Mini guide to Boston, Massachusetts
Boston’s two tallest buildings, the Prudential Tower and Hancock Place, create the distinctive city skyline. (Jeff Overs/BBC)
Boston is America’s revolutionary town – for centuries it was the cultural and academic epicentre of the United States. This grand old dame of a city has daring museums, world-leading universities and some of the most progressive politics in the country.
The ICA is Boston’s showpiece contemporary museum of art – a striking glass building jutting above the waterfront. As well as housing installations and sculptures, the building’s theatre regularly hosts performance art showcases (100 Northern Avenue; closed Mon; admission £10).
The Freedom Trail is two-and-a half miles of revolutionary history. Beginning at Boston Common, the tour concludes at the USS Constitution – a frigate that fought off the British in the wars of independence. Take in the views from the Bunker Hill Monument.
Boston’s 34 Harbour Islands are a welcome retreat from the urban hubbub. Visit Georges Island’s Fort Warren or Little Brewster Island’s Boston Light lighthouse. Seasonal ferry services run from Boston Long Wharf North (ferries from £9).
Cambridge is home to two academic juggernauts – Harvard University and MIT. Leafy, café-lined squares and stately mansions belie the area’s history as a hotbed of progressive politics. Harvard operates free tours of its campus.
A Venetian-style palazzo houses the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, with a remarkable art collection including works by Michelangelo and Rembrandt. Also, if your name is Isabella, you get in for free (280 The Fenway; £8).
Eat and drink
Providing a master class in baking, Flour implores its customers to eat dessert first – cakes, brownies and cookies could well distract those popping in to lunch on gourmet sandwiches and pizzas at its canteen-like tables (12 Farnsworth St; cookies from £1).
Oleana, a pan- Mediterranean restaurant that’s situated in the neighbourhood of Inman Square, takes its inspiration from the cuisine of Greece and Morocco. The innovative range of meze options lead the charge on the menu (134 Hampshire St; meze dishes from £3).
Giacomo’s Ristorante is a worthy ambassador for southern Italian gastronomy. Its no-frills dishes nonetheless arrive in generous portions – try the zuppa di pesce, a dish involving shrimp, scallops, calamari and lobster (355 Hanover St; mains from £9).
The diminutive Ten Tables only has a handful of covers. The emphasis is on the kitchen, which makes the most of seasonal produce, with seafood given prominence – try the pan-seared bluefish with roasted Jerusalem artichokes (597 Centre St; mains from £13).
Sportello bills itself as a modern reinvention of a classic diner, serving up sophisticated soups and salads at lunch, with decadent polenta and pasta dishes in the evening (348 Congress St; mains from £13).
Beacon Inn is spread over two 19th-century brownstone buildings in Boston’s leafy suburb of Brookline. Rooms are named after a Boston landmark, personality or neighbourhood. Dark-wood panelling, Persian rugs and ornamental fireplaces all add to the old-world charm (1087 & 1750 Beacon St, from £70).
An Italianate mansion located in the bohemian Jamaica Plain area, Taylor House has been lovingly restored in more recent times. Three guestrooms are decorated with bold, contemporary art and furnished with polished wooden floors and sleigh beds (50 Burroughs St; from £90).
Despite the name, you don’t require any membership to stay the night at The College Club – a guesthouse run by an all-female graduate society (but open to male visitors). Bay windows and spacious rooms are typical of the Victorian houses in this part of the city (44 Commonwealth Ave; from £95).
Dating back to 1882, the Newbury Guest House occupies three interconnected townhouses on Boston’s historic Newbury Street. Period rooms come with moulded ceilings and carved mantles (261 Newbury St; from £100).
A swanky hotel in a downtown high-rise, Omni Parker House is hands down Boston’s most historic hotel – Charles Dickens lived here for two years, Malcolm X worked in the kitchen, Ho Chi Minh was a pastry chef and the Boston cream pie – the official state dessert – was invented here (60 School St; from £130).
When to go
Autumn is the time to catch New England’s legendary autumn foliage in all its glory. Harborfest in July is a week-long Independence Day celebration, while October heralds the Head of the Charles Regatta.
MBTA operates buses within Boston – routes can be confusing, so check their website’s journey planner (standard fare £1). Boston’s subway system is America’s oldest, with four lines extending into the city’s suburbs (from £1.25).
Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American Airlines and BA fly to Boston’s Logan International airport from Heathrow (from £360). From any of Logan’s terminals, take the free shuttle bus to the airport subway station – trains reach downtown Boston in 30 minutes (£1.50).