South Baltimore is the entrance point for most visitors to the city, coming in off I-95 from the south, and home to one of the city's number one attractions—Fort McHenry, as well as both the Orioles and Ravens stadiums. Those who dig a little further will find a vibrant dining and nightlife scene in beautiful, historic Federal Hill, as well as venerable, but less visited neighborhoods that define what it is to be authentic Baltimore.
South Baltimore was traditionally the industrial heart of Baltimore, even more so than Southeast Baltimore, but real estate in the neighborhoods closer to the Inner Harbor have soared over the past 15-20 years, seeing rampant gentrification by former suburbanites and even D.C. commuters attracted by cheap historic homes close to the city center. As with all neighborhood change, this has displaced, disrupted, and at its extreme destroyed the old local communities. On the upside, though, it has introduced a lot of good restaurants to Federal Hill, which is a fairly easy walk from the Inner Harbor hotels and the Convention Center.
Most, however, visit South Baltimore for one sight: Fort McHenry. The defense of this fort on the Chesapeake, and thus the defense of Baltimore, was pivotal in the defense of the nation in the War of 1812 against the re-invading British forces. Even more famously, the defense of the Fort saw the arrival of one Francis Scott Key, who, seeing the flag still flying after the bombardment, here composed the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, which later would become the U.S. National Anthem.
Anyway, on to the neighborhoods, which, like most all Baltimore neighborhoods, have fiercely independent characters:
Federal Hill is a historic neighborhood containing several bars and restaurants, named after the ratification of the Federal Constitution. In part because of its proximity to the Inner Harbor, the stadiums, and other attractions, this is both the wealthiest and most popular neighborhood with city visitors. The rowhouses, many dating back even to eighteenth century, are wonderfully restored and the streets are beautiful. There are plenty of dining options that are far better than the average places around the big hotels to the north, and nightlife is vibrant (if a little too drunken and trashy F-Sa nights).
Locust Point has a scary name, but is actually a pretty nice place to hang out and have a meal after visiting the Fort. Though the giant condominium building at Silo Point (replacing the old defunct granary) is doing its part to gentrify the neighborhood, it still retains a familiar working class, classic Baltimore community. Fans of the Wire might recognize this neighborhood as the home of the longshoreman (including Nick) from season two.
Ridgely's Delight is a small little triangular neighborhood just northwest of Camden Yards and east of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. It's another very pretty old neighborhood with cobblestone streets, but the local pubs can be a little bland (but perfectly acceptable to hang out with fellow fans on game days). The University of Maryland Baltimore campus is just north, so you'll find plenty of college students.
Pigtown! Yes, Pigtown. No, not Washington Village, no matter how hard real estate agents try to rebrand the neighborhood (and to thus destroy it). Pigtown is just too catchy a name to die. The name comes from its position along the route that pig farmers would once march their livestock to sell at the railyard. Legend has it that the residents at basement level would reach out their street-level windows to snatch a swine or two for dinner. Today, Pigtown has an extraordinary demographic mix—it may be the only neighborhood in the Northeast where rednecks and black folks live together happily and harmoniously. So what's in it for a traveler? Savvy parking spots—visitors don't know about parking there, and you usually can find something even on a game day, if you are OK with a bit of a walk. Nick's Rotisserie Chicken would be the other good reason to visit.
There are plenty of other neighborhoods throughout the south of Baltimore: Violetville, Westport, Lakeland, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, etc. But you are probably less likely to find yourself there, as they are generally hard to get to by public transport, are far from the center, and low on tourist amenities.
It's very easy to get into South Baltimore by car—it's just hard to park anywhere near the stadiums or the Harbor (Locust Point isn't too hard, though). From I-95, exits #52 for Russel St and #53 for I-395 to Light St will both take you right to the stadiums or the Inner Harbor respectively. Exit #54 will take you right into Locust Point and is well signed for Fort McHenry. The B-W Pkwy simply terminates here and turns into Russel St. The main streets running from Downtown through federal Hill and on to Locust Point are Light St to the Key Hwy to Fort Ave.
For Pigtown, the entrance is on Washington Blvd just southwest of its intersection with Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, which you can pick up from I-395 just before it terminates in the Inner Harbor, or from any westbound street from the Harbor or Downtown. Washington Blvd also runs from I-695 (just west of I-95).
