What qualifies a hotel as one of the best in Boston? Well, we know that for some the best hotel is the most luxurious, while for others it’s the one that offers, say, the most for kids, or the most bang for the buck. So this list breaks things down by category — in other words, it includes the top hotel from our key Boston “best” lists: best luxury hotels, best value hotels, best kid-friendly hotels, and so on. We’re able to create these rankings because a team of Oyster reporters spent several weeks exploring 48 of the city’s top hotels. We slept in the beds, ate in the restaurants, tested the service, and scoped out the neighborhoods, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Those that made this list are truly the best of the best.

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Four Seasons Hotel Boston

Downtown and Waterfront Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Amazing service, a park-front location, a great health club with a beautiful pool, an iconic restaurant, and 273 luxurious and spacious rooms combine to make this the top luxury property in Boston. If there's a flaw here, it's the guestroom bathrooms, which aren't as amazing as those at, say, the Mandarin -- but they did receive upgrades in 2012. Meanwhile, the service is the best in the city, with a staff that pays attention to every detail and isn't just responsive but proactively helpful. (One small but characteristic example: We were handed a bottle of water as we stepped off the treadmill and then informed that robes and slippers are available in the locker room.) And there is no more perfect location in Boston than this one overlooking the city's beautiful and iconic Public Garden.


Hyatt Regency Cambridge, Overlooking Boston

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

One of the cheapest hotels in Cambridge, the Hyatt Regency could get away with being a bare-bones business hotel, but it's better than that: The hotel offers quality amenities (an indoor pool and well-equipped gym), an on-site restaurant, and a charming location overlooking the Charles River. Rooms are unremarkable, but overall the hotel is a great value for those who don't need to be in the thick of things.


Marriott Vacation Club Pulse at Custom House, Boston

Downtown and Waterfront Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

It's housed in a historic 1847 building, but like most Marriott Vacation Club properties, all of the guest rooms are huge one-bedroom suites with kitchenettes and pullout couches. The location is another plus: The New England Aquarium, whale-watching boats, an IMAX theater, and over a hundred shops at Faneuil Hall are just across the street. And the in-house features and services include an arcade, staff-led historic walking tours or T-shirt-making workshops, free access to the pool at Marriott Long Wharf across the street, free laundry machines (and detergent!), and freshly baked cookies in the lobby. Cribs and rollaway beds are both free.


XV Beacon

North End and Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

This luxury boutique surrounded by hidden gardens, antique shops, and the gorgeous brick Federal-style homes of Beacon Hill, is the perfect choice for couples looking to heat things up on a cold New England night. Every spacious but cozy room has a gas fireplace. And the phenomenal, highly personalized service includes an evening turndown that transforms the rooms into soothing relaxation dens -- dim lights, a crackling fire, and soft classical music.


XV Beacon

North End and Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Housed in a 1903 Beaux Arts building just down the street from Boston Common in the gorgeous, residential Beacon Hill neighborhood, the 60-room, 10-story XV Beacon (or, Fifteen Beacon) combines traditional elegance and period details like antique cage elevators with thoughtfully designed modern conveniences like a bedside panel to control the fireplace. But its the exquisite service -- including personalized business cards and homemade desserts waiting in the room upon arrival -- that puts it at the top of our list.