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See also Greater Boston.

Boston is the largest city in New England, the capital of Massachusetts, and one of the most historic and influential in the USA.

Hancock Tower, Copley Square


Boston is a city of neighborhoods, many of which were originally towns in their own rights before being assimilated into the city itself. These neighborhoods still go by their original names and people will often tell you they are from "JP" (Jamaica Plain) or "Eastie" (East Boston) rather than from "Boston." Alternatively, people from the suburbs will tell you they are from Boston when in fact they are not, but live in one of the nearby (or even outlying) suburbs. If in doubt, you can look for "Resident Parking Only" signs which will tell you what neighborhood you are in.

Each neighborhood and neighboring city has more specific listings than what's on this page.

City of Boston

The official limits of the city, or "Boston Proper" as it is sometimes called. It is here where most of the buildings that comprise the city's skyline are located.

Boston neighborhoods (aka):

Allston and Brighton are very small and abutting; you will often hear it called Allston-Brighton. They are connected to the rest of the city by a narrow neck of land between the Charles River and the City of Brookline.

East Boston is on a peninsula across Boston Harbor from the main bulk of the city; it's next to Logan Airport.

Charlestown is across the Charles River, on the part of the mainland where Cambridge and Somerville are located. It's where you'll find the Bunker Hill Monument.

The South End, North End, South Boston, and the West End are not the neighborhoods farthest in these respective directions.

The Back Bay is one of the few neighborhoods with a grid-like street network. The cross-streets are named after Massachusetts towns and arranged in alphabetical order: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester (pronounced gl-OWW-ster), and Hereford. After Hereford is Massachusetts Avenue (or Mass Ave, as it is commonly known) and then Charlesgate, which marks the boundary of Back Bay. (Trivia fact: the alphabetical streets continue on the far side of Massachusetts Avenue in the Fenway neighborhood, with Ipswitch, Jersey, and Kilmarnock -- but at that point, it's no longer a grid.)

There are also several "districts" you might hear mentioned. "Districts" are generally areas of common interest located within a larger neighborhood:

  • Financial District (downtown)
  • Leather District (downtown)
  • SoWa District (South of Washington, South End)
  • Theatre District (between Chinatown and Bay Village)
  • Waterfront District (South Boston)

Neighboring Cities

Though technically speaking not Boston, these cities are in many ways a part of the city and are an essential component to any visit to Boston.

  • Cambridge - Across the Charles River, Cambridge is home to both MIT and Harvard, as well as many research laboratories and tons of great, student-priced food.

The inner suburbs of Boston are contained within the ring formed by Route 128 (more recently christened Interstate 95 for the purposes of garnering federal funding), which is famous for its many high-technology companies. The outer suburbs are contained within the ring formed by Interstate 495.

  • Newton
  • Waltham
  • Watertown


American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once called Boston "the hub of the solar system", but common usage has expanded to the now-current Hub of the Universe. This half-serious term is all you need to know to understand Boston's complicated self-image. Vastly important in American history, and for centuries the seat of the USA's social elite, Boston lost prominence in the early twentieth century, largely to the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Boston has regained political, cultural, and economic importance. Is it the center of everything? Don't expect a straight answer from a wry Bostonian.

The city was founded in 1630 by members of the Massachusetts colony, Puritan religious dissidents who had fled England to find freedom in the New World. It rapidly assumed a leading role in the fledgling New England region, with a booming economy based on trade with the Caribbean and Europe. The devastating Fire of 1760 destroyed much of the town, but within a few years the city had bounced back.

Boston was the center of America's revolutionary activity during the Colonial period; several of the first Revolutionary War skirmishes were fought there, including the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill; the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought nearby. The residents' ardent support of independence earned the city the nickname The Cradle of Liberty.

Throughout the 19th century, Boston continued to grow rapidly, assimilating outlying towns into the metropolitan core. Its importance in American culture was inestimable, and its economic and literary elite, the so-called Boston Brahmins assumed the mantle of aristocracy in the United States. Harvard College in nearby Cambridge became, and in many ways remains, America's premier center of learning.

At the same time, the city's working class swelled with immigrants from Europe. The huge Irish influx made Boston one of the most important Irish cities in the world -- in or out of Ireland. Gradually the Irish laborer population climbed into city's upper class, evidenced no better than by the continued importance of the Kennedy family in national politics.

From the early twentieth century until the 1970s, Boston's importance on the national stage waned. Cities in what was once the frontier, like Chicago, San Francisco, and later Los Angeles, shifted the nation's center of gravity away from liberty's cradle. In the past two decades, Boston's importance and influence has increased, due to growth in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services. It remains America's higher educational center--during the school year, one in five Bostonians is a univerity student.

