June 5, 2019 / Leave a Comment
Like most big-city tourist destinations, Boston has so much going on that it can sometimes be overwhelming to plan an itinerary for a short visit. One way we like to explore new cities in cases like this, though, is by neighborhood.
This can make a big place feel smaller, as each neighborhood generally has its own culture and architecture. Exploring by neighborhood lets you get to know a place a bit better than you otherwise would, and often leads to discovering unique attractions that are off the radar for most tourists.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a few recommendations for our absolute favorite neighborhoods in Boston that you must see on your next trip there.
The North End is best known for its Italian heritage. You can find authentic dishes and pastries on every block, which makes this a particularly appealing neighborhood for if and when you’re looking for a nice meal out. In fact, some local companies even offer food tours of this neighborhood, so if you want to partake, be sure to head there with an empty stomach!
There’s more to love about the North End beyond the Italian restaurants as well. For one thing, the bakeries also deserve attention, and if you head to a place like Mike’s Pastry, you can enjoy any flavor of cannoli imaginable.
Culinary delights aside, it’s also easy to fall in love with the cobblestone streets lined with tall, historic buildings; looking around you really will feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
And finally, if you want to round out your North End visit with one last Italian-American tradition (that doesn’t have to do with food), head over to Langone Park for some bocce ball. The park has three courts and is located on the water, giving you a fun outdoor activity and a wonderful view of the city.
One thing we love to do in Fenway is visit the museums, with our favorite being the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The exhibits here aren’t just limited to paintings on the walls; each room has been carefully curated with furniture, unique color schemes, and other artifacts.
Walking through the collections does not feel at all like being in a traditional museum, but rather like you are exploring the home of a tasteful art collector – which was Gardner’s goal. Another selling point for this museum is that it was the site of the biggest art heist in history, where pieces by famous artists like Rembrandt suddenly disappeared and were never recovered (and if you’re curious to learn more about this, check out the podcast Last Seen, which delves into the mystery!).
Fenway is also famous for Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball and home to the Boston Red Sox. The park oozes history and tradition, and just outside of it there are many sports bars where fans gather to watch the games. Boston, more broadly, is an unrivaled city to visit if you’re a sports fan:
The Red Sox won the World Series last year, and as of this writing, betting odds for the Stanley Cup are predicting a championship for the Boston Bruins as well. The NHL playoffs can be somewhat unpredictable, but the Bruins have earned their favorites status with a tremendous playoff run thus far. Additionally, the NBA’s Boston Celtics are often among the league’s best teams (despite a disappointing 2019 postseason).
Not all of these teams play in Fenway, but they do all contribute to a united sports culture that’s palpable in the area – and rest assured you can catch a Bruins or Celtics game at the Fenway bars even if the Red Sox aren’t playing.
Back Bay is another neighborhood with lots of interesting history. It is home to many of the most noteworthy Boston landmarks, such as Trinity Church, the Boston Public Library, and the Boston Public Garden. Given these attractions, Back Bay does attract a lot of tourists, but it also has some residential streets lined with stunning Victorian homes where some of the wealthier families in town have taken up residence. It’s a highly walkable area, and one of the prettier places in town, meaning it’s surely worth your time to take a leisurely walk up and down the neighborhood.
Another can’t-miss is the Mapparium, the world’s largest walk-in globe. The walls of the globe are made of stained glass and its country borders reflect the world of the 1930s, when the globe was first installed. Aside from being a visual wonder, its spherical nature creates some interesting acoustics for visitors to experiment with: a whisper from one side of the room will be amplified to a normal speaking volume on the other.
Boston has many other unique neighborhoods to explore, but if you only have a day or two these would make for an excellent start!