I am SO excited about this post! I spent four amazing years in Boston while at Boston University, and although school was busy and challenging, I made an effort to get out into the city of Boston and explore. There are many different unique neighborhoods, so much great food, and an incredible mix of history, arts, and innovation! Boston is the city I know best, and I always get excited when people tell me they are going to visit. Since I often get asked for my recommendations and have shown many friends around the city, I thought it would be a good idea to make a guide to the city and highlight my favorite spots!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, since there are countless cool places in Boston, but if you visit Boston, these are my recommendations, and I know many other Bostonians would agree with many of these choices! I've divided this into food, fitness, and things to see and do, and tried to mention when specific things are close to each other to help you plan. This is a very long list, but at the end I wrote out my recommendation for if you just have a day in Boston. If you stay longer, check out this post and see what else you would enjoy!
A quick note on transportation: Boston is fairly small for a city, and easy to get around - I prefer to walk because you discover new things and Boston is a great walking city, but the subway (we call it the T) is great too. Get a free Charlie Card at an underground station, and you can add money to it - it is cheaper to take rides with a Charlie Card, and since they are free, I recommend getting one instead of buying individual tickets. Just load as much money on it as you will need for your planned T rides. They also have rentable bikes scattered across the city, which are now common in many cities. You definitely don’t want a car in Boston if you are staying in the city on your visit - parking is hard to find and expensive! You can take the commuter rail outside the city (for $10 round trip on weekends!), but if you need to get somewhere outside the city easily, a car would be helpful.
V = vegan options, Veg = vegetarian options, GF = good gluten free options (safe for celiac as tested by my sister or friends with celiac)
If a place doesn’t have one of these qualifiers, it doesn’t mean it lacks these, just that I am unsure about it (for example, my sister hasn’t gone there so I don’t know how safe it is for celiac). Also, just a disclaimer that I obviously cannot guarantee that you won’t have a reaction, just that my sister was safe eating at these places.
First photo by Kate Weiser
If you go to Boston, and don’t go to Tatte, you are missing out on one of the most amazing places. Tatte is a Boston institution, and although it is relatively new, locations are spreading across the Boston area, and each cafe is uniquely decorated and they are all so adorable. My favorites are the Beacon Hill and Brookline locations because they are the most quaint, but I also like Harvard Square because it has two floors and offers a great view of Harvard. There are amazing and unique baked goods and pastries, BRUNCH ALL DAY, salads, sandwiches, coffees, teas...anything you could want. One of my favorites is the avocado tartine! Parts of the menu change seasonally and they have special menus for Thanksgiving, Easter, and Passover. Sometimes they have a sweet potato tartine or zucchini fritter tartine, which is amazing because it adds to the avocado tartine! I also like the shakshuka and the seasonal grain bowls and salads.
V, Veg, Gluten friendly, but be careful of contamination since it is a bakery
Life Alive is right on Boston University’s campus, which is so great. It opened the summer before my senior year, and I wish it had been there earlier! It is all vegetarian and most things can be made vegan. They have so many healthy options filled with veggies, as well as amazing and unique smoothies. Each Life Alive location (also in Cambridge and Salem) has a distinctive vibe - the BU spot is super comfy and beautiful and aesthetic, as if you were in a yoga and meditation spa or something. I think the menus differ slightly by location as well. It is a great place to study and hang out as well as eat! They often offer discounts for college students, such as free coffee during finals, and fun events such as a drag brunch to benefit LGBTQ+ youth. My favorite breakfast item is the breakfast hash and my favorite lunch or dinner dish is the rainbow harvest bowl. The street corn is great for a snack too. My favorite drinks are the golden milk latte (so cozy and calming and makes me feel better when I feel sick), the spearmint matcha (iced or hot!), and the peanut butter chocolate shake.
V, Veg, GF
I went here for the first time my freshman year and it quickly became one of my favorite places, and somewhere I try to take everyone who visits me. I ALWAYS get the lobster eggs benedict - you get so much lobster at a great price, and it is delicious! I sometimes add avocado, and I ask for it on whole wheat toast because I find that it is easier to eat than a small English muffin where the lobster and egg falls off. They serve breakfast all day and have great fresh fruit smoothies, as well as an incredibly extensive menu with unique options like wine rosemary French toast (I always think about getting that but then I stick with my usual order), and fun seasonal specials. It is a fun, casual atmosphere in Allston, right off the Harvard Ave T stop. There are some cool murals nearby too. The lines can get really long on the weekends, so be prepared!
Veg, maybe V
Cafe Landwer has been around since 1919!! And somehow I only discovered it in 2018?? Don’t make this same mistake - it is amazing! It has great food, with varieties of shakshuka and other Middle Eastern inspired dishes. They have great vegan options! This was the first place I saw a whole roasted cauliflower - I ordered a side of roasted cauliflower and was so surprised when a whole cauliflower was presented to me! It was so, so good, and I promptly started roasting cauliflower whole after this. It is in Audubon Circle, which is fun because the lampposts and street signs have metal bird sculptures on them, which is something most people don’t notice, so look out for them!
V, Veg, GF
This restaurant is all vegan and all delicious! The atmosphere is very cute too and has fun hanging swings, coloring sheets and crayons, and funky neon signs. They have so many gluten free options, so when my sister visited I brought her here and she loved it! She has a very severe gluten allergy, and she was totally safe eating here. I love their avocado toast, avocado pesto pasta, and baked sweet potato fries. They have beet ketchup, which is pink and delicious and so good on the fries! They also have whole fresh coconuts to drink.
V, Veg, GF
This is in an adorable area of Brookline called Coolidge Corner (described more later in "Things to See and Do"). Paris Creperie is a small but amazing place with the best crepes I have ever had! They have so many unique flavors with creative names like Storming of the Basil, Ruth Bader Cinnsburg, and Berry Manilow, and monthly crepe specials - for example, the A-dill crepe (Adele-inspired). They also have NUTELLA HOT CHOCOLATE and Nutella frozen hot chocolate (one of their most popular items) and coffees - my favorite is the raspberry Nutella hot chocolate! They have great smoothies too. They can write your name or a message on your crepe with chocolate, and their lattes and hot chocolate come with a stencil with cocoa powder or cinnamon and you can choose the shape! They often have fun events and specials like World Nutella Day, where everything with Nutella is half off, or a big student discount for the start of the school year. My favorite savory crepe is the Yam-Wise, and I love the Apple and Brie cinnamon crepe as well. Tip: sign up for their newsletter to get a free sweet crepe or coffee/hot chocolate! You also get a free sweet crepe on your birthday if you are signed up!
