If you’re planning on visiting the wonderful city of Boston, you might be amazed by all the wicked (sorry, we had to!) tourist attractions in the area. Because of the vast amount of things to do, it can be overwhelming to figure out which part of the city to stay in.
But whether you’re traveling with your kids, family, or spouse, we’ve got recommendations on the best neighborhoods and best hotels to stay at in Boston.
As an almost 400-year-old city, Boston has A LOT of history. However, Boston offers so much more than that. As the largest city in the northeast, it is a mecca for culture, dining, outdoor recreation, education, professional sports, and shopping.
Where else can you see the tallest building in New England (the John Hancock Tower), visit the oldest public library (the Boston Public Library), eat like you’re in Italy, see the oldest park (Boston Common), explore local sports bars (including Cheers!), and relax at the many green spaces? (Hint: only in Boston!)
This fabulous city offers something for everyone. Are you going on a trip with your bachelor friends? Catch a Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, or Red Sox game. Are you going to your college reunion with your best gals? Stay in Cambridge for convenience, but take the “T” (Boston’s subway system) to other parts of the Hub for extra fun.
Planning an anniversary trip with your spouse? Stay in Beacon Hill for a romantic getaway of dining, shopping, and relaxation. Hopefully, this guide will help you figure out the best neighborhoods and the best hotels in Boston (whether you want luxury boutique hotels or cheap hotels).
The best thing about Boston is that most things are within walking distance of each other, so it’s pretty easy to get around! Regardless of why you’re visiting, we’ve got you covered on the best places to stay in Boston!
Where to Stay in Boston, Massachusetts
1. Downtown Boston
Bordered by Boston Common and Tremont Street on the west side and Congress Street on the northeast side, Downtown Boston is THE destination for first-time travelers to the city. Not only are there plentiful options for dining, history, shopping, and recreation, but the area is also very pedestrian and bike-friendly.
So, if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston, downtown Boston is easily the top choice, especially for Boston novices!
Things to do in downtown Boston
One of the most popular attractions in downtown Boston is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile path of 16 landmarks significant to the country’s history. The trail’s famous sites include Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, King’s Chapel, and Park Street Church.
Traveling with kids? Take a trip to the oldest park in the United States, Boston Common, one of the many historic sites on the Freedom Trail. During the winter, ice skating is at the Frog Pond; in the summer, there is a spray pool to cool off.
If you like shopping, head to the pedestrian-friendly Downtown Crossing, where you can shop at Macy’s or many local retail shops, eat from a food vendor on the street, and get some coffee to keep you going through the afternoon!
And if you’ve worked up an appetite with all of your wicked sightseeing, have some New England clam chowder and follow it up with some Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese at Legal Sea Foods on Washington Street.
Don’t hesitate to stop at Beantown Pub for a cold one, the only place where you can drink a Sam Adams while looking at his gravesite across the street.
Where to Stay in downtown Boston
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2. West End
If you want to visit Boston on a budget, consider staying in the West End. However, you won’t sacrifice fun for saving money! This diverse neighborhood is home to TD Garden (where the Bruins and the Celtics play!), several museums, and delicious restaurants.
Also, if you want to visit other parts of Boston, this area has several subway lines for easy transportation! While you may not find cheap hotels in the West End, there are certainly some affordable options. So, if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston on a budget, put the West End on your list!
Things to do in the West End
Whether or not you’re a basketball or hockey fan, you should try to score a ticket to TD Garden to see the Celtics or Bruins. Who knows, you may even become a fan! Visiting during the offseason? Head to the Sports Museum inside the stadium for a half-mile of exhibits about Boston’s professional sports history.
If you love historic buildings and architecture, you must see the Otis House, the last surviving mansion in Bowdoin Square. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Otis House is known for its federal-style architecture and furniture.
And if you’ve got kids in tow, head to one of the largest science museums in the country, the Boston Museum of Science. Not only does it have over 700 amazing exhibits, but it also has a planetarium featuring AWESOME shows. There’s even a Sesame Street show for the younger audiences to learn about astronomy!
Ever heard of a museum dedicated to medical history? Look no further than the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation (or Russell Museum for short). Located at Massachusetts General Hospital, the museum showcases more than two centuries of medical history.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, order some delicious crab cakes and a Johnnie’s Burger at West End Johnnies, the cornerstone of the West End’s culinary scene.
Where to Stay in the West End
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The Waterfront neighborhood is the best pick if you’re looking for a luxury trip to Boston. The area is filled with pedestrian-friendly wharves on the harbor, while Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park has gorgeous harbor views.
