Boston/Downtown

Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New England Massachusetts Boston Boston/Downtown

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Introduction

Downtown Boston is really the heart of the city. Boston City Hall is here, and many powerful companies and agencies are headquartered in the area. Since urban planning was done here before the advent of the automobile, this area of town has secured a decidedly European flavor. Here you'll find pedestrian focused streets, large public green spaces, street performers, and historic sites all connected by an efficient public transit system. If you're looking for the adjacent Italian American neighborhood with great food, head on over to the North End. If you want nearby Boston Common and the State House instead, start exploring Back Bay & Beacon Hill.

Boston's nickname as the "Hub" makes more sense once you visit downtown. The population balloons during the day as hundreds of thousands of office workers and tourists descend on the area. The Massachusetts State Government maintains its seat in nearby Beacon Hill, but most state employees work out of office buildings around Government Center, where City Hall is also located. Downtown is home to major shopping areas, many of Boston's most famous historic sites, and plenty of major private employers. The financial and legal industry in the city is still largely based here, although some have decamped to nicer and newer space in the Seaport.

The area now known as Downtown used to comprise most of the City of Boston, aside from the North End and Beacon Hill. Places like Charlestown and Dorchester were originally separate towns. Boston was founded in 1628 on a head of land sticking out into the harbor, connected to the mainland only by a thin strip of land which is today called Washington St. Other Boston neighborhoods were created through filling in marshland or annexing neighboring towns. Boston was a hotbed of the American Revolution, being home to now famous patriots like John Adams, Sam Adams, and John Hancock. Important pre-revolutionary events like the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre happened in what is now Downtown.

After the war, Boston continued to be an important seaport and trading center. Until the 1860s and 70s, Downtown was pretty much all there was to the city. During this period, it expanded dramatically and outgrew its old borders, but Downtown remained the hub, although it is one of the northernmost parts of the city. Much of Downtown burned down in the Great Fire of 1872, tragically taking some of the city's older buildings with it. This area is now the main financial district and is mostly modern skyscrapers. In the 1950s the Central Artery, an elevated highway, was built through downtown, cutting off the waterfront from the rest of downtown. At a cost of $15 billion, it was buried during the "Big Dig" in the 1990s and early 2000s and Downtown is now reunited with its waterfront.

Chinatown was built on a landfill, though this is no longer apparent; what now identifies this area is the truly mixed uses of land. Residential properties co-exist with family owned and operated businesses and local institutions.

Bay Village is one of the smallest neighborhoods in Boston, about 6 square blocks around Piedmont Street east of Arlington. After the original mud flats were drained in the early 1800s, many craftsmen involved in the construction of Beacon Hill's premier residences built their own modest but well-crafted houses here. Consequently, there are many architectural similarities between these two neighborhoods. It wasn't until the Prohibition years (1920s) that Bay Village got its bohemian ambiance. It has now become the center for Boston's gay community.

Bounded by Chinatown to the west, South Station to the east, the Financial District to the north, and Kneeland Street to the south, Leather City was the home of leather production and sales during the 19th century. It consists of a series of buildings constructed in the Classic Revival and Romanesque styles, largely between 1880 and 1920. Visually similar to SoHo, New York, it has been used for numerous films and advertisements as a stand-in location. The Leather District is a mixed use community, home to loft apartments, ramen joints, and French bistros. The As South Station, a major bus, commuter rail, train, and subway terminal, defines its eastern boundary, it is often visited by people entering or exiting the city.

