Boston, Massachusetts is a hard-working American city full of history, charm, and fun. From famed Fenway Park to the most visited tourist spot in the city, Faneuil Hall, there are endless things to do and places to see on a visit. Some attractions will take you into the old world Italian charm of the North End, while others will find you walking around the cobblestone-lined streets of Beacon Hill. This sprawling but close knit city has many neighborhoods each with its own style, personality, and locals. To truly know the city you have to know the top Boston neighborhoods to visit. You should make a point to stop in to some of the most incredible areas on your next trip. Here’s a bit about what makes each Boston neighborhood so very special:
Top Boston Neighborhoods
A diverse and flourishing area of Northwest Boston, Allston/Brighton (two separate neighborhoods that are almost always lumped together due to their proximity and populous) are home to tree-lined streets with triple decker houses and plenty of eateries. Speaking of, Commonwealth, Brighton, and Harvard Avenues feature hip bars and unique ethnic restaurants, creating hubs of activity throughout the community, with many live music venues. In the southwest corner of the neighborhood, The Chestnut Hill Reservoir features a popular shoreline walking trail. Business is booming too: St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Boston College, WGBH, and the New Balance all have offices here. Take the green line subway/above ground street car here.
What a rise to fame for this once-stagnant pool of water that now holds some of the best real estate, restaurants, and attractions in Boston. Victorian brownstones line the streets here with many celebrities calling one home – like Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, for example. Framed by the Charles River and Public Garden, Back Bay is home to those aforementioned expensive apartments, but also the best shopping in the city. On Newbury Street, you’ll find high end retailers galore – and on a beautiful summer day it seems most of Boston makes its way down this famous street to pick up a nice piece of clothing. Over on parallel Boylston Street you’ll find a more down-to-Earth attitude and plenty of bars and restaurants to watch the game (there’s definitely one on). Boylston Street is also where you’ll find the Prudential Center (an indoor shopping mall) or Copley Square (an outdoor park). You might notice this is the only area of the city created in a grid pattern, like most modern cities, while the rest of Boston was laid out in an unorganized fashion. The cross streets take the names Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, Hereford, Ipswich, and Jersey – all alphabetical – so you can easily find out where you are. See the gorgeous architecture at the Boston Public Library. Back Bay is also home to the finish line of the world-renowned Boston Marathon. Stroll the Esplanade and see the Hatch Shell where many concerts play or visit Northeastern University’s campus. With many T stops available it won’t be hard to get there and move around.
Beacon Hill is likely Boston’s best known neighborhood – home to the city’s elite during the Revolutionary Era. The beautiful brick homes, complete with porticos and columns, are a marvel all on their own. You’ll also find the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill with its famed gold dome – take a tour to learn about Boston and Massachusetts history. The narrow cobblestone streets define this famous neighborhood and the Boston Common, Public Garden, Esplanade, and Hatch Shell are all adjacent to it. Charles Street is Beacon Hill’s main commercial area. Eclectic boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants serve the neighborhood and Beacon Hill’s frequent tourists.
Charlestown is home to the Bunker Hill Monument – and hundreds of years of history. Old Ironsides (aka USS Constitution), the famous war ship, is located here. The Charlestown Navy Yard, now a historic park, was once a thriving shipyard responsible for creating and repairing many of the vessels used by the U.S. Navy. Enjoy the views of the city from this side of the harbor, and walk around to experience the history of this old Boston neighborhood. Grab a pint at historic Warren Tavern, where many revolutionary heroes drank too, or see the gorgeous views of Boston from Pier 6 on the waterfront.
The hub for Boston’s Chinese community, Chinatown is located next to the Leather District on the southern edge of Downtown. Chinatown’s dense mix of shops, restaurants, and housing in historic buildings creates an ever-bustling neighborhood with easy access to Downtown and the Theater District. Stop in to Chinatown Park to relax after exploring, it has bamboo and calming waters. Get here by taking the Red Line to South Station or the Orange Line to Chinatown. You’ll know you’re close by seeing the massive gate across Beach Street (pictured above).
