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Downtown Boston neighborhood guide

Discover the best local restaurants and bars, arts and entertainment and things to do in Downtown Boston

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Downtown Boston

Downtown is the best place in Boston for people-watching: Find a bench and a takeout lunch for a break between visits to historic landmarks, and watch the street performers and passers-by. Or, for quieter companionship, visit one of America's earliest cemeteries. The sprawling Boston Common and the more formal Public Garden form the city's central green space. By contrast, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are among its most-visited landmarks, replete with shops flogging kitschy gifts, and eateries catering to tourists. Avoid the latter, and head to Chinatown for some of the city's best Chinese food.

Restaurants and bars in Downtown Boston

Silvertone Bar & Grill

Forward-thinking in its backward-looking ways, subterranean Silvertone was a local pioneer of the trend for classic cocktails and American comfort food—and the long wagon train of regulars it immediately formed remains firmly hitched. The owners' good-natured commitment to a bygone era manifests itself in everything from the old prom pictures and liquor ads that line the walls to the confoundingly low prices charged for smart wines by the glass, served alongside much-loved staples such as macaroni and cheese, quesadillas and meatloaf.

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Financial District

Carrie Nation Cocktail Club

If the main bar is too full or brightly lit, head past the shoeshine stand and up the back stairs to the “speakeasy,” with pool tables and intimate seating. No matter which corner you choose to imbibe, you can select from offerings ranging from punches and barrel aged cocktails to well-crafted classics.

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Beacon Hill

Marliave

Having occupied its back-alley location since 1885, this eclectic yet historic café offers a two-in-one dining escape from the downtown bustle. The first-floor bar with its booths and vintage tiled floor is the perfect setting for a Prohibition-era cocktail and the rarebit appetizer of melted farmhouse cheeses, bacon and lager served with toasted brioche. Upstairs, a candlelit, white-tablecloth dining room befits the menu featuring classics such as beef wellington and the popular Sunday Gravy: gnocchi with San Marzano tomatoes, beef, lamb and pork. Linger with french-pressed coffee and house-made chocolate truffles for dessert.

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Downtown

Things to do Downtown Boston

Quincy Market

Built in the mid 1820s, when Boston's population was rapidly outgrowing the smaller marketplace in Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market was originally right on the harbour (the shoreline has changed over time). Today, the neoclassical Colonnade building is lined with fast food stands. On either side of the central hall, rows of carts loaded with souvenirs and crafts lure tourists to part with still more dollars, as do the street performers who flock to the place. Flanking the Colonnade are the North and South Markets, which are likewise filled with shops. Old-time Boston restaurant Durgin Park is touristy, but still retains an air of basic authenticity with dishes such as scrod and Indian pudding on the menu. The first stateside outpost of noodle chain Wagamama has also arrived at the complex, drawing long lines. One of the city's top comedy clubs, the Comedy Connection, is also based here.

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Government Center Free

Faneuil Hall

Built for the city by the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742, the hall was later remodeled by ubiquitous Boston architect Charles Bulfinch. It had a dual function as a marketplace (on the ground floor) and a meeting hall (upstairs). During Revolutionary times it became known as the "Cradle of Liberty", as colonial heroes such as Samuel Adams regularly roused the Boston populace against the British here—it still hosts the occasional political debate and symposium as a nod to its history. The building is part of Boston's National Historic Park, and rangers provide brief historical talks in the Great Hall every half hour. The ground floor is given over to gift shops and, surprisingly, a branch of the post office.

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Government Center Free

Hotels in Downtown Boston

Kensington by Stay Alfred

Featuring an outdoor swimming pool, Kensington by Stay Alfred is located in Boston. This self-catering accommodation offers free WiFi access. The property is just 2 minutes’ walk from the Boston Common.A balcony with city views can be enjoyed from each modern apartment. The full kitchen is equipped with a stovetop, oven and dishwasher. The seating area has a flat-screen cable TV and a sofa bed.The Boston Kensington by Stay Alfred has an on-site pet spa.Citi Performing Arts Center-Wang Theatre is 350 metres from the property. Boston South Station is 4 minutes’ drive.

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Theater District

GSA Luxury Apartments at 660 Washington Street

Located in Boston, GSA Luxury Apartments at 660 Washington Street offers an indoor pool and a fitness centre. This self-catering accommodation features free WiFi.This accommodation will provide you with a TV, air conditioning and a seating area. There is a full kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave. Featuring a hairdryer, private bathrooms also come with free toiletries.At GSA Luxury Apartments at 660 Washington Street you will find a garden. Other facilities like a shared lounge are offered.The property is 200 metres from Freedom Trail and 600 metres from Boston South Station. Logan International Airport is located 4 km away.

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Theater District

Harborside Inn

Located in Boston's waterfront district, this hotel is a 5-minute walk from the harbor. Harborside Inn offers free Wi-Fi, a free movie library and modern rooms with a DVD player. The underground is steps away from this hotel.A 32-inch flat-screen cable TV with HBO and a CD player are included in each of the modern rooms. The cream-colored rooms also provide Boston guide books and a seating area.Guests can enjoy free daily newspapers and use the business center. The hotel also offers car rentals. Light American cuisine is served at the restaurant on site.The Boston Harborside Inn is steps away from the Aquarium Subway Station. Guests can walk the Freedom Trail, a historical tour that starts one block from the hotel. Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the Paul Revere House are within an 8-minute walk.

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Government Center

Downtown Boston music and nightlife

Bijou

Catering to an upscale, international crowd, Bijou draws dance DJs with the same kind of cache. Arrive early (around 10 or 11pm) if you don't want to wait in line—or worse, not get in at all. The space is small and intimate, but often loud and crowded. Go for the dancing and, if you're feeling spendy, reserve a VIP table ahead of time to really live it up among the posher set.

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Theater District

The Wilbur Theatre

When the big names in comedy come to Boston, you'll find them at the Wilbur. Since the closing of the Comedy Connection in 2008, the Wilbur is your best bet if you want to see nationally renowned comics like Jim Gaffigan, Lisa Lampanelli, Patton Oswalt, and Margaret Cho. The room is classy, and has relatively recently acquired a liquor license (we all know that this is key), and it’s always exciting to see a great comedian in a packed 1,100-seat theater.  Spring for the floor-level seats if you are tall (see: above 5'6"), as the balcony does not afford a lot of legroom.

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Theater District

The Estate

The name has changed, but the song remains the same. The cul-de-sac of clubbery that is Boylston Place is a reliable hot spot on weekends, and the Estate (formerly Mansion) holds its own as the strip's largest space. Hip hop and mashups make up the bulk of the playlist, and the interior boasts lots of leather, fireplaces and balconies.

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Theater District

Shopping in Downtown Boston

Amazing Intimate Essentials

Amazing is for those who disdain subtlety. If the merchandise doesn’t overwhelm you, with the shop’s massive numbers of films, toys and fetish items, perhaps the star power of the visiting porn starlets will. This shop is not for novices. 

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Chinatown

Brattle Book Shop

Critics' pick

Established in 1825, this highly regarded antiquarian bookshop in the heart of downtown Boston has amassed around 250,000 books, maps, prints and other collectible items; the abundant stock spills over into a substantial outdoor space, so you can browse alfresco.

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Chinatown

Haymarket

The history of Boston's iconic open-air market goes back nearly two centuries. Haymarket's prices are as low as they go, but local produce is less the focus here than at some other markets in the city, so be prepared to paw through the stacks for the best-looking fruits and veggies. For those seeking a taste of the sea, you'll find fish here as well, and the experience of haggling and comparison shopping among the dozens of stands is a tourist attraction in itself.

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Downtown

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