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Sights and Activities

Boston City Hall (City Hall Plaza), 1 City Hall Square (T: Government Center), ☏ +1 617 635-4500. M-F 8:30AM-5PM. This area used to be known as Scollay Square and was demolished in the 1960s to build a new city hall for the city of Boston. The Hall is a hulking Brutalist architecture and an expansive brick plaza, contrasting sharply with the Fanueil Hall facade directly behind it. Some people love the bold choice of color, form and materials. Everyone else hates it, and considers it to be an eyesore of the first degree. The windswept plaza was mostly deserted until the city began holding seasonal events, festivals, and sports viewings here. Life is slowly creeping back to the center after Government Center station was rebuilt, and plans to make the area more pedestrian friendly are ongoing. Free.
New England Aquarium, Central Wharf (Blue Line to Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 973-5200. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa Su 9AM-6PM. Home of what was until recently the world's largest fish tank, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the New England Aquarium offers a riveting museum experience which showcases an incredible variety of fish and other types of animals. After recent expansions, it now also has a humongous IMAX theatre, whale-watching tours operating from its pier, and a marine mammal arena out back. It also is known for its penguins, which are a fascinating experience even on their own. It's well worth a visit. $27.95, Senior 60+ $25.95, Ages 3–11 $18.95.
Old City Hall, 45 School St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 523-8678. Old City Hall, unlike the current city hall, is undeniably beautiful. This Second Empire style building was built in 1865 and served as Boston's City Hall until 1969. It has since been converted to office space and also houses an expensive steak house. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is a much touted example of adaptive re-use in architecture.
Faneuil Hall (The Cradle of Liberty) (T: State). 9AM-5PM daily. It was built in 1742 as a market building adjacent to a busy waterfront dock. Town meetings held here between 1764 and 1774 heard Samuel Adams and others lead cries of protest against the imposition of taxes on the American colonies. The building was enlarged in 1806. Social justice leaders like Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Lucy Stone brought their struggles for freedom here in the 19th century. A museum and gift shop dominate the first floor. Most people pronounce it with two syllables like "FAN-yull", while a minority prefer the three syllable "fan-YOU-ull" pronunciation. You'll be fine as long as you don't say anything crazy like "fa-KNEW-lee". Free.
King's Chapel, 64 Beacon St (T: Government Center), ☏ +1 617 523-1749. 10AM-4PM daily, closed Tu Th during winter. Founded as an Anglican congregation in 1686. The first church burned down, of course, and today's building of stone dates from 1754. The churches' bell was forged in England and hung high in the belfry during 1772. Cracked in 1814, it was recast by Paul Revere and would be the largest—and final—bell ever to make its way out of his foundry. The bell is still rung during church services today. $2 suggested donation.
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 482-6439. 9:30AM-5PM (Apr-Oct), 10AM-4PM (Nov-Mar). Built in 1729, this church has been an important meeting place for centuries. Famous today due to events during 1773, when colonists used the space to organize what would become known as the Boston Tea Party. Almost destroyed by the fire of 1872, Bostonians saved the structure and it's now an important stop on the Freedom Trail. $6 for adults, $5 age 62+, $5 students with ID, $1 age 5-17.
Old State House, 206 Washington St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 720-1713. 9AM-5PM daily. Construction financed by the King of England in 1713, this was the longtime seat of government in Boston, and remains its oldest public building. The Boston Massacre took place just in front of the State House, and in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from the balcony. Saved from demolition in 1882, the building has housed numerous tenants and seen many faithful restorations over the years. For example the lion and unicorn statues—symbols of the monarchy—were replaced after being burned during a period of revolutionary zeal in 1776. Every 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence is read aloud once more from the same balcony. $10, seniors and students $8.50. Kids, US Military, and veterans free.
Boston Stone, 8 Marshall St (T: Haymarket). 24 hours daily. Imported from England in the 17th century by a painter, today you can see the Boston Stone embedded in the foundation of a building in the Historic Blackstone District. No one really knows its exact function, or why it was placed there. The current theory is that it's 18th-century advertising for the shops and stores along this historic street; or a sort of London Stone copycat. Free.
Chinatown Gate (Paifang Gate), Beach St (T: Chinatown). 24 hours daily. Found at the corner of Beach Street and Surface Road this is the most visible symbol of Chinatown for tourists. The urban plaza on the east side of the gate was built as part of the Big Dig highway project. Free.
Governor’s Alley, Bosworth St (T: Park Street). 24 hours daily. Walk up these oddly placed steps just as British Royal Governors would have done 300 years ago. At one time they led up to a sumptuous governor's mansion, although George Washington put a stop to that in 1775. Today you'll find the Marliave's al fresco dining patio awaiting you in summer, and an unsightly dumpster or two when it's cold. Check the plaques for more information. Free. (updated Jun 2017 | edit)
Irish Famine Memorial, Washington and School St (T: Downtown Crossing). 24 hours daily. Two statues commemorate the 1845 Irish Famine, depicting a starving Irish family on their knees, and a well fed family walking away. The natural rise of the land here is used to great effect by the sculptor. As you walk up or down from the statues, it's easy to empathize with the predicament of either family. The physical pain of starvation and the emotional pain of leaving loved ones behind are each masterfully rendered in bronze. Free.
New England Holocaust Memorial, 98 Union St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 457-8755. 24 hours daily. A glass memorial built in a small park near Fanueil Hall, inspired by survivors who resettled in Boston. Free.
Spring Lane (T: State). 24 hours daily. Get off the Freedom Trail for a second and spend a minute reading plaques in this narrow alley. Beneath your feet once flowed clean spring water used by the residents of Boston for hundreds of years. The lane runs parallel to Water Street so you know it's for real. Several other notes relating to Boston's history adorn adjacent building walls, if you're interested. Use caution during the evening, however, as the homeless sometimes use this semi-protected area as a campsite. Free.
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 781 639-6002. 24 hours daily. Check out the cool trellis and free Wi-Fi. Free.
King's Chapel Burying Ground, 58 Tremont St (T: Government Center), ☏ +1 617 523-1749. 10AM-4:30PM daily. Predating King's Chapel, this cemetery was founded in 1630, and is the oldest in Boston. Notable figures buried here include: John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts, Mary Chilton the first European woman to step ashore in New England, and Elizabeth Pain, whose headstone supposedly inspired the book The Scarlet Letter. Free.
Post Office Square (Norman B. Leventhal Park) (T: State), ☏ +1 617 423-1500. 24 hours daily. Post Office Square is a tranquil oasis in the middle of Downtown. In the late 1980s, a decrepit parking garage was torn down and a public park was created on the site, funded by a privately operated parking garage underground. A hub of activity during the day, office workers take their lunch beneath the trees, while yoga classes and other activities make use of the open greenspace. The square is not very crowded in the evening and on weekends, but you may run into a wedding photography shoot. Free.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (The Greenway), ☏ +1 617 292-0020. 24 hours daily. The Greenway is a public park running along the route of the former Central Artery, the road that was buried during the big dig. Instead of developing the land freed up by the new tunnel, the city turned it into a public park running in an arc around Downtown. There are numerous art installations and seating areas, fountains for kids to play in, and even a carousel. Free.
Freedom Trail - To travel back to Revolutionary Boston - to understand the people, the events, and the ideals of the 1700s - is a great leap for us today. But the sites along the Freedom Trail speak eloquently of that time. Bostonians and other colonists shared a notion of liberty as as something precious and worth fighting for. The Freedom Trail sites include the scenes of critical events in Boston's and the nation's struggle for freedom. Some visitors choose to trek the entire 2.5 mile route or select an individual site to visit at length, while others experience the Freedom Trail as a cohesive story built around four chapters, organized along geographic and thematic lines.

