Attractions & Things to Do in Each Boston Neighborhood
Boston is a city made up of neighborhoods. You'll find exciting things to do and see, friendly people, and great food in all of them.
Most top visitor attractions cluster in a dozen or so neighborhoods and areas in the central heart of the city.
Each area has its own personality, things to see and do, architecture, mouth-watering restaurants, and places to shop.
If you're visiting, get to know the "real" Boston - walk around the historic parts of Downtown Boston, dine in Chinatown, enjoy the Red Sox and Museum of Fine Arts in Fenway, admire Federal architecture in Beacon Hill and Bay Village, and explore streets lined with beautiful Victorian mansions in Back Bay and the South End.
Save time for a Bruins or Celtics game in the West End, tour the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill in Charleston, attend a show or two in the Theatre District, sample the nightlife along the lively South Boston Waterfront, and savor the creative cuisine and art galleries in Fort Point.
And when you need a break, relax with an espresso and cannoli at one of the mouth-watering Italian restaurants or bakeries in the North End.
In other words . . . experience what it is like to live in Boston.
Top photo: Boston's South End neighborhood
Historic Boston Neighborhoods
You'll step back into the past when you explore these Boston neighborhoods where the first Puritan settlers established their colony and laid the foundations for the city.
Follow the Freedom Trail, visit historic markets and taverns, wander through Colonial-period graveyards - and also enjoy the many modern attractions, superb restaurants, and appealing boutiques.
Elegant Federal-period row houses, cobblestone streets, Massachusetts State House, Black Heritage Trail, Vilna Shul, Charles Street shopping ... More
Neighborhoods with Top Culture, Sports, Entertainment, & Shopping
This eclectic group of Boston neighborhoods contains a heady mix of Boston's top museums, concert halls, sports venues, and nightlife - as well as some of the city's top universities and colleges.
And if you venture across the river to Cambridge (a separate city, but 5 minutes away on the subway's Red Line), you can visit MIT and Harvard while enjoying the laid-back ambiance around Kendall Square and Harvard Square.
Home to Fenway Park and the Red Sox, Museum of Fine Arts, numerous universities and colleges, popular sports bars, and ... More
Theaters, comedy clubs, restaurants and wine bars, nightlife and entertainment ... More
With TD Garden, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, sports bars, Hub on Causeway, and Big Night Live, the West End neighborhood is packed with top entertainment venues as well as one of Boston's top medical research complexes anchored by Massachusetts General Hospital. More
Art galleries, Children's Museum, innovative chef-owned restaurants ... More
Downtown Crossing in Downtown Boston
Downtown Crossing is a lively pedestrian-friendly section of Washington Street in Boston's Downtown neighborhood, which also includes the Financial District and a swath of the waterfront.
Thanks to the addition of glitzy condo towers, nicely renovated older buildings, and a posh Roche Brothers supermarket, Downtown Crossing attracts a growing number of residents.
You'll find fascinating places to shop here, including a huge Macy's department store, branches of national discount retailers, and many only-in-Boston stores and boutiques.
Suffolk University and Emerson College both own property in the neighborhood including the beautifully restored Modern Theatre and Paramount Theatre. Add numerous popular restaurants, bars, and hotels to the mix, and you'll see why this area is so popular with visitors as well as locals.
Downtown Crossing also overlaps with parts of the Theatre District and Chinatown, as well as a bit of the Financial District (yes, Boston is indeed very compact!).
Orpheum Theatre (which hosts concerts, comedians, and kids' shows, despite its name), the Boston Irish Famine Memorial, and the Old South Meeting House (which is actually a Freedom Trail museum) are also part of the neighborhood.
With its Federal architecture, narrow streets, and gas lamps, Bay Village seems like a quieter, smaller, less grand version of Beacon Hill. Tucked away just a couple of blocks south of the Public Garden, it was home to Boston's once-thriving film industry, and you can still see the art deco buildings used during that period for film storage.
