Where should you stay in Boston’s top neighborhoods and hotels? I’ve got your back! Boston is a magnificent city with a rich history, gorgeous parks, and some of the top museums in the country.
Boston is a city with many aspects, and I believe that most tourists only see one or two of them. Boston is undeniably a sports town, where the Red Sox and Patriots rule the day and every pub has the game on. It is steeped in Revolutionary War history. It’s an intellectual city, with world-leading institutions like Harvard and enough of libraries and museums to keep you entertained.
The architecture incorporates a range of styles that somehow complement one another. Winters are cold and snowy, while summers are hot and humid.
- 1 The Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Boston
- 2 The Best Places to Stay in Boston
- 3 Boston’s Best Neighborhoods to Stay
- 3.1 Boston’s best neighborhood for a first visit: Waterfront
- 3.2 Boston’s best neighborhoods for history and tourism: Downtown and Waterfront
- 3.3 Boston’s best neighborhoods for dining: South End, North End, Downtown, Chinatown, Seaport District
- 3.4 Boston’s Best Shopping District: Back Bay
- 3.5 Boston’s best nightlife areas: Kenmore Square, Allston/Brighton
- 3.6 Boston’s best neighborhood for romance: Beacon Hill.
- 3.7 Boston’s best neighborhoods for families: Downtown and Waterfront
- 3.8 Boston’s best neighborhood for pedestrians: Downtown
- 4 The Best Neighborhoods in Boston
- 5 The Bottom Line on Where to Stay in Boston
The Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Boston
The main tourist area of the city is the area around Boston Common with many historic sites and waterfront attractions. Nevertheless, important historical sites are found throughout the city.
The best museums and universities are located farther from the center, in various neighborhoods such as Fenway, the Seaport District and, across the river, in Cambridge. So there is no best place to stay, but many excellent options.
Sailboats on the Charles River overlooking the esplanade, where you can see both Beacon Hill and Back Bay. These are two of the best neighborhoods for a stay in Boston.
The West End and North End occupy the north end of Boston and are surrounded by waterways on three sides. The North End is one of the city’s oldest and liveliest neighborhoods, with narrow streets lined with row houses, history, and plenty of Italian restaurants, but there aren’t many lodging options.
The West End was once an equally vibrant immigrant neighborhood, but it was demolished in the 1950s in the name of urban renewal. Today, there is little reason to visit the West End, although it can be an affordable and comfortable place to sleep.
Further south is the heart of the city, the Boston Common, flanked on one side by Beacon Hill and on the other by Downtown and the Financial District. With the river at its doorstep, Beacon Hill is a residential neighborhood of unparalleled charm, with fabulous shopping opportunities and some luxury hotels.
Downtown is home to most of the historic sites and many luxury hotels. Attractions such as Faneuil Hall, the Freedom Trail and the Boston Harbor district make this area a popular place to stay.
From here, the city extends south and west. Along the Charles, the Back Bay is laid out in an elegant and orderly grid and ends at Kenmore Square, while the Fenway lies between the Fenway Ballpark and the Greenway further west.
To the south, the Seaport neighborhood is a hotbed of trendy restaurants and uninterrupted construction, most with views of the harbor and beyond. Boston’s outlying neighborhoods-including Allston/Brighton, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and South Boston-are mostly residential areas, each with its own central square and neighborhood vibe, but with little reason for short-term visitors to stay.
Meanwhile, the independent city of Cambridge stretches along the north bank of the Charles River. This small city, characterized by two academic institutions-Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has its own culture and attractions and is also easily connected to Boston.
With too many one-way streets and too few parking spaces, Boston is a nightmare for inexperienced drivers. Fortunately, the city is compact and walkable. In addition, the city is well served by the subway known as the Boston T, so a car is never necessary and rarely recommended. Active people can also get around with Blue Bikes, the city’s bike-sharing program.
The Best Places to Stay in Boston
High-end luxury hotel
Best hotels for families
Best boutique hotels for couples
Best mid-range hotels
Best budget hotels
Boston’s Best Neighborhoods to Stay
Boston’s best neighborhood for a first visit: Waterfront
The North End’s Waterfront neighborhood is home to the Boston Harbor, home to the Boston HarborWalk, the New England Aquarium and the Boston Tea Party boats. Just a short walk from the Waterfront, Little Italy, another North End neighborhood, offers fantastic food in a romantic setting. Our favorite hotel for a first trip is the wonderfully centrally located Harbor Hotel.
Downtown Boston is essentially the tourist center, making it ideal for first-time visitors. The Boston Common is the city’s historic and transportation hub and the beginning of the Freedom Trail. From Faneuil Hall to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the area is full of attractions, many of which are highlights of the city.
As if that weren’t enough, Downtown offers easy access to surrounding neighborhoods like the restaurants of the North End, the stores of Beacon Hill, the waterfront restaurants of the Seaport District and the elegant boulevards of the Back Bay.