Quincy Market

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4 South Market Building (T: State), ☏ +1 617 523-1300. M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Free.

Dating from 1825, Quincy Market was built during a growing economy as a way to increase the number of shops and markets available to Bostonians. The market space available in Faneuil Hall just wasn't enough, so the small pier behind the building was filled in to create land for a larger new market. Quincy Market has been used as a marketplace for produce and foodstuffs throughout its life, and was beautifully restored in the 1970s. The original hall is today a glorified food court, while the North Market and South Market buildings hold a variety of little shops. Replete with performance artists, this is clearly the center of tourist activity in the city. Even if it's not your cup of tea, Quincy Market is still worth a visit just to soak up the history.

The central original brick and granite building contains two enormous hallways packed with food stalls, with a central atrium tying the wings together and providing two levels of seating. If you are eating here there is unfortunately little high quality fare to be found, but you do have a few options. Gourmet India is the spot to go for a quick Indian fix. Something called Mmmac N' Cheese is great if you're looking for something with a few more carbs. Also, Boston Chowda Co serves an acceptable clam chowder for a chain.

If you can splash out a little more or want to sit down, try the Japanese inspired Wagamama by the south entrance. Flagship of tourism Cheers Boston is here too, because well, where else would it be? This is the location where the interior looks like the TV show. Check out the original one on Beacon Hill for the exterior look. For something completely different visit JJ Donovan's. This old school Irish tavern is cash only and can be an oasis of calm for those looking to escape the crowded marketplace. Family owned, they routinely refuse million dollar buy out offers. It's not fancy, it's traditional, and the owners like it that way.

For shopping, you'll move to the North and South Market buildings. Check out 1630 for gifts made by artisans using techniques known to the first European colonists. You'll also find antiques and collectables, sourced from around New England so you can own a piece of the history. For all of your Boston sports paraphernalia needs investigate Lucys League to find officially licensed clothing for your favorite team. The usual suspects found in any respectable mall are here as well, like Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, and Yankee Candle. Popular streetwear shop Uniqlo also occupies the second floor of Quincy Market.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Public Transport

Downtown is easily the best connected area in the city. Boston operates on a "hub and spoke" philosophy, and this is clearly the hub for a variety of modes of transport. Amtrak makes two stops here, the massive South Station offers connections to NYC, Chicago, and beyond. Also featuring rail connections is North Station, serving coastal points within Maine and New Hampshire. See Boston#By train for details. These two stations are also the termini for all Commuter Rail travel within the region, see Boston#By commuter rail for more detailed descriptions.

By Subway
The Green line is perhaps the most helpful for visitors, running close to much of the Freedom Trail and the North End. Stops include North Station, Haymarket, Government Center, Park Street, and Boylston. The Orange line is a great alternative, because it closely parallels the Green line while downtown. Stations include: North Station, Haymarket, State, Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, and Tufts Medical Center. The Red line is also quite popular, if you're near it, it can be great for getting across town. Red stops include: Charles/MGH, Park Street, Downtown Crossing and South Station along the way. The Blue line is good for getting to the Aquarium, but it is primarily used by residents and not tourists. This line begins at tiny Bowdoin, then visits Government Center, State, and Aquarium stations before diving under the harbor.

Almost every station downtown serves more than one line, and transferring between them is quick and painless. Walking between the Green, Orange, and Red lines is pretty easy, an underground walkway connects Park Street and Downtown Crossing stations. Much to the displeasure of Bostonians, there is no direct connection between North and South Station. It can take 20-30 minutes to transfer between the two, so take that (along with your luggage) into account. You'll also find the Blue and Red lines are similarly disconnected, and will need to use the Orange or Green lines to transfer between them.