The Breakfast Club
This is deep in Allston and almost across the river to Cambridge, but worth a stop if you like classic diner breakfast food and 80’s movies! It is also across from a fun colorful house/art project that is a fun picture spot. The decorations are all 80’s movies, and the menu has great options, including amazing shakes! If you like the movie The Breakfast Club, you will love the menu item names!
Amazing, very authentic Greek food tucked away in the South End! The restaurant is very cute and has inspirational sayings on the walls, and the food is so good! The servers are very friendly and many are Greek, so it reminds me of being back in Greece. It is a good place to share dishes and appetizers. I love the stuffed pepper, and the zucchini chips with tzatziki are a MUST try! They are so flavorful and crispy and I have never seen these anywhere else. It is fun to sit there as well because you have a beautiful view of the South End and can watch many dogs walk by. I can’t find a picture of the food, but it is amazing (guess it was so good I ate it too fast to photograph it!)
Veg, V, GF
I am OBSESSED with Dig Inn! I was lucky enough to win a $50 gift card here, and when I would fly out for a medical school interview, I would stop here and pick up dinner to bring on the plane with me - I like to think it brought me good luck! Even before winning this gift card, I loved going to Dig Inn. You customize your own bowl, and the ingredients change depending on what is seasonal and everything is very local and fresh and uniquely cooked. Luckily, the roasted sweet potatoes are a constant option, because I always get them! You choose your base (greens and/or grains), two vegetable sides, a protein, and sauce, and can add additional veggies, avocado, or others. They sometimes have pop up events such as ice cream, which I went to, and was how I won the gift card! My mom always says that even though Boston has so many amazing restaurants, her favorite is Dig Inn, where she can make her own meal out of simple but tasty ingredients!
V, Veg, GF
The Thinking Cup is an adorable coffee shop chain in Boston, with a huge range of food options as well as delicious and beautiful pastries such as macarons. My favorite food option is the sweet potato quinoa salad, and they also have chia pudding which is delicious. The tables all have old newspapers as decoration, which makes it very cozy and historic - fits right into the Boston feel! It is very popular and can be very busy, so it’s not always easy to find a place to sit, but they generally have outdoor seating and lines move quickly. They have amazing latte art, and have won many latte art awards! They have gluten free tiramisu, which my sister loved.
V, Veg, GF
Clover was started by two MIT graduates and is very sustainable and focuses on local, plant-based foods. Many of their dishes are also Mediterranean-inspired, such as mezze platters and falafel. All their packaging is compostable, which I love. What is super cool about them is that they are very community-oriented and every Tuesday afternoon, they have an event called Food Development, which is open to anyone. Staff and any community members taste test and share feedback on foods and can bring their own recipes and ingredients to share. I went to two Food Dev meetings, and had a blast and learned a lot! I also brought my own recipe, Tahini Coconut Cookies, which was a hit!
V, Veg, GF
Saloniki is a more casual Greek restaurant than Kava, but still very tasty! They have a few locations in the Boston area, including Fenway and Harvard Square. It has great food options and you can customize things as well. I went here with my friend Maddy (she's directing a show in November, which you should go to - read more about it in the "Art" section!) after watching Mamma Mia 2, as it was right by the theatre, to continue pretending we were in Greece. It is also a nice place to hang out, and also has Greek donuts, or loukoumades!
V, Veg, GF
Cava is a chain, mostly on the East coast, with a few locations in Boston. It is a similar concept to Chipotle or Dig Inn, where you customize a dish, but Cava is Mediterranean inspired (if you can’t tell, I love Mediterranean food!). You can get up to three sauces and dips, which is great because they have tons of options! They fill your bowl up so much, so it is a great value (it usually lasts me for at least two meals), and every order comes with fresh, warm pita bread - yum!
V, Veg, GF
Freshly grated parmesan cheese on some amazing pasta at Ristorante Villa Francesca!
If you want authentic, delicious Italian food, go to the North End! If you walk the Freedom Trail, you will pass through here. Walk down Hanover Street and peruse the menus - any place you pick will be really great! Mamma Maria's is a bit off this street in a cute and quiet corner by Paul Revere's house, and is really amazing and has very creative dishes (definitely a fancier place), and you will want a reservation. Giacomo's is very famous and doesn't take reservations and is cash only, so there is always a long line outside - it is good, but everywhere nearby is also really good, so if you don't want to wait in the line, you will still have many options for amazing Italian food! There is a range of prices, but if you go during lunch hours (these often last until 4 PM), things are cheaper but the menu is basically the same!
Also, you absolutely have to get a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry!! They have SO many flavors and they are amazing!!!!!! My favorite is the peanut butter. It is cash only, and gets busy, but the lines move fast so don’t let that discourage you. If you want a gluten free cannoli, my sister had one at Modern Pastry, but it was only available in the plain flavor and was quite expensive and fairly small. There is a rivalry between Mike’s and Modern over who makes the best cannoli, and I went to Mike’s for my first Boston cannoli and fell in love, so I am a Mike’s fan! I’m sure Modern is good too, but I haven’t tried it. Bostonians are very passionate about this debate - almost as much as they are about their sports (read more about sports later)!
Veg (maybe some have vegan and gluten free options, but unsure)
Eataly is a cool, giant Italian food market - like a department store for Italian food and culture. Even people from Italy say that Eataly is quite authentic to Italian standards. It has stands for every type of food - gelato, fish, pasta, pizza, groceries, chocolate, wine, etc - as well as multiple restaurants and kitchen supplies. You can watch pasta being made! They also have a cannoli cart, and often have fun events such as block parties in the summer. I’d say the best way to describe it would be like a department store of Italian food!