You’ll find luxury accommodations in this beautiful part of Boston, with close proximity to decadent restaurants, beautiful parks, and many sightseeing cruises. So, if you’re looking for a luxury stay in Boston, put the Waterfront area at the top of your list!
Things to do in the Waterfront Area
If you’ve never explored a city in an amphibious vehicle before, now’s your chance! Take a Boston Duck Boat tour from the harbor. You can see all of Boston’s sights on this tour, from the State House to the North End, Newbury Street, and the Prudential Tower.
After seeing all of the city’s sights on land, the tour will take you right into the Charles River for a big splash! Traveling with kids? Make sure to stop at the New England Aquarium, where you can have a personal fur seal, penguin, or sea lion encounter! The aquarium also boasts the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank, a four-story tank home to hundreds of species of marine life.
If you want to relax in the middle of the city, head to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, one of Boston’s green spaces bordering downtown and the Waterfront area. This awesome area is perfect for relaxing with a glass of Cabernet while perusing the diverse menus at the food trucks. Let your inner child come out and run through the fountains and ride the famous Greenway Carousel.
When you’ve had enough sightseeing, stop by Chart House, Long Wharf’s oldest surviving structure, for some oysters on the half shell and some Boston cod or lobster stuffed Boston Scrood (so many drool-worthy options!).
And if you want to see one of the Boston Harbor islands, take a ferry ride from the Long Wharf. This family-friendly experience is a delight for all ages, with access to a Civil War fort, beaches, and hiking trails.
Where to Stay in the Waterfront Area
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If you’re looking for one of the safest areas to stay in Boston, Cambridge is a fantastic choice. While technically not part of the city of Boston, it’s just across the Charles River, and most people consider it just another neighborhood.
It ranks as one of the safest parts of the Boston area and is home to Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), world-class museums, historical sites, boutique shops, restaurants, and theaters. So, if you want a safe place to stay in Boston, Cambridge is easily one of the safest areas!
Things to do in Cambridge
If you want a real, local experience, head to Central Square Historic District for an afternoon of shopping, eclectic food, and live music. Central Square is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Harvard Square is another option for grabbing a cup of joe, visiting a bookstore, and finding local eats.
Whether you want your kids to attend Harvard or not, it’s super fun to take a Hah-vahd (sorry, we had to) tour. This 70-minute tour is led by current students, and you’ll get a kick out of their theatrical-like performances while showing you some of the major Harvard landmarks.
Want to eat like a local? Head to the Boston-only chain of Tasty Burger for the Big Tasty and a Pile of Onion Rings. And if that doesn’t fill you up, visit Toscanini’s for one of their amazing ice cream flavors, like B3 (brown sugar, butter, and brownies) or Gingersnap Molasses.
You could spend many days touring the AMAZING museums in Cambridge but start with the Harvard Art Museums (three separate museums, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Fogg Museum). You’ll find everything from Western paintings to Asian fine art.
And you shouldn’t stay in Cambridge without a visit to the MIT Museum. It is so cool, with exhibits on the latest research at the university, robotics, holography, artificial intelligence, and SO MUCH MORE. If you want to feel smart, come learn a thing or two at this wicked museum.
Where to Stay in Cambridge
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While there are many family-friendly areas in Boston, Charlestown ranks among the best! Although Charlestown is only one square mile, there are plenty of fun things to do in the small space! Located on the banks of Boston Harbor, Charlestown has fun parks, museums, water recreation, shopping, and dining.
Things to do in Charlestown
One of the top attractions in Charlestown is the USS Constitution, the oldest ship still afloat! Also known as “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution is over 200 feet long and over two centuries old! While kids enjoy climbing aboard Old Ironsides, adults will love the almost 2,000 artifacts from the ship’s history.
Just a short walk from the USS Constitution is the Charlestown Navy Yard. After years of shipbuilding history, the Navy Yard is now acres of green spaces, including Shipyard Park and Menino Park. The imaginative public playground at Menino Park is fantastic for kids, and adults will love the views of the city’s skyline.
If you can’t get enough of the historical sites, you should put the Bunker Hill Monument and the Colonel William Prescott Statue on your itinerary. The Monument was constructed where the Provincial forces built a redoubt, or earthen fort, before the Bunker Hill battle. The small Bunker Hill Museum gives more history of the battle and the Provincial forces.
Shoppers will enjoy a trip down Main Street with adorably quaint gift shops. In addition, Main Street is also home to the Charlestown Farmers Market across from Thompson Park. If you visit between June and October, you can pick up some delicious local produce and artisanal goods!
