Introduction to Boston

neighborhoods, History, tourist attractions, everything you want to know before visiting the city by foot

With about 650 000 inhabitants, Boston is the 24th largest city in the US; it’s also the 10th largest once you integrate Greater Boston and its 4 millions inhabitants.

Founded in 1630, it’s a city divided in different and distinct neighborhoods; home to numerous colleges and universities; populated by a youthful population.

Its architecture and meandering streets are unique, a mix of quintessential New England and 21st century steel and glass structures. It makes for a very enjoyable and easy town to explore by foot, or using the T, the oldest transit system in the nation.

The city of Boston suggests different trails that we won’t cover in this site. The better known is the Freedom Trail, marked by a red line, and exploring 16 historical sites. It starts at the Boston Common Visitor Center, 139 Tremont Street. You’ll also find maps and guides there.

For more info, the MA Office of Travel or the Boston Visitor Bureau will give you tips about lodging, eating, shopping, and so on. You can also see the Urban Trekking recommended maps and guides in the Be ready page for an easy choice.

Main neighborhoods

The North End, or “Little Italy”: the oldest residential community, known for its restaurants, specialty shops, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.

The West End: a kind of forgotten neighborhood, now home to high rise apartment or municipal buildings. It has endured some drastic urban renewal in the 1950’s.

Downtown Boston, home to the business district, the city, county, state and federal government buildings; the Old State House, Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market; further east, the waterfront with the Christopher Columbus Park , the Aquarium, and ferries out to the Boston Harbor Islands National Park, and towns in the bay.

Beacon Hill: an historic and expensive neighborhood of Federal-style rowhouses, with narrow and gaslit street, brick sidewalks; with the museum of African American History and the Massachusetts State House.

Back Bay, famous for its Victorian brownstones, the Boston Public Library, fashionable shopping streets, and some of the city tallest office buildings (the John Hancock Tower or the Prudential Tower). It has been created by filling tidal areas, and is one of the only place where streets are laid out in a grid.

The Fenway: you’ll find there Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox baseball team; the Citgo sign; many colleges; art museums (the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum); large and small music venues (Symphony Hall, New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music)

Chinatown , the third largest Chinese neighborhood in the country. It’s the place to find authentic Asian restaurants and bakeries.

The Theatre District will greet you at night with its numerous venues and a vibrant club scene.

The South End, known for its Victorian style houses and its gardens. It has a large gay community and many contemporary art galleries at SOWA (South of Washington Street).

South Boston, also known as Southie, is fast becoming gentrified after having been for a long time a working class Irish American neighborhood. You’ll find there the new waterfront with the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Children Museum and further south, historic Castle Island and its surrounding public beaches.

Across the Charles river and Boston harbor

East Boston, home to Logan airport, is now desirable neighborhood due to its waterfront location and parks.

Charlestown, the oldest neighborhood of the city, is topped by the Bunker Hill Monument and docks the USS Constitution. They are both part of the National Park Service

The city of Cambridge is home to two world famous universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.