Get in

By plane

From Logan: The MBTA Blue line is reasonably convenient and inexpensive provided that you are not carrying much luggage. Several free Massport shuttles provide connectivity to rail, water transit, and parking. For the Blue Line, look for the one with the electronic sign that says "SUBWAY". After about midnight, you'll need to take a cab or have someone pick you up.

Driving to Logan, take the Callahan Tunnel. Driving to Downtown Boston, take the Sumner Tunnel (toll). The new Ted Williams Tunnel (Massachusetts Turnpike Extension / Interstate 90) is also now open to two-way traffic; it connects with the Central Artery (Interstate 93) downtown; check the Big Dig site for details on the new interchange and construction detours.

By train

Amtrak arrives at South Station, which intersects with the MBTA Red Line. You can take the Amtrak Northeast Corridor or Acela Express from South Station all the way to DC and beyond. Average Acela time from Boston to Philadelphia is about 5 hours, New York City in 3.

Some trains also stop at the Back Bay Station (MBTA Orange Line).

Arriving by train has the advantage of putting you within easy reach of most downtown destinations by public transit.

By car

Boston has two major highways entering it, I-93 and I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike, or "Mass Pike", or "Pike"). I-93 enters the city from the north and the south; the Pike enters Boston from the West. The Mass Pike is a toll road - expect to pay $1.00 to enter the city via the Pike. There are minor roads, of course, that enter Boston as well, including Route 9 (Old Worcester Turnpike).

There are many car rental places around Boston, but one of the most unique is Zipcar, an hourly car rental service. If you don't plan to do much driving, this may be an economical alternative to owning a car.

The Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) is a toll road, as is the Sumner Tunnel (coming from the airport only), the Ted Williams Tunnel, and the Tobin Bridge (southbound/from the North Shore only).

Get around

Navigation on city streets is very hard if you're not familiar with the area. There are many one-way streets, usually arranged haphazardly and poorly marked for drivers. Parking is expensive, and traffic can be slow - watch out for lots of double-parked vehicles. The drivers are also notorious for being aggressive. Especially avoid driving during Rush Hour on weekdays; the streets become extremely crowded. For the most part, the highways are clear outside of Rush Hour. The recent completion of the Big Dig means the Central Artery through downtown and the new tunnel to the airport are particularly quick, though confusingly signed.

For most tourist destinations in Boston and Cambridge, it's usually advisable to leave your car behind and take the subway. You'll do a bit more walking, but that will give you a chance to see the sights.

Visit for semi-real-time updates about traffic.

Public transit

Public transit in Boston is generally adequate and relatively inexpensive, and can take you directly to most points of interest. A single public transit agency serves the Boston Metro area, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority ("MBTA", or "the T" for short). For complete schedules, maps, and other information, see their official website at

The T consists of several components: subway, bus, water shuttles, and commuter rail. The subway is composed of four color-coded light rail lines: orange, red, blue, and green. The Red and Orange lines travel generally north-south; the Blue and Green lines travel generally east-west. The Green Line splits into four branches going west and are known as the B, C, D and E lines; the Red Line splits in two directions going south and are known as the Braintree and Mattapan branches. Going west on the Green Line, the E line branches off at Copley Square station, the other three split at Kenmore Square station. Going south, the Red Line splits at JFK/UMass station. Subway maps usually also include the Commuter Rail (long-distance heavy rail) which is color-coded purple, and the Silver Line, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line currently under expansion. Collectively, the light rail and Silver Lines are known as Rapid Transit, and they all converge downtown.

Note that subway and light rail service generally stops between midnight and 1am, though Owl bus service is available on these and certain other routes until 2:30am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Unlimited-ride passes are available from the T for short periods of time. If you're going to be riding a lot around town, these are worth investigating. See for complete fare information.

The cost of a single ride on the T is $1.25. Buy a token from the booth to go through the turn stiles. This will get you to most destinations, although if you are going to the outskirts of Boston, an extra charge may apply. You might as well get two tokens if you are planning a return trip as their can sometimes be long lines at the token booth. Parking at the Alewife station on the Red line is ample but will cost you $4.50 no matter when you come and go (for each 24 hour period).

By foot

Boston is a very compact city, given that walking was the predominant form of transportation for most of the city's history. Most of the major attractions can be visited on foot, although the climate is rather cold from December to April.

Within intersections, mob rule is generally observed, and pedestrians rarely wait for the "walk" signal. Be careful when crossing the streets.



