North End and Beacon Hill, Boston Travel Guide
North End and Beacon Hill Summary
- As two of Boston's oldest neighborhoods, both areas are rich in historical sites, with easy access points to the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path passing through 16 historical landmarks.
- Beacon Hill is bordered by the Boston Common, one of the country's oldest parks.
- Both areas have beautiful waterside views: The North End has Boston Harbor, and Beacon Hill has the Charles River.
- Beautiful and historic architecture; Beacon Hill is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the nation
- Largely void of chain stores
- Lively pub scene in both neighborhoods; Beacon Hill is home to the bar that inspired the show Cheers
- Beacon Hill has over 40 antique shops, which might only be trumped only by the number of Italian restaurants and cafes in the North End (aka Little Italy).
- Clean and safe
- The North End offers water taxis to and from Logan Airport, which typically cost $10 and take about 30 minutes.
- Both areas lack stops on the T, Boston's subway system.
- Difficult parking in the North End
- Beacon Hill offers a very limited selection of hotels, and they are pricey.
What It's Like
The North End and Beacon Hill are two of Boston's oldest areas -- the North End actually is the oldest Boston neighborhood, settled in the 17th century -- and their long histories as early residential communities for Boston's wealthy result today in some of the most picturesque, charming neighborhoods in America. Both are great, relaxed areas to stroll in and out of shops and cafes, or sit by the neighborhood's respective waters: There are lovely parks along the bank of Beacon Hill's Charles River, and the views from the Longfellow Bridge, which leads to the campuses of MIT and Harvard, are breathtaking. Or you could cruise along the North End's section of Boston Harbor Walk, which features an endless, unobstructed view of the beautiful harbor. Both neighborhoods are rich in history -- many of the most important episodes of the Revolutionary War took place in these precincts.
The North End, which once housed the wealthiest of early Bostonians, was eventually occupied by Italian, Jewish, and Irish immigrants and was even one of the nation's first African-American communities, created by freed and escaped slaves. While the area is a hodgepodge of culture, it's seriously dominated by its Italian immigrants, earning it the designation of Little Italy. There are countless Italian cafes and restaurants -- more than 100 in total -- and in combination with the many historical landmarks, the area is quite touristy.
Beacon Hill, on the other hand, continues to be a wealthy residential neighborhood. Quiet and quaint, with its hidden gardens, brick Federal style homes, and Greek Revival and Victorian architecture, Beacon Hill is not a tourist-heavy area. Whereas the North End has its countless Italian restaurants, Beacon Hill's Charles Street has over 40 antique shops, all of which help catalogue and sell the city's rich aesthetic history, almost a museum experience unto itself. Beacon Hill is located just north of the beautiful Public Gardens and the Boston Common, one of the oldest parks in the country, and the start of the city's Freedom Trail, a half-century-old path through 16 of Boston's landmarks, such as the North End's Paul Revere House, Copp's Burial Ground, and the Paul Revere Mall, where the patriot's statue, unveiled in 1940, rides proudly on horseback, an icon of both Boston and the nation as a whole.
Where To Stay
The old, dilapidated storage wharves that line the North End's harbor were seen by large-scale developers as a perfect blank canvas. The result: the $372 million Battery Wharf, home to the Fairmont Battery Wharf, which opened in December 2008 and boasts four luxury buildings. Nearby are the Boston Harbor Hotel, one of the best luxury hotels in city; and the Millennium Bostonian, which straddles the North End and always-packed Faneuil Hall. Beacon Hill's quaint residential neighborhood doesn't have many hotel options, but the ones they do are perfect for the area, like the spectacular XV Beacon, a chic luxury boutique housed in a Beaux Arts building, with superb design, hi-tech amenities, and impeccable service.