Thirsty for a cold one and some lunch? Have a frosty beverage at the oldest bar in Massachusetts, the Warren Tavern. Dating back to 1780, the Warren Tavern was built right after the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Have a Downeast Original Cider from East Boston or a Sam Adams (if you want to be traditional), and order some New England Clam Chowder to warm your soul and feed your belly.
Where to Stay in Charlestown
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6. North End
Also known as Boston’s Little Italy, the North End is the destination for food lovers. With almost 100 restaurants in this mid-sized neighborhood, you can spend a week here and never get to try all of them. Whether you’re looking for pizza, sfogliatella, cannoli, fist-sized arancini, Sunday macaroni, or an affogato, you’re in luck.
In addition, the Freedom Trail continues from downtown Boston to the North End, with the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church. Visitors to the North End will love the narrow cobblestone streets, the wonderful aroma of authentic Italian food, and the old-town feel.
Things to do in the North End
Take a trip to the 17th Century and visit the Revere House, the home of one of the Founding Fathers and the oldest building in downtown Boston. The anecdotal story of Revere is that he shouted, “The British are coming, the British are coming!” Whether he uttered those exact words is unknown, but he is famous for his ride warning the Minutemen of the British invasion.
The Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Copps Burying Ground are all part of the Freedom Trail that goes through the North End. The church is the site where the church sexton and a Vestryman held two lanterns in the steeple to warn the Minutemen that the British troops were coming by sea and not by land. The signal was “one [lantern] if by land, two [lanterns] if by sea.”
Visitors to the North End can also walk on the Harborwalk, the free public walkway along the Boston Harbor. At the North End, the Harborwalk includes the Burroughs Wharf, Lewis Wharf, and the Commercial Wharf. Exploring the Harborwalk is fun for all ages, with easy access to parks, cafes, and public art.
If you get hungry while on your sightseeing missions, a stop at the Boston Public Market is a must! This indoor market showcases dozens of New England vendors with fresh produce, prepared meals, locally-sourced meat and poultry, and more. You can also quench your thirst with a cold one at the Pine Bar and walk around while exploring all of the local goods.
And if you’re looking to experience an authentic part of Little Italy, you must dine at one of the many Italian restaurants. While we can’t pick the BEST because there are so many, a trip to Giacomo’s Boston North End on Hanover Street is a solid choice.
Start with a lobster roll or some New England clam chowder and then delight your tastebuds with one of the many delectable entrees, such as Homemade Fusilli served with lobster meat and shrimp or the Lobster Ravioli with diced tomato in a garlic cream sauce.
Where to Stay in the North End
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The Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood is an excellent option if you’re heading to Boston and looking for lively nightlife. The area is famous for Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and there are plenty of sports bars on Lansdowne Street. However, dance clubs, trendy restaurants, and student hangouts exist.
And, if you want to mix some culture with your nightlife, there are a couple of outstanding museums to visit!
Things to do in Fenway-Kenmore
The most obvious thing to do while in Fenway is to visit Fenway Park, whether for an actual Red Sox game or to take a ballpark tour. It’s known as “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” for a reason, and if you’re not a BoSox fan before you go, you’ll likely leave as one! The one-hour walking tour of the park includes a trip to the Green Monster, the almost 40-foot leftfield wall.
Just a short walk from Fenway Park is the Cheeky Monkey Brewery. Enjoy a Rebellious Monk Stout or Harambe’s Ghost Double IPA, but make sure to order some food too. Their Monkey Burger will curb your hunger with two beef patties, cheddar cheese, bacon, crispy onion straws, a fried egg, and sriracha mayo on a toasted bun.
Or, if you’re feeling a little Irish, head to the Landsdowne Pub for a traditional Irish Sheppard’s Pie and a pint of Guinness.
And if you’re craving something other than pub food, have some robata grilled yakitori or karaage fried chicken at Hojoko, a rock’ n roll izakaya. Or put on your cowboy boots and have some delicious shrimp and grits or a shrimp po-boy at Loretta’s Last Call, the first and only country venue in Boston.
To see a killer rock show at an intimate venue, head to Paradise Rock Club. Upcoming shows include G. Love & Special Sauce, Margo Price, and Letters to Cleo. You can also catch live shows (and dinner) at the House of Blues, where you can feast on Lobster Mac and Cheese or Jambalaya before the show.
And for a bit of culture, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra, whether you see a show or take a tour of Symphony Hall. There are not only family concerts like Peter and the Wolf but also traditional orchestral concerts.
