The North End is Boston’s Italian village, where one feast day blends into the next all summer as the great-grandchildren of the original immigrants celebrate the music, food, and dolce vita of the old country. Yet the North End predates its Italian inhabitants and the neighborhood is in fact the oldest in Boston. The area along the waterfront bristles with condo developments on former shipping piers, which lead south to the bustle of Long, Central, and Rowes wharves. Boston was born by the sea and it is now reclaiming its waterfront as a vital center for business and pleasure.
Hull St • 617 635 4505 • Open 9am–5pm daily
Trace the history of Boston on the thousands of tombstones found here (see Copp’s Hill Burying Ground), from the mean-spirited Mather family, who were theocrats who ruled the early city of the late 17th and 18th century, to the valiant patriots slain in the fight for freedom during the American Revolution. In the Battle of Bunker Hill, the British, who occupied the city in 1775, manned a battery from this site and fired on neighboring Charlestown. There are sweeping views of the harbor.
193 Salem St • 617 858 8231 • Open Apr–Nov: 9am–6pm daily (shorter hours off-season) • Adm • www.oldnorth.com
An active Episcopal congregation still worships at Boston’s oldest church, officially known as Christ Church (1723). It was here, in 1775, that sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the belfry to warn horseback messenger Paul Revere of British troop movements, an event commemorated by a bronze plaque in the street outside (see Moments in Revolutionary History).
19 North Sq • 617 523 2338 • Open mid-Apr–Oct: 9:30am–5:15pm daily; Nov–mid Apr: 9:30am–4:15pm daily (closed Mon Jan–Mar) • Adm • www.paulreverehouse.org
Home to Paul Revere for 30 years, this 17th-century clapboard house is the only surviving home of any of Boston’s revolutionary heroes. It provides an intriguing glimpse into the domestic life of Revere’s family with displays of their furniture and possessions, including silverwork made by Revere, who was highly regarded as a metalsmith. Well-trained staff tell the tale of Revere’s legendary midnight ride (see Paul Revere’s Ride).
One of the original six naval yards created to support the fledgling US Navy, the Charlestown Navy Yard was a center of technical innovation. The heart of the yard opened as a historic site in 1974. Its two most popular exhibits include the famous USS Constitution frigate, and the World War II era destroyer USS Cassin Young.
Now the centerpiece of the downtown waterfront development, the aquarium’s construction in the 1960s paved the way for the revitalization of Boston Harbor as a whole. Harbor seals cavort in a tank in front of the sleek structure (see New England Aquarium).
308 Congress St • 617 426 6500 • Open 10am–5pm daily, to 9pm Fri • Adm • www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org
This interactive museum is the perfect place to take the family for hands-on fun (see Children’s Museum).
25 Harbor Shore Dr • 617 478 3100 • Open 10am–5pm Tue, Wed, Sat & Sun, 10am–9pm Thu & Fri • Adm • www.icaboston.org
The ICA was founded in 1936 and reopened in its modern landmark structure on Fan Pier in 2006. The striking glass, wood, and steel building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is cantilevered over the HarborWalk and provides dramatic views. The ICA promotes cutting-edge art and focuses on 21st-century work. There is also a program of performing arts and other events, with waterfront concerts in summer.
Congress St Bridge • 617 338 1773 • Open 10am–5pm daily (closes 4pm in winter) • Adm • www.bostonteapartyship.com
The historic occasion known as the Boston Tea Party, when patriots dressed as Native Americans and threw a consignment of English tea overboard to protest against the Stamp Tax of 1773, proved to be a catalyst of the American Revolution (see Moments in Revolutionary History). The Boston Tea Party ships are replicas of the vessels that were relieved of their cargo that fateful December night. Costumed storytellers recount events in rousing detail, and visitors can board one of the vessels and even participate in a re-enactment of the destruction. In the museum is one of two tea crates known to have survived from the incident, while Abigail’s Tea Room serves up a nice “cuppa.”
The Greenway is a ribbon of organic, contemporary parkland through the heart of Boston, where visitors and locals laze on the lawns, cool off in the fountains, buy lunch at one of the affordable food trucks, and enjoy free Wi-Fi. There’s a charming carousel featuring local hand-carved wildlife, with cod, lobster, rabbit, and more. Artworks include the Harbor Fog water sculpture, near Rowes Wharf, which evokes the sea with fog, light, and sound, as well as installations that change every year. Colorful garden plants punctuate the park’s walkways.
401 Hanover St • 617 523 1230 • Open 8:30am–4:30pm Mon–Sat, 11am Sun for worship
Renowned architect Charles Bulfinch completely redesigned St. Stephen’s original 1714 structure in 1802–4, and the church is the only surviving example of his religious architecture. Its bell was cast by Paul Revere. The complex Neo-Classical exterior contrasts with the open, airy, and relatively unadorned interior. In 1862, the Roman Catholic archdiocese took over the church to accommodate the area’s growing number of Irish immigrants. Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of Boston mayor and St. Stephen’s parishioner John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, and mother of President John F. Kennedy, is linked to the church. She was baptized here in 1890, and her funeral took place here in 1995.
