Boston, or Beantown, as it’s often referred to as, is the kind of city where old feels new, history is cemented in the streets, and on one corner you’ll find Irish pub and on the next a gourmet resto. It’s a place of contradictions, but the kind that will only enhance your experience. We loved Boston for its charming neighbourhoods, abundance of culture and . Not sure where to stay? Check out our top three hotel picks then read on to find out 10 things not to be missed while visiting.
1. Museum of Fine Arts
We’re museum-types, so checking out this great art museum, was high on our list of things to do. Considered to have one of the most comphrehensive art collections in the world, the MFA has almost 450,000 pieces of art from all over the globe including an extensive Japan collection, Egyptian treasures and also boasts the largest collection of Monet’s outside of Paris. In November 2010, the new MFA will open, expanding the Art of the Americas wing, adding a state-of-the-art auditorium and glass courtyard, among other things. Don’t expect to see the entire museum in one afternoon. We suggest exploring the Impressionist collection, some of the contemporary (you’ll find Warhol, Segal) and European masterpieces from greats like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gauguin and Renoir. Visiting on a Wednesday night? After 4 p.m. it’s suggested donation only. Any other night, admission for adults is $20.
2. Public Garden
It won’t cost you a penny to stroll through this urban oasis. Meandering paths, well-manicured gardens and bronzed sculptures fill the green space, as well as the famous pond complete with swan boats. The garden itself is the oldest botanical garden in America, and the swan boasts have been around since 1877. While you’ll mainly find families taking out the boats, it’s a nice place to take a break from shopping, plan a morning run here or just enjoy the nature in the city.
3. Harvard University & Harvard Square
What’s a trip to Boston, without visiting the world-reowned institute? Expect to see students and tourists galore, bustling around, popping in and out of the Harvard Book Store and dining in Harvard Square. If you’re really into to history of the school, then definitely take a student-led tour. Otherwise strolling through the courtyard, past the library (only open to students), and John Harvard statue will give you a taste of the ivy-league school. Take an hour or so to explore Harvard Square, as you’ll find cute shops, from clothing to books. Our favourite find was Black Ink, full of “unexpected necessities” like cards, wrapping paper, funny books and home accessories.
4. Fanueil Hall Marketplace
Also known as Quincy Market, Fanueil Hall Marketplace has been a part of Boston for over 250 years. Adjacent to the waterfront, this is a destination for food and drink. From sit-down restaurants like U.K. import Wagamama, to coffee shops, ice cream vendors and fresh seafood fare, it’s impossible not to find something that will fancy your tastebuds, even if it’s just a gourmet cup of java. It definitely is a tourist destination, and many families come to see the street performers, so either get there right in the morning or later in the afternoon to miss the crowds.
5. Newbury Street
We had the most shopping luck on this street. From our favourite find Pinkyotto, to some cute street vendors (we both bought two vintage-style necklaces), and your standard chain shops — like Zara, Banana Republic and H&M, to more high end boutiques like Kate Spade, Diane Von Furstenberg and Nanette Lepore — everything you could want is pretty much here. Plus it’s a charming stroll and you’ll find great dining here too.
6. Beacon Hill
Brick sidewalks, gas-lit lanterns and narrow streets, are just some of the features that make this neighbourhood so lovely. Just north of the Public Garden, the best way to access get there is via Charles Street, home to some very cute boutiques, restaurants and antique shops.
7. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Unlike your traditional museum, this private collection of more than 2,500 pieces, is showcased in a 15-century Venetian-style mansion, designed by its owner, Isabella Stewart Gardner. Gardner, opened the space to the public in 1903 after spending years collecting important and valuable pieces her entire life — from Titian, Rembrandt and Sargent. In 1990 the museum faced a major heist in which 13 pieces of art were stolen. Due to Gardner’s strict orders not to move a single item in the museum, you’ll notice empty spaces with just a plaque where the stolen art once hung. Unique and beautiful, it’s a museum not to be missed. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., adult ticket price $12.
8. Listen to Music
Home to the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, getting musically versed while visiting feels like a no-brainer. We love the idea of going out to Symphony Hall for an evening of classical music or checking out the Pops, who are known for their repertoires containing popular music renditions. Check bso.org for schedule and ticket prices.
9. Visit the Islands
Ideal in the warmer months, taking a day trip to the islands is a must if want to experience as much of the outdoors as you can. The easiest way to get there is by, which offers daily departures on the hour to the two most popular islands: Georges and Spectacle. History buffs will enjoy the civil war fort on Georges Island, while Spectacle Island is more for beaching, and hiking. We suggest packing a picnic lunch and making an afternoon out of it. A return ticket is $14 for adults and will get you to both islands.
10. Duck Tour
It’s impossible to miss the big colourful buses drive through the streets of Boston — visit on a weekend in the summer and they seem to go by every 15 minutes. The Boston Duck Tours is probably the most well-known and best tour you’ll get of the city – we even had locals recommend it to us. Departing at either the Museum of Science or Prudential Center, the tour is about 80 minutes and passes by many of the city’s sights and neighbourhoods including Beacon Hill, Cheers and the Boston Public Library. The highlight of the tour however, is when the vehicle splashes into the Charles River, offering views of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. Tickets are $31/adult.
WHERE TO FIND:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave., Avenue of the Arts, Boston MA; 617-267-9300
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
280 Fenway, Boston MA; 617-566-1401
301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston MA; 617-266-1409