Or, watch student or faculty recitals and performances at the Boston Conservancy, such as Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the faculty Woodwind Quintet, or the Fall Dance Concert: From the Ground Up.
Where to Stay in Fenway-Kenmore
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8. Back Bay
Are you looking for a shopping destination? Look no further than Back Bay! This affluent neighborhood is known for Newbury Street, where designer boutiques, art galleries, and upscale dining options line the street. Not only can you shop in Back Bay, but you can also visit Copley Square, with two 19th Century landmarks, including the Boston Public Library.
Located along the Charles River, Back Bay is known for its Victorian brownstones and gorgeous mansions on Commonwealth Avenue. So, if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston, Back Bay should be at the top of your list!
Things to do in Back Bay
Back Bay is famous for Newbury Street, the 8-block shopping destination. You will find everything from bohemian to chic and local boutiques to international retailers.
While Newbury Street is synonymous with the best shopping in Boston, there are also three other retail destinations in Back Bay. If you want to visit Saks Fifth Avenue or Lord and Taylor, head to the Prudential Center, with more than 75 shops and restaurants!
If you’re not scared of heights, you can head to the 50th floor of the Prudential Center for the Observation Deck with amazing city views! If you still haven’t completed your shopping list, stop at Copley Place for Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, or Gucci. And you shouldn’t forget Boylston Street for your Lululemon leggings and some famous Lindt chocolate.
Once you’ve checked off all of the things on your shopping list, don’t forget to learn about the area’s history at Copley Square. Trinity Church, the centerpiece of Copley Square, is known for its beautiful stained glass windows and gorgeous murals.
And get lost in the labyrinth-like Boston Public Library (maybe literally!). Stop by the cloistered courtyard for a few minutes of solitude for some peace and quiet. And if you’re craving a frosty beverage, bring your cash to Bukowski Tavern, where more than 100 beers are available.
While it looks like a dive bar that may only serve the standard brews, don’t be fooled. This kitschy tavern focuses on hard-to-find regional beers, so be sure to ask for a unique brew!
Where to Stay in Back Bay
9. Beacon Hill
The Beacon Hill area is perfect if you visit Boston for a romantic getaway or a honeymoon! Although it’s one of the city’s most picturesque areas, Beacon Hill is only 1/6 of a square mile. Located just north of the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common and along the riverfront of the Charles River Esplanade, this beautiful small area has steep streets, antique lanterns, and Federal-style homes.
The name “Beacon Hill” refers to the hill where the Massachusetts State House resides. The area is beautiful and quaint, but you’ll also find plenty of art galleries, restaurants, and boutique shops to keep you entertained.
So, if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston for a romantic getaway, put Beacon Hill at the top of your list!
Things to do in Beacon Hill
Take a trip down the six blocks of Charles Street in Beacon Hill to see all the antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants. If you need a pick-me-up while perusing the shops, stop at Cobblestones for The Revere Sandwich, a roast beef sandwich on a french baguette with cheddar and horseradish aioli. For dessert, have a Large Americano and a Whoopie Pie!
Beacon Hill is famous for many things, including the childhood home of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women! Next to Louisburg Square, the city’s only remaining private park, lies the most expensive real estate in Boston.
Built in the mid-19th Century, these homes are Greek revival style and are gorgeous. Among the many bow-fronted townhouses is 20 Pinckney Street, Alcott’s home, where she wrote Flower Fables in 1854.
You can’t visit Beacon Hill without seeing the Massachusetts State House. Paul Revere and Sam Adams put down the building’s cornerstones in 1795. Completed in 1798, the gold-domed building is worth exploring, with its Revolutionary War art and historical displays. The State House is also one of the 16 historic buildings on the Freedom Trail.
In addition, the North Slope of Beacon Hill is where you’ll find the Black Heritage Trail, featuring the Museum of African American history and safe houses that were part of the Underground Railroad.
Cheers! No, really, Cheers! The aptly-named bar was where the old TV show Cheers filmed the outside scenes, primarily during the intro of each episode. So, stop by for a picture and a beer, but don’t expect the inside of the bar to look the same with Frasier, Norm, and Cliff sitting on the barstools.
Where to Stay in Beacon Hill
10. East Boston
If you’re looking to experience a diverse and culturally-rich area of Boston, look no further than East Boston, or “Eastie” for short. While Eastie is known as the home of Boston Logan International Airport, it offers much more.