Chinatown - the 3rd largest in the country - has a long history of welcoming a long stream 8Syrian, Jewish, Irish, Italian, and finally Chinese immigrants who settled here in the 1700s and 1800s. After the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally lifted after World War II, Chinatown's population boomed. Today, Chinatown offers a wonderful mix of Asian restaurants, cultural celebrations, and markets.
Federal and Art Deco architecture, tranquil streets, Boston's least-known and smallest neighborhood ... More
Terrific Asian restaurants, Chinese New Year celebrations, the cultural heart of Boston's Chinese community ... More
At the Heart of Boston . . .
Boston Common and the adjacent Public Garden form the heart of central Boston, and the neighborhoods radiate out around them.
Even though they are parks, not neighborhoods, you'll probably walk through them as you go from one neighborhood to another - so be sure to take a few minues and explore their attractions along the way.
Ice skating in the winter, Shakespeare on the Common in the summer - plus the Freedom trail starts here ... More
The Public Garden
Swan Boat rides across the lagoon, Make Way for Ducklings statues, spring flowers, and spectacular fall foliage ... More
Boston is a waterfront city, almost surrounded by Boston Harbor, the Charles River, and Massachusetts Bay. Stretching out east of the city are the Boston Harbor Islands - almost like another world, with several islands just a short ferry ride from Boston's Long Wharf.
Only a couple of these waterfront areas are actual neighborhoods, but all are wonderful places to explore and enjoy.
The Boston Waterfront along the Harbor
If you look at a map, you can see numerous neighborhoods share stretches of the coastline along Boston Harbor: Charlestown, the West End, the North End, Downtown, Seaport, Fort Point (if you count the channel), South Boston, Dorchester, and of course the Harbor Islands.
What's not so obvious from a map are all the top attractions, activities, restaurants, and hotels clustered along the waterfront - it's truly the city's recreational playground.
The New England Aquarium, Harborwalk, waterfront hotels, departure point for Harbor cruises ... More
Seaport / South Boston Waterfront
Boston's liveliest neighborhood, with restaurants and museums lining the waterfront, summer concerts, Boston's Cruise Port, Harpoon Brewery ... More
Summer concerts and movies at the Hatch Shell, bike and running paths, and beautiful vistas ... More
Boston Harbor Islands
While Boston's Harbor Islands can't be considered a "neighborhood" in the traditional sense because no one actually lives in this National Recreation Area, almost half of the islands are part of the City of Boston.
With historic forts, beaches, recreational programs, sailing, bird watching, and the tallest lighthouse in Boston Harbor, you'll find lots to do, see, and enjoy here. You'll feel like you've entered a different world - even though the closest islands are less than 20 minutes by ferry from the city.
What you need to know first: Most of the city's hotels are located in Back Bay and Downtown Boston (including the Theatre District/Bay Village, Financial District, Downtown Waterfront, and Historic Downtown areas). You'll also find some great choices in Fenway, the West End, the North End, South Boston Waterfront/Fort Point, and Cambridge. Choices are more limited in Beacon Hill, Charlestown, and the South End, even though those are wonderful neighborhoods to stay in.
Now, follow these steps:
1. Choose the 3 or 4 top things that you want to see and do during your visit.
The oldest neighborhoods, known as Boston Proper because Puritans settled in these areas in the 1600s, include Beacon Hill, Historic Downtown, the North End, and the West End.
Charlestown, where the Puritans first tried to settle, missed out on being part of Boston Proper because lack of fresh water - not for drinking, as you might imagine, but for making the beer quaffed by the Puritans from morning to night - caused them to quickly move south to the vicinity of Beacon Hill.
Not surprisingly, Boston Proper neighborhoods contain many of the city's oldest historic attractions.
Fun Boston Neighborhood Facts
Bay Village is Boston's smallest neighborhood
During the Puritan period, Boston Proper was only about half its current size, and adjacent areas were underwater - mostly swampy tidal mud flats.
Most of the current Back Bay, Bay Village, and South End neighborhoods were created by filling in a very large tidal area from the Charles River called Back Bay.
Beacon Hill is the richest Boston neighborhood per capita.
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