Veg, GF, maybe some V options
The Boston Public Library is a must see in Boston (more on that later in the “Things to Do" section), and they have a beautiful and elegant afternoon tea service. The tea menu comes in a book, and the restaurant has a view of the lovely courtyard. The menu changes seasonally with various delicious desserts, tea sandwiches, and a choice of soup or salad. They are very accommodating to allergies - a friend I went with has an almond allergy, so they gave her an extra dessert in place of a macaron. They also substituted vegetarian options for tea sandwiches for another friend of mine. They have great tea options, and it is such a fun experience! It is on the pricey side, so it's best for a special occasion.
Probably the fanciest restaurant in Boston, and definitely the best view is the Top of the Hub. It is at the top of the Prudential Center, which is one of the tallest buildings in Boston. It has a spectacular view, and they have live music in the evenings. I went to celebrate my college graduation, and they decorated my dessert to congratulate me! It is very fancy and has a dress code, so make sure you keep that in mind.
One of my other absolute favorite places to eat (and visit) is Trident Booksellers and Cafe - somehow I can’t find a picture from there, even though I have eaten there many times! They have great food and breakfast all day, and it is a spacious restaurant with two floors located inside a great bookstore on the beginning on Newbury Street. It has fun gifts and trinkets and socks in addition to books, and I love looking around there!
V, Veg, GF
Ice Cream Options:
Boston has a lot of great ice cream! Here are some of my favorites (be sure to sample to choose your flavor, because it is a hard decision):
Emack and Bolio’s was started in Boston and offers many great flavors. They also have fresh smoothies that aren’t made with ice, so they are very flavorful and thick. One of their special features is that they have cones that are covered with marshmallow and cereal such as Rice Krispies, Cocoa Puffs, and Fruity Pebbles! They also have homemade fudge.
V (sorbet options), Veg
Fomu is a vegan ice cream store that also has other vegan desserts. The ice cream is made from coconut, and they have tons of cool flavors such as lavender and avocado as well as standard chocolate and vanilla. The ice cream is so rich and creamy that you would never think it is vegan!
V, Veg, GF
Obviously, Ben and Jerry’s is not just in Boston, but it was started in Vermont, which isn’t far so there are a few locations in Boston. What is special about Ben and Jerry’s stores is that every year they have a Free Cone Day (usually the second Tuesday in April), where you can get a free ice cream cone of any flavor! This year I literally went through the line multiple times to try a few flavors because I couldn’t decide, and the staff actually told me to do so! They also have vegan options.
V, Veg, GF
Other great places that I have been to and loved, but don't have pictures of are: Amorino Gelato (if you get a cone, they shape it into a rose!!), J.P. Licks (started in Jamaica Plain in Boston!), and Toscanini’s in Cambridge.
Boston has many great farmers markets, so if you like to get local fruits and vegetables, check them out! Boston University has a farmers market on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which was so fun for a quick snack or lunch in between classes. The biggest and most famous one is the Boston Public Market, otherwise known as Haymarket - it is even commemorated with metal art on the ground on the Freedom Trail! It is HUGE and there is an indoor portion that is open year round with vendors ranging from an allergy friendly bakery to a honey shop with an active beehive. If you go, be sure to bring many bags! Look around for a while before buying, because the prices are very low and competitive! You will hear farmers shouting things like, “Five ears of corn for $1 dollar over here!” There are also great samples at the indoor portion - one of my favorite Boston farmers market vendors is Q’s Nuts. They have such creative nut flavors, such as lavender chocolate, on almost any type of nut you could desire, and are always friendly and happy to give samples! You’ll see them at Haymarket and at BU. Copley Square also has a farmers market on Tuesdays and Fridays, which has beautiful sunflowers and lots of local veggies as well as artisans such as soap and fragrance makers. The SOWA Open Market (mentioned later) also has a great farmers market with many samples!
These next places are also some of my favorites and are in Cambridge, but so close to Boston! I love to walk to Cambridge along the river, and if you are checking out Harvard or MIT, you should stop by one of these restaurants to eat!
Harvard Square part of Cambridge:
The best bagels I have ever had! Black Sheep is adorable, and it has the added bonus of being just a block or two away from Barre and Soul - they often collaborate on pop up barre classes at the bagel shop with a free bagel and coffee included! They also have free yoga Monday nights, and often have poets and musicians perform. Not only do they have bagels, they have a wide range of spreads, such as labneh and cinnamon honey butter (and cream cheese options of course). They also make delicious bagel sandwiches and toasts, such as the avocado toast and the ricotta toast pictured. They post bagel dogs on their Instagram, by the way, so check that out! There is a gluten free bagel, but not sure if it is safe for celiac since it is a bakery.
This is a cool collaboration and shared space of &Pizza and Milk Bar. &Pizza is cool because you can customize your pizza with so many toppings, including things like many veggies and an egg! There is a gluten free dough but they warn that contamination could be present. Milk Bar has fun baked goods and desserts!
Near MIT side of Cambridge:
Second photo by Kate Weiser
Cafe Luna used to be in a tiny little space, and it was hard to get a reservation. I had my 20th birthday party there and we basically took up the whole restaurant! The owner is always there greeting people and is so friendly. They have now moved to a much bigger space, which is great because way more people can go! It is still very popular and busy, so I recommend making a reservation. They have creative items like Oreo French toast (pictured!) or raspberry Nutella stuffed French toast, as well as savory options like the roasted vegetable breakfast bowl (pictured, and one of my favorites).
V, Veg, GF (GF options but not sure if they have GF bread/baked goods)
If you are a science or chemistry nerd like me, you will love Miracle of Science specifically because the menu is organized like a periodic table! It is on the MIT campus, which is very fitting. They have good food, and the atmosphere is casual and it has a bar as well. I took my brother here when he visited me, and after he left Boston, he decided to become a chemistry major - who knows, maybe this had an influence?