Not only can you see some of the most beautiful views of the Boston Harbor and skyline, but there are some hidden beaches (SSHHHHH, don’t tell anyone) that will delight people of all ages. In addition, the area’s history and food combine to provide visitors with a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. So, if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston, Eastie is amazing!
Things to do in East Boston
One of the first things you should do in Eastie is visit the Madonna Queen of the Universe shrine. Built in the 1950s, the 35-foot Madonna statue is at the top of Orient Heights. The statue has beautiful mosaics, and the airport and harbor view is stunning.
Kids will love Piers Park, with a large playground, an outdoor fitness center, and direct access to the waterfront. There’s also a 600-foot pedestrian path heading to two different pavilions for picnics and skyline views. While there, visit the Piers Park Sailing Center, which focuses on 100% accessible recreational activities.
Visiting during the summer? Pack a picnic and head to Constitution Beach for sun, sand, tennis, and basketball. This hidden gem is a local spot, so you won’t find many tourists here!
If you’re looking for an Italian restaurant in Eastie, head to Rino’s Place, featured on the hit show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” Here you can whet your appetite with dishes like Shrimp Scampi, Lobster Ravioli, or Vitello Saltimbocca.
Or, for something completely different, try Rincon Limeno Restaurant for authentic Peruvian dishes like Arroz Chaufa de Carne o Pollo or Chicharron de Pescado. On a cold day, warm up with a hot bowl of pho or some Vietnamese rice dishes at Saigon Hut.
Lastly, if you want to end your evening with some whiskey, head to The Quiet Few, with almost an entire page of its menu dedicated to bourbon, scotch, rye, Irish whiskey, and Japanese whiskey. They also offer beer and wine if you’re not a whiskey fan.
Where to Stay in East Boston
11. Seaport District
The Seaport District is an up-and-coming neighborhood on the South Boston waterfront. It’s perfect for young, hip couples who want to eat, shop, and relax all in one place. This area has upscale restaurants, cocktail bars, cafes, museums, trendy shops, and ample green space.
You can’t go wrong staying here, with access to everything you need within a few blocks. And if you want to head to other parts of the city, you’ve got easy access to the T. Wondering about the best place to stay in Boston? Put the Seaport District at the top of your list!
Things to do in the Seaport District
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Seaport District is the Boston Tea Party Ships. This floating museum is a hit for kids and adults, with live reenactments of many parts of the Boston Tea Party. And a trip on the ships is even more amazing! You can also head to Abigail’s Tea Room and Terrace to sample some of the teas thrown overboard on that crazy day.
If you’re visiting Boston in the summer, head to the Leader Bank Pavilion for live music like Machine Gun Kelly or the Brothers Osborne. It’s a gorgeous venue with perfect harbor breezes, amazing lighting, and top-of-the-line sound.
Craving a soft pretzel and a cold beer after sightseeing? Stop at nearby Harpoon Brewery for a Harpoon Flannel Friday (a hazy pale ale) or a Dunkin’ Pumpkin (a spiced latte ale). Oh, and their delicious soft pretzels.
If you want to take in some culture, head to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Whether knowledgeable about the fine arts or not, the gorgeous building and the views will make your trip worthwhile.
The Seaport District has several fantastic restaurants, but if you want some of the most unique tacos you’ve ever had, stop by bartaco (and yes, the “B” is supposed to be lowercase). Here you’ll find menu items like a Crispy Oyster taco, a Roasted Duck taco, and a Falafel taco.
Where to Stay in the Seaport District
Where is a good place to stay in Boston?
There is no BAD area to stay in Boston, with almost every section of the city accessible by foot, bike, public transportation, water taxi, or private companies like Uber and Lyft. So, you can stay in one area, but easily visit other sections of town. However, if you’re a first-timer to Boston, staying downtown is recommended but not required.
What are the best areas to stay in Boston?
The best area to stay in Boston is subjective, and with most of the city accessible by public transportation, you can stay anywhere in Boston and still do all the fun things! However, if you want water views, you’ll want to stay in the Seaport District, the Waterfront Area (either South or North End), Charlestown, East Boston, or Back Bay. Or if you want to be near one of the professional sports teams, stay in Fenway-Kenmore or the West End.
What are the best family-friendly neighborhoods to stay in Boston?
Some neighborhoods are better suited to the younger crowd if you’re wondering where to stay in Boston with kids. Downtown Boston and the Waterfront Area rank highly for families because there are so many tourist attractions within walking distance of the hotels in those areas. However, don’t limit yourself to staying in these neighborhoods, as there’s so much to see in the entire city!