Boston Travel Guide
Boston is not only one of America's oldest cities, it's also one of the most walkable, and we'd even go as far as saying it's one of the easiest to explore. From the Italian roots of the North End to Boston's quintessential brick facades and New England charm, the city has historical and cultural fascination around every corner. First-time visitors wondering what to do in Boston will be thrilled to find that there is an activity to please every kind of traveler—Red Sox games for the sports fans, oysters shucked fresh at the Boston's best restaurants for the foodies, Freedom Trail walking tours for the history buffs, and public green spaces for relaxing in the summertime.
Boston is an intimate city, but its cultural breadth makes it feel like a much larger hub. You can feast on some of the country's best dim sum in Chinatown, then walk 15 minutes and be at a brewery by the water. You can go spend an afternoon at a world-renowned art museum and wind up at a Sox game that night, or start your day strolling the Harvard University campus and end the day taking in a concert at the legendary House of Blues.
Eastern Standard Time (Daylight Savings Time, seasonal. Dates vary)
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Boston is from May to November. The late spring and summer months bring beautiful weather (temperatures reach nearly 70 by May and hover in the low 80s by July). Fall in Boston is picturesque, with Harvard University, MIT, and Boston University's campuses trimmed in foliage and temperatures slipping into the low 70s in September and low 60s in October.
Visiting in the late spring means catching the Bruins and Celtics close to the playoffs, but you'll want to avoid the graduation weeks in May if at all possible. The summer is lovely in Boston—it's not too hot, and while tourists flock to the city in June, July, and August, the student population clears out. Fall is by no means the off-season, with tourists continuing to arrive and students moving in, but visiting in September and October affords you some of the very best Boston weather. We'd recommend avoiding Boston travel from November to April, as these are the coldest, grayest months.
Things to Know
Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States dating back to 1634.
Boston was the first U.S. city to build a subway line, the Tremont Street Subway built in 1897.
Another Boston first was Revere Beach, the first public beach in the country.
Boston baked beans, New England clam chowder, Boston cream pie, lobster rolls, and Fenway Franks are some of the foods associated with the city.
Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood is one of the city's oldest communities, named for the beacon that once warned locals about invasions. Today it's a protected historic district, and its classic homes can be admired on a self-guided walking tour.
The National Park Service manages several of Boston's popular tourist sites.
How to Get Around
Trains: Public transportation in Boston runs through Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which offers two types of trains: the metro and the commuter rail. There are 13 commuter rail lines, all of which will take you out to various suburbs of the city. There is also a comprehensive metro—which Bostonians call "the T"—that runs throughout Boston and can easily bring you to most major attractions and neighborhoods in the city. The T has four lines—the red line, blue line, orange line, and green line—and is generally very easy to navigate. Find the subway map here.
You can purchase a CharlieCard, a reusable card to use on MBTA trains and buses.
Taxis: While taxis are not as abundant here as they are in, say, New York City, it's still simple to grab a cab at Logan Airport or at South Station (a central transportation hub where most buses and trains from other cities arrive). You can also, of course, call in advance for a taxi from a local cab company like Boston Cab Dispatch.
Car service: Uber and Lyft are available in Boston, as are black car services like Master Livery.
Boston Harbor Hotel
The epitome of luxury hospitality in Boston, Boston Harbor Hotel is a five-star property right on the water with 232 rooms and suites. The centrally located hotel is walking distance to South Station, Faneuil Hall, and State Street. Guests will enjoy dining on-site at Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, exercising in the private health club, and languishing in the beautifully designed common areas.
Encore Boston Harbor
Bringing Las Vegas hotel vibes to Boston, Encore Boston Harbor opened in 2019 offering the chic atmosphere promised by Wynn Hotels. In Everett, Massachusetts, it’s slightly out of the way, but you can still make it to the heart of downtown Boston in 15 minutes by car. Encore Boston Harbor has a 24-hour casino and exemplary dining at Rare Steakhouse.
Four Seasons Hotel Boston
Address: 200 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
Phone: (617) 351-2036
Four Seasons Hotel Boston gives travelers a taste of the Back Bay and is in close proximity to Boston’s Freedom Trail and Beacon Hill. The suites are newly renovated as of 2019 and are perfect for long-term stays or families. Four Seasons Hotel Boston has a lovely spa and wellness pavilion with a heated indoor pool and on-site dining with views of Boston Public Garden at Aujourd’hui Lounge.
