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Boston/Back Bay

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Back Bay along the Charles River
View of Back Bay's skyline from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Back Bay was once a stagnant pool of water behind the Public Garden. It now holds some of the most exclusive real estate in Boston. The streets between Commonwealth Avenue and the Charles River are almost entirely residential. Newbury St was once all stables to support these homes, it is now a shopping district that has been compared to Rodeo Drive in LA and 5th Avenue in New York. On the other side of Newbury is Boylston St, which on one side contains numerous bars and restaurants, and on the other several city landmarks, most notably Copley Square and the Prudential Center...

Get in

The Back Bay is bordered by the Charles River to the north, the Public Garden to the east, Fenway-Kenmore to the west, and the South End to the (you guessed it) south.

By car

Like most of downtown Boston, driving in the Back Bay is a terrible idea. While, unlike the rest of the city, the streets are laid out in a grid, the traffic tends to be bad to terrible. Newbury is the worst, as trucks frequently double park and pedestrians brazenly walk in front of cars. Boylston and Mass Ave are also frequently congested. If you must drive there are several parking garages in the area, and Exit 22 off I-90 East (only) serves the area. Storrow Drive is also another point of egress, although during rush hour it is often gridlocked.

By subway

Orange Line: the Back Bay station is near the border of the South End, near the Copley Place mall and the Prudential Center. Also served by the 10 and 39 buses.

Green Line: Several stations on the Green Line are located within Back Bay. The Green Line splits into multiple branches here: the following listings will indicate which branches serve which stations.

  • Arlington [all branches]: In the far corner of the Public Garden, by the more 'ritzy' end of Newbury St. Also served by the 9 and 55 buses.
  • Copley [all branches]: Near Copley Square, the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and The John Hancock Tower. The last stop before the E branch forks off. Also serviced by the 9, 39, and 55 bus. There is no crossover (or transfer) between the inbound and outbound platforms: to transfer between inbound and outbound trains, ride to Arlington and transfer there.
  • Hynes Convention Center [B, C and D branches]: Actually on Mass Ave, the Convention Center from which it takes its name is a few blocks away on Boylston St. It serves the more 'artsy' end of Newbury st, as well as the Prudential Center, Boston Architectural College and the Berklee School of Music. Also served by the 1 and CT1 bus.
  • Prudential [[E branch]: Next after Copley going outbound. Connects directly into the Prudential Center, but for convenience most residents use nearby Hynes and walk, as the E has the most infrequent service and it is easier to get to most destinations on the other lines. Also served by the 39 and 55 bus.

By train

The Back Bay station is served by Amtrak trains, and by MBTA commuter rail (Attleboro/Providence, Framinghham/Worcester, Needham, and Franklin lines).

By bus

Routes CT1, 1, 9, 10, 39 and 55 service the area. The 1 bus is the most useful to tourists, as it runs on Mass Ave and connects the Back Bay with Central and Harvard Square in Cambridge.

See

With no specific destination, the best way to explore the Back Bay is to start at the Public Garden and walk up Newbury St. The shops slowly change from extremely high end to more bohemian. At Mass Ave, going to the right will bring you to Commonwealth Ave; a split road with a tree-lined pedestrian mall in the center. Boardering Commonwealth Ave are some of the most elegant townhouses in the city, rivaled only by those on Beacon Hill. Going left as Mass Ave will bring you into the Berklee College of Music, many more shops and eventually Symphony Hall. Left off Mass Ave is Boylston Street, a vibrant avenue that has many bars and restaurants on the one side, and many popular Boston attractions such as the Prudential Center, Copley Square, and Hynes Convention Center on the other.