Taza Chocolate is technically located in Somerville (next to Cambridge and across the river from Boston), but you will see it being sold all over Boston! The factory in Somerville offers tour with included chocolate samples, and they have block parties regularly with unlimited chocolate and hot chocolate samples, live music, and food trucks. They have cool chocolate flavors, and their chocolate is stone ground, which gives it a great texture.
V, Veg, GF
If you have been following along on my blog, you probably know how much I love Barre & Soul!! I can honestly say this place and community changed my life. Coming to barre classes here, being the student ambassador, and then doing their barre teacher training helped me transform into a healthier, happier, and stronger person inside and out. This blog would not exist without Barre & Soul for sure. I cannot say enough about how great this place is! It was started by an amazing woman, who is also named Andrea, who is so inspiring to me.
Barre & Soul not only has great classes, including barre, vinyasa and restorative yoga, and cardio flash, but it has a positive and empowering community. All the teachers are so kind and caring and put their own unique spin on class. They know how to make you push yourself to your limits and become stronger while also having fun. They often plan fun events like bunny yoga, Barre and Bagels (with Black Sheep Bagels), and offer free outdoor yoga in Cambridge in the summers. Each class will be different, so you will never be bored and always be challenged. The studio is also the most beautiful fitness studio I have ever seen - the turquoise piano and beautiful mural are so fun to look at during class! I originally started coming here when it was on the BU campus, and when that location closed, I made the 45 minute walk to Harvard Square because I loved Barre and Soul so much, so if that doesn’t show you how amazing it is, I don’t know what does!
305 is so much fun!!!! I love it because it is dance-y, but you certainly don’t have to be a dancer to catch on and enjoy it. It is a very supportive and motivating environment, and the teachers all have so much energy, it's crazy! The classes have live DJs in them, and the studio has backwards inspirational sayings on the walls so you see them in the mirror when you’re in class. Each day has a different body part that is focused on during the quick strength/toning section in the middle of class. You’re encouraged to cheer and scream, and there are fun colorful lights, so it’s really just like a great dance party workout!
I was invited to a private class here, and loved it! I took class with Julie, the owner, and she was so nice and knowledgeable. It was really interesting to learn how to use the reformer machine, which looks very complex, but is not scary once you learn - it allows you to work your muscles deeper. They do reformer classes and meditation, and offer private lessons and group classes. It is a cute little studio, and you will work your core so much!
HealthWorks is really cool because it is for women only, so it is a very safe and supportive space. They offer many group fitness classes as well as having a gym. You can do a free pass to try out the facility and the classes! They have a sauna and steamroom in the locker room too, which is amazing. I totally forgot to take a picture of the studio when I visited, but I took a fun picture of these inspirational stairs!
BU students are so lucky to have free access to such a great gym! If you live near BU and want a great gym, FitRec has a climbing wall, multiple pools (and a lazy river), multiple free weight areas, so many machines, a track, open gym space, squash courts… And they offer tons of fitness and dance classes that both students and community members can take! I took amazing dance classes here through the dance program for my minor, and also studied, choreographed, and performed aerial dance. The more advanced dance classes do require experience, but there are intro level courses as well. My ballet teacher was Margot and she is so, so great and caring! I took improv with Liz and contemporary/jazz with Deanna, both of whom were amazing and challenged me. My aerial teacher was Marin, and she is such an incredible and creative person.
Equinox is a swanky gym with locations all over the country, but the reason that the Boston Equinox is so great is because Christina Chu teaches cycling classes there!!! She was my resident my first year as an RA, and we quickly bonded over our shared interest in health and fitness. She is in graduate school to be a Registered Dietitian - read more about her here! I got to take her cycling class and it was so fun (and I don’t often like cycling classes, so that says a lot).
Barry’s also has locations around the country, but I tried it out in Boston and had a great time! It is very challenging, but you can customize it to what you want to get out of it - by doing double tread or double floor, for example. They also have a tasty fuel bar - they have a smoothie called Barry’s and Brunch, so of course I had to get that since it is so similar to my blog name! The staff there were all so friendly as well.
Boston has SO many free fitness classes in the summer (here is a list of some)!! My favorite is the Esplanade Yoga hosted by the Community Boating. It is on the river and has beautiful views of the city! It used to be every Tuesday morning at 6:30 AM, but I can't find any information on it online right now, so I am not sure if it has changed. But you could always go do yoga by yourself on the river! My friend Kate and I actually did that once (p.s. you may have noticed she has taken some awesome photos on my blog - she is amazing and has a famous Boston Instagram called Bucket List Boston, so check it out for more Boston ideas!)
In any city, check out the Athleta and Lululemon websites because they host a lot of free events as well! The Esplanade has free fitness at the Hatch Memorial Shell (where the Fourth of July Boston Pops is held), and there are often other pop up events around the city - I often find fitness events on Facebook!
I also love running, rollerblading, or walking on the Esplanade (a beautiful park and pathway along the river). Both the Esplanade and the Cambridge side of the river (right across the Boston University Bridge) have cool outdoor workout spaces with equipment. Jamaica Pond or the Emerald Necklace park chain in Brookline are also great places to run.
Kayaking on the river is an amazing and active way to see the city from a new point of view! You can rent a kayak from the BU Boathouse (even if you are not a BU student), or other places along the river. I have always thought it would be fun to bring a picnic along, because there are places on the Esplanade where you can tie up a kayak and float.
Things to See and Do
Places to Explore
Boston has many neighborhoods, each with a distinct feel and scenery. It’s so cool how buildings from the 1700s live right next to glass skyscrapers, and this beautiful juxtaposition is part of what makes Boston so unique. Boston has the first public park (the Common), the first public beach (Revere), first public library, and many more “first” places. I love to just walk around the city and explore, and even though I often walk down the same quaint Beacon Hill or Back Bay streets, I notice new things about the beautiful brownstones or gardens every time.
