Vibrant, bohemian and with more cool than New York (some say), the Massachusetts capital has sights, galleries and restaurants to rival with the best on the East Coast.
During the winter, wrap up and soak up the Boston Christmas atmosphere. Skate the ice rinks, head to the slopes around an hour out of the city and shop in the plethora of markets, boutiques and high street stores.
During the summer enjoy the beautiful harbour and its outdoor markets.
Where to stay in Boston?
For elegance, zen, art and excellent food Mandarin Oriental in the chic heart of Back Bay is peerless. The huge rooms exude serenity, there’s even a yoga mat in the walk-in closet and deep, soaking baths are the perfect antidote to long days on your feet in “the Walking City”.
Logan International Airport is very close to Downtown Boston so transfers barely cut into a short break. It’s a half hour taxi ride at most. Alternatively, the City’s excellent “T” subway network can be accessed on a free shuttle bus to Airport station for the blue line into Downtown.
Best view in Boston
Take it all in from the 50th floor of the Prudential Center where (on a clear day) you can see right across the harbor and beyond to the mountains of New Hampshire.
Historical sites in Boston
Most first-time visitors to Boston do the Freedom Trail marked by a red brick line that takes in 16 historical buildings and sites.
The Boston Visitor center at the Prudential Center open 11am-6pm sells a two-day Go Boston card costing $75 that that covers most attractions, like Fenway Park and the New England Aquarium.
History buffs can see the Old South Meeting House (9.30am-5pm) daily) where colonists planned the Boston Tea Party before taking Washington Street to the Old State House Museum (9am-5pm) where the Declaration of Independence was read, finishing up at Faneuil Hall where some of the first protests against British Rule were made.
Though most guidebooks recommend the stalls at Quincy Market for clam chowder, oysters and Boston pretzels, it’s really rather commercial.
North End Boston: Little Italy for lunch, shopping and more history
Instead, when hunger rumbles, Little Italy’s charming warren of small streets is close-by offering everything from family trattoria for filling pasta to sophisticated Italian restaurants with truffles on the menu plus plenty of appealing small eateries for Boston seafood. The cosy two-room restaurant Rabias has a good choice of oysters on an old-fashioned marble and mahogany bar and Neptune Oyster is also highly recommended.
There are plenty of independent gift and clothes shops close-by, plus a great old-fashioned Italian deli offering coffee grinding an impressive array of coffee and vintage shops too.
On the charming cobbled North Square, Paul Revere’s house is well-worth the entrance fee to get a feel for how it was to live in Boston during eighteenth-century.
Bostonian revolutionary hero, silversmith Paul Revere left his North Square home, slipped out of the city in a rowboat, borrowed a horse in Charlestown, and rode to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington that British troops were marching from Boston to arrest them and seize munitions.
Take a bus or T line across the Charles River to soak up the intellectual atmosphere around Harvard University and MIT speculating on which of the scruffy students may hold the breakthrough in artificial intelligence that could change the world. Students lead regular classic Harvard tours and there’s the Harvard Museum of Natural History too.
Many of the city’s most interesting cafes are here too, including Flour Bakery.
Reserve well ahead for dinner at Craigie-on-Maine, which more than lives up to expectations. Right on trend, chef-restaurateur Tony Maws’ emphasis is on farm-to-table sourcing and adventurous and creative combinations of flavors.
Where to shop in Boston
Newbury Street with its smart brownstones is a pleasure to stroll down. Start at the top of the street for high-end designer stores working down to more affordable shops.
Ultra-desirable Beacon Hill with its beautiful architecture is an absolute delight for shopping for more unusual gifts and clothes plus antiques too, especially on Charles Street.
Top picks include The Ruby Door for jewellery, Wish for clothes, Moxie for clothes, Fastachi for artisan nuts and chocolates mostly open 12pm-5pm Sunday too and there are plenty of good eating and drinking options including Beacon Hotel Bistro and Bin 26 Enoteca.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
The museum houses an exceptional and eclectic collection of art from both Europe and America and it is well worth dedicating at least a whole afternoon to the vast rooms.
Where to eat in Boston
Another Boston institution, Stephanie’s on Newbury with its welcoming, comfortable banquette seating and sophisticated home cooking reputation has a highly regarded brunch menu including crab cakes eggs Benedict.
Ideal for small, quirky, smart boutique shops, cafes and brisk early morning walks on neighboring Boston, Common, Beacon Hill Hotel on Charles Street, one of the best Bostonian addresses, has character and ultra-friendly staff besides a great brasserie where they mix a superb Cosmopolitan at the bar. Breakfasts are notably generous for maximizing sight-seeing stamina.
Fresh from its success in New York and London, Bar Boulud has opened offering all day Gallic treats including a fantastic charcuterie board and definitive steak tartare.
Two days is more than enough time to soak up history, good food and New England tradition. And if it’s baseball season, sneak in a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.