Where to Find the Best Stores, Malls, Outlets, Boutiques, & Markets
Boston offers a excellent shopping areas in easy-to-reach central locations.
Because so many locals live, work, and shop right in the center of the city, many of the best places to shop in Boston are within easy walking distance of other visitor attractions including appealing shopping streets, such as the boutique-lined Newbury Street, and Faneuil Marketplace (a.k.a. Quincy Market) on the historic Freedom Trail.
You can explore luxury designer clothing boutiques, large department stores, home furnishing emporiums, affordable consignment shops with high-end fashions at cheap prices, big shopping malls, antiques, art galleries, and concept stores close to other visitor attractions.
Interested in discount shopping? Two excellent outlet malls offering frequent sales on their already-steeply discounted prices are only a 5-minute subway ride or luxury bus trip away.
And just a few miles outside the city, you'll find excellent suburban malls, each with its unique mix of stores, restaurants, and entertainment.
Top photo: Boston's Public Garden on a beautiful fall afternoon
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
With more than 100 stores, unique artisan pushcarts, and four restored historic buildings, shopping at Faneuil Marketplace (also called Quincy Market) ranks high as a favorite Boston shopping destination.
You'll find national brands plus unique local shops. Hungry? Several top local restaurants, plus 40+ stalls in the Quincy Market Colonnade Food Hall serve up seafood, ethnic, and other specialties. And right around the corner is Haymarket, Boston's historic open air market in Historic Downtown Boston.
Discount & Outlet Shopping near Boston - 2 Great Choices!
Did you know that Boston has two major outlet shopping centers near the city?
Wrentham Village features 170 outlets including many high end and luxury brands at deep discounts, while Assembly Row offers a mix of outlet shopping, fine dining, and entertainment.
Vendors have clustered around Haymarket, Boston's oldest open air market, for at least 300 years. Today, this is where you'll find the cheapest produce in the city on market days. Come on Fridays and Saturdays when the market is open from dawn to dusk to find bargains - or just to visit this historic part of the city and perhaps visit the nearby historic pubs and restaurants. More about Haymarket
For a wider range of good things to consume on the spot, such as apple cider donuts and George Howell's specialty coffee, walk over to adjacent Boston Public Market (between Hanover and Blackstone Streets), where vendors sell everything from fresh fish to artisan cheeses, with an emphasis on organic and local products.
Our recommendations focus on six unique shopping streets and areas: Charles Street on Beacon Hill, Salem Street in the North End, Prudential Center and Newbury Street in Back Bay, Downtown Crossing, and Harvard Square across the river in Cambridge.
We tell you about each area's specialties - antiques, art, clothing, rare books and maps, concept stores, food, jewelry - and where to find them. More . . .
Each of these seasonal markets offers something different and locations vary each year - but don't miss these special occasions to find fun places to eat, perhaps an ice skating rink or two, and of course fantastic holiday shopping.More . . .
Art Galleries - For Browsing & Buying
Thriving art communities plus plenty of art schools and museums make Boston an excellent place to discover, explore, and even shop for art of all kinds.
Every Sunday from early May through October, Boston's biggest artisan crafts and design market,SoWa Open Market (shown in photo) attracts crowds of shoppers to its sea of white tents at Ink Block, 375 Harrison Ave, where food trucks, next-door SoWa Vintage Market, and SoWa Farmer's Market round out the offerings.
Twice each year, Boston's large art communities in the South End and Fort Point neighborhoods open their studios and galleries for day-long art walks. This is your chance to view a wide variety of Boston's best art, talk to the artists, and perhaps acquire a piece you can't resist.
Harvard Square, filled with many unique clothing, gift, jewelry, and book stores, attracts more than just students. For some of the best indie boutiques, explore the area along Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and Porter Square.
More to Know about Shopping in Boston
Massachusetts sales tax on retail sales of tangible items is 6.25%. Some things, such as food to be prepared at home (in other words, not restaurant meals or carry-out), prescription drugs, and clothing costing less than $175 per item are exempt.
Unlike some other cities in the United States, the City of Boston does not levy any additional sales tax on top of the state sales tax.
This means that you can save money by shopping for clothing and food items in Boston (and the rest of the state), compared with buying these items in states that charge sometimes as much as almost 10% in sales tax.
Returning a Purchase
Most Boston area stores will give you a refund or store credit if you return items with your receipt within a specified period of time.
Typically, if you pay with a credit card, the merchant will give you a credit refund, not cash. The time period and other terms vary by store, so make sure you understand their return policy. By law, stores must post their return policy near the cash registers in a place where you can see it.
However, many stores will not give a refund or credit or even allow exchanges on sale items. Usually they will tell you or indicate in some way that "sales are final." However, if they don't, you should ask them to explain their return policy BEFORE you hand over cash or a credit card if there is even the slightest chance you might return an item.
Credit Cards or Cash?
Almost all larger stores accept major credit cards for payment - Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and perhaps a couple of others.
Some smaller stores, restaurants, and other businesses accept only Visa and MasterCard, not American Express or other cards.
Other smaller stores and cafes take only cash. Usually, although not always, they post a "Cash Only" sign to let you know. You are most likely to see Cash Only signs in Chinatown, Haymarket (although an increasing number of sellers take credit cards), and some street vendors. You may also encounter a couple of cash only shops and even a few cash only restaurants in the North End.
Check out all our tips on how to find discounts, deals, and promo codes for Boston hotels. Whether you're looking for bargain accommodations or want to pay less for luxury, we'll show you How to Save on Hotels in Boston.