By Bus
There are a few options for buses downtown, but the narrow and congested streets render this option "not great". The Silver line SL4 and SL5 routes are the most popular as far as buses go. Think of the Silver line as a handy way to reach downtown, but it's not great for moving around within the area. Both lines visit Tufts Medical Center and Chinatown, while the SL4 continues on to South Station and the SL5 loops around Downtown Crossing.

The routes #4, #7, and #11 all serve the area, but don't run frequently and have to compete with everyone else for what little space is available. Haymarket is the main terminal for local busses downtown. The #92, #93, and #111 routes head into Charlestown and then keep going into Somerville and Chelsea. Another handful of busses: #424, #426, #428, #434, and #450, all leave Haymarket bound for various points along the North Shore. Still more buses depart from South Station; the #448, #449, and #459 all roll towards either the Airport or other destinations along the North Shore.

By Boat
There are two main wharves that provide public transport by sea to key locations around town. Long Wharf is the most popular; offering MBTA connections to the Charlestown Navy Yard, Logan Airport, Hingham and Hull, as well as a seasonal ferry to Salem. Boston Harbor Cruises offers other seasonal ferries, decamping to the Boston Harbor Islands, or heading out to Provincetown. They also provide harbor cruises, whale watch tours, and others that all depart from Long Wharf.

Rowes Wharf offers a few additional options. There is another ferry from here to Hingham, and a seasonal one to Winthrop. There are also more private boats and other pleasure craft available for rent that dock here.

Water taxis are plentiful all along the waterfront, servicing 28 different points between downtown, South Boston, East Boston, and Charlestown.

By Foot

Walking is by far the preferred way to get around this area, as most everything you'd want to see is relatively packed in together. The train stations are usually only separated by a few minutes walk, and you'll find it's often faster to just walk directly to your destination without heading underground. Walking also affords the opportunity to explore the variety of urban parks, architecture, and quirky street patterns that have gracefully developed over time. Walking around downtown is in many ways what visitors come here to experience in the first place.

By Car

You'll find a car to be more liability than boon here. Do not drive downtown unless you know exactly what you're doing, where you're going, and how you're parking. Traffic is horrendous, parking barely exists, and the streets aren't even designed for cars in the first place. There are a few garages in the area, most scattered between Government Center and the Aquarium. Garaged parking is expensive, it can be around $12-15/hour and $40-50/day (when it's available). Those figures could double or even triple in peak season or during special events.

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Eat

Downtown is not Boston's culinary epicenter. Truly exciting restaurants tend to be located in outlying neighborhoods due to the high costs of real estate downtown and the weird demographics (filled with office workers and tourists during the day, deserted at night). Because of this, visitors to the city who mostly stay Downtown may think that Boston is living up to the tired New England stereotype of bland cuisine. This couldn't be further from the truth, so leaving Downtown to eat is a must when visiting. While there are a lot of truly forgettable places to eat Downtown, it's not all bad. With a little research you should be able to find a quality meal at whatever price point you're seeking.

Downtown's budget restaurants tend to be geared towards the horde of office workers who descend on the city during the week so many of them are only open for weekday lunch. If you do happen to visit during a weekday, save some money and follow the be-suited crowds to a place that will have better food for much less than tourist-oriented spots.

For authentic Chinese cuisine, you can't do better than Chinatown. Also known for having a number of restaurants that stay open late on weekends (3 or 4AM). Many of these restaurants have been cutting back their late night hours, so call ahead to confirm closing times.

Many of Boston's swankiest restaurants are located Downtown. Be sure to do some research before embarking on a Downtown fine dining adventure. There are some truly world-class restaurants here, but also a lot of overpriced places catering to tourists and expense account lunches.

