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.
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).
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.
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).
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
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).
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;
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).
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;
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
The article 'Mini guide to Boston, USA' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.