Imagine a city full of history, culture, a mix of high-brow and Mom-and-Pop restaurants, hallowed sports halls, and fun boutique shopping. Now picture only being able to pick just ten places to go within that city—in this case, Boston, the city I’ve called home for over seven years.
Luckily, my personal favorites cover all the bases. Check out these tried-and-true destinations—some well known, some under the radar—within this classic New England metropolis. Bring your appetite and your walking shoes, and enjoy some of the best Boston has to offer.
Viennese Dessert Buffet, Bristol Lounge, Four Seasons
There’s a reason my friend has chosen the Viennese dessert buffet at the Four Seasons’ Bristol Lounge for her birthday outing three years running: it’s simply the most decadent option in town. Picture an elegant living room with sleek divans, armchairs, and a grand piano; wait staff, dressed to the nines, proffering cocktails (the chai martini is my favorite); and live jazz to set the mood. But the real draw, of course, is the buffet. More than thirty types of pastries, cookies, cakes, and other sweet options are presented, as well as a made-to-order crepe station featuring fruit, chocolate, and more. There’s no better place to impress a date.
Mapparium, Mary Baker Eddy Library
Awe-inspiring and unique, the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library impresses kids and grown-ups alike. Visitors walk across a thirty-foot bridge through a three-story globe constructed of more than 600 panes of stained glass and bronze frames. Reflecting the world map during the years it was planned and constructed (1932 to 1935), the exhibit offers unforgettable lessons about geography, politics, and history. During my first visit, I didn’t know what to look at first: the countless blue tiles, representing all of the world’s water; the political borders, some now out of date; the North and South poles, represented by stars. It’s guaranteed to elicit ooohs and aaahhs.
Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Newbury Street
I’ve always had a soft spot for a good bookstore, and Trident doesn’t disappoint. A small nook among Newbury Street’s endless boutiques and see-and-be-seen restaurants, Trident offers an oasis for those seeking less glitzy entertainment and delicious comfort food. Pick up a volume of poetry, the newest best-seller, or a hard-to-find literary magazine, and then curl up with a bowl of knee-buckling-good vegan cashew chili or a plate from the all-day breakfast menu. You’ll find enrichment for both your mind and body here.
How could I not include this iconic stadium in my favorites, the place a family friend refers to simply as “Mecca”? Everything you’ve heard is true: from electrifying games to creaky seats, rowdy fans to the formidable Green Monster, Fenway provides a memorable place to take in a game. Yeah, so it’s not as big or modern as other cities’ stadiums. Ticket prices are expensive, and most games are sold out. And good luck finding a place to park. But combine the crowds, the history, and a sometimes-loveable, sometimes-infuriating home team and you’ll see why a game at Fenway is irresistible.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Visitors can enjoy a little bit of Venice in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Constructed like an Italian villa, the museum and its exhibits have been virtually unchanged, per Gardner’s wishes, since her death in 1924. (You have to admire Gardner’s chutzpah in establishing such a permanent legacy.) The courtyard is stunning, particularly on a cold winter’s day, when the lush greenery and plentiful light provides a soothing respite from the harsh elements outside. And let’s not forget about the art. Here, you’ll see works by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Raphael, and more, plus stunning tapestries. Like the Mapparium, the Gardner may be considered one of the world’s most intriguing—and unusual—time capsules.
I’ve raved about the North End before, both for its rich Italian heritage and new trendy flair. The winding cobblestone streets, historic Old North Church, and endless dining options are just scratching the surface of what this neighborhood has to offer. From the Old World feasts in summer, its mix of Mom-and-Pop Italian eateries and trendy trattorias, and comingling of travelers with lifelong locals, the North End is Europe and America, old and new, authentic and touristy, all in one. And I dare you to find better pizza or espresso in the city—and maybe the rest of New England.
Aunt Sadie’s Candlestix, South End
Tucked in among elegant brownstones on gorgeous Union Park Street in the South End, Aunt Sadie’s Candlestix offers much more than its famous scented candles. I like to come here for one-of-a-kind gifts, and usually walk out with a present for myself as well, be it a sumptuous new lotion, a cool jazz CD, or a have-to-have-it Christmas ornament. Part of the staff’s genius is enabling its customers to flip the seasons: there’s no better antidote to winter doldrums than Sadie’s sweet, sandy beach candle, or the pitch-perfect woodsy aroma of the balsam or “Tree in a Can” candle to invoke the holiday spirit in spring or summer.
Louisburg Square, Beacon Hill
As a little girl, there was no story that I loved more than Little Women. Imagine my delight, then, to find one of Louisa May Alcott’s homes right in the heart of Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s most historic neighborhoods. Louisburg Square, a cluster of Greek Revival homes and an enclosed garden, once was home to the famous author and now houses the likes of John Kerry and other notable Bostonians. At night, with the neighborhood’s iconic gas lamps lit against the dark sky, your footsteps echoing over the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Bates Hall, Boston Public Library
Fancying myself a true academic, I wrote a good portion of my master’s thesis in Bates Hall, the main reading room of the Boston Public Library. I found it most ideal for studying and writing: it’s regal, elegant, quiet, and beautiful. Stepping inside can make you catch your breath as you take in the space’s vaulted ceilings, streams of light from multiple arched windows, and handsome busts of famous thinkers. The hushed whispers and soft page turns from nearby patrons only add to the hall’s reverent tone. And while it’s inherently Bostonian, Bates wouldn’t seem out of place in any of Europe’s grand estates.
Charles River Esplanade
Boston has no shortage of green spaces (Boston Common and the Public Garden may be the most famous), but my favorite is the Esplanade, nestled between the Longfellow Bridge and Massachusetts Avenue, right at the banks of the Charles River. In summer, you’ll see the river speckled with sailboats, kayaks, and canoes; the many pathways host joggers, cyclists, roller bladers, and dog walkers. There’s also a plethora of summer concerts held at the Hatch Shell, an outdoor amphitheater that hosts seasonal Boston Pops concerts, free movies, and other lively events. It’s a perfect spot for picnicking, people-watching, or exercising.
Enjoy my city!