NFT Boston Beacon Hill / West End

Beacon Hill / West End

Essentials
Beacon Hill is still home to some of the most expensive real estate in America. Charming brick row houses reflect a long and storied history; where the State House stands, John Hancock once grazed cows. Full gentrification has yet to reach the West End, where government buildings, hospitals, and tucked-away burrito joints mingle fairly harmoniously.

Sundries/Entertainment
Locals praise the community feel of the square mile that constitutes Beacon Hill. Pubs like The Sevens and The Four's cater to sports fans, and the crispy pizza at Upper Crust causes mini sidewalk traffic jams. The Public Garden and Boston Common function as the neighborhood's backyard.

Transportation
Public transit (or your own two feet) remains the best way to travel in this parking-scarce neighborhood. A walk down Charles Street from the Charles/MGH Red Line T station to the Boston Common is an especially stress-free way to experience the area. If you simply must drive, be prepared for the havoc wreaked by never-ending construction.See more.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Spectacular Views of Boston

By Emily Doutre
"From Bunker Hill to the Blue Hills, from the Charles River to Charlestown, there are a number of spots to catch spectacular views of the city as a whole, both inside and out of Boston proper.  So kick back and enjoy the views."
Read More...
When the Weather Outside is Frightful

By Sarah Shemkus
Winter in Boston: Scourge of God or Beauteous Overlay Inspiring Indoor Activities? Only Sarah Shemkus can tell.

Read More...
Beautiful Boston & The Pizza Within

By Emily Doutre
Pizza: It's not just for Italians anymore. Thin crust, garlic-stuffed, charred, magic or imported from California (the tomatoes, that is), Emily Doutre's tried them all and now she's reporting. Deal with it.

Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Urban Escapes
You know how you'll be having a beer one night, and someone will go, "Man... I've always wanted to go white water rafting," and everyone will nod? Do you ever do it? A few of you will figure out where to go, costs, hotels, etc. While most of you will instead say, "To hell with it, let's play some Xbox." I'm here to tell you that you can now have someone else do the heavy lifting while you get all the benefit of the adventure, and that someone is Urban Escapes. UE wants to take you, your friends, and a bunch of other people with the same interests, and give them something fun to do in the out of doors. There also might be booze. How can this be a bad idea? Take my trip for example. In the course of one afternoon, I shot skeet with some bad ass shotguns, met a bunch of great people, and then hit up a distillery to taste some locally made hooch. Do you really want to go through life without a story that starts, "so I’m heckling my shotgun buddy?" No. You don’t. So time to check out an Escape.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

The Federal
Let's face it: there's a lot of generic sandwich 'n pizza shops in Boston. And it's usually impossible to know what you're getting into just by checking out the menu. Nine times out of 10, it's just kind of blah. But once in a while, you find a place that actually offers something different, something that someone actually put their heart into, their blood, sweat, and tears (not literally, of course. Though that would be original...). This place is The Federal. While the pizza isn't really anything amazing, the pressed sandwiches are another story. Piled high with lots of meat and veggies, melty and delicious, just the way I like 'em. And definitely be sure to get it on their homemade foccacia, The Federal's preeminent menu offering. The Federal is brought to you by owner of Union Street's Tap, who wanted to downscale into an easier-to-manage endeavor while still serving up awesome grub. Well, with these mad sandwiches on that delightful foccacia, I'd say he can mark down The Federal as a triumph.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

boYO
It's always nice to see a chain location fall to a local business venture. Like when Cold Stone Creamy closed on Cambridge Street, paving the way for Boston Yogurt (BoYo). Not only does BoYo kick Cold Stone's ass in quality, but it's also a healthier (but just as tasty) alternative. And staff are helpful and friendly, a somewhat unknown phenomenon in Beacon Hill. The flavors, like mixed berry, banana, and honeydew are amazing and actually taste like the fruit they are replicating--a true scientific breakthrough. BoYo offers a wide selection of toppings (depending on how much you want to de-healthify your yogurt), from candy and cookies to fruit and mochi (a sort of chewy, sweet rice ball). You can also be badass by ditching the yogurt for naughtier fare, like gelato and sorbet. But if you do have an ounce of self-control (a concept I myself am unfamiliar with) and you do manage to stick to the healthy, but yummy frogurt, the neon, candy shop decor will still trick your brain into thinking it’s getting a sinful treat. Everybody wins!



