Liberty Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
North End and Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Stunning lobby with 90-foot atrium and rich history
  • Rooms have up-to-date technology and free Wi-Fi.
  • Spacious bathrooms with large showers
  • Two fine restaurants and two bars
  • One block from the nearest T station
  • 24-hour room service
  • Pets are welcome.

Cons

  • Rooms and amenities don't quite live up to the standard of its public spaces.
  • Small, spare fitness room
  • Pricey valet parking
  • Not especially family friendly

Bottom Line

Occupying a former jail, the 298-room Liberty Hotel is truly unique, with a playful design that incorporates the incarceration theme in fun ways. The stunning lobby, comfortable rooms and quality on-site restaurants make this hotel a good choice -- but mediocre service and amenities keep it from being a great one.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A rich history and a vibrant nightlife scene define this architecturally awesome hotel.

The 90-foot atrium in the lobby
The 90-foot atrium in the lobby

For nearly 150 years, the tall granite building at 215 Charles Street was known as the Charles Street Jail and housed some of Boston's most heinous criminals. In 2007, after a painstaking restoration that preserved elements of the prison design, it reopened as the Liberty Hotel. The result is stunning, with 298 rooms, a 90-foot-tall atrium, winding catwalks, and high, circular windows that flood the lobby with light.

The hotel has fun with the jail theme. Clink. is the name of the restaurant off the lobby; the walls of Alibi, the lounge downstairs, are hung with celebrity mug shots (Sinatra, Morrison, Nolte); instead of a typical "Do Not Disturb" sign, guests hang a "Solitary" key ring on their doorknobs. In places, the hotel has even kept the jail's iron bars and worked them into the decor. The lobby includes an exhibit that chronicles the building's history and details its restoration.

With it's architectural grace and intriguing backstory, the Liberty seems to aspire to greatness. It's certainly as memorable as any place I've ever stayed, but unfortunately the lackluster rooms and other guest features don't quite live up to the promise of the public spaces. That said, the Liberty is that rare Boston hotel where, during a weekend stay, you could choose not to venture off the property and still have all your needs and wants satisfied. The Liberty's bars and restaurants aren't merely stops for people staying at the hotel, but destinations in their own right, drawing a young and trendy crowd -- but perhaps not so much as the new W Boston downtown.

 Service

Adequate service, but nothing spectacular

The front desk of the Liberty, a former jail
The front desk of the Liberty, a former jail

The Liberty's entrance and vestibule are patrolled by friendly, helpful bellmen, but overall the hotel's service was lacking. Checking in took much longer than it should have, as several front-desk employees tended to guests but did not call for reinforcements or offer apologies as time went on (about 10 minutes) and a line formed. When I eventually did check in, nobody offered to help carry my bags.

  • 24-hour room service
  • Concierge is generally on duty throughout the day, with hours extended during the summer.
  • Free car service to Beacon Hill, Financial District, downtown, and Back Bay in the mornings and evenings during the week. Service is first come, first served.
  • Free overnight shoeshine
  • Same-day laundry service
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel

 Location

In Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, next to a large hospital

About two blocks from the Charles River, the Liberty sits on the western edge of Beacon Hill, a gorgeous residential neighborhood full of brick Federal-style homes. A quiet area with hidden gardens and more than 40 antique shops, Beacon Hill is a bit less tourist-focused than much of Boston, even though the nearby Acorn Street claims to be the most photographed street in America, and 84 Beacon Street, formerly known as the Bull & Finch Pub, was the inspiration for the show Cheers.

The hotel, alas, is situated a bit outside the scenic part of the neighborhood. Massachusetts General Hospital dominates the area around the Liberty, and there are busy expressways nearby. Still, it's only a short walk to shopping and restaurants on Charles Street.

  • About a block from the nearest stop on the T (Boston's subway system)
  • 10-minute drive to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox
  • 10-minute drive to Harvard Square and Harvard University
  • Five-minute drive to Faneuil Hall, a historic tourist marketplace with more than 100 shops and cafes
  • Five-minute drive to Boston Common and the start of the Freedom Trail
  • 15-minute drive to Logan International Airport

 Rooms

A pleasant but lackluster balance of classiness and comfort

A Luxury Room
A Luxury Room

The jail theme, so prevalent throughout the hotel's public spaces, doesn't really make it into the rooms (except for the "Solitary" key ring you can hang on your doorknob instead of a "Do Not Disturb" sign). That's probably a good thing -- hotel themes have a way of becoming corny when they're overdone -- but unfortunately the result it just a little boring. The rooms are large and modern (standard rooms around 400 square feet), with a minimalist black, gray, and white color scheme. Still, I couldn't help thinking the Liberty could have had a little more fun with its rooms.