Freedom Trail - from Boston Common to the North End
The absolute must-do when you go to Boston is the Freedom Trail!! This is a self-guided walking tour of the historic Revolutionary sites in the city. There are paid tours, but you can easily do it on your own for free and still learn a ton from the signs. That said, it is fun to see the tour guides dressed up like colonial people while you’re on the tour! The Freedom Trail starts at the Statehouse building - it’s a huge gold-topped dome, and you can’t miss it if you’re near the Common. Just follow the (not yellow) brick road and you’ll be on your way! Most sites are free to visit, but there are some that have paid museums, so that’s up to you if you want to go in or not. I usually just go to the free sites, and the paid sites are generally still cool and informational to learn about from the outside. I have gone into some of the paid places before, like Paul Revere’s House, which was interesting, but small and involved waiting in a very long line (just so you know). Walking the Freedom Trail is also a great way to get a tour of the city, since it runs from the Common to the North End, and then into Charlestown.
You will walk by Fanueil Hall, and I always like to go on a slight detour to go to the City Hall Plaza. Ironically, City Hall is probably the ugliest building in Boston (the Old City Hall is on the trail, and is really pretty), and looks like a parking lot. But they have a cool new plaza that is open in the summer and has a fun seating area with a beer truck, lemonade, and snacks. There is a fun BOSTON sign there for photos too. They have fun events there (click here to find out more), such as Wag Wednesdays, where you can play with shelter puppies (pictured), and Sunday open grilling!
When I take people on the Freedom Trail, we usually just stop in the North End, because the majority of the sites are between the Common and North End. Going from the Common to North End only takes maybe 30-45 minutes depending on your pace, so it isn’t very long. The North End, as previously mentioned, has the best Italian food in Boston, so it is a great place to stop and eat! There is also a lovely park called the Rose Kennedy Greenway where you could relax. You could walk past the North End a bit further to see the harbor. I personally think the harbor views from the Seaport or the area near Christopher Columbus Park (which is very close to the North End and the Aquarium) are the best harbor views.
Anyways, the Old North Church in the North End is a good place to stop and then go back to Hanover Street for Italian food. There is one more stop before crossing the river called Copp’s Burying Ground, which is an old cemetery, but at this point in the Freedom Trail you will have seen a few cemeteries, and the earlier ones are a bit more interesting in my opinion. Granary Burying Ground is the coolest I think because John Hancock, Mother Goose, and Ben Franklin are buried there! The other cemeteries have other people that I’m sure were very noteworthy and talented, but not many that I have heard of.
If you decide to keep going after the North End, it is about an hour walk across the bridge to Charlestown to the last two sites, which are the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. These sites are very cool, and it is a fun walk across the bridge because you can see cool views of the city (although I have some other bridges that have better city views that I will mention) and boats in the harbor. It can feel like a really long walk if it is hot out though. If you really like history, I would definitely recommend seeing these sites! If you are tired of walking, you could take a break in the North End for food and then continue on. Charlestown is very cute and fun to walk through, and there is an Emack and Bolio’s ice cream across the bridge if you are hot and want ice cream (although the original store on Newbury is a bit more fun and funky). Climbing Bunker Hill is free and is really cool to do! You can see out over the city. It is 294 steps, so it isn’t insanely high, but is definitely a bit of a challenge. Make sure to drink water!
Boston Common and Public Garden
As I mentioned before, the Boston Common is the oldest public park. It is a great place to walk around, and the Public Garden across from it is so beautiful and one of my favorite places. The flowers near the statue of George Washington change every month or so, and there are lovely fountains and cool statues scattered throughout. There is a pond in the middle with a bridge (that’s where I took some senior photos, including the one on the About page of this website!) and there are swan boats that you can ride for $4! I never actually rode one, but always wanted to, so someday I will have to go back and do this! The Make Way for Ducklings statue is in the garden, on the side towards the Common. Small children often climb on the ducks, which is adorable. The parks association dresses the ducks up for holidays (or big sports games, as mentioned earlier), which is so cute! I’ve seen them with beads for Mardi Gras, tutus and bunny ears for Easter, tasseled hats for winter, and more!
Not far from the Common is this outdoor book store called Brattle Book Shop, which is cool to check out.
Newbury Street and Back Bay
Back Bay is a cute neighborhood that is parallel to the river, and is what you think of when you think of Boston streets (also Beacon Hill, but I’ll get to that). People living in Back Bay enjoy decorating their brownstone steps and gardens for fall/Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. I love walking down these streets any time, but especially when they are decorated! The brownstones also have cute gardens as well, and I love looking at the balconies and details of the buildings - be sure to look up at the tops of the buildings for cool details!
At BU, Bay State road is an extension of Back Bay, so it is amazing to have some cute brownstones on campus too, and this is my favorite street to walk down on campus. I lived on this street my first two years of college, and loved it!
In Back Bay, there are a few streets that are parallel to each other, so you can walk down them and bop back and forth between the different streets to see different brownstones and gardens. Marlborough Street has many adorable brownstones, and feels so peaceful.
I also love to walk down Commonwealth Avenue - this street runs down the BU campus and is not very peaceful or lovely while on campus since it is a major road, but at the far east end of campus, cute brownstones pop up and there is a nice long walking path (the Comm Ave Mall) down the middle, with interesting statues (there is a women’s memorial that I love).
Once you get east of Mass Ave, Newbury Street begins. This is the main shopping street and is full of great restaurants as well! There are chain stores as well as local boutiques. You can’t go wrong with any restaurant here really, but some are my favorites are Trident, Cafeteria Boston, Met Back Bay, Stephanie’s, and Thinking Cup. The beginning (west side) of Newbury has stores like Forever 21, TJ Maxx, and Madewell, and as you head down towards the common it gets fancier and by the end of the street the stores are Chanel, Dior, and Tiffany and there aren’t any more restaurants.
On Newbury Street is the original Fresh skincare store, and something most people don’t know is that you can get a free facial here! You just call to book it, and it is so nice! They aren’t pushy about trying to sell you products, and they will give you many samples of what they use and anything you liked. It is a very relaxing thing to do!
Boylston Street is parallel to Newbury Street and also has good restaurants (my faves are Dig Inn and Boloco, and there are also chains like sweetgreen) and some fancier stores. This is the street that the marathon ends on, right outside the library!