Brooklyn and the other far south neighborhoods are best reached by I-695 or I-895 southbound (I-895 northbound does not have exits, since they want to force you to pay the tolls). Coming from the city, take either Washington Blvd to Patapsco Ave, which is the main road running along the very southern edge of the city, or take the Hanover St Bridge from Federal Hill (Hanover will continue southeast to Brooklyn).
The MARC Camden Line  runs straight from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to the stadiums, but only runs on weekdays, and doesn't run very late.
The Light Rail , on the other hand, is pretty handy if you are going to the stadiums (Camden Yards for the Orioles and Hamburg St for the Ravens), Federal Hill, Westport, or even Cherry Hill. Past Cherry Hill it heads on to BWI Airport, while to the north of Camden Yards it runs past the Convention Center and Lexington Market Downtown and on through Midtown to Penn Station and beyond.
Consider Baltimore buses to be only for the adventurous, and those with a bunch of spare time on their hands. There are some good routes through South Baltimore, though—as long as they are running on time and not too crowded to board. Bus 1  is the best route around, running south from Charles Center (Charles St & Baltimore St) near the Convention Center down Light St through the center of Federal Hill, and on through Locust Point all the way to Fort McHenry itself. Bus 36  runs down Martin Luther King Blvd from Fayette downtown to Pigtown, then running the length of Washington Blvd. Bus 64  runs through Federal Hill on Light St all the way up to Penn Station and on to North Ave in Midtown, and south across the Hanover St Bridge to Cherry Hill and Brooklyn.
The Purple Circulator bus  is free and runs along Charles St and Light St in Federal Hill, and goes straight north up Charles past the Washington Monument and on to Penn Station.
If you're feeling really adventurous, you could take the light rail down to the Patapsco stop and try to take Bus 14 to Annapolis. Make sure you are well armed with bus and rail schedules for that trip!
By water taxi
During the months of April–September, you can take Ed Kane's water taxi back and forth between the pier at Fells Point.
- Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St, ☎ +1 410 727-1539, . Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. This museum is actually in the house where the Great Bambino himself was born. The museum isn't huge, but should be considered a can't-miss attraction for baseball fans. There is a white baseball "trail" leading from Camden Yards straight here, so it isn't hard to find. Plan to spend about a half hour looking at the exhibits on his life, and also the neat new one on the 500-homer club. $6 adults, $3 children 3-12.
- Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Hwy, ☎ +1 410 727-4808, . Tu-Su 10AM-4PM. Baltimore's museum of the common man defies the idea that history is just about politicians, wars, and artists. You'll see recreations of a cannery, a turn of the century textile factory, a printing press, Dr Bunting's old pharmacy, and exhibits on the Domino Sugar Factory. There are plenty of good hands-on activities for kids—they can even become child laborers in the textile shop! $10/8/6 (adults/seniors/children & students).
- Federal Hill Park, 300 Key Hwy (Just look for a really big grassy hill!). This big hilly park is one of Baltimore's best points for picture taking, as it overlooks the Inner Harbor, with great views of both the north and south skylines. You'll note that the cannons all seem to be awkwardly pointed at the city's central business district. The cause for this was the Union troops's suspicion of the famously irascible and rebellious Baltimoreans from siding with the Confederates in the Civil War (or simply from generally rioting). They set up on this well located hill to intimidate the city into submission.
- Fort McHenry, 2400 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 962-4290, . 8AM-4:45PM daily. Really a must-visit for any tourist in Baltimore, this is the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, the United States National Anthem. The fort's military history is best known for it's central role in the defense of the country in the War of 1812, simply named the Battle of Fort McHenry. At the time, Baltimore was the industrial powerhouse of the United States, and was a critical producer of ships and armaments. While of lesser importance in future wars, Fort McHenry remained relevant: a prison for captured Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, a military hospital during WWI, and again an active Coast Guard base during WWII. Since 1925 it has been designated as a National Park (and since 1939 doubly listed as a National Monument), and is today a museum, with plenty of cannons and nooks and crannies to explore. Back to the National Anthem, its Francis Scott Key, who was escaped here from British captivity in the War of 1812, joins Edgar Allen Poe, Thurgood Marshall, and H L Mencken as a preeminent icon of the city and the eponym for dishes at restaurants, bridges, and one impressive golden statue in Bolton Hill. He might be a little sad to see that the flag is not still there. It was getting extra raggedy after all these years, and was moved to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. for preservation. $7, children under 15 are free.