  • The Boston Public Garden, [T: Arlington] [1]. The Boston Public Garden is a large park located in the heart of Boston, in the Back Bay region of the city. It is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the United States. Established in 1837 by Horace Gray, the 24-acre garden was formerly an enormous salt marsh, and was designed by George F. Meacham. The Public Garden is a great starting point for any tourist or person who finds themselves in Back Bay. The Garden features a plethora of diverse plant life, including a wide variety of native and foreign trees, and a rotating arrangment of flowers that changes with the seasons. The Garden also features numerous statues and fountains. In the center of the rectangular-shaped garden is a 4 acre pond, which in the spring and summer seasons is home to 1-2 swans, along with multiple other bird species such as ducks, comorants, and herons. Multiple turtles also live in the pond. From April-September, this large pond is also the home site of the Swan Boats, a famous Boston Tourist destination (See "Do" section for further detail on the Swan Boats). In the center of this pond stands the world's smallest suspension bridge, built over 100 years ago. In the corner of the park closest to Charles Street, tourists can view the famous duckling statues, based on Robert McCloskey's famous children's book, "Make Way For Ducklings." In 1987, the Boston Public Garden was declared a national historical landmark.


  • The Old South Church, [T: Copley]. The Old South Church is one of the most prominent, noticeable, and stunning aesthetic landmarks in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Located at the North point of Copley Square, the massive church is an astounding example of classic Northern Italian gothic architecture. The Church also has a rich history. It served as one of the original meeting places of the Sons of Liberty during the Revolutionary War period.

Do

  • Boston Duck Tours, [2] An institution in their own right, these modified WWII DUKWs give a great tour of the city from both land and sea, in the same vehicle. Easily one of the best all-around tours in Boston. Schedules and ticket information available at /
  • Boston By Foot, [3] Guided walking tours highlighting the architecture and history of Back Bay including Trinity Church, the Boston Public Library, New Old South Church, and the grand rows of Back Bay townhouses.
  • Urban AdvenTours, [4] Urban AdvenTours offers environmentally-friendly and exciting bicycle tours of Boston - from historic landmarks to quaint neighborhood streets of Boston and Cambridge - for families, students and visitors. Ride with us and see Boston the way it was meant to be seen - on two wheels! New location at 103 Atlantic Avenue in the North End.
  • Mary Baker Eddy Library, [5] [T: Prudential or Symphony]. Don't be fooled into thinking that this is just a library. The archives of Mary Baker Eddy; one of the most famous women of the early 20th century are found here, as is the Mapparium; a three-story stained glass globe depicting the world as it was in 1935 that you can actually walk through! While waiting for the twenty minute tour to commence, you can explore the Hall of Ideas and literally find the thoughts of some of the world's greatest thinkers at your feet! $4.
  • The Swan Boats, [T: Arlington]. Located in the 4-acre pond sitting in the center of the Boston Public Garden, the Boston Swan Boats are one of the most famous and traditional icons of the city of Boston. Founded in 1877 by British immigrant and engineer Robert Paget, the Swan Boats have been preserved for over 130 years by the Paget family for tourist pleasure and enjoyment. There are six swan boats in total, which can carry the weight of 15-20 adults each. Each boat is pedaled by a Swan Boat worker (usually a high school-college aged student) who sits behind a large, white swan made of fiberglass located in the rear of the boat. For a small fee ($1.50 for children, $2.75 for adults, $1.70 for seniors), anyone can enjoy a relaxing 15-minute trip around the pond and take in a beautiful tour of the Boston Public Garden.

Buy

  • Newbury St, [6]. runs the length of the Back Bay neighborhood. Often called "the Rodeo Drive of the East," Newbury St is a wonderfully dense avenue colored by historic brownstones and lots of shops and restaurants. These are extremely expensive near Boston Common, but gradually become more affordable as you move toward Massachusetts Avenue. During the day, the street is lined with all sorts of interesting characters including buskers. Vehicular traffic can be very slow on Newbury St itself; take parallel streets unless you have time to see the sights from your car.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue, 800 Boylston Street, (617) 937-5210, [7].