Downtown you’ll find the financial district with all its sky scrapers and plenty of shopping and eating in the Downtown Crossing area on Washington Street. The Downtown area is also home to City Hall (rated world’s ugliest building!) and the aforementioned Faneuil Hall which includes Quincy Market where you can eat and shop your afternoon away. Theaters, restaurants, cafes, and miles of waterfront are always within easy walking distance – plus the Rose Kennedy Greenway which boasts miles of park space. Stop into Boston Common for a picnic, stroll, some lemonade, or for the people watching.
East Boston is where you’ll find Logan Airport, you probably flew over and drove by it on your way to your vacation rental. It is an up-and-coming neighborhood in the city and one that deserves a visit for its beautiful waterfront parks and for world-famous Santarpio’s Pizza, arguably the best slice in the city. Belle Isle Marsh Reservation and Constitution Beach offer recreational opportunities to residents, and striking views of the Boston skyline can be had from Piers Park. Maverick Square and Central Square are the main commercial areas with shops and restaurants. A short trip on the Blue Line will get you here.
The star of the Fenway/Kenmore area is of course the appropriately named Fenway Park. Surrounding the baseball stadium are dozens of bars, restaurants, night clubs on Landsdowne Street, and shops to buy souvenirs. Those going to a game on their visit to Boston will have plenty to do in this area. This is also a neighborhood teeming with colleges and universities to see – Simmons, Wentworth, Emmanuel, Wheelock, and many others. Some of the finest medical institutions in the world can be found here, too. On Huntington Avenue you’ll find Symphony Hall, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Huntington Theater, and New England Conservatory.
The North End, also known as “Little Italy”, has all the old world charm you’re looking for. Surrounded on two sides by the Boston Harbor, the North End has been settled since the 1630’s but primarily was Irish or Italian immigrants. Since the “Big Dig” project connected this colorful neighborhood to downtown Boston, it has seen a massive increase in tourism, residents, and industry. There are more restaurants here than any other part of the city, with most of them specializing in Italian. So if you’re looking for pasta or a chicken parm, come to dinner here. During the late summer, the neighborhood hosts a feast each weekend for a patron saint with carnival games, live music, and food. The area features several prominent Revolutionary War-era historical sites, including Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, and Copp’s Buring Ground. Hanover and Salem streets are the main drags but you’ll find plenty of wonders on any side street you venture down.
Southie is a fast growing neighborhood in Boston with an incredible number of young professionals flocking to its streets for the bars, restaurants, and beaches. Long known for its Irish heritage, the neighborhood has seen a renaissance the past decade with businesses flocking in to establish themselves in this bustling area. With more bars per square mile than any other place in New England you won’t go thirsty here. On a beautiful day you should soak up the sun on L Street Beach or walk around Castle Island and enjoy the views of the city. Get to Southie by walking from Downtown (about 30 mins) or take the Red Line T to Broadway or Andrew station.
The gorgeous South End of Boston (not to be confused with Southie above) has seen a resurgence in the past few decades, first as a gay community, and now as a major hot spot for residents and tourists alike. You’ll love strolling along the Victorian homes and stopping in the various small parks including the Southwest Corridor Path built over the Orange Line. Visit the South End to shop at SOWA, the largest open air market in the area where artisans sell their finest items. The main streets in the South End include Columbus Avenue, Tremont and Washington Street. These streets now host an incredible number of restaurants, cafes, and theaters.
North of Beacon Hill you’ll find the West End of Boston. This is where the famed Boston Garden resides, as well as a bustling bar and restaurant scene supporting the fans. The world renowned Mass General Hospital is in the West End. High rises and apartments are cropping up, as well as a major redevelopment projection happening that will shape the neighborhood for the better during the decade to come. The neighborhood is within easy walking distance of the Esplanade and Hatch Shell, Downtown, Beacon Hill, and the City of Cambridge.