It may be steeped in history, but Boston is madly evolving. The latest hot spot: South Boston’s Fort Point Channel, gateway to the soaring Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave.; 617/478-3100; icaboston.org), with thought-provoking installations from artists such as Anish Kapoor and Louise Bourgeois, as well as a great design store. A few blocks away, Joanne Chang’s café-bakery Flour Bakery & Café (12 Farnsworth St.; 617/338-4333) offers roasted-lamb-and-tomato-chutney sandwiches and house-made Oreos.
Over in the chic South End, Chang recently opened Myers & Chang (1145 Washington St.; 617/542-5200; dinner for two $40), where wok-charred greens, pot stickers, and curry braises are all priced under $15. Nearby, chef Barbara Lynch has set up a market, Plum Produce (106 Waltham St.; 617/423-7586), and demonstration kitchen, Stir (102 Waltham St.; 617/423-7847). But the real buzz belongs to the Beehive (541 Tremont St.; 617/423-0069; dinner for two $50), a rustic boîte serving veal schnitzel and steamed mussels on the main floor, while staging jazz, cabaret, and burlesque shows downstairs. Boutiques are abloom across the South End. Looc (12 Union Park St.; 617/357-5333) has monochromatic clothes by up-and-coming designers like Thread Social and Nili Lotan. Next door, Michelle Willey (8 Union Park St.; 617/424-6700) sells Barbara Cosgrove lamps, Matouk towels, and other accents for the home, while in back, Vessels Gallery displays exquisite pottery by Klara Borbas and Angela Johe.
The North End, Boston’s Italian enclave, is undergoing its own transformation. Between the gelato stands and salumerias of Hanover Street are several new shops, among them Injeanius (441 Hanover St.; 617/523-5326), for designer jeans; The Velvet Fly (424 Hanover St.; 617/557-4359), for vintage couture; and A Matter of Face (425 Hanover St.; 617/742-5874), for cosmetics.
Just across the Rose Kennedy Greenway, an urban park created by the $15 billion Big Dig project, Wagamama (Quincy Market; 617/742-9242; lunch for two $40) is the first stateside location of the British noodle chain. The city’s Asian craze continues at O Ya (9 East St.; 617/654-9900; dinner for two $200), where artful creations might include wild hamachi with spicy banana-pepper mousse, or seared diver scallops and foie gras with shiso-soaked grapes.
Boston’s hotel scene is booming; new arrivals include the waterfront InterContinental Boston (510 Atlantic Ave.; 617/747-1000; intercontinentalboston.com; doubles from $329) and the Liberty Hotel (215 Charles St.; 866/507-5245; libertyhotel.com; doubles from $319), carved out of a landmark 19th-century jailhouse. Finally, the 81-year-old Ritz-Carlton beside the Public Garden has reopened as the Taj Boston (15 Arlington St.; 617/536-5700; tajhotels.com; doubles from $595).