- Mobtown Ballroom, 861 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 218-8197, . Hours vary—call or check the calendar online. The city's home for swing/blues/lindy hop dancing. Come single or in pairs, and expect to be dancing. Lessons are offered at all levels, and are usual followed by social dancing. Music is often live.
- Ultra Nate's Deep Sugar, 1310 Russel St, ☎ +1 410 837-9100. http://sugarparty.org. Home to Baltimore's premiere house parties. They're a bit infrequent, so check the website.
- The Sandlot BWI, 713 E Ordnance Rd, loc. 319 (Go to the back of the industrial/business park), ☎ +1 410 590-3224, . Hours change seasonally—check the website or call for current hours. Like much anything in this far flung area of Baltimore (Curtis Bay), the Sandlot is pretty hard to find, but worth it for baseball enthusiasts. They offer batting cages and pitching tunnels by the hour, for baseball or softball, with very competitive rates. Private and group lessons are also regularly available. Rates change monthly—check online or call for details.
- M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens), 1101 Russel St, ☎ +1 410 230-8000, . Baltimore's new football team, in the form of the former Cleveland Browns, is wildly popular with locals, especially following their Superbowl win in 2000. As for the stadium itself, known unimpressively as "M&T Bank Stadium," but better referred to "The Bank", "The Nest", "The Asylum," or just "Ravens Stadium," is new as of 1998 and quite nice. For food, be sure to pick up some boardwalk fries. For parking, just don't. It's $40 and game day traffic is emphatically not fun.
- Oriole Park (Baltimore Orioles), 333 W Camden St, ☎ +1 410 333-1560, . The local baseball team plays at Oriole Park, better known as Camden Yards. It's often considered one of the nicest in the nation, with a retro style, but modern facilities (constructed in 1992). No name is better associated with the stadium than Cal Ripken Jr., who set the world record for playing 2,131 consecutive games on 6 September 1995, (a little less well known, but still historic, was Eddie Murray's 500th home run, exactly one year later to the date). Avoid trying to park here, for the same reasons as below for Ravens Stadium.
- Alliance Comics, 904 Light St, ☎ +1 410 685-0021, . M-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su 11AM-5PM. The City Paper's best comics store awards lately have to be considered a bit of an upset (and maybe just a mistake) over Collectors Corner in East Baltimore! But it is a great comic book store, with frequent release parties, tabletop/rpg gaming sessions, and all sorts of merchandise associated with comics (clothes, figurines, etc.).
- The Book Escape, 805 Light St, ☎ +1 410 576-8885, . 10AM-6PM daily. Federal Hill's used bookstore also has garnered several "best of Baltimore" awards from the City Paper over the years, and it is indeed a fun place for book lovers to stop in. The selection is wide and refreshingly well-organized.
- Cross St Tobacco, 1103 Light St, ☎ +1 410 752-9220, . M-Th 10AM-9PM, F-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 11AM-6PM. This is one of Baltimore's best cigar shops, with nice owners and a pleasant cigar lounge in the back with coffee and cable TV.
- Curiosity, 1033 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 727-6262, . The name gives it away—you won't find whatever you were looking for, but something amongst the fun browsing inside will get your interest piqued. Good spot for gifts, particularly retro, antique, or just plain eccentric home decor.
- Dan's Brothers, 1032 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 752-8175. Classy shoestore with classy shoes and classy service. The selection is big, and the staff are excellent. Not a place for sneaks.
- Funky Beehive, 920 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 685-4483. W-Su. As the Hon-do name suggests, this is a fun place to shop for Baltimore souvenirs, with requisite hon glasses and Natty Boh apparel. Fun, eccentric gifts abound.
- Housewerks, 1415 Bayard St, ☎ +1 410 685-8047, . F-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM. Baltimore's most eccentric home salvage/antiques store has an assortment of goods that is just plain strange. Even if you don't plan to buy something, a browse is certainly an interesting way to pass some time.
