware, suede and leather accessories, funky lighting – and holds court along a stretch of street that’s become something of an interior decorator’s fantasy. There’s also D Scale, Devi Home, Tour de France and Peng, all of which combine modern home furnishings with accessories, many of which are museum quality.
At men’s clothing boutique Uniform, owner Gary Ritacco pulls together everything a guy needs to fall out of the Gap mindset: casual button-down shirts from Swiss Army and Scotch & Soda, messenger bags by Freitag and manly-smelling bath products by Jack Black and Sharps. Fashionistas do well at Looc, with preppy-inspired wear by Nili Lotan and variations on the Little Black Dress by Thread Social, as well as Turtle, where Storey Hauck works hard to highlight local clothing, jewellery and hand bag designers. But for an experience unlike any in town, there’s Bobby From Boston. Inside, owner Bobby Garnett curates pristine clothing and home accessories from around the world and across the decades. Don’t be surprised to encounter a Chanel dress from the 1950s alongside a pair of well-kept 70s-era roller skates. Next door, the spectacular Boston Sculptors Gallery is a haven for creative types. In the summertime, the first Friday of every month finds local artists at 450 Harrison Avenue opening their private studio spaces to the public. The building’s 50 artist studios and 15 galleries include Samson Projects, Bernard Toale Gallery and Genovese/Sullivan, all of which rival New York’s best and have included cutting-edge installation, video and performance art exhibits. It’s further proof – as if you needed any by now – that Boston isn’t nearly as conservative as it’s cracked up to be.
Logan International Airport (BOS) is located in East Boston, just 5 km/3 miles from the city centre.
Airport Water Shuttle to Rowe’s Wharf (about 10 minutes) costs US $10 one-way.
Taxis to downtown cost approximately US $23. Car service costs approximately US $70.
Hertz is conveniently located outside the Boston Logan International Airport passenger terminal building. The car rental shuttle is located on the Ground Transportation Level of the airport.
Shuttle bus No. 33 to the subway costs US $2. Subway to Boston city centre costs US $1.70 one way, or US $2 if bought onboard.