  • Institute of Contemporary Art 955 Boylston St (Hynes/ICA Station, Green B, C, or D line). 617-266-5152
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 280 The Fenway (MFA Station, Green E Line). 617-566-1401
  • John F. Kennedy Library and Museum Columbia Point, Dorchester (JFK/UMass Station, Any Red Line).
  • Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. (MFA Station, Green E Line), 617-267-9300.
  • Museum of Science Science Park (Science Park Station, Any Green Line), 617-723-2500.
  • Boston Children's Museum 300 Congress Street, Boston. (Downtown.) For directions and more info, see:
  • New England Aquarium Central Wharf, Boston. (Blue Line to Aquarium) Great fun for kids of all ages. 617-973-5200


  • Third Monday in April: Boston Marathon The oldest marathon in the US, commemorating Paul Revere's ride in 1775. The surrounding Patriot's Day festivities celebrate the start of the American Revolution in that year with the battles of Lexington and Concord (suburbs of Boston). The finish line is in Copley Square. Parts of Commonwealth Avenue outbound from there and surrounding streets are closed for the race.
  • June: Boston Pride The second-largest event in the city after the Fourth of July. Boston's LBGT community - and everyone else - comes out for a fabulous parade from Copley Square, through the South End, to Boston Common. Many other social events are scheduled around this weekend.
  • The Fourth of July: Independence Day Boston's Independence Day celebration. Started by Arthur Fiedler and philanthropist David Mugar. The Boston Pops plays to standing-room-only crowds on the Charles River Esplanade, followed by fireworks just after dusk. Televised nationally. Get there a few hours before dark if you want a good seat (or any seat) on the Esplanade or on the Memorial Drive side in Cambridge. It's an excellent opportunity for a picnic. Parts of Storrow Drive in Boston, Memorial Drive in Cambridge, and Massachusetts Avenue on and near the Harvard Bridge are closed due to extremely heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • Late August: The Feast of St. Anthony. The biggest of several Feasts in the North End. This one includes lots of food vendors, games, music, and a parade on Hanover Street and environs. (If I'm not mistaken, they have also had fireworks on the waterfront in the past.)
  • December 31/January 1: First Night Boston's New Year's Eve celebration, a city-wide arts and culture event. The events begin at about 4PM on New Year's Eve, and culminate in fireworks on the waterfront. Dress warmly.


  • Boston Common and Public Garden A must-see for all visitors during the warmer months. Accessible from Park Street (Green, Red Lines), Boylston (Green Line), and Arlington (Green Line), and a short walk from any other downtown station. Ride the famous Swan Boats and generally enjoy the park with its shady trees, fountains, statues, sidewalk vendors, and greenery. Visit the "Cheers" bar. A great starting point for visitors interested in local historical sights, or on your way to Downtown Crossing or the Back Bay. Very nice foliage in the fall. Technically, the part west of Charles St. is the Public Garden, and the eastern part is Boston Common.
  • Freedom Trail A 2.5 mile walking tour of 16 historic sites that travels through Beacon Hill, downtown Boston, the North End and Charlestown. Includes the USS Constitution and the Old North Church.
  • Faneuil Hall, downtown Boston. (Green Line to Government Center) Faneuil Hall contains Quincy Market, a great set of mainly tourist-oriented shops and eateries. You can also find the Old State House and colonial meeting hall here.
  • Copley Square. (Green Line to Copley) Take a Duck Tour, enjoy the fountains, visit the top of the John Hancock building, see the Boston Public Library, or go shopping.
  • Fenway Park The home of the Boston Red Sox ( Take a B, C, or D Green Line train to Kenmore Station. You'll also be able to see the famous Citgo Sign. There are a few good restaurants in the Square. The local architecture is quite attractive. A short walk to the East is the grassy boulevard of Commonwealth Avenue, and to the West is Boston University, which has some interesting landmark structures.
  • Minuteman Bikeway (T Red Line to Davis or Alewife). One of the most heavily used rail trails in the United States, this eleven mile paved path closely follows the route taken at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.


The biggest shopping areas in the inner Metro are the indoor malls in Cambridge and the Back Bay. Both have ample parking and a wide variety of restaurants, from fast food to classy sit-down.

The Cambridgeside Galleria is accessible by T from Lechmere Station (Take the Green Line D or E or one of many buses, cross under the tracks, then go straight ahead) or by free shuttle ("The Wave") from just outside the Kendall/MIT station on the Red Line. Restaurants include the Cheesecake Factory and a food court; shopping includes a convenience store, Best Buy, department stores, lots of clothes, bookstores, and everything else, at mainstream retail prices.

