Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
More often than not, budget boutiques try to sell style over substance, focusing on child-size leopard print bathrobes when they should be training their front desk staff how to properly answer a phone. The snug, 98-room Harborside Inn, by contrast, is clean, professional, no-nonsense, and, with the exception of its name (it's actually a few blocks from the harbor), exactly as advertised. It makes no excuses for its lack of amenities; it's all in the service of keeping prices down. (The hotel manager said that they make a point always to offer rates at least 30 percent cheaper than the Omni Parker House.) There's no pool or fitness center (though for a fee you can use the facilities across the street at the Marriott Long Wharf), no on-site restaurant or room service, no special allowances for children, and a no-pets policy.
The clientele skews young and European, and indeed, the hotel resembles a hostel more than a hotel, albeit an exceedingly clean, safe, quiet, and comfortable one that doesn't force you to share a bathroom. There's no concierge, but the front desk receptionists are friendly and helpful. (Just don't bother asking for anything to be delivered to your room late at night; the desk is a one-man operation after hours.) There's also no on-site parking; if you have a car, you can get a discounted rate at the self-parking garage two blocks away. Free coffee and Internet access in the lobby and free in-room Wi-Fi pretty much sum up the extra features here.
Guest rooms are scattered between the hotel's original building -- a refurbished mercantile warehouse -- and newer digs that the hotel purchased next door when it expanded in 2006. My small, 220-square-foot Atrium View Room was situated in the older section of the hotel, which I deduced from the attractive exposed brick wall, ugly tan door with cheap brass knocker, and shabby bathroom. The decor attempts a ship's cabin look, and it achieves this in a number of ways, not all of them pleasant. Although the light teakwood bookcase housing a flat-screen HD TV and DVD player, queen-size platform bed with built-in headboard, nubby chenille bedding, and huge bolted mirror affect a certain compact hominess, the cheesy ship's wheel detail on the bathroom sink and the absence of an exterior-facing window are less charming. (City View Rooms, with windows to the outside offering more light, are worth the slight splurge.) Quarters in the hotel's newer section (like the Atrium King and City View I stole a glance at) have more attractive bathrooms and modern lighting fixtures, but are otherwise identical to the original hotel's chambers. In 2011, the hotel began renovations to much of the property. Rooms were refurbished and, though the decor remains largely the same, they feels refreshed. The lobby also underwent changes, these more impressive. The maritime theme comes through more clearly now, with plenty of teak wood accents. The hotel has also added a lobby lounge where guests can grab a cup of coffee or a drink.
By far the best rates we found in downtown Boston, the Harborside is the obvious choice for wallet-watching travelers whose needs are few and who simply want a clean, quiet place to rest. Cheaper and more centrally located than the Onyx or the Bulfinch, with nicer rooms than those of Back Bay's Hotel 140, the Harborside is the clear winner in the budget boutique category.
On the eastern periphery of downtown Boston; two blocks from the waterfront and steps to Faneuil Hall
Centrally located two blocks west of the harbor, the New England Aquarium and Christopher Columbus Park, and directly south of the tourist mecca that is Faneuil Hall, the Harborside is an ideal home base for tourists, with easy access to dozens of restaurants and bars.
Downtown Boston's Harborside Inn has no gym, no restaurant, and no porters or valets, but with well-sized, spotless rooms, a friendly front desk staff, and a prime location, it's a worthwhile value for leisure and business travelers who can do without the extras.