XV Beacon Hotel
Named for its address of 15 Beacon Street, XV Beacon Hotel is a five-star property with a boutique spirit and a historic facade. The beaux-arts building in the luxe Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston is home to just 63 rooms, cultivating an intimate, exclusive feel. But even more remarkable is the fact that there are only seven rooms to a floor, which guarantees ample space and privacy in each guest room.
Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel
On Boston’s iconic Tremont Street, Kimpton Nine Zero is an inviting boutique hotel with complimentary wine happy hours and 190 rooms and suites with chic decor pieces (if you’re lucky, you might end up with an Eames chair set by the window). The hotel sits at the intersection of Downtown Crossing, Beacon Hill, and the Financial District, and is a short walk to Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, the waterfront, and TD Garden for those keen on catching a Celtics or Bruins game.
The Liberty, a Luxury Collection Hotel
On Charles Street, The Liberty has North End charm with exposed brick-lined interiors and high-end Italian fare at Scampo. The hotel was once the Charles Street Jail, and the common spaces really play into that theme. Visit Alibi for cocktails and small plates “set in the old ‘drunk tank’ of what was Boston’s historic Charles Street Jail,” and their seafood restaurant called CLINK, also on-site.
The Charles Hotel
The Charles Hotel is a Cambridge landmark located right in Harvard Square—situating it next to great coffee houses, music venues, shopping, and some of the most idyllic brick-lined streets in Cambridge. The rooms at The Charles Hotel are furnished with historic pieces from all over New England and some offer views of the Charles River. You’ll also find high-end suites to accommodate larger families, including the Dean's Suite, Presidential Suite, and Chancellor’s Suite.
The Verb Hotel
A boutique, three-star hotel near Fenway Park known for keeping the spirit of rock music alive, The Verb Hotel features eclectic music-inspired decor and vibrant colors. The vibe in the rooms and common spaces is very retro-chic, and the hotel has an outdoor pool and lively pool deck. You can also dine on-site at The Verb’s sushi restaurant, Hojoko.
907 Main Hotel
A boutique hotel in Cambridge, 907 Main Hotel just opened in fall 2020 as a city venture by independent New Hampshire hotel company Hay Creek Hotels. In the buzzing Central Square, 907 is minimalist and cozy with a rooftop bar (the only rooftop bar in Central Square, in fact). And it’s close to both Harvard University and MIT.
The Newbury Boston Hotel
The Newbury Boston Hotel opens in spring 2021 and will sit at the intersection of Newbury and Arlington streets. Formerly the Taj Boston Hotel, this iconic property at 1 Newbury Street was originally a Ritz-Carlton when it opened in the 1920s. Located in the Back Bay, one of the famously high-end neighborhoods of Boston, The Newbury is walking distance to the Boston Public Garden and a myriad of other Boston attractions.
An iconic North End seafood restaurant, Neptune Oyster serves great lobster rolls and the freshest of fish. But most patrons come for the oysters, as Neptune features eight or nine varieties, as well as for the clams, which are served fried or on the half shell. You’ll have to navigate the mad scramble for the coveted seats at the counter, or wait a while for a table in this intimate but lively space, but it’s worth it either way.
Tiger Mama Boston
Nestled in the Fenway/Kenmore area, Tiger Mama offers an eclectic mix of southeast Asian cuisine and has developed quite a reputation for their imaginative Sunday brunch. Chef Tiffani Faison has parlayed her exposure on Top Chef into Tiger Mama’s reputation as one of the top women-led restaurants in the country. And Faison has developed multiple restaurants in the Fenway area, which is sure to keep her in the spotlight for years to come.
Oleana Restaurant is a signature Cambridge restaurant featuring outstanding Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, and an imaginative mix of small plates with bold flavors. A popular place that generally requires reservations, you’ll be exposed to a creative use of spice blends, delicious leafy vegetables, and a classic cassoulet.
The Boston Sail Loft
When you think of the Seaport District, your first thoughts may stray to tea being dumped in the harbor. But as more and more restaurants are calling this area home, visitors have flocked to the Seaport for a wide range of cuisines. The Boston Sail Loft, winner of multiple Best Clam Chowder in Boston awards, may be no-frills, but it certainly has a lot to offer, including their broiled fresh scrod that’s sure to please.
