North End neighborhood guide

Discover the best local restaurants and bars, arts and entertainment and things to do in the North End

Photograph: ShutterstockThe North End: Colorful houses

An ideal neighborhood for a stroll, the North End has a distinct character that combines Italian heritage and a traditional New England setting rich in historic associations. The red brick buildings yield gastronomic treasures around every corner; small salumerias, bakeries and pastry shops are perfect for creating an impromptu picnic in the brick-paved Paul Revere Mall (also known as the Prado) or North End Park.

Restaurants and bars in the North End

Equal Exchange Café

You can't get more crunchy-granola conscientious than this organic, fair-trade North End café. Expect a label denoting the place of origin for almost every menu item, including the coffee beans, which come from as far afield as Nicaragua and Uganda. The food is entirely local, with sandwiches from Danish Pastry House, bagels from Iggy's and baked goods from Haley House, Glutenus Minimus and Totally Sweet. The spicy hot chocolate has a kick to it, while the cappuccinos deliver some deliciously malty undertones. Equal Exchange also serves surprisingly tasty tofu spring rolls.

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Neptune Oyster

4 out of 5 stars

Opened in 2004, Neptune Oyster is a delightful paradox—at once exemplary and exceptional. This place looks and feels exactly as an East Coast raw bar should: tiny, lined with pressed tin, subway tiles and etched glass, it possesses retro gleam and unmistakable charm. If the daily oyster roster is definitive, the rest of the menu is startlingly original. The fearless locale will try just about anything—pairing fried oysters with pickled beef tongue, say—and so will the adventurers they've made of their fiercely loyal regulars (of whom there are many—expect long waits at peak hours). Grab a marble topped table or a seat at the bar, and you're in for a treat.

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North End music and nightlife

Improv Asylum

Improv Asylum is primarily known for its improv and sketch comedy revues, and is almost always worth the stress of parking in the North End. The shows rotate throughout the year, with the main stage cast performing every Thursday through Saturday. Midnight on Saturdays is the "Raunch" show, which provides a much-needed late-night entertainment option in sometimes-sleepy Boston. Improv Asylum also accommodates private events and groups shindigs like bachelorette parties; so ladies, please keep your penis tiaras out of stand-up shows.

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Shopping in the North End

Shake the Tree


A highly browsable combination of casual clothing from the likes of Ella Moss and Velvet, jewelry and accessories, unusual toiletries, stationery and decorative homewares such as picture frames and ceramics. Some of the items, such as hip jewelry by Flauxy and Wardmaps' mousepads, printed with 19th- and early 20th-century maps of Boston (including the North End), are locally made.

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There's so much to see and do in the North End!  I'd recommend walking along the Harborwalk to Charlestown; it 's a lovely walk that takes about 90 minutes or more depending on how far you go (you can go to Cambridge from part of the walk).  Then I'd grab a delicious lunch at Quattro on Hanover St.  The floor-to-ceiling windows are perfect for people-watching and getting some sun and a nice breeze.  Sometimes the air on Hanover Street smells like powdered sugar, coffee, and chocolate.  Not too bad!!  After lunch, stop by the Cannoli Factory for a gelato or some sorbetti.  Delicious!  I like the tangerine sorbetto!  After that, take in the sights: Old North Church, the Skinny House, site on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and then grab an Aperol Spritz at one of the many bars on Hanover.  My favorite is Parla!  See Matt for the best drink recommendation!  Then decide what to do for dinner.  I'd recommend: Vinoteca di Monica, Taranta, Bricco, Panza, Carmellina's, Gennaro's at 5 North Square, or Limoncello.  They are all fantastic!  Make a rez though!  Then stroll through the area around North Square and North St.  Check out the Boston skyline near the harbor.  Walk over to the Aquarium to see the sea lions in the windows.  So much to do and see!