Back Bay Neighborhood Guide

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Visitors to Boston's elegant Back Bay neighborhood love the fashionable designer boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants lining fashionable Newbury Street, the hundreds of ornate Victorian mansions, and the European-style Copley Square, surrounded by some of the city's most famous architecture, including H. H. Richard's Trinity Church, the Italian Renaissance Boston Public Library, and I.M. Pei's soaring Hancock Tower.

Even though Back Bay doesn't have many tourist attractions compared with Historic Downtown Boston, plenty of tourists and other visitors find here way here. Some of the very finest 5-star Boston hotels such as Fairmont Copley Square and the Mandarin Oriental can be found here - almost side by side with Boston's best bargain hotels.

Despite all of these attractions, Back Bay manages to also be a prime residential area, with quiet side streets and exquisite tiny front gardens to admire as you walk around the neighborhood. Stretching from the Boston Public Garden to the Fenway neighborhood, Back Bay is

Boston's Back Bay Fens - Footbridge over Muddy River
Fenway's most famous attraction - Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox

Quick Links for Back Bay Neighborhood Guide:  Attractions   |   Restaurants   |   Nightlife   |   Hotels   |   Shopping   |   Parks   |   Colleges   |  T Stations   |   Parking   |   Boundaries   |   More   |   Photo Gallery

 

Things to Do and Attractions in Back Bay

Trinity Church - Cheer the Red Sox for the quintessential Boston experience - or catch one of the star-studded rock concerts or other sports events hosted twice a year here.  Red Sox schedule and ticket information.

Boston Public Library - See the famed ballpark up close, and enjoy your guide's entertaining stories about Fenway history, legendary players, and funny events.  You even get to go on top of the Green Monster.  Allow about 1 hour.  Included with Boston discount card

Top of the Pru - World-famous for its comprehensive collections spanning 7 thousand years.  Must-sees include the Egyptian mummy collection and the dazzling new Art of the America's wing.  Included with Boston discount card

John Hancock Tower - This 1903 mansion, modeled after a 15th century Venetian palace, displays the wide-ranging art collection of its creator.  Free admission if you're named "Isabella."  Don't miss the Sunday afternoon concerts.  Included with Boston discount card

Old South Church (a.k.a. New South Church)- Home to Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. Attend a concert and enjoy its perfect acoustics, or join a free tour for behind-the-scenes views and stories.

Church of the Covenant - Another acoustically superb concert hall, and the main performance venue for the New England Conservatory as well as guest performers.  Free admission to many student performances - huge bargain considering that some students here are already renowned professional musicians.

Copley Square (200 Massachusetts Ave, next to the Christian Science Mother Church) - This enormous walk-through painted glass globe in the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Mother Church features a 1935 world map overlaid with geography and global history.  Included with Boston discount card

Boston Marathon Finish Line - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, including Fenway Park.  The sign, now considered a historic landmark, used to be neon, but now sports thousands of LEDs.  The lights go out at 1am - coincidentally, closing time for Boston bars.

Arlington Street Church - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

Emmanuel Church - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

Aliance Francaise - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen f

First Baptist Church - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

New England Historic Genealogical Society - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

Gibson House - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

Massachusetts Historical Society - Dating back to 1940, this red triangular sign measures 60 feet by 60 feet and can be seen from many Boston locations, includ

Fenway's famous Citgo sign, photographed from Brookline Ave next to Buckminster Hotel
Fenway's famous Citgo sign, photographed from Brookline Ave next to Buckminster Hotel

 

Back Bay Restaurant Recommendations

Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar (271 Dartmouth Street, 617-369-5609) - Go for the margaritas, very dark ambiance, and bar scene.  Food is Mexican and Tex Mex-style - try the tortilla soup, carne asada, and verde rice.

Tico (222 Berkeley Street) - Spanish and Latin American influences created by Boston chef Michael Schlow.  Gourmet tacos and small plates at reasonable prices - but join the Tequila Club, and you may spend more on drinks than food.  Secluded patio for warm weather. 