Kanes Donuts, 90 Oliver St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 857 317-2654. M-F 6AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. Fancy spot for doughnuts and coffee. Doughnuts $4.
Piperi Mediterranean Grill, 1 Beacon St (T: Government Center), ☏ +1 617 227-7471. M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa noon-4PM. Kind of like Chipotle, but for falafel and gyros. There's a basic price depending on your protein and you can get it as a wrap or a salad. There are lots of toppings to customize your order and you can add a side of chips and hummus. Fast and cheap food so you can get back to sight seeing, you can see King's Chapel across the street. $7-9, sides $2-4.
Shawarma Falafel, 26 Province St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 857 265-3017. M-Sa 8AM-9PM. Busy Lebanese falafel shop. $7-10.
Wheelhouse, 63 Broad Street (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 422-0082. M-F 7AM-3PM. The perfect spot for breakfast or lunch on the go. Several creative versions of burgers with tongue tickling flavor profiles. The fries are "smashed" and not the sticks you're probably expecting. $8-12.
Casa Razdora, 115 Water St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 338-6700. M-F 11AM-4PM. Some of the best lunch oriented Italian fare in the city. Stop in if the lines don't look too bad. Almost everything on the menu is homemade. $8-12.
Villa Mexico Cafe, 121 Water St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 957-0725. M-F 7AM-6PM. Fantastic burritos, tacos and tortas. Surprisingly authentic. Another popular spot with the lunch crowd. $8-12. (updated Mar 2017 | edit)South Street Diner, 178 Kneeland St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 350-0028. 24 hours daily. Absolutely legendary. A fixture in Boston's late night scene since 1947. It's the quintessential American greasy spoon diner experience. The subject of a documentary in 2012, it's been a setting in a few other films. Celebrities have been known to make appearances here once in a blue moon, but you are more likely to find police and firemen taking a load off and enjoying whatever is coming off the grill. Most dishes $8-12, beer $5.
Saus Boston, 33 Union St (T: Haymarket), ☏ +1 617 248-8835. M-W 11:30AM-3PM; 5PM-9PM, Th 11:30AM-3PM; 5PM-midnight, F Sa 11:30AM-2AM, Su 11:30AM-8PM. Belgian style poutine slathered in delicious sauces. Everything made in house from scratch. Offers a changing selection of quality beers on draft and in cans. Excellent value for the quality here, especially considering the location. $8-12, beer $5-8.
Sam LaGrassa's, 44 Province St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 357-6861. M-F 11AM-3:30PM. One of the city's most famous sandwich joints. Delicious and huge, but pricey. Serves up classic deli fare like pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. Sandwiches $12-14.
New Saigon Sandwich, 696 Washington St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 542-6296. 8:30AM-6:30PM daily. Dirt cheap bánh mì, i.e. Vietnamese submarine sandwiches on baguettes and boxed lunches. No tables, but you can walk over to the Boston Common and eat your lunch there. Everything is $5.
Eldo Cake House, 36 Harrison Ave (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 350-7977. 7AM-7PM daily. An assortment of Chinese styled cakes. Chinese styled cakes often incorporate fruit and aren’t too sweet. Also, this shop offers some specialty drinks, i.e., milk teas. There’s a small eat-in area. $2-6.
12 Ho Yuen Bakery, 54 Beach St, ☏ +1 617 426-8320. 8AM-7PM daily. Another cheap, but delicious bakery stocked with pastries, buns, and tarts. $2-6.
Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe, 86 Bedford St (T: Downtown Crossing), ☏ +1 617 482-1888. M-F 11AM-6:30PM, Sa 11:30AM-7PM. Hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with a few curated dishes specializing in hand-pulled noodles. The doughy noodles and spicy lamb soup base is best exemplified by option #16. Get your face close to the bowl and don't wear white! Potentially the best dollar to flavor ratio in the city. $6-12, cash only.
China Pearl, 9 Tyler St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 426-4338. 8:30AM-9:30PM daily. Great food, great value, has many loyal patrons. Particularly well known for its dim sum: some regard this as the best place for dim sum in Chinatown. If you come during peak time (Sundays from 11AM-1PM), expect at least a half hour wait. Starters $2-6, mains $8.
Avana Sushi, 42 Beach St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 818-7782. 11AM-10PM daily. $5-8 per roll, $7 lunch specials.
Chinatown Cafe, 262 Harrison Ave (T: Tufts Medical Center), ☏ +1 617 695-9888. 10:30AM-8:30PM daily. Chinatown pushes south, venture a little off the track to find large portions of cheap and tasty Chinese food. Everything comes in styrofoam containers whether you're dining in or not. People like the wonton soup and the crispy salt and pepper pork. Save room for desert and walk across the street to May's Cake House and their sweet selections. Soups and starters $4-6, mains $8-14.
My Thai Vegan Cafe, 3 Beach St, 2nd fl (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 451-2395. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM. A dream come true for vegetarians, as the entire menu is vegetarian here. Features fake meat dishes (e.g. "chicken", "pork") as well as arguably more authentic vegetarian creations. Also check out the acclaimed vegan sandwiches at Cuong's right next door. Starters $4-8, mains $8-14+.
