A Visitor’s Guide to Boston Neighborhoods
Downtown – downtown is the definite hub of Boston’s activities – besides the government buildings and skyscrapers there’s the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the beginning of the Freedom Trail, the Children’s Museum, and the waterfront area with the Boston Tea Party Site and the New England Aquarium. On the western side of downtown is the huge Boston Common green-space and Granary Burying Ground. Downtown also has plenty of hotels, shopping, great walking, and excellent public transportation.
North End – the North End lies Northeast of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. It’s the oldest part of Boston, and it’s the heart of Boston’s Italian community, with huge number of Italian restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and markets in the area. The Freedom Trail zig-zags through the North End past the Paul Revere House and the North Church. There’s very much an “Old World” feel to the area.
Beacon Hill – the home to many of the Boston’s founding families (known as the Brahmins) lies just west of downtown between Cambridge Street to the north and Boston Common and Boston Public Garden to the south. It’s an exclusive, mostly residential area featuring historic, Federalist style, red brick row houses and narrow, gas-lit, cobblestone streets. The Cheers bar is located in Beacon Hill.
Back Bay – affluent Back Bay extends west from Boston Public Garden along Commonwealth Avenue to Charlesgate Park. The area boasts the only streets in Boston laid out in a grid pattern. Expensive and historic 19th-century Brownstones homes take up much of the neighborhood, but Newbury Street is famous for its upscale shopping opportunities and outdoors restaurants, with the pricier boutiques closer to the Boston Public Garden end. Boylston Street has a good selection of bars and restaurants. Back Bay is great for walking, and there’s lots of greenspace along the river.
Fenway-Kenmore Square – this ventures west from Back Bay and is really more of an amalgamation of many distinct sub-cultures than one cohesive neighborhood. In addition to Fenway Park and Kenmore Square, the area includes the Museum of Fine Arts, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston University, and Northeastern University, plus a few other colleges and some of Boston’s most-renowned medical centers. With a young demographic, there’s lots of bars and cheap restaurants.
South End – the South End basically starts at the intersection of I-93 and I-90 and extends west to Ruggles Street. With block after block of renovated 19th Century Victorian brick row houses, it is a historic neighborhood that is becoming an increasingly popular place to live. The heart of Boston’s gay community is here, and the hip community boasts lots of upscale restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops, as well as a good number of small parks.
Cambridge – actually a city unto itself, Cambridge is located across the Charles River from Boston and is home to Harvard and MIT, which gives the area a youthful, liberal, and bohemian feel. Cambridge is known for its squares, with Harvard Square being the most famous.
Charlestown – In 1775, the Charlestown Peninsula north of downtown was the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Freedom Trail now ends at the Bunker Hill Memorial Park. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the area was the center of Irish culture. Charlestown was also home to the Navy Yard, which is now part of the Boston national Historic Park and is the home of the U.S.S. Constitution. Young professionals are now buying and refurbishing the old Navy base homes in this historic area.
Chinatown – Boston’s Chinatown is the only Chinese area in New England and is the 4th largest Chinatown in the country. Located directly south of downtown and centered on Beach Street, it is 70% Asian, densely populated, and features Boston’s most authentic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
South Boston – also known as Southie, this densely-populated neighborhood is home to one of the largest Irish populations in the country. There’s plenty of Irish pubs in the area, but there also a healthy selection of more upscale restaurants popping up as the property values increase.