Boston Public Library
Another first! The Boston Public Library was the first free library in the US, founded in 1848 (it’s older than Minnesota as a state!), and it is absolutely beautiful. The most famous, and my favorite, part is the older section. The modern part is nice as well for a modern library, but isn’t quite as breathtaking. The outside of the library has giant statues and the entrance hall is so lovely, with ceilings frescoed with names of authors, and then you walk up beautiful marble stairs and past walls painted with Greek mythological figures. Definitely spend some time going into each room, and look at the walls and ceilings. The main library space is just stunning, and I often ran into BU classmates studying here! There is also a courtyard with a fountain and little tables, which is a great place to hang out in nice weather. After you pass through the courtyard, you will enter the modern part of the library, first passing by the Map Room. I think the Map Room is pretty cool, so check it out! And of course, if you want to do something elegant, the library afternoon tea (mentioned earlier) is amazing! The restaurant also serves other food as well.
Beacon Hill is probably my favorite area in Boston. It is the oldest neighborhood, and is where you'll find the quintessential peaceful, old, charming Boston brownstones with colorful doors, little gardens, and a great place to see cute dogs being walked. To get here, go down Charles Street, which separates the Common and Public Garden. Charles Street is the shopping and restaurant street in Beacon Hill, and all the other streets are residential. My favorite Tatte location is here! Also good restaurants (again, you can’t go wrong with any here) are the Paramount and Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro (this one has a cute rooftop balcony). If you walk to the end of Charles street, you can see the Esplanade and river (across from Storrow Drive).
Acorn Street in in this neighborhood, which is the most photographed street in the US! It is best to go here in early mornings or on weekdays, because on weekends with nice weather, it will be full of people taking pictures. People actually live on it too, so it’s important to be respectful. Rouvalis Flowers is a really cute flower shop nearby that is fun to look at. Louisburg Square is a cute little block to walk through too. Honestly, all the streets around Beacon Hill are so cute and fun to walk through, so spend some time exploring it! I came here so many times and always discovered new adorable brownstones or gardens or corners. Also, one of my favorite buildings, the Sunflower Castle (that is its ACTUAL name!!), is right off Charles Street by Tatte! I never see people go here or take pictures by it, and I don’t know why because it is so cute. I took some senior photos here in my sunflower dress (can you tell I love sunflowers?)!
The Esplanade is one of my favorite places in Boston as well - it is a very long path/park along the Charles River that is just beautiful! It is a great place to walk, run, bike, roller blade, or have a picnic! If you have a picnic, beware that some areas have very friendly and bold squirrels that may approach you and try to take your food. There are some playgrounds on it too, and when I go for a run here I always like to stop and swing - I made a workout video here once too!
The Hatch Bandshell hosts the famous Boston Pops Fourth of July show, which is very cool to see. You can also go the night before on July 3 for the rehearsal if you want less crowds - there will be still be plenty of people, but access is restricted until a few hours before the show, whereas for the Fourth of July, people camp out on the Esplanade all day to get a view of the show and the fireworks. You can see the fireworks from pretty much anywhere though, and they are amazing! If you have the ability to be in a high rise building that faces the river, I think watching the fireworks from up high is incredible, because not only can you see the official Boston fireworks, you will see fireworks from neighboring celebrations in other towns and cities, so the whole sky is lit up!
The seaport is the most newly developing neighborhood of Boston, so it looks very new and shiny and there are tons of fancy apartment buildings going up and many upscale restaurants. There are also lots of more affordable restaurants and fun parks and it is a great place to see the harbor, and eat seafood! The Aquarium and Institute of Contemporary Art (mentioned later in the "Art" section) are in the seaport. The Boston Tea Party ships and museum are here, as are harbor boat tours and Boston haunted bus tours that leave from the seaport. The seaport is not far from the North End, and if you follow the Rose Kennedy Greenway, it connects the two. You can also walk along the harbor on the Harbor Walk through Fan Pier Park (pictured), which offers beautiful views of the city. This part is near some great restaurants that are more affordable, such as By Chloe, the seaport Tatte, seaport Paris Creperie, and Honey Grow.
Another fun place to go is the Lawn On D, which is not far from the southeast side of the seaport. It is a fun spot to hang out, and is most known for these big swings that light up at night. They have ping pong and other lawn games, live music, and drinks. They often have private events, so check their calendar before going to make sure it is open! Also, be prepared to wait to get on a swing because they are very popular.
The South End is another area with many cute Boston homes and gardens, and lots of little parks and fountains scattered about. There are also many great restaurants here and some cute shops, mostly on Tremont Street. Some of my favorites in the South End are Kava Neo-Taverna, Frenchie, and the South End Buttery (they have a cafe as well as a restaurant). The South End is not a far walk from Copley Square (where the Boston Public Library is), and is a fun place to explore.
The SOWA open market is also one of my favorite things in Boston - it is a huge market of art, food, crafts, and more! It has a giant indoor vintage market that is open year round, as well as an outdoor portion with food trucks, farmer’s market, plants, and local art, jewelry, clothes, and so much more for sale. They recently added this fun chalk wall and also have hula hoops and other games. They have fun events year-round, such as a winter indoor market.
Even if there’s not a Red Sox game, the Fenway neighborhood is really fun to walk around! The Fenway area has lots of restaurants around the park too, so you can check those out before or after a game. If it is nice out, the House of Blues has a balcony seating area with a great view of the giant Fenway Park sign. There is also a Tatte and By Chloe, and other great food like Saloniki, Cava, and Blackbird Donuts.
If you like karaoke, check out Hojoko Sunday Night Karaoke! It’s a fun atmosphere and anyone can go, unlike some karaoke bars where you have to be 21. I believe it starts at 10 PM every Sunday, but I am not totally sure of the time.
Brookline is a really interesting place, because the part of it that is nearest to Boston still feels like Boston, just a different neighborhood, but Brookline is actually an independent town with independent governance. Technically, anything to the south of Commonwealth Avenue is Brookline in the West campus of BU, but the distinction gets a bit muddy near the Fenway area, but it doesn’t really matter! As you get deeper into Brookline, it changes and starts to feel more like a small town or suburb with many cute homes (there are no actual houses in Boston proper, so that’s one major difference!), many families and schools, and lots of green space. I lived in Brookline for my summers in Boston, and got to know it well. I love walking around and looking at the beautiful houses, and walking through the peaceful parks and along the Emerald Necklace, which is a chain of parks.
