Nine Reasons to Love Boston’s North End
Located just a short walk from the tourist-heavy environs of Quincy Market, North End is a compact community that has seen tremendous change in the past few decades. The neighborhood was home to a large community of Italian immigrants in the early part of the 20th century; today its quaint, cobblestoned streets are lined with high-end boutiques and cupcake shops as well as the old-school red-sauce joints and Italian markets that remain. Most visitors don’t stray too far from the constant press of people on the main drags, which is why this walking tour is perfect for those seeking something different. From the quiet of the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground to the bustle along Hanover Street, here are some of this historic area’s lesser-known highlights.
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Battery Wharf Hotel
Contemplate the Boston Harbor from one of the rooms at this waterfront hotel, which makes a good home base for a visit to the area. You’ll find a host of lovely amenities, including bathrobes, luxe coffee makers, and a collection of books on local history. As a bonus, there’s a maritime museum on premises if you want to brush up on your nautical lore.
At this beloved neighborhood store at Bartlett Place and Cooper Street, owner Bobby Eustace offers a well-curated coffee selection and an array of spices—not to mention his seasonal signature lemon slush. Italian specialties like Jordan almonds and roasted ceci beans are also available. Best of all, Polcari’s goodies can be ordered online if you run out after your trip.
No-frills, belly-filling Sicilian-style pizza is the signature item at Galleria Umberto. Calzones and arancini are also available, but slices for under $2 are hard to pass up. House wine—served in plastic cups—is also on the menu. Come early—once the pizza runs out, that’s it for the day.
Paul Revere House
Of course you’ll get to hear about Paul Revere’s many accomplishments (silversmithing, dentistry, copper-rolling, militia-alerting) here, but you’ll also learn about the other lives of this house, which was built in 1680. It’s been a cigar store, a candy factory, and home to many other people during its tenure in the North End. But if you can make it through your visit without shouting, “The British are coming!” it will be a first.
North End Market Tour
Michele Topor’s informative tours will not only help you distinguish taralli from sfogliatelle, but will also show you where to buy these traditional Italian snacks. As you move through the North End, you’ll tour an enoteca, stop by a salumeria, and learn about various Italian food regions and traditions. Don’t eat wheat? They offer a gluten-free tour as well.
Designed by Frederick Law Olsmtead (of Central Park fame), Langone Park is the perfect place to take a picnic lunch culled from local delis. Sit down, watch the boats bob in the Boston Harbor, take a gander at the Bunker Hill Monument in the distance, and take in a nearby bocce game.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
In the 17th century, this venerable ground was once known for a prominent windmill. Today it remains the last resting place of Prince Hall (founder of the Black Masonic Order) and noted firebrand preacher Cotton Mather. Take a look at the plaques here to learn about the neighborhood’s earliest denizens.
All Saints Way (on Battery Street)
Tucked away behind a black gate crowned with bright potted plants, tiny religious statues, and strings of lights, this narrow brick alleyway is a mesmerizing shrine to Catholic saints. North End resident Peter Baldassari created and maintains the vibrant space lined with portraits, photos, statues, and prayer cards of saintly images, including informal tributes to Pope John Paul II and local cultural organizations. Visitors can peek into the alley—it looks especially charming when lit up at night.
The Daily Catch
Diners don’t come to this tiny Hanover Street storefront dotted with tiny tables to stretch out—they come for Sicilian seafood and pasta dishes like squid ink linguine, fisherman’s stew, fritto misto, and more elaborate offerings, including lobster fra diavalo for two. The restaurant is cash only and you might have to wait, but the street ballet is something to behold, particularly on the weekends.