 

More about neighborhood restaurants

 

Back Bay Nightlife

Fenway's legendary nightlife - and there's a lot of it - mostly clusters around Fenway Park.  Several of these spots rank among the top sports bars in the city (a couple even top national lists), others showcase live music, and some manage to do both.  Many also serve lunch and dinner, and all serve bar food. 

When the Red Sox are playing or a concert or other sports event is scheduled at Fenway Park, expect these places to be crazed.  Weekends also pack in crowds.  Otherwise, they're quiet (well, relatively speaking) neighborhood spots.

  • McGreevy's - Reincarnation of Boston's - and perhaps the nation's - first sports bar.  Filled with memorabilia, including a terrific wooden Red Sox player.  Co-owned by one of the Dropkick Murphys.
  • Sonsie- Microbrewery /gastropub morphs into a sports bar on game days

 

Back Bay Hotels

Considering Back Bay's reputation as one of the city's priciest neighborhoods, you'll find a much wider range of hotel rates than you might expect. In case you're wondering what you give up if you choose a less-expensive hotel

Back Bay Shopping

If you have time to shop in only one neighborhood, make it Back Bay.  Famous name designer boutiques abound - but so do bargains, consignment shops, and unique shops.  You'll also find two upscale malls here.

  • Copley Place  (401 Park Drive, by the Green Line D/Fenway stop) - Repurposed Deco-style Sears distribution center now contains an REI, movie theater complex, Best Buy, and a few other stores and restaurants.
  • Prudential Center (intersection of Commonwealth Ave and Beacon Street) - Small shops and eateries, plus the building topped by Fenway's famous Citgo sign, a Boston landmark.
  • Newbury Street - Small stores, including music, art, and student-oriented shops.
  • Boyston Street - Everything Red Sox-related that you can imagine - and then some!  Fenway Park Tours leave from here, so allow shopping time after your tour. Footbridge over Muddy River in The Fens

 

Back Bay Colleges and Professional Schools

Eighteen colleges, universities, and professional schools call Fenway "home," giving it the highest concentration of higher education institutes of any Boston neighborhood.

  • Fisher College
  • Bay State College
  • Boston Architectural College
  • Berklee College of Music
  • New England College of Optometry
  • Butera School of Art
  • Gibbs College
  • School of Fashion Design
  • Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology

Find more information about each of these Fenway colleges, universities, and schools at Universities and Colleges in Boston

Fashion creations by Fenway's Mass Art students on display at Chestnut Hill Mall
Fashion creations by Fenway's Mass Art students on display at Chestnut Hill Mall

 

Back Bay T Stations

  • Green Line - Kenmore
  • Green Line B - Blandford St, Boston University East, Boston University Central
  • Green Line D - Fenway
  • Green LIne E - Symphony, Northeastern, Museum, Longwood, Brigham Circle
  • Orange Line - Massachusetts Ave, Ruggles St

Tracks for the T's Green Line B runs down the center of Comm Ave near Boston University
Tracks for the T's Green Line B runs down the center of Comm Ave near Boston University -
Photographed during early evening in January

 

Back Bay Parking

On-street parking is almost non-existent in most areas of Fenway, aside from metered spaces along some parts of Huntington Ave and Commonwealth Ave. and nearby streets.  You're almost always better off taking the T, especially on Red Sox game days.

But if you must drive, check out nearby parking garages and lots

 

Back Bay Boundaries

North:  Charles River

East:  Charlesgate West, Massachusetts Turnpike, Boylston St, Dalton St, Belvidere St, Huntington Ave, Massachusetts Ave

South:  Southwest Corridor, Ruggles Street, Parker Street, Ward Street, Huntington Ave, Francis St

West:  Muddy River, St Mary's Street, Commonwealth Ave, Boston University Bridge

Caveat:  These boundaries are approximate, and opinions about Fenway boundaries vary.  Boston neighborhoods don't have "official" boundaries, so they're often ambiguous and sometimes contentious.

 

More about Back Bay

Vintage photos and historical information about Hotel Buckminster, Grahm Junior College, and Kenmore Square

Neighborhood website

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