- Pandora's Box, 50 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 244-1442, . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. This funky little shop has all sorts of eclectic gifts, from home decor to jewelry to silly mugs.
- Zelda Zen, 46 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 625-2424, . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa-Su 10AM-6PM. Ditto the description for both Curiosity and Pandora's Box—the quirky gifts market here is fiercely competitive! Except this one also has christmas ornaments, some clothes, and a bit of Baltimore kitsch. If this sounds appealing, you should obviously stop in both here and in Pandora's, which is virtually next door.
- Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen, 745 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 727-7482, . M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM,5PM-9PM, Sa 11:30AM-9PM, Su noon-8PM. An almost startlingly good little place in Locust Point, with a Palestinian owner who knows his falafel. $9-19.
- Barfly's, 620 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 682-7227, . M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa-Su noon-2AM. This is the best spot for pizza within a few blocks of the Inner Harbor, with a tasty, thick fresh dough crust, and a nice bar. $7-14.
- Berger Cookies, 2900 Waterview Ave, ☎ +1 410 752-5175. As Natty Boh is to Baltimore beer, Berger Cookies are to Baltimore sweets. Incredibly rich, you should only ever eat one, and probably get two glasses of milk handy. The cookie is of the soft sugar variety (German vanilla wafer, to be precise), with a fudgy chocolate top so thick that it's better to think of it as an extra brownie. Berger's has been turning out these cookies for 175 years, and it's a true Baltimore tradition. You can buy them online, you can find them at Lexington Market (at De Bauffre Bakery), but adventure seekers can head straight here, to the factory itself, for the fix.
- Byblos, 1033 Light St, ☎ +1 410 209-2495, . M-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Whether to go to this Lebanese hole-in-the-wall or to Baba's for your Middle Eastern fix is a questions generally best determined by proximity. It is similarly excellent, cheap, friendly, and informal. But it also can claim to be one of the best places in South Baltimore for vegetarian/vegan diners. Because it is in the thick of Federal Hill, though, it will be more crowded! $9-14.
- Cross St Market, 1065 S Charles St. M-Sa 7AM-7PM. One of Baltimore's many covered markets, this little known building houses a lot of tasty, quick, cheap food. Some local favorites include Bruce Lee's Wings, Hot Corner Lee's for the real deal Philly cheesesteaks, and O's Breakfast and Barbeque (M-Sa 7AM-5PM, and especially for that breakfast!).
- Harborque, 1421 Lawrence St, ☎ +1 410 685-7675, . M-W 10AM-3PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 10AM-6PM. While definitely uneven (and, in fairness, most cue shops are), Harborque has very well-regarded eastern Carolinas-style pulled pork sandwiches, which alone make it worth a stop. So beware a bit the rest of the meat, which is not up to the same standard, but the sides are great, and it's a nice relaxed place to linger about in the area. $8-16.
- Nick's Famous Rotisserie, 813 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 539-9100. M-Th 11AM-8PM, F-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Nick's chicken is very very good—maybe the best chicken of any sort in the city. Beyond the scrumptious birds, roasted, smoky, spiced, juicy, succulent, the menu is a short list soul food, with the mac n' cheese and corn muffins being especially recommended (small mac n' cheese, listed as a "salad," is 99¢, so there are no excuses). They also offer subs, but it's not clear if anyone ever orders them. Nick's is not too far into Pigtown, coming from Camden Yards, and is honestly worth the walk (and putting up with the often rude staff). Carryout only, so plan to find a bench quickly. $3-9.
- Polock Johnny's, 3212 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 644-5997, . This is the last outpost of the venerable Polish sausage maker in Baltimore City proper (the other is at Security Mall west of the city), after the much lamented exodus from Lexington Market. Johnny's sausages are famous for a reason (and the sandwiches and especially the Ocean City boardwalk fries are highly recommended as well). $2-6.
- Reuben's Crepes, 1043 S Charles, ☎ +1 443 756-0667, . M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa-Su 8AM-9PM. This Mexican creperie (wtf?) is good for... both Mexican dishes and crepes. The overlapping crepes with Mexican ingredients are a treat, and really everything is done well and fresh here. Definitely a good place for a couple that is having trouble agreeing on what type of food to eat. Or just hungry people on a budget who want a really solid breakfast. $5-10.