Boston’s best neighborhoods for history and tourism: Downtown and Waterfront
Boston has a bustling, modern, working-class downtown, but this business district is also full of colonial architecture, revolutionary monuments and emblems of the new American nation. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile trail that connects 16 historic sites.
It begins at the city’s central garden – the Boston Common – and winds through downtown and beyond. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market form a tourist center with stores and restaurants, as well as a National Park Service information center. And the nearby Boston Harbor Waterfront is bustling with activity, including boat tours, whale-watching cruises, and the New England Aquarium.
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, a popular destination for families, is located on the Fort Point Channel, which separates the Waterfront and Seaport neighborhoods.
Boston’s best neighborhoods for dining: South End, North End, Downtown, Chinatown, Seaport District
It’s not easy to choose the best neighborhood to eat in Boston, as each neighborhood has its own distinct character. The city’s Italian immigrant community shows off its talents in the North End. Chinatown menus feature dim sum, dumplings, and other Asian delicacies.
Downtown is home to two bi-weekly outdoor food markets – the long-standing Haymarket and the seasonal Greenway Farmers’ Market – as well as the indoor Boston Public Market. The Seaport District, across the canal, was once the center of the city’s fishing industry, and seafood is still an attraction, alongside many trendy new restaurants.
There is, however, a neighborhood that offers all this and more to hungry travelers. In the South End, old-school restaurants, trendy sandwich shops, pizzerias, pasta restaurants, French bistros, Italian wine bars, vegetarian places, oyster bars, tapas bars, cocktail bars, brunch spots and cafes come and go.
Coffee shops galore. And don’t forget the SoWa Open Market (Sundays, May to October), the city’s oldest open-air art market. In addition to local producers offering their wares, the market also includes food trucks, a farmers’ market and an outdoor beer garden, making it a true celebration of local art, food and drink.
Boston’s Best Shopping District: Back Bay
Back Bay is Boston’s famous Parisian-style neighborhood, characterized by the elegant brownstones of Commonwealth Avenue and the iconic architecture of Copley Square. It is also home to Boston’s most famous shopping street, Newbury Street, which has long been a symbol of art and high fashion with its many galleries and boutiques.
Today, most of Newbury’s stores are high-end national (and international) chains, but there are still a few local gems and even some of Boston’s original icons, like Newbury Comics. A block away, Boylston Street is home to two huge shopping centers – Copley Place and The Shops at Prudential Center – that are sure to put a dent in your wallet.
Boston’s best nightlife areas: Kenmore Square, Allston/Brighton
It’s no surprise that Boston’s best nightlife is found near the city’s universities. In Kenmore Square, the most central neighborhood, Boston University students and other partygoers flock to the bars and nightclubs on Lansdowne Street.
The Allston/Brighton neighborhood, further west, is densely populated with students from dozens of nearby colleges and universities, earning it the dubious title of “student ghetto.” Ghettos have always been home to a rich music culture, and Boston is no exception, as this neighborhood is home to the city’s best live music clubs.
Boston’s best neighborhood for romance: Beacon Hill.
Beacon Hill’s flower boxes filled with flowers and gas-lit street lamps give this neighborhood an irresistibly romantic atmosphere. It’s a residential neighborhood with narrow red brick streets and Federal-style townhouses.
This means that there aren’t many lodging options, but the few that exist are truly charming. The Charles Street shopping street invites you to stroll through the antique stores and unique boutiques, or stop in at a cozy café or restaurant. The street ends with the charming and flowery Public Garden, which always invites a romantic stroll. There’s no doubt about it: Beacon Hill is made for lovers.
Boston’s best neighborhoods for families: Downtown and Waterfront
Downtown and the Waterfront are the best starting points for Boston’s best family attractions, including the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the New England Aquarium, the Boston Harbor Islands, the Children’s Museum and the Boston Tea Party Ships, and the must-see history lesson on the Freedom Trail. Downtown is also well suited to families for other reasons.
The Boston Common or the Rose Kennedy Greenway offer plenty of space for kids to play, while Quincy Market and the surrounding area offer plenty of quick and inexpensive dining options. If families want to explore the city, they can take the T; children under 12 ride free.
There are also many hotels in the area. For a quieter stay, the Waterfront in the North End, Boston’s oldest neighborhood, with the Boston Harbor, HarborWalk and Greenway Carousel, as well as kid-friendly dining in nearby Little Italy and a great view of Massachusetts Bay.
Founded in 1634, the Boston Common is the oldest urban park in the United States. This 50-acre green space has played a central role in Boston’s history. Located in the center of the city, it adjoins the Public Garden and is bordered by Beacon Hill to the north and Back Bay to the west.
Boston’s best neighborhood for pedestrians: Downtown
Honestly, car-free visitors can live in any neighborhood in Boston without too much of an inconvenience. Owning a car would probably only increase the inconvenience, as parking is expensive and driving is daunting.
Unlike many other American cities, Boston is compact and the many green spaces make walking a pleasure. For longer trips, you can use the subway (known as the “T” in Boston), which is cheap and easy to use.