Eat

  • B. Good, 131 Dartmouth St., +1 617-424-5252, [8]. M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-9PM. Vegetarian Offers health-conscious veggie burgers with great fixings, like salsa and guacamole, and sides of tasty steamed veggies. The fries are air-baked and taste like real potatoes!
  • Herrera's Mexican Grill, 8 Park Plaza Transportation Building., +1 617-426-2350, [9].Authentic mexican dishes at cheap prices made quickly with fresh ingredients.
  • Fire and Ice, 205 Berkeley St., +1 617-482-FIRE(3473). You get to pick your own food and sauces, and they cook it right in front of you on a large communal grill. $16.95, all you can eat. Rather touristy.
  • The Upper Crust Pizzeria, 222 Newbury Street., +1 617-262-0090. Located in the midst of Newbury Street, one of the countries best shopping destinations, the Upper Crust Pizzeria sits high above Newbury Street with great views of the bustling network of shops and resteraunts. Founded in 2001, the Upper crust menu operates of the simple concept based on traditional Neapolitan style pizza, which is characterized by a thin crust and chunky sauce. Since 2001, Upper Crust has been awarded "Best Pizza in Boston" multiple times by the annual "Best In Boston" magazine issue. With fresh ingredients and a diverse menu of specialty pizzas, the Upper Crust is one of the top pizza destinations in Boston.
  • Hsin Hsin Café, 25 Massachusetts Ave., A very cheap and fast Chinese food joint, popular among students living in the area.
  • Noodle St., 627 Commonwealth Ave (near BU East T), +1 617-536-3100. 11:30AM-10:30PM. This newer establishment has been a hit with the student crowd with its complex menu of create-it-yourself Thai fusion at reasonable, if not quite insanely cheap prices. Try the special buckwheat noodles or the Noodle St. soup.
  • Nud Pob, 708 Commonwealth Ave, +1 617-536-8676. M-F 11:30AM-11:00PM, S+S 12:00PM-10:30PM. A student favorite for years, this little Thai jewel is cheap and delicious. Tucked away below street level this place is easy to miss but worth searching for. The food is fast, cheap, and some of the best in Boston. Their pad thai is perfect and their yellow and green curry dishes are to die for.
  • The Parish Cafe, 361 Boylston Street, [10]. A casual place with a moderate side walk cafe. Their specialty is sandwiches designed by some of the best chefs in Boston.
  • Pour House, 907 Boylston St. (across the street from Hynes Convention Center and The Prudential Center), +1 617-236-1767. Specific Day Specials. Cheap eats. Check it out. Oh and it's seat yourself.
  • Summer Shack Restaurant, 50 Dalton St, (across from the Hynes Auditorium), +1 617-867-9955. Wonderful selections of seafood which change on a daily basis. The Summer Shack has a rotating selection of oysters and clams, and always have fresh lobsters for boiling or grilling on a wood flame. In addition, their fried seafood is great. Try their raspberry mojitos from $15-$40. Also, this is where you can try the famous Pan Roasted Lobster (one of Julia Child's all time favorite dish) by the Chef-Owner Jasper White.


Splurge

  • Abe and Louie's, 793 Boylston Street, +1 617 536-6300. Su-Th 11:30AM-11PM, [11] Fr-Sa 11:30AM-12PM. A happening steakhouse with some of the best cuts in town. Make sure to get reservations or come in on off hours.
  • Grill 23 & Bar, 161 Berkeley St, +1 617-542-2255, [12]. Certainly a contender for the best steaks in Boston. Also serves excellent seafood entrees. Private dining rooms available. Make sure to make weekend reservations at least a week in advance.
  • L'Espalier, 30 Gloucester St (Back Bay), +1 617-262-3023, [13] The flagship French restaurant in Boston headed by award-winning chef Frank McClelland. Impeccable service and memorable cuisine make this a top choice for special occasions. Choose from several fix-priced multi-course menus (no a la carte menu available). Make reservations way in advance. (Note: L'Espalier would move from its current location to a new place near the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in September 2008. The new location is only a couple minutes' walk from the old one, but given the complex nature of moving a restaurant, do call ahead and ask.)
  • Morton's Steakhouse, 699 Boylston St (at Exeter St), +1 617-266-5858, [14] Located near the Hynes Convention Center and Newbury Street. A conservative dinner for two without drinks will run you about $150, not including tax and gratuity.
  • Top of the Hub, Prudential Center, +1 617-859-0648, [15]. Dine in luxury at the top of the Prudential Building, the second tallest building in the city. Light jazz, good food, and high prices accompany a view of the city and everything around. On a clear day, you can see Maine and Cape Cod. $40/person, $60-80 with drinks at dinner.