An East Boston landmark for more than 100 years, now with a location in Peabody, too, Santarpio’s is in the Pizza Hall of Fame. Four generations of Santarpios have been assembling “upside-down” pizzas—toppings, cheese, and then sauce—on a thin crust that is unequivocally regarded as the best pizza in the city. It’s hard to find, in the shadows of Logan Airport, but it’s where discussions about great pizza begin and end.
Tatte Bakery & Cafe
Address: Multiple locations
It’s not often that a bakery starts from one’s home and in 14 short years expands to 18 brick-and-mortar bakeries, including two in Washington, D.C.. Nor is it easy for a bakery to be gluten-free, but Tatte’s does have a “gluten-friendly” menu that’s a big hit. While pastries and desserts are a big draw for patrons, Tatte’s does have a dinner menu, an all-day menu, and a weekend brunch.
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
Featuring some of the area’s finest homemade ice cream, this Cambridge institution has been hand-cranking out its product for almost 30 years. Conveniently located between Harvard and MIT, Christina’s is known not only for its innovative and bold flavors, but for the sheer number of flavors that practically forces you to return multiple times. Thankfully, it’s open seven days a week.
Part of the Columbus Hospitality Group, operating seven restaurants and two hotels in the Boston area, Sorellina brings contemporary Italian-Mediterrranean cuisine to historic Copley Square. The extensive wine list is sure to impress, and their knowledgeable staff complement the “warm-modern design and chic decor” that brings loyal patrons back again and again.
In the ongoing cannoli wars in the city’s North End, Modern consistently earns top prize. A family-owned business dating back 90+ years, their hand-crafted pastries attract such a following that lines often snake out the door and around the corner. Want something other than a cannoli? Try their carrot cake, ricotta pie, or their delicate pizzelle.
Omakase, a form of Japanese dining where patrons leave themselves entirely in the hands of the chef, is elevated to art form at O Ya. If you don’t wish to splurge on omakase, the sushi à la carte is exceptional, and there’s a nice range of sakes available to complement the sushi.
Mamma Mia is a Boston institution, featuring regional Italian dishes that leverage the local markets, and the bountiful New England produce, meats, and seafood. Romantic, old-world, and authentic are some of the adjectives used to describe this intimate restaurant overlooking North Square, with its cobblestones and historic buildings that transport you back in time.
Union Square in Somerville, just across the Charles River from Boston, is home to this gem of a restaurant, serving luscious Peruvian food. As you immerse yourself in Andean culture, you’ll be guided through the staples of Peruvian cuisine, like slow-cooked stews and ceviches. The original “closed-door” in-home restaurant has now expanded to its current space, and integrates Andean music, art, and design for a full sensory experience.
Hei La Moon Restaurant
Situated on the outskirts of Chinatown, Hei La Moon has a huge space and a menu to match. It’s a great spot for dim sum, available seven days a week, with authentic Chinese food items ranging from shark fin dumplings to fried taro cake.
Alive & Kicking Lobsters
Lobster rolls, with a twist. Perfectly seasoned lobster meat, salt, pepper, minimal mayo, layered not on a hot dog bun, but two beautifully buttered and toasted pieces of scali bread is what you’ll find at Alive & Kicking Lobsters. It’s an actual lobster sandwich, that you can take outside and eat, sitting at their picnic tables of this unassuming Cambridge shop. It’s definitely worth crossing over the Boston bridges for this tasty treat.
Things to Do
Address: 4 Jersey Street, Boston, MA 02215
Phone: (877) 733-7699
Visiting Fenway Park is a rite-of-passage activity, because one of the best things to do in Boston is drink beer on the third baseline at a Red Sox game. Opening day at Fenway tends to fall in April, and baseball season—if the Sox make the playoffs—will run into October. Whether you’re in Boston on a summer day, or you have to bundle up for a game in late September, it’s always worth it to catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
The Freedom Trail
Address: 204 Freedom Trail, Boston, MA
Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail as a self-guided tour. It starts at Boston Common and passes 16 important Boston landmarks, including Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house. The Freedom Trail organization also offers guided tours, homing in on specific subject matters, from Boston breweries to revolutionary women.