- Rheb's Homemade Candies, 3352 Wilkens Ave, ☎ +1 410 644-4321, . M-Sa 8:30AM-4:45PM. Well hidden—no, really, you'll have to work hard to find the place—Rheb's is a classic Baltimore candy shop, with great, homemade chocolates. Coming westbound on Wilkens Ave, turn into the unmarked alley/small street (Bloomfield Ave) immediately after passing Caton Crossroads Professional Center (a large red brick building with green awnings). 1 lb truffles for $17, 1 lb fudge for $10.
- El Salto, 5513 Ritchie Hwy, ☎ +1 410 789-1621, . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa noon-10PM, Su noon-9PM. A cheap, no frills restaurant, with friendly service and authentic Mexican cuisine. The margaritas are big and stiff, and the staff speaks precious little English. $7-17.
- Abbey Burger Bistro, 1041 Marshall St, ☎ +1 443 453-9698, . M 5PM-1:30AM, Tu-Su 11:30AM-1:30AM. Federal Hill's spot for loaded gourmet burgers, with a list of options long enough to keep you busy for a good 10 minutes figuring out what to order! $11-25.
- Hersh's Pizza, 1843 Light St, ☎ +1 410 438-4948, . S,M,W-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight. While new (late 2011), Hersh's has garnered a lot of positive attention around town for cool ambiance, high class cocktails, craft beers on tap, and some really good gourmet pizza (and pastas). $12-25.
- Italiano's, 2229 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 468-3377, . 7AM-4AM daily. The Italian food at this middle-of-nowhere spot is surprisingly quite good, unsurprisingly cheap, open until 4AM every night(!), and actually has a drive-thru for called in orders! Being in Southwest Baltimore, perhaps it's not surprising that they also have some soul food on the menu (the fried chicken is another surprisingly good dish). A simple place, no doubt, but a pretty sure bet for a solid meal. $8-26.
- L.P. Steamers, 1100 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 576-9294, . 11:30AM-11PM daily (last seating for crabs usually 9PM). If you want a truly authentic Baltimore crabs/seafood experience, Locust Point has got to be the place to have it (the fact that you are further off the beaten path means a cheaper meal as well). L.P. Steamers is widely recognized as one of the city's best spots for steamed crabs, and has a nice menu of other seafood be it steamed, broiled, or deep fried. Their crabs are not served with Old Bay, but rather with a house blend of spices. While this may seem to the untrained eye to be sacrilege, remember that way back in the day just about every Maryland crab shack had its own spices—this is tradition. Rooftop dining in the summer equals fantastic views over the Inner Harbor. $7-20, crabs market price.
- Matsuri, 1105 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 752-8561, . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. Matsuri is considered by many the best Japanese restaurant in the city, for its fresh sushi, crisp and tender tonkatsu, and satisfying tempura in a casual, calm environment. Not everything is perfect here, but Baltimore is not exactly a sushi destination! $5-20.
- Maynard's, 3916 S Hanover St, ☎ +1 410 355-8924, . M-F 11AM-2AM, Sa-Su noon-2AM. Maynard's is somewhat of a local center for the Brooklyn neighborhood—popular for lunch and dinner in the day, and for DJs and live music after hours. The menu is assertively Baltimorean, with "hon fries," "Greektown gyros," "Bawlmer crab dip skins," "Francis Hot Key sandwiches," etc. Crab manages to show up in over half of the dishes. What the deal is with the Nixon posters is not exactly clear. $10-22.
- Miguel's Cocina y Cantina, 1700 Beason St (Behind the main side of the building, Silo Point, by the granite columns, with the entrance from an interior hallway), ☎ +1 410 438-3139, . M 5PM-10PM, W-Th 11:30AM-1PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-2PM (brunch until 2PM Sa-Su). Classy—but not overly fancy, modern, cool, quite hard-to-find, and featuring upscale, authentic Mexican cuisine. Their margaritas are also some of the best (and often most creative) you will find in Maryland, and weekend brunch can see some great bottomless drinks deals. This is one of those places that will impress people you take there (if only for the difficulty in finding it!), and one of those places that makes clear the inexorably changed reality in Locust Point. There is a parking garage across from the main entrance to the building, where you can park on the lower level. $14-30.