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

Villa Mexico Cafe
Beacon Hill. Mexican Food. From a gas station. What? Yes. It's places like Villa Mexico Cafe that separates the real foodies from the poseurs. If you can get over yourself and order up a burrito in the tiny, cramped Grampy's Gas Station, then you will be rewarded with the best burrito in Boston. It's actually a little bit pricier than the ubiquitous Anna's Taqueria, but it's ten times better, more consistently good, and less likely to beat the hell out of your insides. Villa Mexico is run entirely by a very sweet, talented Mexican woman and, I think, her daughter. And Mister Todd English himself has sung the praises of Villa Mexico, so even the snobbiest of snobs (if Mexican food snobs even exist) can make no excuses. Whatever you order off the menu, get it in spicy form and indulge in the smoky heat of the best Mexican street food this side of the border.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Good
For all you stylish ladies out there, don't you hate how jewelry is either really nice and expensive, or absolute crap? Well luckily for those who find themselves in this sort of pickle, there is a store in Beacon Hill that hits somewhere in between. Cleverly named Good (yes, it is what the name implies), this shop on Charles Street merchandizes a small collection of classic pieces that are well-made, beautiful, and not a total shock to your debit card. The owners have thoughtfully decorated the store minimally with only a few cases and shelves to choose from, so you are not overwhelmed, but still guaranteed to find something that strikes your fancy.



Posted By:  Patrick Hellen
Photo:  Patrick Hellen

Cheers
Dear Bull and Finch Pub, I'm sure at some point in your illustrious past, you were a great institution. Perhaps everyone did know everyone's name within your hallowed walls, but like many things, the television has sabotaged your onetime neighborhood pub, and replaced it with a complete tourist trap. Far be it from me to warn people away from your front door, but it's not a bad suggestion. The incredible popularity of the show has infected every inch of your bar, from the cutesy menu items like Woody's Garden Goodies, to the in-house souvenir shop. This truly is a gathering place for all the suburban, fanny-packed day trippers looking to see what they can see. I will admit one thing though, you old sailor. Your beer mugs are divine. Chilled, filled to the brim with your favorite suds, and sporting a heft unknown to any other bar in town; they alone might be worth the trip inside. While your prices are astronomical, and you're filled with people most city-dwellers do their best to avoid, beer you seem to know. Perhaps you should start passing out name-tags... you know, so your theme song somewhat fits. Yours, Non-tourist.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

West End Museum
There’s the North End, the South End, Eastie… But why no West Boston? Well, you know that big, ugly mess of traffic called Storrow Drive? And that large building where the Celtics play? That used to be a neighborhood known as the West End. City officials would probably prefer that you not know that this neighborhood was wiped off the map in the name of urban development in the late 1950’s, but I’ll tell you anyway. Before its demise, the West End was home to about 7,500 blue collar residents, and was just cleaning itself up after slumming it a few years. But by the close of the decade, 46 acres of this cherished neighborhood were razed as the focus of a large scale urban renewal project, displacing 2,700 families. To the uninformed pedestrian, the remaining shell of the West End can be easily overlooked. But it’s there: in the sidewalk plaques commemorating streets that no longer exist, as you stroll down Martha Road between North Station and Science Park (see photo); in the concrete embedded quote under a Storrow Drive offramp, reading, “The Greatest Neighborhood This Side of Heaven;” and in the West End Museum. Located at the corner of Staniford Street and Lomasney Way, the West End Museum is a shrine containing photos and artifacts reflecting life in the former community. Despite its smallish space, the museum successfully summons the spirit of the West End and tugs at your heartstrings. You will see the city with new eyes, as though a veil has been lifted.



Posted By:  Leah Bagas
Photo:  Leah Bagas

Hurricane O'Reilly's
Unless you are a social hermit, you have probably been to one of the Glynn Hospitality Group’s many Irish pubs, like The Black Rose or The Purple Shamrock. Hurricane O’Reilly’s is without a doubt just as much fun as any of those pubs but what I think sets it apart from the rest of the Glynn pubs is its location: a stone’s throw from the Garden. In case you have not guessed it, this means it is a great place to go a couple hours before you catch the Celtics or Bruins. Personally I vote Bruins but regardless of allegiance it gets busy before the games. The space is large and the vibe makes you think about those high school movies where getting ready before the big game seems like the most important thing in the world. Strange how high school was never really like that—at least I can live out the fantasy one hour before the puck drops.



Posted By:  Charlotte Strode
Photo:  Charlotte Strode

Panificio
Today while strolling through the sub-zero tundra of our fair city, my growling tummy dragged me into a place that looked warm, inviting, and yummy. Panificio Bakery, located right in the heart of Beacon Hill, is just about the cutest and coziest place this town has ever seen. Unfortunately, the young woman working at the counter looked like she hated her life, but regardless I smiled with glee because this place makes my #1 favorite thing to eat on a cold day: grilled cheese and tomato soup. I was so happy with this discovery that I coughed up the $9 and loved every morsel. Talk about enjoying the little things in life! Panificio serves soups, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, and tea. Put on your fleece, grab the paper, and take a minute to enjoy your favorites at this bakery. Boston doesn't seem so ugly after all.