Italian food, wine, and culture expert Michele Topor has lived in the North End for four decades. Her tour of the local markets of Boston’s “Little Italy” on Wednesday and Saturday (10am and 2pm), and Friday (10am and 3pm) includes tastings and insights on local restaurants. To reserve a place, contact Boston Food Tours: 800 656 0713, www.bostonfoodtours.com.
From the Haymarket “T”, follow Hanover Street to Richmond Street and continue to North Square. Stop at Paul Revere House for a glimpse into the domestic life of the revolutionary hero. Return to Hanover for an espresso and some prime people-watching at lively Caffè Vittoria. Continue up Hanover and turn left through Paul Revere Mall to Old North Church. The bust of George Washington inside is reputedly the world’s most accurate rendering of his face – compare the resemblance to a dollar bill. Then stroll up Hull Street past Copp’s Hill Burying Ground for a great view of USS Constitution and continue to the waterfront. Grab a bench in Puopolo Park to watch a match of bocce. Walk south along Commercial Street and stop for an alfresco waterside lunch at Joe’s American Bar & Grill (100 Atlantic Ave).
Resume your waterfront stroll, admiring the views of the harbor as you walk. Then stop off to enjoy the roses in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, before whiling away an hour or so in the New England Aquarium where highlights include the swirling Giant Ocean Tank. Relax with a sundowner on the patio of the Boston Harbor Hotel before you head to Trade for dinner.
300 Hanover St
Large glass cases display a huge selection of cookies and cannoli (crunchy pastry filled with a sweet ricotta cream). Purchase a box to go, or grab a table and order a drink and a delectable pastry.
151 Richmond St
This neighborhood fixture is a great source of esoteric Italian canned goods and rich olive oils, as well as spicy sausages and cheeses from many Italian regions.
46 Cross St
Run for three generations by the Merola family, Maria’s is famed for its Neapolitan flaky and sweet sfogliatelle (filled pastry) as well as seasonal sweets, such as chocolate-allspice cookies at Christmas and marzipan lambs at Easter.
105 Salem St • Closed Sun
The premier bulk grocer in the North End, this charming store has sold fine Italian roasted coffee since 1932. It’s still the best place to find spices, flours, grains, and legumes.
134 Salem St
Fresh bread emerges from the ovens at all hours. When the coffee shops and bars close, head to Bova’s for hot sandwiches and cookies.
257 Hanover St
The house specialties here include a rich ricotta pie, delicious florentines, and nougat, which are all made on the premises, as well as chocolate truffles from Italy. Modern makes a thinner cannoli shell than Mike’s.
130 Salem St
Linked to a nearby restaurant, this salumeria has all the usual cheeses and sausages, but its specialties are prepared foods such as cold salads for picnics and pasta dishes for reheating.
173 North St • Closed Sun
The North End’s most upscale seller of Italian wines and liqueurs stocks both fine wines to lay down and cheerfully youthful ones to enjoy right away.
241 Hanover St
This subterranean bakery turns out amazing Italian and French breads day and night. Follow the delicious smells to find it tucked down an alley.
11 Board Alley
With many varieties of fresh pasta made daily, plus sauces, pesto, grating cheeses, and a handful of hard-to-find Italian groceries, this North End takeout is ideal for stocking up a picnic basket.
364 Hanover St • 617 367 1123 • $$
At this cozy, buzzy spot, chef Maurizio Lodo draws on his Sardinian heritage to create inventive and comforting dishes that often feature fish. Wines are carefully selected to complement the food.
63 Salem St • 617 742 3474 • $$
The delicate raw bar oysters are almost upstaged by large and bold roasted fish and pasta dishes in this tiny, stylish spot. Tables turn quickly.
Liberty Wharf and other locations • 617 477 2900 • $$$
The flagship of the Legal Sea Foods chain offers three floors of seafood heaven. It’s popular, so book ahead.
70 Rowes Wharf • 617 439 3995 • $$$
The innovative menu at this sleek, waterfront restaurant (see Meritage) is driven by an excellent and varied selection of wines.
11½ Thatcher St • $
Founded in 1926, the original, family-run Regina offers brick-oven, thin-crust, old-fashioned pizza, which is far better than the pale imitations served at its other branches.
354 Congress St • 617 737 0099 • Closed L • $$$
Barbara Lynch’s luxurious restaurant (see Menton) serves seasonally inspired dishes such as East Coast halibut, dry-aged ribeye and crab bisque. Try the excellent four-course prix fixe menu or the chef’s tasting menu.
210 Hanover St • 617 720 0052 • Closed L Sun • $$$
A creative and unusual blend of Sardinian and Peruvian cuisine spells intense flavors in dishes such as pork with vinegar peppers and broccoli.
3 North Sq • 617 523 0077 • Closed L • $$$
Set in a romantic 19th-century row house, Mamma Maria specializes in northern Italian cuisine, with a few Sicilian and Neapolitan dishes. The extensive wine list is excellent.
540 Atlantic Ave • 617 451 1234 • $$$
This airy upscale restaurant (see Trade) evokes Boston’s global shipping days with its superb, eclectic world cuisine and creative cocktails.
24 Fleet St • 617 227 1577 • Closed L, Sun • $$$
With one of the longest wine lists in town, Prezza is bound to offer just the right glass to accompany its hearty Tuscan fare as well as its sinfully rich desserts.