The South End's two parallel arteries, Tremont and Washington Streets, are at the center of the area's thriving restaurant and bar scenes. It also has a rich cache of culture, taking in the likes of the Boston Center for the Arts and the domed structure of the Boston Ballet headquarters. In recent years the area south of Washington Street, SoWa, has exploded with showrooms and studios—notably, the converted warehouse at 450 Harrison Avenue houses more than 50 artists' studios and 15 exhibition spaces. Small shops, selling everything from kids' gear and pet accoutrements to fashion and chic home accessories, are dotted throughout the neighborhood.
Restaurants and bars in the South End
From the folks behind The Gallows, the newest donut spot on the block has already won legions of loyalists thanks to its new-wave flavors. The South End shop is currently churning out 5,000 donuts a day, from sesame sriracha to salted toffee to blackberry lavender, which have inspired local Instagrammers. Look for a donut food truck this spring and expanded evening hours in a few months, when the bakery will begin serving soft serve ice cream and (dear God) donut sundaes.
A wall of record sleeves, graffiti-covered restrooms and a low budget, laid-back feel make this place a favorite with locals, passing bike messengers and people from all over town who appreciate a cheap drink or two. Friendly bartenders and the Cartoon Network on the TV add to the kind of jolly atmosphere that can only be found at a place that keeps a fake Christmas tree on the bar all year long. The Delux, in all its kitschy glory, is a hidden treasure.
Boston brunchers know that the South End is the place to be every Sunday morning (...or early afternoon), but the classic tastes of the Buttery often top neighborhood favorite lists for lunch and dinner, too. Enter through the bakery and coffee shop and descend into the grotto-like subterranean dining room, where cozy banquettes and colorful bud vases decorate the fireplace-warmed space. The continental menu is small but sufficient, with options that range from braised beef cheeks and eggplant parmigiana to house-made veggie burgers. Be sure to order a side of fries—they are some of the city’s best.
Museums and galleries in the South End
The 450 Harrison building is a veritable hive of artistic activity—and the artists fling open the doors at least a few times a month for open studios events where they greet locals and visitors with works for sale and, often, snacks and drinks. First Fridays is the flagship event. Held each month, the event welcomes everyone from art aficionados to afterwork activity-seekers for an evening art, wine, cheese and mingling.
Hotels in the South End
Housed in a beautifully renovated 1860s merchant's townhouse, this luxury bed and breakfast is a far cry from Boston's staid, conservative image—take the rooftop hot tub, for instance, with its views over Back Bay. Rooms are individually designed and furnished with impeccable attention to detail, mixing carefully chosen antiques with sleek contemporary pieces. Some rooms have original fireplaces, but they're now only for decoration. Marble and limestone bathrooms and high-thread-count linens add to the appeal, although there are no king-sized beds, only queens. The Clarendon suite, with its splendid freestanding Victorian bath, is popular for romantic breaks. Wireless internet access is complimentary, and limited guest parking (reserved in advance) is a boon in the area.
Shopping in the South End
Need further proof that the South End is London writ small? A visit to this tucked-away gem will transport you to Notting Hill. Andrea Halliday’s full-service floral enclave charms with seasonal arrangements (flowering branches, fringed poppies, peonies) as well as vertical planters and flower chandeliers. Weekly house deliveries carry SAD sufferers through the winter months, while brides revel in Halliday’s passion and attention to detail.
Opened by a mother-daughter duo, this South End boutique is the perfect place for ladies of all ages to try on girly wares from hard-to-find designers, with an emphasis on proprietor favorite Lauren Moffatt. Tucked away just off the main drag of Tremont Street, the shop's rustic, whimsical decor is positively enthralling.
If you can’t afford the South End condo, at least spring for the sophisticated floral trappings at this SoWa shop. Hall, a renowned event designer, offers stunning botanicals and bulbs as well as antique and modern vessels and a choice selection of home goods, including candles, lighting and antique mirrors. Regular floral workshops mean you can replicate Hall’s genius at home.