The Essential Guide to Boston

A year ago I moved to Boston for nine months, accompanying my husband who pursued his Master’s degree there. In honor of this anniversary I’m sharing with you a guide to getting around Boston including things to see and do, lovely neighborhoods, where to eat and of course shop!!

What to see and do

The Freedom trail is a nice way to explore downtown Boston and see important sites linked to the outbreak of the American Revolution. The trail is marked with red pavement stones, so you are not going to miss it. While walking on the trail you will come across Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market. The latter is a shopping and dining center ideal for a pit stop along the way!

Boston is famous not only for the role it played in the American Revolution, but also for its first class Universities; Among them, Harvard is the first higher education institution in the US, having been founded in 1636. Harvard University and the neighboring area of Harvard Square were among the first places I visited in Boston. I loved walking in Harvard Yard, visiting the Harvard Art Museums and dining at Alden & Harlow!

Related: Exploring Harvard Square

Since we are on the University front, I suggest you stop over at MIT too (that’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology for you). Not so much for the history (though my engineer friends and family did visit the university for prestige reasons) but for the best modern building you can find in Boston: The Stata Center designed by Frank Gehry (if you’re a regular here you probably know I’m a fan).

Boston Public Library

Another beautiful building worth visiting is the Boston Public Library right on Copley Square. The reading room is an Instagram favorite, but I like the grand staircase the most!

Boston Public Garden

Boston is a very green city and coming from Athens, which is not famous for its parks and gardens, I loved walking around the parks and gardens that Boston has to offer. Boston’s Public Garden is on top of my list. It looks beautiful at all seasons but especially during fall and spring! Another park that I love (as it has a rose garden as well) is Fenway, behind the Museum of Fine Arts. If you have time and want to explore more parks head to Arnold Abroretum, which can be reached by talking the T Orange Line all the way to Forest Hills! Related: Exploring Boston’s Parks and Gardens

As far as Museums go, there are a lot to visit in Boston (and Cambridge): the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), the Harvard Art Museums, the Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art. I’ve visited the MFA a couple of times taking advantage of the fact that Bank of America cardholders get in free during the first weekend of each month! Apart from the permanent collections there are also periodic ones worth seeing!

Interesting Neighborhoods

For me the best way to explore a city is by walking around residential areas. I could happily trade 2 hours in a museum with 2 hours walking around (and taking pictures). Luckily, Boston is full or interesting neighborhoods to explore:

Beacon Hill: This area is one of the oldest and most affluent ones in Boston. It is filled with classy townhouses and picturesque streets like Acorn (also dubbed the most photographed street in the US). John Kerry lives here too, just so you know. Related: Exploring Beacon Hill

Back Bay: The Street I particularly like in this neighborhood is Commonwealth Avenue. It really evokes house envy in me and looks particularly beautiful when the magnolias are in full bloom. It’s also a shopping destination as I will explain further on! Related: Exploring Back Bay

South End: My favorite neighborhood in Boston by far! It looked beautiful even after Juno dumped half a meter of snow last January! Favorite spots include Union Park and Rutland Square. Related: Exploring South End

Chinatown Boston

Downtown/Chinatown: This area  is full of shops (hello Macy’s), restaurants and theaters. I highly suggest you attend a play from the Boston Ballet if you have the time!

Davis Square, Somerville: This spot is a bit further from Boston but had to include it as I lived nearby. It’s a lovely residential area but has also many top notch restaurants and bars!

Shopping

Newbury Street is Boston’s most famous shopping street. Here you are going to find (almost) everything from Burberry to Forever 21. Boylston Street is also a shopping destination with stores like Crate&Barrell, Apple store, Gucci etc. You can also check out The Shops at Prudential Center and Copley Place, which are interlinked with a bridge so you don’t have to get out in the cold during winter. On Downtown Crossing you are going to find Macy’s, which is a favorite shopping destination of mine for affordable clothing! If you are looking for a mall then I suggest Cambridgeside Galleria (easily accessible with the T’s Green Line), which was a lifesaver for me when I moved to Boston. I shopped clothes, skincare items, underwear and even my mobile plan, all under one roof! Ideal for rainy days too!

Where to eat

Lobster Roll, Legal Seafoods Boston

Boston has so many options when it comes to dining, but if I was going to give you just one suggestion that would definitely be seafood! I’ve written an extensive foodie’s guide to Boston where I’ve listed all my favorite restaurants and cafes!

When to visit

I would say that anytime between May and November would be ideal for Boston. I particularly loved the fall foliage which is most prominent in October. Boston is also pretty in mid-April when the Magnolias and Cherry trees bloom.

Suggested excursions

Boston is located in such a prime spot for excursions in New England. During my stay I visited Salem (of witch-hunt fame) three times and took a day trip to Rhode Island (Newport and Providence) as well. Other places I’d like to visit in Massachusetts are Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Rockport and the Berkshires (especially in the fall). Portland, Maine is also said to be a charming city as is the the state of Vermont during the fall!

Boston Bloggers and Instagrammers to follow

Chrales River, Boston

My guide wouldn’t be complete without further reading suggestions, would it? Before and after getting to Boston I made sure to find out local blogs so as to learn more about the city and things to do! For starters check out The Boston Day Book, which is filled with ideas on what to do in the city and events that go on every weekend! Then head to Emily’s blog Shell Chic’d for “New England life and style”. If you want to really see and experience Boston, Instagram is the way to go. I highly suggest you check out Brian’s feed which makes me miss Boston every single day! Brian is also the founder of IG Boston community (which I’m a member of) and everyday they highlight a photo (or two) from their members! Matt and Bobby also share creative photos of the city!

Have you been to Boston? What did you like the most? If not, pin this post for future use!

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