Prudential Center is accessible on the Green Line from Hynes Convention Center/ICA/Auditorium (B/C/D), Prudential (E), and Copley (all branches).

Copley Place connects with Prudential Center via an overhead pedestrian walkway. It houses a movie theater, lots of upscale shopping (including Nieman Marcus and Tiffany's), restaurants, and connects with several large hotels. Accessible via Copley (all Green Line branches) and Back Bay (Orange Line, some Commuter Rail lines) Stations.

More local color can be experienced outdoors at any of several popular commercial areas:

Newbury Street: Bay Bay, Boston. A wonderfully dense avenue colored by historic brownstones and lots of shops and restaurants. Extremely expensive near Boston Common, but gradually becoming more affordable as you move toward Massachusetts Avenue. One block north from Boylston Street (Arlington, Copley, Hynes Convention Center stop on the Green Line) which is similar but less so. Traffic can be very slow on Newbury Street itself; take parallel streets unless you have time to see the sights from your car.

Downtown Crossing: Downtown Boston. It is obligatory to visit the world-famous Filene's Basement. Unlike most other stores of the same name, this flagship outlet is actually underground. Bargain Alley has the distinctive feature of the Automatic Markdown plan - every week, the items in this area get 25% cheaper, until they are either sold or donated to charity. Many excellent deals can be found on merchandise floating down from the larger department store upstairs. The aisles here are narrow, and the store is usually busy, so avoid bringing lots of shopping bags in by stopping here first. The rest of Downtown Crossing features large Macy's and Borders, music stores, souvenirs, general retail, and lots of street vendors and quick food. Accessible from Downtown Crossing (Red and Orange Lines) or a short walk from any other downtown T stop. An underground passage exists for free transfers between Park Streer and Downtown Crossing stations, but there is shopping above-ground on Park Street as well.

Harvard Square: Cambridge. Take a tour of the University and the Yard, visit the historic cemetery, shop around. Several excellent bookstores, plenty of restaurants and cafes. See the famous chess tables outside Au Bon Pain where a scene in Good Will Hunting was filmed. Walk past the offices of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, and say hello to the punks. A short walk down to the scenic Charles River. Street musicians often play near the famous Out of Town News. Accessible from Harvard Station (Red Line, many buses).

Coolidge Corner: Brookline. A little less urban, more like your local village shops. Take the C Branch of the Green Line. Beacon Street has interesting shops along most of its length.


Boston has excellent seafood from the nearby New England coast. Local specialties include baked beans, cod, and clam chowder. Another local specialty is ice cream.

A variety of excellent ethnic restaurants can be found in Chinatown and the North End (Italian).

The best sit-down restaurants can be quite crowded in the evenings on weekends. Unless you have a reservation, be prepared to wait anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how refined your tastes are.

If you are indecisive, visit one of the outdoor commercial areas listed in the previous section (or the Prudential) and walk around until you find something that sounds tasty and in your price range.


The North End is full of Italian eateries, and it's certain that you'll find something here to your liking. Take the Green or Orange Lines to the Haymarket T, follow the pedestrian passageway through the Big Dig, and then follow the signs to Hanover Street, the main commercial thoroughfare. Most of the good restaurants are on this street or on side streets. While you're here, may we recommend:

  • Mike's Pastry, 300 Hanover St, Boston. Wherever you eat in the North End, do not order dessert. Instead, hop on down to Mike's for the Western Hemisphere's best cannolis. (Cannolis are an Italian pastry dessert filled with a wonderful sweet cheese.) We kid you not - check out the pictures on the walls, where you'll see former Presidents of the United States shaking hands with the store's owners. There's also a rich selection of other deserts available, and a small number of tables for sit-down service. Mike's can get quite busy, especially at night on the weekends. But don't worry; the line moves quickly and the staff will quickly package your selection for you take elsewhere to enjoy. (You'll probably be able to find Mike's just by following the trail of people carrying their trademark string-tied white boxes.) 617-742-3050
  • Pizzeria Regina, 11 1/2 Thacher St., Boston. Not on Hanover Street and a little hard to find (bring a map) and a bit crowded on weekends, but well worth it. This is where the locals go to get their pizza. No credit cards accepted - cash only. 617-227-0765. There's also a fast-food style booth (?) at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
  • Al Dente Ristorante, 109 Salem St., Boston. This Italian gem has an amazing selection. Choose your pasta type (about a dozen) and then choose your sauce (also about a dozen). For a truly excellent combo, try one of their homemade pastas with a the tangy vodka sauce. Lap the extra sauce down with the fresh bread and clear your pallet with some nice cold Peroni beer.