Posted By:  Emily Doutre
Photo:  Emily Doutre

TD Garden
A few months back, Roger Waters played the TD Banknorth Garden. By the time I decided to get tickets (the last minute), I was faced with a problem typical for the vertically challenged: the only seats left are in the lodge, way in the back. So, I checked Craigslist and found tickets for the same price as the lodge, but in the promenade section instead. Now, I realize that it’s NFT’s job to tell you about the city’s best-kept secrets and local favs. But I have to tell you about this secret little spot in one of Boston’s biggest venues. Usually reserved for press during Bruins & Celtics games, the promenade circles the tippy-top of the Garden. Because there is only one continuous row of seats, there is no one in front of or behind you, leaving you with a totally unobstructed aerial view of the stage. You can even stay in your seat (which is actually a cushioned desk chair with wheels) the whole time if you want to. The sparse seating makes for nice short lines at the promenade’s bar, and the ledge that runs the perimeter of the section is a handy spot to place your drink. If you are buying tickets for a show at the Garden, and you’re on a budget, go for the promenade. But it’s not available for every show, so reap the benefits whenever you can!



Posted By:  Denyce Neilson
Photo:  Denyce Neilson

Museum of Science
Do you have a passion for astronomy? A keen interest in DNA or dinosaurs, a taxidermy fetish, a Carl Sagan fan club membership or a couple of kids who need some energy burned off? No matter what your age or interest, the Museum of Science is a fun and exciting place to visit. Interactive exhibits such as, Mapping the World, Computing Revolution, and Dinosaurs: Modeling the Mesozoic are all hands-on—touching things is strongly encouraged and how often can you say that these days? At the Discovery Center, you can put an animal skeleton together, pat a black bear, and send a message to a friend on the other side of the exhibit. The museum runs special exhibits (currently Body Worlds), daily workshops and lectures too; check out their website for daily schedules. It’s also home to the Omni Theater, where you can sit in a complete state of vertigo while watching a film on a five-story IMAX Dome screen. Note to stoners: the museum houses the Charles Hayden Planetarium, where you can experience rock & roll laser shows like Laser Led Zeppelin, Laser Rock 70’s, and Laser Pink Floyd: The Wall.



Posted By:  Sarah Shemkus
Photo:  Sarah Shemkus

Museum of Science
The best part of the Museum of Science, as far as I am concerned, is not the lightning show, the butterfly garden, or the Omni Theater. It is, of course, the martinis. Yes, the martinis. Every Friday night the museum’s food service area does its best to transform from standard cafeteria into chic nightspot, complete with a full bar. If the ambiance is not entirely convincing, the cocktails and snack foods (Wolfgang Puck creations, according to the menu) certainly are. When the slightly naughty feeling of drinking in a museum ceases to fully entertain, you can catch a show in the Omni Theater or the Planetarium, or wander up to the roof of the parking garage for some free star-gazing in the Gilliland Observatory.



Posted By:  Manya Chylinski
Photo:  Manya Chylinski

Vilna Shul
What a wonderful treasure to find hidden away on the north slope of Beacon Hill. A synagogue built in 1919 and shuttered in 1985, Vilna Shul was recently resurrected, and once funds are raised, will be restored to its original glory. The community room houses a fascinating exhibition that seeks to educate visitors about the heritage of the Eastern European Jewish community. The synagogues that form the basis of this exhibition were all destroyed during World War II, and the sense of loss—of the cultural heritage, the community, the architectural treasure—is palpable. Not only is the architecture of these synagogues fascinating (make sure to see the model of Zabludow Synagogue), but the wall paintings are breathtaking and even surprising. It is in the wall paintings, in fact, that you most easily see the continuity between the Old World and the new. Behind the peeling paint in the sanctuary you see evidence of more wall paintings, reminiscent of those downstairs in the exhibition. And you cannot help but be eager for the restoration to begin, and this architectural and cultural treasure to shine once again.



Posted By:  Heather Margolis
Photo:  none

I am beginning to believe that a good retail store should be as pleasing to look through as an art museum. Good is. This little shop in Beacon Hill carries original designs for the home, striking a perfect balance between antique and modern. They also carry an impressive selection of hand-crafted jewelry. I was especially taken with a necklace, its charm a tiny, delicately shaped skull made of rose gold (which looks a bit like copper) with diamonds for eyes. The jewelry of another artist is made by crocheting thin strands of gold into unbelievably intricate designs. Though actually buying something from here would warrant an occasion, it is fantastic to see and learn about the jewelry makers and their technique, as the people who work there always seem to be very knowledgeable.




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