Gourmet Dumpling House, 52 Beach St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 338-6223. 11AM-11:30PM daily. Another restaurant with well priced authentic comestibles. The "mini-steamed pork buns" are a notable specialty, and are similar to those at the Taiwan Cafe which was founded by ex-employees of the former. $10-20.
Hei La Moon, 88 Beach St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 338-8813. 8AM-10:30PM daily. Just outside of Chinatown proper... but only just. Hei La Moon is relatively new on the Chinatown restaurant scene, but it has already established itself as a worthy competitor, particularly in the area of dim sum. Starters $5-8, mains $9-13. (
The Black Rose, 160 State St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 742-2286. 9AM-2AM daily. Despite its proximity to Faneuil Hall, tourists sometimes overlook this location. Try the seared scallops–plump, juicy, very fresh. Excellent deals on lobster too. Live acoustic Irish music with authentic Irish musicians. Much appreciated by the local crowd early on a Sunday evening; fathers dancing with small children and regulars calling for their favorite songs. Waitstaff efficient and friendly. Mains $12-18, pints $7.
Silvertone Bar and Grill, 69 Bromfield St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 338-7887. 11AM-2AM daily. A hip afterwork hangout with very good "new American" food and the best macaroni and cheese in town, right near Tremont Street and the Boston Common. Starters $6-12, mains $12-18.
Jacob Wirth, 31-37 Stuart Street (T: Boylston), ☏ +1 617 338-8586. Su-W 11:30AM-9PM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-midnight. A little touristy and overpriced, but still a fun time. This is the only "olde-tyme" (circa 1868) German style beerhall in the area. A bunch of different options for beer and sausages, plus the standard run of bar bites. Dinner around $12-22.
East Ocean City, 27 Beach St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 542-2504. Su-Th 11:30AM-2AM, F Sa 11:30AM-3AM. Authentic. Chefs will make a custom dish from something you select from the live tank. Starters $5-10, mains $14-22+.
jm Curley, 21 Temple Pl (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 338-5333. M-Sa 11:30AM-1:30AM, Su 11:30AM-midnight. Small, meat focused menu that serves late into the night. Also has alcoholic milkshakes and a decent beer list. For something more exclusive, there is a secret steakhouse in the back. Lunch, $10-15, dinner $15-25, cocktails $11.
Union Oyster House, 41 Union St (T: Haymarket), ☏ +1 617 227-2750. Su-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Oldest continuously operating restaurant in the US. Comfortable atmosphere. Raw bar. Lunch $13-20, dinner $25-35+.
Erbulance, 69 Church St (T: Arlington), ☏ +1 617 426-6969. Fr Sa 5PM-11PM Tu-Th Su 5PM-10PM. Cozy Italian place with constantly updating menu. Starters $9-19, mains $19-32.
Marliave, 10 Bosworth St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 422-0004. 11AM-1AM daily. Fancy cocktails and French bar food. This is a reincarnation of the original Restaurant Marliave, founded in 1885 and a spot where Boston's elite took their mistresses. Starters $10-16, mains $22-36, cocktails $12.
Parker's Restaurant (Omni Parker House), 60 School St (T: Park St), ☏ +1 617 725-1600. M-Sa 7AM-11AM; 5:30PM-10PM, Su 7AM-2PM. Where the Boston Cream Pie originated. Starters $8-16, mains $25-40.
Legal Crossing, 558 Washington St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 692-8888. 11AM-2AM daily. The swanky sibling in the Legal Seafoods empire. Instead of the slightly kitschy standard Legal, Legal Crossing has sleek modern decor and fancier dishes. There is a full bar with an extensive cocktail menu. Starters: $6-18, mains $22-49.
Yvonne's, 2 Winter Pl (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 267-0047. 4PM-2AM daily. After the shuttering of Locke-Ober—one of Boston's oldest and poshest restaurants—Yvonne's opened in 2015 as a modern reinterpretation of the supper club. Some of the space was converted into luxury condos, but much of the old world charm here remains. Tapas $12-18, platters $50-100, cocktails $12-15. Locke-Ober (Q6665334) on Wikidata Locke-Ober on Wikipedia (updated Feb 2017 | edit)
Meritage (Boston Harbor Hotel), 70 Rowes Wharf (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 439-3995. Tu-Sa 5PM-10PM. "Vineyard-to-table" fare in a swanky waterfront hotel. Starters: $12-24, mains $30-50.
Troquet, 107 South St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 695-9463. 4PM-1AM daily, dinner served between 5 and 10PM. Considered one of the best wine bars in the country, Troquet serves a variety of half and full glasses along with bottles of wine paired with its French menu. The food is fabulous as its atmosphere. Starters $16-32, mains $33-60, cocktails $11-22.
O Ya, 9 East St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 654-9900. Tu-Th 5PM-9:30PM, F Sa 5PM-10PM. Boston's quintessential sushi restaurant, serving Wagyu beef and a James Beard Award. Reservations recommended. Nigiri $12-34, sashimi $20-37, tasting menus $165-285 per person add $80-150 for drink pairings.
Pabu (Millenium Tower), 3 Franklin St (T: Downtown Crossing), ☏ +1 857 327-7228. M-F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM. Sushi bar and a modern take on Izakaya style dining. Helmed by Michael Mina; holder of a James Beard award, he was also voted Bon Appétit and San Francisco Magazine's Chef of the Year in 2005. Lunch $45-65, dinner $85-115, chef's selection $240+.

