Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The 350-year-old Battery Wharf is now home to Fairmont's modern rooms, luxury condos, a well-regarded restaurant, and a big, state-of-the-art gym -- though there's not much historic character to this spot.
Battery Wharf, the 350-year-old site of the Fairmont, played a significant role in one of Boston's earliest neighborhoods. Back in the 1640s, there was a gun battery on the wharf, to protect the town from attack by sea. The warehouses and shipyards along the waterfront have since been transformed, with residences, restaurants, and office and hotel space, as well as an extension of a harborside walking path. The $300-million Fairmont Battery Wharf complex -- which includes four rather nondescript buildings including a luxury hotel and residential condominiums (all of which connect underground) -- is a large part of this redevelopment.
Travelers staying here will have the advantage of larger-than-average, 380-square-foot rooms, some with wonderful views of the water, an on-site restaurant with outdoor dining space, a modern, top-notch fitness center (located in the next-door, residential-only condo building) and Exhale Spa, and excellent service. And at only 150 rooms, the Fairmont feels more like a boutique hotel than a cookie cutter behometh, like others in its brand. Overall, the scene is perfect for relaxing on the waterfront, but there isn't much else in the direct vicinity.
The Fairmont's location and amenities are best suited for business people, since it's within walking of the Financial District and a quick water taxi ride from the airport, plus those on the corporate dime can upgrade to the Fairmont Gold building and get a private lobby lounge with free morning buffet, nightly hors d'oeuvres, and evening desserts. But the hotel sees a healthy mix of families and business travelers, regardless.
There aren't too many negatives to this property. But it's too bad that with all the history in this area, the Fairmont Battery Wharf doesn't incorporate more into the hotel. Boston HarborWalk public path passes directly in front of the Fairmont (historic walking tours are available) and a nearby maritime museum offers a background look at the waterfront's history, but there's not much inside beyond a small room with a wall devoted to Battery Wharf history. Unlike the more expensive Boston Harbor Hotel, which has the feel of old Boston in its overall decor -- including a wonderful antique map collection -- and sits on an active port, the Fairmont Battery Wharf doesn't seem to embrace or reflect its past. Overall, however, the Fairmont is a very good choice for waterfront luxury.
Patient, thorough staff that goes out of its way
The service at the Fairmont Battery Wharf has a sort of show-and-tell quality to it: Information isn't only verbally passed to guests, but demonstrated whenever possible. Upon check-in, the front desk clerk not only explained how the keys operate the elevator, but accompanied guests into the elevator and up to their floor, which is standard practice. Everyone, from the bell hops to the concierge wants to help, and does so quickly and seemingly happily.
Harborfront in the North End, Boston's oldest residential neighborhood
The Fairmont Battery Wharf is in the North End, Boston's oldest residential neighborhood and one of the longest thriving communities in the country -- home to the city's early wealthy developers, freed and escaped slaves, and Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants who left rich cultural remnants. Today, it is dominated by Italians (and hence known as Little Italy), with countless cafes, pizzerias, and Italian restaurants, most of which are on Hanover Street, a few blocks from the hotel. In the summer months, different feasts take place each weekend that guests are sure to enjoy. The hotel sits along the revitalized waterfront, with 1.5 acres of open space with a HarborWalk that passes in front. Guests get a true on-the-water vibe while still being in a big city, but the hotel is still very walkable to the important parts of Boston. Thanks to the Big Dig, a massive highway no longer carves Boston in half. Instead, visitors can easily walk through various parks to their nearby destinations.
Spacious, bright, and modern, but some are noisy
At 380 square feet, the standard rooms at the Fairmont are bigger than at many Boston hotels. They're spacious and bright, with big windows that provide views of either Bunker Hill, Boston Harbor (partial view), the hotel courtyard, or the Coast Guard Station that sits on the water. Plus, they can be opened to let in some fresh air. For an unobstructed view of the harbor, you have to upgrade to a Fairmont Deluxe View Room, which is exactly the same size as the standard room. The design is clean, modern, and unobtrusive; practicality seems to be the main focus. There are MP3 plug-ins with a volume knob in the bathroom, a reclining reading chair, and good workspace with well-placed outlets and Ethernet and, if you're in a room that looks at the Coast Guard Station, bright backlight that bounces off the water. Even with three chairs and a king bed, the room feels large. Unfortunately, since the perimeter of the hotel is part of the public access Boston HarborWalk and rooms are on the lower floors, they don't feel terribly private. You can keep the shades down, but there goes your view.
Good features for the price, and more if you pay extra for the Fairmont Gold building
While a scenic, inexpensive water taxi ride from Logan Airport right up to the hotel is hard to beat and the on-site fitness center is impressive, there aren't very many additional features for guests in standard rooms at the Fairmont Battery Wharf. If you pay $100 or so more to stay in the Fairmont Gold building, you'll get a separate check-in, service staff, private lobby, morning breakfast buffet, evening hors d'oeuvres, and bedtime desserts. The Exhale Spa recently opened, offering a full spa menu and amenities.
Large rooms and accommodating service, but not necessarily family-oriented
While the Fairmont Battery Wharf has large rooms and on-the-ball service, there's no pool, kid-focused amenities, or a particularly family-friendly vibe. Plus, the location is a bit of a walk or drive from some of the city's major attractions.
Tolerant of small dogs and cats, but not a place for pet lovers
The hotel allows pets that weigh up to 25 pounds for a reasonable daily fee, but doesn't provide any other amenities like pet beds or treats. Animals must be on leashes at all times and cannot be left alone in rooms.
The Fairmont Battery Wharf is sparkling clean, even the street that gives way to the hotel looks as if you could eat off it.
On-site restaurant melds Italian cuisine with the hotel's New England roots
The Fairmont Battery's former on-site restaurant Sensing, which was developed by three-star Michelin chef Guy Martin, closed in April 2011. Replacing the highly regarded eatery is Aragosta. Described as "Italian-Mediterranean meets New England," this restaurant is headed by chef David Daniels. Inside, the restaurant is well-executed visually, with modern design and bright pops of color in an otherwise subdued space and an entrance off the lobby. It also features an outdoor seating area, The Terrace, which has fire pits going in the summer. The Battery Jazz Bar in the lobby offers views of the harbor, comfy couches, and morning coffee and evening appetizers and cocktails. Live jazz music is performed on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Opened in 2008, the 150-room Fairmont Battery Wharf has great harborside views, attentive service, spacious standard rooms, a celebrated restaurant, and a location on the site of one of Boston's most historic wharves. Overall, it's a great harborfront pick.
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