Like all great cities of the world, Boston is a series of communities and neighborhoods. Each has its own character; each demands a visit. Here are some favorites for overseas visitors:
The Downtown is the heart of the city. Here you will find the financial district and the harbor, as well as shops, restaurants and theatres. This is also home to the major historic sites, such as Faneuil Hall, long nicknamed “The Cradle of Liberty.”
By contrast, Boston Common, America’s first public park (1634), offers acres of green space and the Boston Public Garden, with its 130-year-old Swan Boats and the Make Way for Ducklings sculptures, has walking paths and plenty of benches for people-watching.
More open space has been added to downtown Boston in recent years with the opening of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway where the old elevated expressway used to be (it has been moved underground). This new urban park provides 27 acres of recreation, from concerts to picnic lunches to a fun carousel.
Beyond Downtown, Boston has village-like neighborhoods like elegant Beacon Hill, with its cobbled streets, gas lamps and handsome townhouses. At the top is the golden-domed State House; at the bottom, Charles Street with its antiques stores, boutiques and restauarants.
What is now Back Bay was once – a bay! In the 19th century, a landfill project created this area, with stylish boulevards like Commonwealth Avenue. Boylston Street and Newbury Street, particularly, are known for shopping. Landmarks include historic Trinity Church and the imposing Boston Public Library, the John Hancock Tower and Prudential Center. There are also great restaurants and hotels in this area.
The Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood attracts two sorts of enthusiasts. Baseball fans will immediately recognize the name Fenway, home of the sport’soldest stadium, Fenway Park. But it’s not just the Red Sox that pull in the visitors. This is also where you can hear one of the world’s finest orchestras at 110-year-old Symphony Hall, and see great art at both the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts Boston) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Close to the center, the South End is now one of Boston’s hippest neighborhoods, with its Victorian brownstone homes, many of Boston’s finest restaurants, a thriving arts scene and a vibrant gay and lesbian community.
Not to be missed is the new Seaport District, home to four new hotels and top of the line restaurants, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Art and high-end clothing shop Louis Boston. This area is part of the Boston Harborwalk, which runs from the Charlestown through the North End (the city’s Italian section…perfect for a pastry stop) all the way down past the Seaport into South Boston and Dorchester.
Just north of downtown situated on a peninsula surrounded by the Mystic River and Boston Harbor is Charlestown, home of the USS Constitution, the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument. Increased buzz about the neighborhood has come from an influx of young professionals and popular restaurants, both along the water and along Main and Warren Streets.
Across the Charles River is Cambridge, home of two of the world’s great universities, Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Although a separate city, Cambridge is often called Boston’s “Left Bank,” for its liberally-minded citizens and offbeat lifestyle. Cambridge’s 3.5 mile main drag, Massachusetts Avenue, has got it all: boutiques, consignment clothing shops, restaurants, cafés, and pubs.
Central Square, close to MIT, is a constant multicultural festival and swings well into the night with a broad range of musical offerings at local night clubs.
In Harvard Square, street performers greet you at every corner, and bookstores are plentiful. Take a free tour of the Harvard campus or one of the entertaining “Hahvahd” tours, then visit the university’s own impressive museums. Stroll along the side streets to appreciate the town’s 370 years of history.
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