One of my favorite areas in Brookline is Coolidge Corner! It is so cute and historic, and easy to walk to from BU or you can take the green C line. The Paris Creperie is there, as is the Brookline Booksmith, and the Coolidge Corner Movie Theatre, which often shows old films as well as recent releases. Another great place in/near Brookline is the Fenway Victory Gardens (a huge community garden) near Fenway.
There are quite a few beaches around Boston accessible by public transport. I like Revere Beach because it was the first public beach in America and the T stop you get off at is called Wonderland, which just makes me smile! They have arts fairs sometimes in the summer, but the biggest event is their annual sand sculpture festival in mid July. It is amazing how impressive and large the sculptures are and they have a Ferris Wheel, food trucks, and other festivities. I have also been to Castle Island, which was a cool beach, and know that there are many others in the area that people enjoy! And of course, if you are a BU student, we have the BU Beach, which is lovely and a very unique type of beach (if you haven’t been to BU, you will have to visit to find out why!)
As I mentioned earlier, Cambridge is just across the river from Boston! You can take the red line T to get there, or walk over the BU Bridge to get to the Harvard area, or the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge to get to MIT (weirdly, this is called the Harvard Bridge officially even though it goes to MIT, so that’s why I refer to it as the Mass Ave bridge since it is on Mass Ave). They say that the BU Bridge is the only place in the world where a plane can go over a car going over a train going over a boat! I walked over the BU Bridge so often because that’s how I got to Barre and Soul, and you see beautiful views of Boston.
I also love the Mass Ave bridge for good views and for the smoot markings - I like to call it the Smoot Bridge, because it is marked in these unique measurements due to an old MIT story (click here to read about it)!
Harvard is obviously very historic and cool to walk around. The buildings are very beautiful and stately. Go in the Co-op library - it is lovely and a good place to study. Harvard Square has many restaurants and Barre & Soul is there, so that makes it even better! Some of my favorite restaurants here are Tatte, Clover, and &Pizza. You can walk down Mass Ave from Harvard to MIT and vice versa, and it is only about a 20-25 minute walk, or you can take the red line.
If you come to Cambridge from Boston across the Mass Ave bridge, I like to continue down Mass Ave through and past MIT (you will pass the Miracle of Science restaurant) to Central Square (you can also take the red line here). There is a cool little alley called Graffiti Alley where graffiti is legal, so it’s always colorful and changing. Cheapo Records is cute to look in as well. There are many cool murals in this area as well - including the pictured chemistry one that I love!
Also, on your way, be sure to take a detour off onto Brookline Street and find the little-known Peter Valentine Fence at the corner of Brookline and Franklin Streets. I have never met anyone else who knew of this fence, and I only learned about it from doing a great community outreach program called FYSOP through BU. It is so cool and unique! It is a house and bright purple fence covered in thoughts and quotes about the world and life, ranging from introspective to seemingly nonsensical. It has some little interactive parts, and really makes you think. Read about its history here.
Cafe Luna is nearby the MIT side of Cambridge, as is the Longfellow Bridge if you want another bridge to walk across with good views of the city!
Boston has so much to offer in terms of art!! There are many art museums, most of which allow Boston area students to visit for free, as well as theatre and dance.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
My all time favorite museum in Boston is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - it is such a unique and beautiful place! Isabella Stewart Gardner was an heiress who dedicated her life to art collecting and sharing it with the public. She modeled her home after a Venetian Palace, so it has really cool architecture and the rooms are filled with amazing furniture and art from around the world. It was also the place of the largest art theft in history, with a still-missing Vermeer and Rembrandt. There is a covered courtyard in the middle with flowers that change seasonally, so it is a great place to visit in the dreary winter. There is a library and a cafe as well, and new art exhibits and many fun events! If you are named Isabella or it is your birthday, you get in free, and there are discounts for wearing Red Sox gear, or having a ticket that same day from the Museum of Fine Arts.
Museum of Fine Art
The Museum of Fine Arts is just a few blocks away from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (to get to either, get off at the green E line T stop called MFA). It is enormous, and full of art from around the world! Their contemporary wing is my favorite contemporary wing I have ever seen in an art museum. My favorite section is the Impressionist Gallery, which includes works by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas - impressionist art is my favorite style! They have a really cool musical instrument gallery, impressive old furniture, a beautiful open courtyard space, and so many cool exhibits that come through. You could truly spend hours here and not see everything! I am obsessed with this painting (first picture above) by Giovanni Paolo Pannini called “Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome” - it is so incredibly detailed, and features replicas of other paintings he actually did of Roman scenes!
Institute of Contemporary Art
If you like contemporary art, this is a great place to go! To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary art, but I still think the ICA is cool! It isn’t a must see though unless you love contemporary art or have already done other classic Boston things. They often have performances and very unique exhibits, such as this interactive one called Choreographic Objects that I visited with my sister! They have a really cool gift shop in addition to the art, and some galleries that are all windows and face the harbor with beautiful ocean views.
As a ballerina, of course I love the Boston Ballet! I saw many ballets here and was astounded by each one. The Boston Opera House is just beautiful, and also puts on musicals and operas as well. The Huntington Theatre puts on great shows as well, and is very involved in the community.
And of course, BU On Broadway puts on amazing musicals!!! I may be biased, but even community members who come to our shows say that they are practically professional level, and we have amazing talent! I truly miss performing with OB so much, and if you are in Boston during one of their shows, don’t miss it! Tickets are much cheaper than for professional shows, and all OB members are doing this because they love to perform - none of us study acting or musical theatre. If you’re in Boston November 7-9, go see BU On Broadway’s 9 to 5 - directed by my OB "little" Maddy and choreographed by my OB "grandlittle" Josh, both of whom are incredibly talented! I know the show will be amazing!