Address: 206 S Market Street, Boston, MA 02109
Historic Quincy Market, which opened in 1826, is a Boston food hall that first-time visitors won’t want to miss. Grab a steaming chowder in a bread bowl from Boston Chowder Co., or an ice cream cone at Quincy's Place. You’ll also love shopping at the adjacent North Market, where you’ll find local retailers, like Boston Pewter Co., and a myriad of souvenir shops.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Address: 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115
Phone: (617) 566-1401
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is regarded as one of the most beautiful museums in the country, not just because of the art, but thanks to the opulent courtyard garden. The idyllic courtyard blooms year round, featuring hydrangeas in May and June, bellflowers in August and September, and even winter tropical plants in January. Art lovers will also enjoy the contemporary selection juxtaposed with iconic pieces by Rembrandt, and of course, an ever-relevant rotation of new exhibits.
Museum of Fine Arts
Address: 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Phone: (617) 267-9300
One of the most recognizable museums in the world, the MFA hosts exceptional traveling exhibitions—including impressionist exhibitions featuring the memorable works of Monet and Cezanne. They also have long-standing collections that delve into contemporary art and a stunning repertoire of global work.
Address: 139 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02111
Boston Common is the start of the Freedom Trail, but it’s also just a beautiful place to sprawl out for the day in the summer or fall. On Boston Common, you’ll find Frog Pond, a picturesque pool in the warmer months and a delightful skating rink in the winter. The park dates back to 1634 and is considered America's oldest park.
Boston Public Garden
Address: 4 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02111
Next to Boston Common is Boston Public Garden, another prime place to relax on a Saturday in Boston. The artfully landscaped gardens are home to iconic artwork, like the Make Way for Ducklings statues. The garden’s centrally located pond is where you’ll find the famous Swan Boats for a quintessentially romantic Boston experience.
Address: 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (617) 624-1000
TD Garden is where the Celtics and the Bruins play, which means you have the chance to catch a basketball or hockey game while staying in the heart of the city. (In fact, a big perk of Boston is that three of their four major sports teams play in Boston proper.) Catch the Bruins from October to April (or even May if they make the playoffs) and the Celtics on a similar timeline.
House of Blues
Address: 15 Lansdowne Street, Boston, MA 02215
Certainly the most iconic music venue in Boston, the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street is where you can find A-list musical talent. You’ll want to scour Ticketmaster in advance of your trip to see if there are any good shows when you’re visiting.
Boston Sailing Center
Address: 54 Lewis Wharf, Boston, MA 02210
Phone: (617) 227-4198
Sailing in Boston Harbor is a delightful way to see the city in the summertime. If you’re a proficient sailor, you can rent a boat at Boston Sailing Center, but you can also go out with an instructor for a private sailing lesson.
Charles River Bike Path
There are ample biking and running trails in Boston, including the Minuteman Bikeway, which runs from Cambridge all the way to Bedford, Massachusetts, and Cambridge’s Fresh Pond. But one of the best Boston paths is the 24-mile Charles River Bike Path, which runs along both the Boston and Cambridge sides of the river passing landmarks from Boston’s Museum of Science to Watertown Square, just outside the city.
Trillium Brewing Company
Address: Multiple locations
Fancy an outdoor craft beer? Trillium Brewing Company has three prime locations in Boston, one in Fenway with indoor and outdoor space, one near the Seaport district which boasts a great restaurant, and a lively seasonal beer garden near the waterfront.
Newbury Street is the most luxurious shopping street in Boston whether you’re ready to buy one-of-a-kind pieces at high-end boutiques or you’re more of a window shopper. Highlights include Bobbles & Lace for women’s clothing and Rothy’s Newbury Street for the cult-shoe enthusiasts.
SoWa Vintage Market
Address: 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
The South End is known for SoWa Vintage Market, which is quite a trendy shopping scene. You’ll find vintage apparel, furniture, a slew of gorgeous old leather goods, and of course, vinyl records galore.
Address: 98 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (617) 722-9200
For those who love a luxurious independent boutique in a charming neighborhood, look no further than Good on Charles Street. You’ll find elevated New England home goods, jewelry, and accessories, not to mention a well-curated selection of vintage.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Address: 4 S Market Street, Boston, MA 02109
The Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a shopping epicenter of Boston, situated right in front of Quincy Market and adjacent to North Market and South Market. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is where you’ll find everything from souvenir shops to New England home goods to favorite, fashion-forward chain stores. Think of Quincy Market, North Market, South Market, and Faneuil Hall as one expansive shopping area, where you’ll find great food, plenty of shopping, and a hefty dose of American history.