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Drink

Coffee

When downtown, you're probably within sight of a Dunks' or a Starbucks, if not try turning around. But you didn't come here to drink national chain coffee did you? Try one of these (sort of) local options instead. They almost always offer free Wi-Fi too, if that sweetens the deal for you.

Boston Brewin Coffee, 45 Bromfield St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 857 302-0859. M-F 7AM-4PM. Coffee shop dedicated to paying its employees a livable wage and donates all its profits to local charities chosen by customers.
Boston Common Coffee Company, 10 High St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617-542-0595. M-F 6AM-5PM. Provides a comforting atmosphere. A great place to get fresh coffee, soups and salads, and fresh pastries. All mains under $10.
Caffe Nero, 560 Washington St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 936-3432. 6:30AM-9:30PM daily. The first U.S. location of a popular British coffee chain.
Espresso Love, 33 Broad St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 857 284-7462. M-F 6:30AM-6PM. Not only your morning java, but lots of great soups and sandwiches. Fresh cookies and other delicious treats are baked on site daily.
Gracenote Coffee, 108 Lincoln St. (T: South Station), ✉ boston@gracenotecoffee.com. M-F 7AM-4:30PM, Sa 9AM-4PM, Su 9AM-3PM. Featuring a standing espresso bar, this shop features two takes on the drink daily. They also offer drip coffee, and a few snacks from local bakeries. Gracenote roasts their own, and sells the product to a number of local restaurants.
Ogawa Coffee, 10 Milk St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 780-7139. M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. First U.S. location of an upscale Japanese coffee chain.
Render Coffee, 121 Devonshire St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 401-2421. M-F 7AM-7PM. Also a maker space with laser cutters, 3D printers and a CNC machine for rent.
Thinking Cup, 165 Tremont St, ☏ +1 617-482-5555. A great place to get a cup of coffee. The staff is young and hip, but they are always very friendly, upbeat, and professional. They offer an array of sandwiches and baked goods.
Flat Black Coffee Company, ☏ +1 617 951-1440, ✉ info@flatblackcoffee.com. This Dorchester-based company is a great place to get fresh coffees from around the world. Most of their coffees are certified Organic, Shade Grown and Fair Trade. $2-5.

Bars

Barracuda, 15 Bosworth St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 482-0301. 11AM-2AM daily.
Bell in Hand, 45 Union St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 227-2098. 11:30AM-2AM daily. Established in 1795, the bar (falsely) claims to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in the country. It also functions as far more of a club than a tavern. Downstairs is generally packed on weekends, upstairs is a multi-room club.
Biddy Early's, 141 Pearl St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 654-9944. 10AM-2AM daily. The last dive standing downtown.
The Corner Pub, 162 Lincoln St (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 542-7080. M-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-7PM. If you need to get away from the glitz and glamour, head over to this respectable bar near the bus station.
The Green Dragon Tavern, 11 Marshall St (T: Haymarket), ☏ +1 617 367-0055. 11AM-2AM daily. A relaxing place to stop in and take a break from the freedom trail. A replica of the original 1657 Green Dragon Tavern, where the Sons of Liberty met and discussed political revolution. British officers also frequented the original pub and were spied upon by American patriots. Modeled after the “Headquarters of the Revolution”, the Green Dragon was rebuilt in the Blackstone Historic District after a major fire. Featuring lively entertainment and lovely food in an Irish pub atmosphere. Pints $7, dinner $25-35.
Mr. Dooley's, 77 Broad St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 338-5656. M-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa Su 9AM-2AM.
Shojo, 9 Tyler St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 423-7888. M-W 5:30PM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-11PM.
Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale, 48 Temple Pl (T: Downtown Crossing), ☏ +1 617 426-0048. Tu W 11:30AM-1AM, Th-Sa 11:30AM-2AM, Su 11:30-midnight. Stoddard's is also a restaurant, but it is better known as a place to drink. Has a respected take on the Moscow Mule and an extensive draft selection. The bar is a slightly modern spin on the late 19th century with lots of dark woods and brass fixtures.
The Tam, 222 Tremont St, ☏ +1 617 482-9182. Su-Th 8AM-1AM, F Sa 8AM-2AM. A good old fashioned faux-dive bar located downtown in the theatre district. It used to be a real dive, but that was decades ago. Friendly bartenders, cheap prices for beer, and an all around fantastic atmosphere complete with video games, karaoke, trivia, and old-style jukeboxes make for an enjoyable night for drinkers of all ages. Cash only.

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Sleep

Go ahead and take a quick glance at the price points on offer here. Yeah. Sorry about that. Before you throw up your hands in total disgust, however, just know that a lot of these price points are only the quoted rack rates. For many of the spendier items here, try a hotel consolidator website or calling the hotel directly. You might see prices fall by 50% or more, especially if you can be flexible with your dates. Still, there's no way around the fact that you're looking at spending $300 and up for this area. Remember whatever rate you're quoted will be roughly 20% higher due to various taxes, fees, and surcharges. Try looking into the Fenway or Allston if you need to bring costs down.

