Boston, USA — Exploring the City’s Architecture, Shopping, and Parks
I recently spent a week in Boston, visiting a number of friends. They showed me the side of Boston that the locals know and love. I stayed in the Back Bay neighborhood. We
- Admired the city’s storied architecture and history
- Shopped for high end and low end treasures on Newbury Street
- Explored a variety of parks, from Boston Commons to Arnold Arboretum
Back Bay Architecture
All lovers of architecture, history, and walkable neighborhoods should start at Copley Square. Then wander the neighboring streets, especially Boylston and Newbury streets.
The Boston Public Library is a remarkable place. It’s free and open to the public. I was blown away by the quality of the art and architecture inside. Definitely go to the top floor to see a series of murals by John Singer Sargent, the renowned American painter.
There are lots of large, architecturally-interesting churches in the area. They all let you step inside; some for free, some for a modest donation of around $5. Start with Trinity Church on Copley Square. A couple blocks away is Church of the Covenant, which boasts all-original Tiffany Glass windows and this very unique chandelier. Fun fact: my parents got married there in 1980. Nearby is the gothic Old South church, which has some super interesting architectural details like this squirrel eating an acorn!
I would be remiss to not mention The Freedom Trail. While I haven’t personally done the walking tour, it’s a very popular thing for visitors to do if you only have a day or two in the city. It’s about 2.5 miles, self-guided, on foot, and takes you past many major city landmarks.
Shopping on Newbury Street
Newbury street is a renowned shopping destination, sporting many upscale fashion houses as well as local boutiques. There’s a little something for everyone, from Vera Wang to Restoration Hardware to a condom shop (no joke!). The more high-end places are on the west end, closer to Boston Commons, and the low-key places are on the western end of the street. If you enjoy interior design, definitely stop in the Restoration Hardware flagship store — it feels like a mansion and is really incredible.
One block away, Boylston street also offers many shops and restaurants, including an all-glass Apple store.
While you’re shopping, stop for a coffee with the locals at the Thinking Cup.
Or if it’s chilly day, go around the corner to L.A. Burdicks for one of the world’s best hot chocolates. I’ve tried many hot chocolates in my life and the single origin dark at Burdicks is easily my favorite.
If you’re feeling like a more solid treat, go for Georgetown Cupcake.
Water is everywhere in Boston. The old city was actually built on an island, with much of the surrounding area — like Back Bay — filled in at a later time. I especially enjoyed the Charles River Esplanade and seeing the downtown waterfront. If you walk along the water in the early morning or evening, be careful of all of the runners. I’ve never seen so many runners in any city anywhere!
I love getting outside, to feel the sun on my face, hear the birds, and admire nature’s beauty. These 3 parks in Boston are all excellent. I visited them in early November, with the autumn foliage in full force.
The Boston Common is centrally-located and a high-class example of what a city park should be.
The Back Bay Fens are at the west end of Boylston street. It’s a smaller local park, with an extensive set of public garden plots that neighbors use to grow flowers and vegetables.
Further to the west is the extensive Arnold Arboretum. You’ll probably wnt to take a taxi or Uber to get ther. It’s free to enter and wander around. Lots of locals go here with their dogs and baby strollers. A really peaceful place.
In general Boston’s restaurants left me a little disappointed. It’s not quite yet a player on the international dining stage. These 3 dinners stood out for me though, as being some of the best that the city has to offer.
- Spanish Tapas at Barcelona Wine bar was my favorite meal
- New England clam chowder and seafood at Atlantic Fish Company
- Mexican at Lolita. Not quite authentic, but nonetheless tasty and it has a fun, loud atmosphere with people of all generations enjoying themselves.
South End Neighborhood
We spent a lazy Sunday morning exploring this more residential neighborhood. It’s more spread out, but has some solid offerings.
Mike’s Diner feels like a cozy local’s place. We found it on Yelp and went for breakfast.
SOWA Galleries and Shops is a series of old industrial buildings that have been turned into galleries, interior design stores, and antique dealers. Great for window shopping. From May to October on Sundays, there’s an outdoor arts and crafts fair.
Cafe Madeleine offers amazing-looking croissants and baked goods. I didn’t eat here, but had to peak in because I love these small bakeries.