All of the neighborhoods listed here have attractive walking paths and comfortable T stations. Nevertheless, Downtown is probably the best neighborhood for non-drivers, as it is the most central neighborhood with the most tourist attractions and the most T stations.
The Best Neighborhoods in Boston
1. The North End and Waterfront
The North End is Boston’s oldest and best neighborhood and is bordered by I-93 to the southwest and the Waterfront in all other directions. The neighborhood is home to some of Boston’s most important historical sites, such as the Paul Revere House, as well as excellent restaurants and the charming streets of Little Italy.
East of Little Italy, in the North End, the Waterfront neighborhood offers beautiful views of Massachusetts Bay, luxury hotels and family attractions like the New England Aquarium and the Boston Tea Party Museum, connected by the HarborWalk.
Best Hotel: InterContinental
Best mid-range/low-cost hotel: Harborside Inn
2. Beacon Hill
Charming Beacon Hill is popular with tourists for its narrow streets and stately homes reminiscent of 19th century Brahmin Boston. The boutique-lined Charles Street offers a multitude of restaurants and shopping opportunities.
All the attractions of downtown are nearby, but the skyscrapers, traffic and crowds are far away. Visitors may be surprised to learn about the neighborhood’s fascinating history: Before the Civil War, Beacon Hill was home to a thriving community of free blacks and served as the base for an active abolitionist movement; to learn more, follow the Black Heritage Trail through the neighborhood.
Best hotel: The Liberty
Downtown is Boston’s business district, but also the center of tourism, thanks to the many attractions along the Freedom Trail and across from Boston Harbor. From Downtown, it is easy to get to the four surrounding neighborhoods, but there are also many T stops for travelers who want to get to other parts of the city.
In addition, Downtown has a great selection of restaurants and countless lodging options, making it the most popular neighborhood in Boston.
Best Hotel: The Langham
Best mid-range/low-cost hotel: HI Boston
4. Back Bay
Back Bay is a wonderful choice for travelers who want to stay close to tourist attractions while enjoying the charm of a unique Boston neighborhood. On these elegant streets, you’ll find Boston’s best shopping, excellent restaurants, a good selection of hotels and guesthouses, and a delightfully refined neighborhood atmosphere.
The heart of the Back Bay is Copley Square, adorned with artistic and architectural gems such as Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library, while the boardwalk along the Charles River runs along the northern edge of the neighborhood. Downtown Boston and Kenmore Square are within walking distance.
Best Hotel: Mandarin Oriental
Best mid-range/low-cost hotel: Sheraton Boston Hotel
5. Harbor District
A little over a decade ago, the Seaport District was a collection of parking lots around the city’s grim fishing docks. Then someone realized that this section of the waterfront offered an incredible view of the harbor and skyline, and the rest is history.
Today, the Seaport is lined with hotels and restaurants that serve business travelers from the nearby convention center. Tourists also enjoy the surrounding area, the waterfront parks and the proximity to downtown Boston (and South Station for transportation).
The Seaport District itself is also home to some notable attractions, such as the ICA Boston and the excellent Children’s Museum.
Best Hotel: Westin Waterfront
6. South End
Hip, artistic and eclectic, the South End is off the beaten path. This is partly because there are no traditional tourist attractions. But what the South End lacks in historical monuments and museums, it makes up for in diverse restaurants and a vibrant art scene.
SoWa is the city’s most active art district, with dozens of galleries, a monthly open studio event and a seasonal outdoor artists’ market. Unfortunately, there’s only one T-stop in this sprawling neighborhood, so travelers should be prepared for a lot of walking.
Best Hotel: AC Hotel by Marriott
Although Cambridge is not a suburb of Boston, it is a city in its own right across the Charles River, with its own cultural institutions, restaurants and green spaces. Most notably, Cambridge is home to two world-renowned universities, Harvard and MIT.
Both offer a range of museums, architecture and public and performing arts. Cambridge has a varied and satisfying range of restaurants, some good music and comedy events, and a multitude of accommodation options. A short T-ride takes you to Boston.
Best Hotel: Hyatt Regency Cambridge
8. The West End
The West End is dominated by government buildings and hospitals, which doesn’t make it a very attractive place to stay. However, it is reasonably priced. There are a handful of hotels that offer exceptional service and value, not to mention easy access to the TD Garden and North Station for easy transportation.
A handful of restaurants, clubs and sports bars liven up the night. Best of all, the North End and downtown are only a short walk away.
Best Hotel: Onyx Downtown
The Bottom Line on Where to Stay in Boston
Boston is a city that has a lot to offer visitors. From the Freedom Trail, which takes you to the city’s most iconic sights, to high-end boutiques and innovative restaurants, Boston has something for everyone on any budget.
If you’re still undecided about where to stay in Boston, we recommend staying downtown. It’s inexpensive while providing access to many of the city’s best attractions. It’s also the location of our favorite hostel, the HI Boston, which is both centrally located and well-equipped.