I count myself lucky to be living in Beacon Hill. It’s a neighborhood frequented by tourists who want to take a peek at one of Boston’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods. Its distinct aesthetic features centuries-old brownstones decorated with flower boxes and brick-laid sidewalks that yield to the unruly roots of oak trees.
You can see this in photos, but what you miss is the sense of community and camaraderie in Beacon Hill. When you walk around this neighborhood, you see folks sitting on their front steps talking to their neighbors, kids running down the street towards the park, and people walking their dogs before dinner. And you’ll realize when you’re here that there’s something special about Beacon Hill, because it’s a historically important neighborhood, but that history continues to inform its identity and shape its community.
When you come to Boston, I highly recommend you leave space in your itinerary for some exploring in Beacon Hill. In fact, if you have a chance to stay here you should, either in an airbnb or one of the local hotels like Beacon Hill Hotel or the John Jeffries House. Here’s a little Beacon Hill Guide for you, so you can see the best of Beacon Hill. I hope you’ll love it here too!
Beacon Hill Guide
Charles Street is the commercial street that wraps around the base of the hill, so that’s where you’ll want to go for shopping and restaurants. I would also definitely recommend that you venture off of that main stretch to meander around the residential streets. On the flat of the hill, you can walk along Brimmer Street, and on the incline of the hill, you should walk up Acorn St, Chestnut St, Mt Vernon St, Louisburg Sq, and Pinckney St. If you’re visiting near Christmas, you should try my Beacon Hill Christmas Walking Tour, which will take you around to the most beautifully decorated homes.
Nearby is also the Boston Common, Boston Public Garden, and Charles River Esplanade, so after you’ve walked the hill you have some nearby parks to enjoy too.
There are a bunch of time-honored favorite restaurants in Beacon Hill. Panificio Bistro and Bakery is a delicious little eatery for Italian-style brunch. Tatte Bakery & Café is a trendy little coffee shop that has coffees and pastries as yummy as they look in their Instagram. The Paramount is a very popular brunch spot where you order at the counter, and I recommend you get their early to beat the crowds.
There are a couple of great pizza spots to enjoy, like The Upper Crust Pizzeria which has classic greasy large slices of pie, and Figs which has unique topping combinations on their artisanal pizzas. Off the main street is 75 Chestnut which is a popular local restaurant that will make you feel like family.
For Italian food, go to the little Italian bistro called Artu and try my favorite dish, the shrimp linguine. Also you can try Toscano, which is a little bigger and more upscale but still a local favorite!
For some completely fantastic French food, you have a couple of options. The Hungry I is a romantic little spot with all the charm of a French home and a French restaurant at the same time, and the food is divine. Around the corner on Cambridge St is Ma Maison, one of the absolute best French restaurants you’ll find, and it’s always full for dinner service.
Being the historic neighborhood that it is, you have plenty of options to learn during your Beacon Hill explorations. The first priority is the Massachusetts State House, whose golden dome glimmers at the very top of the hill. The State House is also where the Freedom Trail starts, and then it weaves around the city to take you to different historic sites. If you want to walk the Freedom Trail, look for the brick trail and golden medallions in the ground, or sign up for a guided tour.
Beacon Hill is also home to the Museum of African American History, and associated African Meeting House and Heritage Trail. The museum is the largest in New England dedicated to preserving the historic contributions of African Americans. And the Meeting House was the first of its kind in America, and the oldest black church in the country. It’s a really interesting place to learn, and if you’re going to Nantucket you can also visit their sister site there.
As you walk around the neighborhood, especially along the route in my Christmas Walking Tour, you’ll see loads of historic houses, designated as such by a plaque beside the door. You can even take a historic home tour at the Nichols House Museum to get a feel for what it was like to live in Beacon Hill in the 1800s.
As I said, Charles Street is a great place to walk along and explore the shops and restaurants. Some of my favorites include: Whitney + Winston, a trendy little gift shop; Black Ink, a paper goods shop with lots of funky gifts; Eugene Galleries, a purveyor of gorgeous antique maps and prints; and Rouvalis Flowers, the most photogenic little flower shop.
I also like North River Outfitter for their sports gear and outerwear, Rugg Road Paper Co for lots of cards and paper goods, and That’s IT! Gifts for funky and interesting gifts. Act like a local, and pick up some picnic foods at DeLuca’s Market.
And don’t miss out on the antique shops because there are so many good ones here! Try Devonia Antiques for antique kitchenware, and Period Furniture Hardware Co for antique fixtures and hardware. Upstairs Downstairs Antiques has a selection of antique home décor and furniture, and Danish Country Antiques has high-end Scandinavian antiques from around Europe. And stop in at Vintage Taste for a selection of beautiful antique clothing.
At the end of a long day of exploring about, you’ll want to relax with a drink, and there are a few great spots for a drink in Beacon Hill. For a nice glass of wine, try Bin 26 Enoteca as they have an excellent selection, and for cocktails, stop in to the bar at Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro. At the end of Charles Street is the Liberty Hotel, which has three trendy bars styled like jail cells to honor the building’s past. And the Sevens Ale House is like the bar that Cheers purports to be, because it’s the actual no-frills neighborhood bar where locals stop for a drink!