The Shops at Prudential Center
Address: 800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199
Phone: (617) 236-3100
Have you ever wondered what’s actually in the Prudential Center? Well, there’s quite a lot going on at the Pru, but many see it as a shopping capital of Boston. With more than 75 stores, including essentials like Saks Fifth Avenue and Canada Goose, and a number of restaurants, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon on a cold day.
Brattle Book Shop
Address: 9 West Street, Boston, MA 02111
Phone: (617) 542-0210
One of Boston’s famous independent book stores is Brattle Book Shop, right off Tremont Street near Boston Common. First opened in 1825, it’s “one of America's oldest and largest antiquarian book shops.”
Boston Public Market
Address: 100 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113
Boston Public Market, near the Haymarket metro station and Quincy Market, is a popular indoor food market open year-round. It feels like a gourmet indoor farmer’s market, where you’ll find artisanal, locally sourced goods and delicious prepared foods.
Address: 268 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
Phone: (617) 350-6996
For the passionate foodie, Formaggio’s Kitchen is a culinary institution with a truly revelatory cheese selection. They started out in Cambridge (where they have two locations), and have now expanded to a Boston location in the South End on Shawmut Avenue—and have even set up a shop in New York City.
Address: 100 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116
Phone: (617) 262-6600
Copley Place, in the Back Bay, is a prime shopping area for legacy brands. The enclosed shopping center has more than 50 high-end boutiques, including coveted names like Louis Vuitton and Burberry.
Address: 51 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (857) 239-9149
Venture to the chic enclave of Beacon Hill—which some might think of as a more intimate version of the Back Bay—and you’ll find December Thieves, which offers a “curious and cultivated” selection of clothing, accessories, and home goods. The Beacon Hill boutique fuses luxury comfort, high-fashion, and academia.
Neighborhoods to Know
Back Bay: Often regarded as the ritziest neighborhood in Boston, Back Bay is home to Newbury Street, Copley Square, and the Prudential Center. Come for the classic Boston attractions, stay for the luxury, brick-facade row houses.
Cambridge: Cambridge sits directly across from Boston, with the Charles River separating the two. Cambridge is, of course, home to Harvard University and MIT. Think of it this way: Boston is to Manhattan as Cambridge is to Brooklyn. Known for more than just the ivy leagues, visitors will love poking around Harvard Square during the day, grabbing a cup of coffee from the Peet's featured in Good Will Hunting and picking out a book at The Coop, and checking out the lively scene in Central Square at night.
South End: Tucked just beyond Back Bay and Fenway/Kenmore, the South End is known for its Victorian-style row houses. It's a low-key neighborhood with residential charm, but still offers local shopping and trendy eateries.
North End: The North End is right by the water, across from East Boston, and a short walk from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It's the hub of Italian culture in Boston—often called Boston's Little Italy—and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston, home to landmarks like Old North Church and Paul Revere's house.
Seaport: Southeast of downtown, nestled by the Boston waterfront is the chic yet laid-back Seaport neighborhood. The Seaport is a charming area to simply walk along the water and fantasize about living in the high-rises overlooking the harbor.
Fenway/Kenmore: In terms of hanging out in the Room Where It Happens, Fenway/Kenmore tends to be the heart of the action, especially during baseball season. Fenway/Kenmore is home to Fenway Park, the House of Blues, pub-lined Landsdowne Street, and a slew of great restaurants. It's also where you'll find the famous Boston Latin Academy, and is adjacent to the Back Bay and close to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Winter: Expect up to nine days of rain or snow in the winter months, and temperatures dipping into the low 30s. Generally, December to February is cold and snowy—with quite a bit of slush.
Spring: You'll still get about eight days of rain per month in the spring, but temperatures will start to rise by April to the mid 50s, and by May can get up to the high 60s.
Summer: If you like a warm breeze on summer evenings, you'll love Boston in June, July, and August, when temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s. Summer is extremely pleasant (and mild compared to the Southeast), though it does get a bit humid.
Fall: September temperatures can still be in the 70s during the day, but by October, you can feel dips into the 40s at night. Nonetheless, fall brings mild temperatures and lovely foliage.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month. Average annual precipitation 21.14 inches.
January 23 - 37
February 24 - 38
March 31 - 45
April 41 - 56
May 50 - 66
June 59 - 76
July 66 - 82
August 65 - 80
September 58 - 73
October 47 - 62
November 38 - 52
December 29 - 42