Drink

  • Sonsie, 327 Newbury St. Extremely trendy and somewhat expensive, Sonsie is known as a place for beautiful people. Multiple celebrities have dined here, and a few movies have been filmed within. There is reason for this, the food is excellent, the atmosphere serene and the dowstairs wine bar is to die for.
  • The Pour House, 907 Boylston St. A favorite with locals, the Pour House offers cheap food and drinks in a fun atmosphere. Weekends tend to be crowded, but during the day it is a great place for a cold brew and gigantic plate of nachos.
  • Cottonwood Cafe, 222 Berkley Street. Cottonwood has a tequila menu to rival many restaurant's wine lists. Their margaritas are the best in town. They also carry a respectable wine list and a good selection of regional and national micro brews.
  • Charley's Eating and Drinking Saloon, 284 Newbury Street. One of the most popular bars in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. Good food and good drinks, all at affordable prices.
  • Daisy Buchanan's, 240 Newbury Street, (617) 247-8516. One of the most popular nightlife spots in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, particullarly for college age students. A great drinking atmosphere, but beware of moderately expensive prices for drinks.
  • The Tam, 222 Tremont Street, For anyone visiting the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston and looking for a good night that is light on the wallet, The Tam is a the best "dive-bar" experience around. Friendly bartenders, cheap prices for beer, and an all around fantastic atmosphere complete with video games, karaoke, trivia, and old-style jukeboxes make for an enjoyable night for drinkers of all ages.


Coffee

  • Espresso Royale Caffe, 288 Newbury St, (617) 859-9515, [16]. Located a few steps down below Newbury Street, Espresso Royale serves up its coffee and snacks with unique style. A small patio lets you enjoy your drink outside in the warmed months, while the interior, complete with cool art, music and wood tables is inviting and cozy. The tempo here is slower than that outside on the street, so you'll feel comfortable slowing down a bit and maybe even engaging in a board game.

Sleep

Budget

  • 463 Beacon Street Guest House, 463 Beacon St., +1 (617) 536-1302, [17]. Budget accommodations near Newbury, Hynes Convention Center, etc. Just a few blocks from the MBTA Hynes stop. Not fancy, not especially clean, but at rates of $79 - $169 / night (as of 1/2011), it is worth considering.
  • Midtown Hotel, 220 Huntington Ave, +1 617-262-1000, Fax: +1 617-262 8739, [18]. Budget hotel/motel within walking distance of Symphony Hall, First Church of Christ Scientist, Prudential Mall and Copley Place Mall. Close to Fenway Park, The Museum of Fine Arts, Newbury Street, Copley Library, and Esplanade July 4th Celebration. Across the street from Prudential MBTA stop on the Green Line. Advertised rates between $89 and $239 as of 3/2006. Free parking.