- Regi's, 1002 Light St, ☎ +1 410 539-7344, . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. Regi's is Federal Hill's local classic, upscale, traditional American restaurant. The filet mignon threatens to melt in your mouth. The seafood and indeed the crabcakes stand up to the best in the city. And the prices aren't runaway. $13-28.
- Ryleigh's Oyster, 36 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 539-2093, . 11AM-2AM daily. Though beleagured by the Cross St mob scene F-Sa nights, this is actually a really good seafood restaurant the rest of the time. The pub theme is updated and pretty sleek, and the raw bar serves some of Baltimore's best oysters on the half shell. If you just want pub grub, they do that quite well too. $14-42.
- Thai Arroy, 1019 Light St, ☎ +1 410 385-8587, . Tu-Th 11:30AM-3PM,5PM-10PM, F 11:30AM-3PM,5PM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM. Federal Hill's solid neighborhood Thai restaurant. It's perhaps not worth hunting down if coming from, say, Fell's Point, but if you are in the Inner Harbor west area or by the stadiums and are in the mood for Thai, it's certainly worth a walk. $14-25.
- Bluegrass Tavern, 1500 S Hanover St, ☎ +1 410 244-5101, . Kitchen: Tu-W 5PM-10PM, Th-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. Casual atmosphere and decidedly non-casual, upscale, contemporary American cuisine, and a long bourbon list. The menu is creative and long, but a pretty clear favorite is the smoked fried chicken. $17-40.
- Wine Market, 921 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 244-6166, . M 5PM-10PM, Tu-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 5PM-11PM. This is probably South Baltimore's nicest option for a dinner (or lunch), with a full restaurant, cafe, wine bar, and wine shop rolled into one. Expect the dishes to be composed of all local ingredients and expert counsel from the sommelier. Fans of the HBO TV series The Wire may recognize this as a personal favorite of one Senator Clay Davis. $26-50.
Silo Point, symbol of South Baltimore's recent gentrification
Federal Hill is packed with nightlife, and has a good number of legitimately cool venues. The weekends, in the center of the neighborhood (Cross St), are not for everyone, though. It's a frat party after 11PM or so F-Sa, and it is what it is. To be clear, we're euphemizing unabashed douchebaggery, with overuse of the word "bro," cheap hook ups, rampant littering, and not all that infrequent bar fights. Move to the outskirts of that neighborhood, though, and you'll find some real gems for any night of the week.
- The 8 x 10, 10 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 625 2000, . Shows usually get started around 8PM. One of Baltiore's best set-up live music venues occupies a Goldilockean not-too-big, not-too-small space, although it does get overcrowded on the weekends with the weekend Federal Hill crowd. Shows tend to be rock, and the dance floor can be a very good time depending on the clientele that night.
- Bobby's Jazz Club, 1140 South Paca St, ☎ +1 410 545-0610, . This is a throwback lounge that features live jazz on Friday nights. It also offers cigar smoking up on the rooftop deck that overlooks the southwest side of the city. Located in a sparse warehouse area about thrree blocks west of M&T Stadium, its something of an oasis as it stands alone from any other food/drinking establishment. The predominantly African American clientèle there consider it a hidden gem. You can buy cigars on site and yes, even the women light up!
- Brewers Cask, 1236 Light St, ☎ (410)-273-9377, . Mo-Th 3pm-1am, Fr-Sa 12pm-1am. One of the better bars in Federal Hill for beer connoisseurs - they have about twenty different craft beers on tap.
- Camden Pub, 647 W Pratt St, ☎ +1 410 547-1280, . 11AM-2AM daily. Of the Camden pubs, the Camden Pub probably distinguishes itself more than any other way by having the best wings—smothered in Old Bay. On game days, expect a healthy mix of gamegoers and University of Maryland in Baltimore students.