Outside the North End:

  • Vinnie Testas. Extremely good (one opinion) / ordinary (another) Italian food in extremely large quantities, for cheap. Bring a friend or five to help you eat. Several New England locations; in the Boston metro area are: Back Bay - 867 Boylston Street, Boston, 617-262-6699 (take the Green Line to Hynes Convention Center/Auditorium or Copley Square) and 1700 Beacon Street, Brookline, 617-277-3400 (take the C Branch of the Green Line to Tappan St.)


  • Bob the Chef's, 604 Columbus Ave., Boston 617-536-6204. Inexpensive Southern/Cajun food in the South End. Very friendly, large portions, live jazz Thurs-Sun.
  • South Street Diner, 178 Kneeland Street, Boston (near South Station), 617-350-0028. A great 50s-style, 24-hour diner.
  • Durgin-Park, Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Famous for their service with attitude. Wholesome New England fare, especially prime rib, lobster. 617-227-2038.
  • Silvertone Bar and Brill, 69 Bromfield St. Very good "new American" food, right near Boston Common. 617-338-7887


  • Legal Seafood, multiple locations, including at Kendall/MIT (Red Line) and the Prudential Center mall. Legal Seafood is a Boston original - well, technically Cambridge, since it started as a fish market in Inman Square, Cambridge. Legal Seafood is known for its excellent, fresh fish, New England Clam Chowder, and curt, abrupt service. Expect to pay between $25-$30/person at dinner.
  • Barking Crab, 88 Sleeper Street. MBTA: Red line to South Station. $20-30 per person. Excellent seafood and American cuisine. Outdoor dining in a clam shack atmosphere, overlooks Boston Harbor and view of downtown. Kid friendly. Live music daily.
  • Union Oyster House, 41 Union Street. MBTA: Green or Blue Line to Government center. $30-50 per person. Oldest continually operating restaurant in the US. Comfortable atmosphere. A favorite of John F. Kennedy.


  • Buddha's delight two locations- Chinatown and coolidge corner; they serve Chinese food with tofu, fake chicken, fake beef, fake's actually all quite good. their spring rolls are very good; as is their taro. A complete vegan restaurant
  • Grasshopper in Union Square in Allston - another strictly vegan Asian restaurant with a definite Vietnamese influence. Very delicious and (arguably) better than Buddha's Delight. Lunch specials under $6, dinner between $7 - $14 for entrees.


  • Abe and Louie's, 793 Boylston Street, +1 617-536-6300. Su-Th 11:30AM-11PM, 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, however.
  • Fugakyu, Beacon Street, Brookline (Coolidge Corner). Some of the best sushi in town. It truly lives up to the meaning of its name, "house of exquisite excellence." Don't worry about bringing people who don't like sushi, as they have an extensive menu (many pages) of cooked food and appetizers including shabu-shabu, tempura, katsu, sukiyaki, teriyaki, along with plenty of vegetarian options. There are many private dining rooms for 4 to 20 people that can be requested at the door for smaller parties - reservations are only made for larger groups, along with a large number of open-floor tables.
  • Top of the Hub, Prudential Center, Boston. Dine in luxury at the top of the Prudential Building, the second tallest building in the city. Light jazz, excellent food, and outrageous prices accompany a view of the city and everything around. On a clear day, you can see Maine and Cape Cod. Expect to pay $40/person, $60-80 with drinks at dinner.


With a large Irish population, Boston has a number of very good Irish pubs.

  • Doyle's Cafe, Washington Street (Jamaica Plain). An Irish pub.
  • The Burren, Davis Square (Somerville). An Irish pub once said to pour more Guinness than any other in North America.
  • J.J. Foley's, Downtown Crossing (Boston). Hard-drinking Irish bar for the downtown crowd.





Stay safe

Crime and other hazards in Boston are low for a major American city. Some neighborhoods (Roxbury, Dorchester, Charlestown, and parts of Jamaica Plain - all of which are off the beaten tourist path) are more dangerous than average, and extra care should be taken. Avoid walking in these areas at night if possible. Also avoid public parks after dark (unless there's a special event), especially the Fens.

Dial 911 from any telephone for emergency police, medical, and fire services.


Greater Boston uses 10-digit dialing. This means you need to include the area code whenever you are making a call. The standard area code is 617, but some phone numbers, especially cell phones, use the new 857 overlay.

Get out

Boston makes an excellent starting point for any tour of New England.

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