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Touring the Boston, Mass. Neighborhoods

Acord Street, a Boston neighborhood at Beacon Hill
Acorn St., a Beacon Hill Boston neighborhood.

by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/09/16

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Boston, Mass., is a one-of-a-kind city that boasts neighborhoods so diverse that sometimes you'll think you're in a different city every time you blink.

That's good news for the tourist who wants to see a variety of historical and modern city attractions, many within walking distance of each other. Compact yet somewhat confusing to navigate, Boston isn't your typical city that's built on a cookie-cutter grid. It's more like a labyrinth on steroids. It seems the only neighborhood that isn't present in Boston is Mr. Rogers'.

So, put on your Boston Red Sox cap, drop the Rs in your words, beep your horn at someone for driving too slow (10 miles over the speed limit) and enjoy this sampling of some of Boston's best neighborhoods for visiting tourists:

The most popular tourist area is downtown Boston with the Boston Common, Boston Public Garden (with the Swan Boats rides in the summer), and  lots of shopping and dining opportunities at the historic Faneuil Hall area.  Faneuil Hall, also known as Quincy Market, is perhaps Boston's most popular tourist attraction with 100-plus combination of retail stores, restaurants, bakeries and ice cream stops offering visitors a charming retail and dining destination Steeped in history as a meeting place for the country's "movers and shakers" to convene prior to the American Revolution, Faneuil Hall Marketplace was eventually restored and gentrified into a wonderful tourist attraction.  It consists of the original 1742 building and two other restored buildings.

The North End, about a 10-minute walk from Faneuil Hall, offers colorful Italian neighborhoods, charming narrow streets and wonderful, authentic Italian restaurants (al Dente, Mamma Maria, Giacomo's to name a few) and bakeries (Mike's Pastry is amazing!). The North End is the home of the original Regina Pizzeria, turning out amazing Italian-style pizza in brick ovens since 1926. Commercial St. leads to the Boston waterfront with fine dining opportunities and the world-class New England Aquarium at Central Wharf. You could spend a day at the Aquarium which seems, at times, like it has more fish than in the sea!

East Boston is a closely-knit, series of largely Italian neighborhoods, home of Logan Airport and the famous Santarpio's pizza  - perhaps the best Italian pizza we've ever sampled. Because it's on the other side of Boston Harbor, the skyline views in certain areas are simply amazing!

On the west side of the downtown is Beacon Hill -- bound by bound by Beacon St., Bowdoin St., Cambridge St., and Storrow Drive -- with its brick sidewalks, gas lamps, million dollar brownstone neighborhoods, and the stately, historic Massachusetts State House (which you can tour). Charles Street is quaint, with many antique and specialty shops and dining ranging from basic to upscale and romantic. We especially like the Paramount, with two personalities: cafeteria-style dining for lunch and dinner and a romantic dimly-lit bistro at night.  Cambridge Street, another commercial area near Beacon Hill, has a history of being a bit shabby, but has really neatened itself up with more upgrades on the way.  Along Cambridge Street are many restaurants and shops as well as access to Storrow Drive -- the perfect place to walk, or jog along the scenic Charles River.

The Copley Square and Back Bay areas offer the European flair of Newbury Street, fine hotels and restaurants, an upscale intown shopping mall at Copley Place and the Boston Public Library -- the largest municipal library in the United States. Two of Boston's tallest buildings, the Prudential and John Hancock interestingly contrast with historic landmarks like H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church. The trendy South End is nearby with its diverse lifestyles, arts scene, grand old building residences and small, quaint restaurants.

The Fens and Kenmore Square area feature historic Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox), lots of nightlife on Landsdowne Street and beyond, and other college hangouts given that world renowned Boston University (BU) resides primarily on Commonwealth Ave. Allston and Brighton are located on the west side of Boston University and feature BU and Boston College neighborhoods, bars, restaurants and shops. On the Fens side, the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart  Gardner Art Museum and Symphony Hall lend a true cultural feel to the area, given their world-renowned reputations.

South Boston, or "Southie" has working class leanings, Irish pubs, two-family homes with small yards and architectural charm, and the benefit of Castle Island area, a coastal recreational area perfect for walking, hiking, swimming, fishing or grabbing a hot dog or hamburger at Sullivan's take-out stand.perhaps the jewel of New England antique shopping destinations, is best appreciated by walking the quaint downtown.



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