- Harbor Way Inn, 737 W Pratt St. Most of the various pubs right around Camden Yards lack soul, but this dive is the black sheep of that boring family. In addition to being somewhat quiet and attracting locals, it has a Lithuanian bent, with bottles of good Lithuanian beer ($4) and virytas, a delicious but potent honey liqueur. Even more oddball, the bar is kind of anti-sports—don't expect to chat Orioles news with the bartender, and don't plan even on watching the TV. Pool table in the back.
- Hull Street Blues Cafe, 1222 Hull St, ☎ +1 410 727-7476, . M-Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 10AM-midnight. Famous above all for its excellent brunch, this older establishment that treads the line between the gentrification crowd and the neighborhood is a fine place for a reliable lunch or dinner in the middle of the week, or just for the bar (which has free shuffleboard!).
- Idle Hour, 201 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 468-0357. This is one of the best dive bars in this part of the city. Quiet, not too crowded, and away from the frat party to the north. The cocktails can actually be pretty good, and worth a slightly higher price than you would find at a more off-the-beaten-path dive bar (which would pretty much be limited to gin & tonics and rye & sodas anyway). The patrons also tend to be a bit older and more mature, and there are rumors of hipsters, although it's a little doubtful you would find any in Federal Hill.
- Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge, 1025 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 727-5811, . W-Sa 5PM-1AM; shows on F-Sa nights, 8:30PM (reservations needed). They're not kidding—this is literally a magic bar, with magicians coming in to perform. Yes, the patter is a little corny, but the tricks are cool, the atmosphere is classy, and the stiff martinis are actually pretty good. All in all, this is a nice change of pace, if you are in the mood for something different.
- J Patrick's Irish Pub, 1371 Andre St, ☎ +1 410 244-8613, . Now this is a real Irish pub. (The City Paper declares it the city's best.) No gimmicks, just friendly servers and regulars, no TVs to take away from the good conversation, the best pour of Guinness in town, some very good Irish whiskeys lurking about, and even live Irish music F-Su, and Irish jam sessions M-W. As of mid-2013, J. Patrick's was closed indefinitely. Suggest calling or checking online before making the trip down.
- Mum's, 1144 S Hanover St, ☎ +1 410 547-7415. M-F 2PM-2AM, Sa-Su 1PM-2AM. Mum's is pure Baltimore. It's dark, dank, local, loud, and free of the occasionally awful wannabe-Jersey Shore Federal Hill crowd. It has been in the neighborhood a long time, and was reasonably well known in the punk/hardcore days of the city (they still occasionally have live music). If you feel like forgetting your evening and waking up in some random part of Baltimore, or potentially another town, try some shots of "Evil." Pool table in the back.
- Nevin's Cross St Station, 31 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 468-4078, . Tu-Su 5PM-2AM. It's a dirty, eccentric dive bar with cheap booze and fun, bad karaoke every night of the week save Monday. Interesting crowd!
- Pub Dog, 20 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 727-6077, . 5PM-2AM daily. A rare breed on Cross St, this is actually a pretty laid back pub with good pizza and even better microbrews—mostly fruit-infused. It's also a hit with dogs. The "Dog Deal" is a very impressive two (smallish) mugs of beer for $4.
- Ropewalk Tavern, 1209 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 727-1298, . M-Th 4:30PM-2AM, F-Su 11:30AM-2AM. Surprisingly, there do appear to be Republicans in Baltimore, and the only place you can reliably find them is at this bar/lounge, decorated with statues of conservative icon President Reagan. If Republican, you've found a haven full of like-minded singles. If not Republican, it's still a fun (and even kind of kitschy) party, with pool and good bar food.
- Sliders Bar & Grill, 504 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 547-8891. 10:30AM-2AM daily. This is likely the best bar by the Ravens and Orioles stadiums, a big sports bar that does most things right, in particular the regional craft beers on tap, the big LCDs, and the proud, friendly Baltimore sports loving crowd.
- Stalking Horse, 26 E Cross St, ☎ +1 410 244-6722, . M-Th 4PM-2AM, F-Su 11:30AM-2AM. The three floors are usually packed (especially intense F-Sa), with a popular sports bar up front and a second floor dance floor full of people dancing the night away to Top 40 under the influence of vodka red bull slushies (really). Half price crab cakes on Wednesday nights!