Hostelling International Boston, 19 Stuart St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617-536-9455, toll-free: +1-888-464-4872, fax: +1 617-426-2158, ✉ reserve.boston@hiusa.org. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Communal kitchen, common areas, laundry facilities, meeting rooms and luggage storage. There is a maximum stay of 14 nights per calendar year. Dorms $45-70, privates from $220. $3 nightly fee for non-members.
Boston Furnished Apartments, 120 Milk St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 357-6900. A furnished apartment rental agency offering an alternative to a hotel room. These rentals are private homes, condos or apartments in residential buildings within the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, South End, and Financial District neighborhoods. There are monthly, weekly and nightly rentals available. The homes range in size from smaller studios to one or two bedroom apartments, and all have fully equipped kitchens and private bathrooms. This is a unique way to experience the city like a Bostonian, in a brownstone home. Rental paperwork is required and most credit cards are accepted. From $90.
Found Hotel, 78 Charles Street South (T: Tufts Medical Center), ☏ +1 617 426-6220. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Built in 1877 as the Sumner Hotel. The previous incarnation was the Milner Hotel. Amenities include: 24-hour front desk, ticket service, luggage storage, safety deposit box. From $250.
Harborside Inn, 185 State St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 723-7500. Pleasant, remodeled in the boutique style (exposed brick, modern furniture without being uncomfortable). Rooms are a decent size, comfortable bed, no desk, nice TV, wireless internet free in all rooms, clean. Very quiet - no street noise at all. Coffee available in the lobby all day for free. No restaurant or room service. Basic travelers' hotel - no gym. Close to Fanueil Hall, Aquarium, many restaurants within walking distance. From $300.
Nine Zero, 90 Tremont St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 772-5800, fax: +1 617 772-5810. Trendy boutique hotel. For a real splurge stay in the Cloud Nine Suite with views of Boston Common. From $320.
W Boston, 100 Stuart St (T: Boylston), ☏ +1 617 261-8700. Near Boston’s theatre district, 235 modern guest rooms all with the signature W bed. The hotel also features the restaurant Market, from celebrity-chef Jean-Georges and the W lounge in the lobby. From $350.
DoubleTree by Hilton, 821 Washington St (T: Tufts Medical Center), ☏ +1 617 956-7900. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Guests gain complimentary access to the adjoining YMCA fitness center (complete with indoor pool, basketball court and group classes). A full-service Starbucks is on the lower level of the hotel. From $400.
Hilton Boston Downtown, 89 Broad St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 556-0006. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon. This accessible hotel has 403 rooms and a fitness center. From $459.
InterContinental Boston, 510 Atlantic Ave (T: South Station), ☏ +1 617 747-1000. 424 guest rooms & suites in this 5 star hotel. From $520.
Marriott Vacation Club Pulse (Boston Custom House), 3 McKinley Square (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 310-6300. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. If you're going to throw down coin, you may as well do it here. This was once the customs house for the city of Boston, where all items unloaded from the nearby docks were tracked and taxed. The building dates from the early 1800s, the tower was added about 100 years ago, and the hotel remodel happened in the 1990s. It's got charm, a great location and all the modern conveniences you'd expect. From $530.
Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel, 275 Tremont St (T: Tufts Medical Center), ☏ +1 617 426-1400, fax: +1 617 482-6730. This 4-star hotel is across the street from the Wang Theatre. From $600.
Omni Parker House Hotel, 60 School St (T: Park Street), ☏ +1 617 227-8600, fax: +1 617 742-5729. The oldest hotel in America, although the current building dates from the 1920s. Located in downtown Boston on the Freedom Trail, the venerable Omni Parker House Hotel opened its doors in 1855. If you want to surround yourself in history in the heart of Downtown Boston, this is the place to stay. However, note that many of the hotel's rooms are small and over-crowded with furniture. Ho Chi Minh & Malcolm X are former employees. Bonus: If you eat in the dining room, ask to sit in the booth in which JFK asked Jackie O to marry him. From $600.
New Ritz-Carlton, 10 Avery St (T: Chinatown), ☏ +1 617 574-7100, fax: +1 617 574-7200. Located in the Theater District directly across the common from the original Riz-Carlton. Relatively new hotel with a very modern design. From $645.
Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 439-7000. Wake up to the sunrise over the harbor. Big swimming pool, fitness center. From $645.
Hyatt Regency Boston, 1 Ave de Lafayette (T: Downtown Crossing), ☏ +1 617 912-1234. Big luxury hotel. From $650.
Boston Marriott Longwharf, 296 State St (T: Aquarium), ☏ +1 617 227-0800. It's on Boston Harbor at the historic Long Wharf in downtown Boston. This hotel features 400 hotel rooms, 11 hotel suites, a concierge lounge with harbor views, and Oceana Restaurant that serves fresh seafood cuisine. From $700.
The Langham Hotel Boston, 250 Franklin St (T: State), ☏ +1 617 451-1900. It was built for the Federal Reserve Bank. This AAA four-diamond Boston hotel is now a national architectural landmark. The hotel overlooks the gardens of Post Office Square and is steps from Boston's shops, restaurants and attractions such as Faneuil Hall, Newbury Street, the Freedom Trail, and the financial district. Cafe Fleuri inside is now known as one of Boston's finest restaurants and is known for its Saturday Chocolate Bar Buffet and Sunday Jazz brunch. From $730.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 7. Last edited at 8:40 on Sep 27, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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