boston neighborhood guide

Channel history in scenic Beacon Hill. (Photo: Getty Images)


Think You Know the Boston Area? Discover the Secrets of Its 10 Must-See Districts

Boston is a city of distinctive neighborhoods, from ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, Charlestown, South Boston and the North End to the college town of Cambridge and the monied precincts of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay.

Here are 10 must-see neighborhoods and nearby communities that make up the diverse beanpot of Boston.

Beacon Hill

Historically home of Boston’s wealthy “Brahmins,” Beacon Hill comprises the northern boundary of Boston Common and the Public Garden.

The gold-crowned Boston State House, designed by early American architect Charles Bulfinch, is Beacon Hill’s most prominent landmark, and you’ll also find historic Bulfinch-designed townhouses up and down the surrounding hilly streets.

Less well known is that parts of Beacon Hill were once a 19th-century African-American community; the 1.5-mile Black Heritage Trail tells that part of the story. After working up an appetite walking the trail, No. 9 Park restaurant is as elegant as it sounds — and as the locals demand.

boston neighborhood guide
Visit the Old State House. (Photo: Getty Images)

Back Bay

Copley Square, which sits between the castle-like Trinity Church and the gorgeous Boston Public Library, is the heart of a neighborhood that, as the name suggests, was once a shallow (and at the time, smelly) bay.

Today’s Back Bay neighborhood finds historic mansions lining Commonwealth Avenue and some of Boston’s most upscale shops and boutiques dotting swank Newbury Street.

Check out the raw bar and heaving seafood platters at locals’ favorite, Select Oyster Bar, or for the loftiest views of the city, take the express elevator to the Skywalk Observatory atop the Prudential Tower.

Seaport District and South Boston

boston neighborhood guide
Get wacky at the Institute of Contemporary Art. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Boston Seaport District has morphed from cultural desert to one of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods in just a few short decades. Located just across Fort Point Channel from downtown Boston, the Seaport today boasts some of the city’s best restaurants, like Sportello, as well as waterfront dining at Legal Harborside and a lively beer garden, tastings and tours at the Harpoon Brewery.

Summer means pop-up events in the district’s public outdoor spaces, while the eye-catching Institute of Contemporary Art, the interactive Boston Children’s Museum and the immersive Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum are year-round attractions.

North End

“Come for the history, stay for the cannoli” might be a good motto for Boston’s venerable Italian neighborhood, a Little Italy that puts its ever-shrinking New York rival to shame when it comes to dining and atmosphere.

The North End lures in visitors to tour Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church but keeps them hanging around with the savory smell of cooking pasta and pastry. Take a food tour or create your own with stops at Mike’s Pastry, the original Pizzeria Regina and old-school fine dining at Mamma Maria.


Most Boston visitors who make it to Charlestown have history on their minds: Boston’s oldest neighborhood is home to the Bunker Hill monument and the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard, two essential stops on the Freedom Trail.

Dining choices in this historically Irish town run from the Warren Tavern, where George Washington and Paul Revere once knocked back glasses of punch, to the Brewer’s Fork, known for its cheese boards, pizzas and extensive selection of draft beers and by-the-glass wines.


You can walk across the “Smoot Bridge” and stroll through the grounds of MIT and Harvard Yard during a visit to Cambridge, one of the foremost centers of higher education in the world.

If you want to get “wicked smart” like the locals, the Boston Museum of Science can teach you the electrifying difference between alternating current and a bolt of lightning produced by the world’s largest Van De Graaff generator.

Harvard University has a rich collection of art, natural history and archaeological museums, while the MIT Museum focuses on world-changing technological achievements.

Harvard Square is the place to soak up some college culture as well as sample the innovative menus at chef Michael Scelfo’s Longfellow bar and Alden & Harlow restaurant; Central Square is home to the Middle East, one of the city’s top music venues.

Theater District/Chinatown

The theater district isn’t the only place to catch a live performance in Boston, but it’s certainly the main hub. There are about a dozen theaters on and near Washington Street, including the regal Boston Opera House, the lovingly restored Wang Theatre and the Charles Playhouse, where the comedic show “Shear Madness” and the performance artists Blue Man Group have been playing for years.

The Orpheum Theatre, a former vaudeville house, hosts live music as well as touring Broadway shows. For a pre-show meal, pizza and pasta at Teatro is a choice both obvious and memorable.


Fenway Park, of course, is the most famous landmark in this Boston neighborhood, which not only includes the bar-, club- and restaurant-lined streets surrounding the big green baseball stadium, but also Kenmore Square, where you’ll find one of Boston’s most celebrated restaurants, Eastern Standard (you can’t go wrong with the bone-in ribeye here).

Both the neighborhood and the ballpark are named after the Back Bay Fens, a former marsh reimagined as part of a linear park system known as the Emerald Necklace; alongside the park you’ll find the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


If you love football (go Pats!) and the New England countryside, take the drive out to Foxborough, less than an hour outside the city.

Founded in 1778, the city has a classic Colonial town common but is better known for Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution and also an occasional venue for big concerts by the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and others.

Patriot Place, in the shadow of the stadium, is a retail, dining and entertainment complex that includes a huge Bass Pro Shops store, multiplex cinema, escape room, sports bars, steakhouse and seafood restaurants, as well as the Patriots Hall of Fame.


Roughly equidistant between Boston and the seaport city of Gloucester, Andover is a great base for exploring Boston’s North Shore, as well as a fun place to explore in its own right.

Phillips Academy, an elite boarding school whose alums include two U.S. presidents (both George Bushes), has a well-regarded museum, the Addison Gallery of American Art, with works by Winslow Homer, Jackson Pollock and Andrew Wyeth on display.

Historic Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, which commemorates the American Revolutionary War’s opening battle, and the haunts of Salem, site of the infamous 17th-century witch trials, are all within an easy drive.

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