- Zeeba Lounge, 916 Light St, ☎ +1 410 539-7900, . Su,W-Th 6PM-midnight, F-Sa 6PM-4AM. Zeeba probably has Baltimore's swankiest hookah set up, with comfy seating, fairly expensive hookah, and good Middle Eastern food available. Clientele is surprisingly Middle Eastern. F-Sa nights have belly dancing starting at 10PM. Watch out for the barely advertised $10 minimum per patron. $10 minimum.
Federal Hill itself, cannons aimed at Downtown
Although Federal Hill is pretty and close to major attractions, it actually is devoid of any hotels. South Baltimore really isn't the place to stay, unless you are at one of the hotels just north of the stadiums, on the verge of the Inner Harbor and Downtown.
- Holiday Inn Express at the Stadiums, 1701 Russel St, ☎ +1 410 727-1818, . The location is a little blah. It's very close to Ravens Stadium, which is good, but it's surrounded by gas stations for refueling before hitting the highways. While close to Federal Hill, the walk back under the highway overpass at night would be too lonely and would suggest a cab. On the upside, though, it's cheap and has parking ($15/day), as well as an outdoor pool, gym, and business center. $100-140.
- Motel 6, 1401 Bloomfield Ave (Exit 50A off I-95 for southbound Caton Ave), ☎ +1 410 646-1700, . A dirt cheap place to crash, convenient to anyone with a car coming to Baltimore. The downside, though, is that the location is conveniently just off I-95, but inconveniently located in a seedy neighborhood that can attract a seedy element to the motel. $55-65.
- Bridge St Henrietta Square Apartments, 911 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 296-0900, . If you do want to stay in Federal Hill, the neighborhood, Bridge St Apartments is the only option. They essentially offer nice, serviced apartments with a five night stay minimum. $120-170/day.
- Hampton Inn Convention Center, 550 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 306-5105, . If the four diamond Hilton below is too pricey, you can always sleep across the street in the Hilton-owned three diamond Hampton Inn (which actually tends to get "better for the money" reviews). $145-180.
- Hilton Baltimore, 401 W Pratt St, ☎ +1 443 573-8700, . The Hilton is big, quite new, expensive, centrally located, and very nice. Big gym, heated indoor lap pool, sauna, and whirlpool. $210-280.
- Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, 110 S Eutaw St, ☎ +1 410 962-0202, . Upscale chain hotel just north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the M&T Bank Stadium (where the Ravens play), just a few blocks from the Convention Center. $180-300.
- Rachael's Dowry B&B, 637 Washington Blvd, ☎ +1 410 752-0805, . Rachael’s occupies one of the oldest surviving buildings in Historic Ridgely's Delight. This fully restored B&B is one block from the Baltimore Convention Center Hotels, the Orioles at Camden Yards, and the University of Maryland. $145-270.
The Federal Hill/Locust Point area actually has some pretty great coffeeshops for lazy, caffeinated wireless surfing.
- Koba Cafe, 644 E Fort Ave, ☎ +1 410 986-0366, . M-F 6:30AM-6PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-6PM. Free WiFi in a really pleasant setting, with good coffee drinks and sandwiches.
- Metropolitan Coffeehouse & Wine Bar, 902 S Charles St, ☎ +1 410 234-0235, . M-Th 7AM-10PM, F-Su 7AM-1:30AM. There is a lot to like about this place—quite good upscale food, wines by the glass or bottle, good coffee, and free WiFi! Cool music playing and a nice vibe that attracts a more mature crowd in Federal Hill.
- Peace & a Cup of Joe, 713 Pratt St, ☎ +1 410 869-4515, . M-F 7AM-7PM, Sa-Su 8:30AM-6PM. Free WiFi in Ridgeley's Delight right by Camden Yards, a devoted local following, open mic Th evenings, and Zeke's Coffee.
In the extreme south, particularly in and just around Cherry Hill, there are a few gang-ridden areas that you might want to avoid walking around, but for the most part South Baltimore is pretty safe, albeit looking rough around the edges. Except around the bars at closing time on weekends, Federal Hill is quite safe, Locust Point is always fine, and Pigtown is safe, if not always that friendly (definitely don't walk around there overdressed).
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