Boston sports fans are truly so intense about their sports! Being there for four years, I absorbed a lot of this and enjoyed cheering on the Boston sports teams, all of which did so well during my college years! I got to witness two Patriots Super Bowl wins, the ensuing excitement, and victory parades, and a victory parade for the Red Sox winning the World Series! When one of these teams was playing, the Prudential building would light up the words “GO SOX” or “GO PATS” on the side, which I could see from my bedroom window! The ducks in the common also get in the spirit! People always rush to the common to celebrate after these wins, and then the city holds a victory parade on the Boston Duck Boats. There are confetti cannons and it is super exciting!
If you are going to go to one sports game in Boston, go to Fenway Park! If the Red Sox aren’t playing, you can still tour the stadium, or you can go to the Bleacher Bar (must be 21 or older to enter if a game is going on), which has a window that is actually on the field, so you can get a free inside view of the stadium! Fenway Park is the oldest baseball stadium in the US, and it is really interesting to walk around and explore! There is a lot of history, and seeing a game there is so fun because of how passionate the fans are.
I went to a Celtics game through school, which was fun as well! I don’t know a lot about basketball, but again, the Boston fans are so passionate that it was a fun atmosphere!
I also went to a Patriots game (I was lucky to get free tickets because my friend Haley’s husband was playing), which is actually in Foxborough, an hour drive outside of Boston. I would not put that on my must-sees for a Boston visit, since it is not in the city and is difficult to get to, but if you are a big football fan and you have time, it would be fun to check out.
Boston Marathon and Expo
Of course, the Boston Marathon is not to be missed if you are in Boston at the time! It goes right through my campus, so I was easily able to watch it all four years and enjoyed walking along the pathway to see different parts of the race. The part that goes through BU is the 1 mile left mark, and I am always so impressed by the fact that the runners have ran 25 miles and are still going strong! It’s amazing to see how supportive the crowd is, and people make really creative signs! This past year, I went to the famous final turn onto Boylston from Hereford (known by marathoners as the “sweetest left turn”), which is right before the finish line. It was so exciting!
Something most people don’t know is that there is a huge marathon expo the weekend of the marathon. It is geared towards runners, but anyone can go and there is no registration required! I initially went with a friend because we wanted samples of Clif bars (of which there is an abundance), but it was so much cooler than I expected and I actually ended up meeting the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, Kathryn Switzer! She signed my shirt, and was so nice and inspiring. My mom used to run marathons so she was very inspired by Kathryn Switzer. We went back to the expo the next year to see her speak, and then ran into her at Trader Joe’s this past year! She is in her 70's and still runs marathons! You can look up the schedule of the expo to see when people like Kathryn are speaking, and also go through all the booths for so many free food and drink samples!
If you are in New England in the fall, apple picking is a popular activity! There are not orchards in the city of Boston, of course, but there are many that are not far away! I went to Russell Orchards in Ipswich with a school club, which was great, but we took a special bus to get there so it’s not very easy to get to. However, I also went to Dowse Farms, which you can easily take an Uber/Lyft to! Dowse is very peaceful and never too busy when I have gone, which is nice. You pick your own apples and they also have pumpkins, and a farm stand that is a bit aways from the orchard that sells pies, donuts, cider, maple syrup, and fruits and vegetables. Apple cider donuts and apple cider are such classic fall things, so whether you buy them from an orchard or make your own, they are delicious!
Walden Pond isn’t easy to get to without a car, but you can take the MBTA to get close and then use Uber/Lyft. If you are lucky like me and have a friend with a car, it’s a great adventure to go on! I was shocked when I came here because it is really more of a lake size than a pond! It is so beautiful and peaceful, so it is a good place to get away and relax. There is a hiking path around the pond, and the pond itself is clear and clean, and lovely to swim in (which means a lot from me, because I am a lake snob from living in Minnesota). Of course, this pond is famous from Thoreau’s writings, so there is a little informational path you can take to learn about that, and you can see his historical site (I haven’t read his book, so I didn’t do that, but it could be cool!)
You can take the commuter rail to many places around Boston, and on weekends it is only $10 for a round trip! I went to Providence, Rhode Island with this, and I also recommend going to Newburyport! My friend Luke lives in Newburyport, and he showed our friend Ella and I around his cute little ocean town, which was so fun! He also has his pilot’s license so he flew us in a plane for some amazing views, which was awesome, but maybe not something everyone can do unless they have a cool pilot friend (sorry, guess I just have cool friends!).
You can also take a train or commuter rail to Salem, which is especially fun in October! It gets very busy around Halloween, but there are lots of fun events and people (and dogs) walk around in Halloween costumes even when it’s not the day of Halloween! There is also a Life Alive there if you get hungry! If you like haunted things and history, Salem is a great place to go.
A Day in Boston
If you want a good plan for a day in Boston (on a day that is nice to walk around), this is my suggestion:
Start near Fenway/Kenmore Square and then walk down Commonwealth Avenue and/or Marlborough Street and look at the cute houses and statues until you hit Massachusetts Avenue, then go onto Newbury Street. Walk down Newbury Street, checking out restaurants and shops. Turn off once you get to Copley Square to see the Public Library, then continue on towards Boston Public Garden, where these streets end. Walk through the garden, then detour on Charles Street up through Beacon Hill, and walk around there, making sure to stop by Acorn Street.
Come back towards the Common, and find the state house (you can’t miss it - it’s bright gold!) and start the Freedom Trail! Take your time reading signs and taking in the history. When you get to the North End, stop for Italian food and a cannoli at Mike’s. Maybe enjoy your cannoli on a swing in the Rose Kennedy Greenway if it’s nice out! If you have time, continue the Freedom Trail to Charlestown to see the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.
Make sure you go to Tatte at some point - you could go in Fenway or Brookline for breakfast, or on Newbury Street or in Beacon Hill for lunch! If you have more time, see what else on my list you’d like to do!
I hope you get the chance to visit these places and that you love them and Boston as much as I do! Boston will always have a big part of my heart, and I am happy to share my favorite places with you in the hopes that they will bring you joy!