That said, comfortable beds, up-to-date technology, and great bathrooms add up to a cozy and contemporary experience. The furnishings are all high quality, and flourishes like dimmers for the lamps and a martini set on a mahogany tray contribute an air of romance. The minibar includes the usual items (candy, nuts, soda, liquor) but also extras like bloody mary and mojito mixes -- and an intimacy kit from a brand called Booty Parlor.

  • 32-inch Philips flat-screen TV has the basic cable channels, HBO, several HD channels, and pay-per-view movies.
  • Digital touch-screen room phone has a "virtual gift shop" where you can order Red Sox merchandise, health and beauty products, and Harvard souvenirs.
  • Large bathrooms have unusually spacious showers, Molton Brown bath products, a scale, bathrobes, slippers, and a lighted makeup mirror.
  • Free cribs and rollaway beds

 Features

A small fitness center, large business center and an enclosed courtyard

The fitness center is small but well equipped.
The fitness center is small but well equipped.

Unlike many hotels, the Liberty's business center is more than just a shadowy nook. Its two computers, printer, and copier, with free Internet access, are situated in the hotel's two-story conference center with meeting rooms and a lounge.

  • The small, first-floor fitness center features Life Fitness equipment: a stationary bike, two treadmills, two elliptical machines, a weight bench and free weights, chilled towels, and a water cooler.
  • Free bicycles for guest use
  • In summer, the lobby bar serves food and drinks on the hotel's enclosed courtyard, once the jail's exercise yard.
  • Discounted rates for renting kayaks on the Charles River
  • No pool or spa

 Family

Not especially family-oriented, but not a bad choice either

"Intimacy kits" don't scream "bring the kids."
"Intimacy kits" don't scream "bring the kids."

There's nothing about the Liberty that's particularly unfriendly toward families or children, but the hotel is better suited for romance than a family getaway -- though some kids will undoubtedly be fascinated by the jail theme and there is a kids' menu at the restaurant.

  • Large rooms
  • Free cribs and rollaway beds
  • Clink. has a kids' menu

 Pet Friendly

Especially good for repeat visitors

The hotel allows pets. There's a one-time fee, but once you've paid it you don't have to pay again on future stays. The hotel provides free pet blankets, bowls, and treats.

 Cleanliness

Very clean

A fastidious staff keeps the Liberty spotless.

 Food

With two renowned restaurants, the Liberty is a great hotel for foodies.

Chef Lydia Shire's Italian food at Scampo
Chef Lydia Shire's Italian food at Scampo

The Liberty has two restaurants and three bars. Clink., the restaurant just off the lobby, serves American fare. Boston magazine found that, "After plenty of unsteadiness, Clink has matured into an excellent upscale restaurant with a sure-footed chef." Scampo, under the direction of noted chef and Boston native Lydia Shire, serves contemporary Italian food. The restaurant's name, in a nod to the jail theme, means "escape" in Italian. There's a jail-themed cocktail bar, Alibi, and a lobby bar. The hotel's most recent addition -- Catwalk -- is on the second floor rotunda, overlooking the lobby. It was built on the exact site of the original serving the Charles Stree Jail and serves dinner and cocktails, most of which comes off of Clink's menu. An outdoor seating area -- The Yard -- is also available for private events.

  • American restaurant Clink. open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus prix fixe brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Italian restaurant Scampo open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.
  • Alibi cocktail bar
  • The Liberty Bar, in the lobby, is open late night
  • Catwalk serves dinner and cocktails.

 Weddings

A fun, unique place to attach the ball and chain.

The funky hallway outside the meeting rooms
The funky hallway outside the meeting rooms
  • Wedding Size: Up to 200 guests
  • Ceremony and Reception Locations: In the Liberty Ballroom or the Rotunda
  • Wedding Packages: The standard wedding package includes hors d'oeuvres, a basic open bar, and a plated dinner. Cake is not included. Kids', kosher, and vegetarian menus available upon request.
  • Honeymoon Suite: Many newlyweds upgrade to a Charles River Suite.

 Bottom Line

Occupying a former jail, the 298-room Liberty Hotel is truly unique, with a playful design that incorporates the incarceration theme in fun ways. The stunning lobby, comfortable rooms and quality on-site restaurants make this hotel a good choice -- but mediocre service and amenities keep it from being a great one.

Things You Should Know About Liberty Hotel

Address

  • 215 Charles Street, Boston, MA, 02114

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Liberty Hotel Boston

Room Types

  • Charles River Suite
  • Deluxe Courtyard View room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Ebersol Suite
  • Grand Deluxe City View Room
  • Grand Deluxe Corner Room
  • Superior Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 298
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: North End and Beacon Hill, Boston
Address: 215 Charles Street, Boston, MA, 02114
(See Map)
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