Moderate

  • The College Club of Boston, 44 Commonwealth Ave, +1 617-536-9510 (), [19]. The oldest women's college club in the nation is also a reasonably priced B&B in the Back Bay neighborhood, next to the Boston Public Gardens. Small historic brownstone overlooking Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Eleven newly renovated and individually decorated rooms furnished with antiques. Advertised rates between $79 and $239.
  • The Colonnade Boston Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave, Boston (The Boston Colonnade is in the fashionable Back Bay district of Boston, MA across from the Prudential Center and blocks from Fenway Park.), +1 617-424-7000 (fax: +1 617-424-1717), [20]. $220+ ($169 with 7-night stay). This hotel is great for business and leisure travelers who are looking for a unique experience. The hotel offers 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and has the city's only Roof Top Pool.
  • The Eliot Hotel, 370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215 (The Eliot Hotel is at the intersection of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues in Boston’s fashionable Back Bay.), 1-800-443-5468 (, fax: 617-536-9114), [21]. $195.
  • Boston Marriott Copley Place, 110 Huntington Avenue, +1 617 236 5800, [22]. This Boston Marriott hotel is in the historic Back Bay district of Boston, MA. This hotel is great for business and leisure travel and offers 65,000 sq ft of flexible meeting & event space.
  • Marriott Courtyard Copley Square, 88 Exeter Street, 617.437.9300, [23]. Every room in the hotel has been professionally designed to create an atmosphere of serenity and comfort, while maintaining the state-of-the-art amenities you've come to expect from a Marriott.

Splurge

  • The Copley Square Hotel, 47 Huntington Ave,[24]. Located in historic Copley Square, walking distance to Fenway Park, Newbury Street and Boston Common. This Boston hotel features 143 hotel rooms and suites. The Copley Square Hotel offers onsite dining and entertainment at its restaurant, XHale Restaurant, and music lounge, Saint. XHale Restaurant is a casual meeting place for breakfast, dinner or cocktails; Saint is a boutique music lounge which serves drinks and provides live music.
  • Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel, 275 Tremont St, +1 617-426-1400, Fax: +1 617-482-6730, [25]. This 4 star hotel is in the back bay area of Boston. Across the street from the Wang Theatre.
  • The Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Ave, 866-540-4417, [26] Recently renovated and restored, this Boston hotel features 383 rooms including 17 elegant suites. The Fairmont is located near historic Beacon Hill, Copley Place, the Hynes Convention Center and the Freedom Trail.
  • Four Seasons Hotel Boston, 200 Boylston St, +1 617-338-4400, Fax: +1 617-423-0154, [27]. This is New England's only AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star hotel and it is located right across from the Public Gardens. The Four Seasons Hotel provides unbeatable views and close proximity to all major attractions. The lobby lounge (Bristol Lounge) has an excellent post-theatre dessert buffet during weekends.
  • Hilton Boston Back Bay, 40 Dalton St, +1 800-HILTON, [28]. The Hilton Boston Back Bay hotel offers boutique-style lodging situated just steps away from all the excitement Boston has to offer. Walk from the hotel to fashionable Newbury Street and Copley Square for fabulous shopping and dining or make the short walk to historic Fenway Park.
  • The Lenox Hotel, 61 Exeter Street, 1-617-536-5300, [29]. A 214-room boutique hotel offers the historic charm, personalized service and modern technology. U.S. News & World Report chose it as "1 of the 5 Greenest Luxury Hotels in America".
  • Sheraton Boston Hotel, 39 Dalton Street, 1-617-236-2000, [30]. Sheraton Boston is located in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood and is connected to the Hynes Convention Center and the Prudential and Copley malls. All rooms are recently renovated and feature flat-screen televisions, Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bedding and work-stations. The hotel features 70,000 square feet of meeting space on-property, with 175,000 square feet available at the Hynes Convention Center.
  • The Westin Copley Place, 10 Huntington Avenue, 1-617-262-9600, [31]. The Westin Copley Place is located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood at Copley Square. The hotel is also connected to the Copley Place and Prudential Center Malls. This AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel features the Westin Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath products, a WestinWORKOUT gym, and high-speed internet access.
  • W Boston, 100 Stuart Street, 1-617-261-8700, [32]. Located near Boston’s theatre district, the W Boston has 235 modern guest rooms all with the signature W bed. The hotel also features the restaurant Market, from celebrity-chef Jean-Georges and the W lounge in the lobby.

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