Even off the beaten path, however, Beacon Hill is littered with lesser-known historic attractions. The Otis House Museum (refer to museums listing) is a meticulously restored home built in 1796, which gives visitors a glimpse into the Federal style of architecture and design, and a look at the life of Harrison Gray Otis, one of the earliest shapers of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. On Beacon Street, the Boston Athenaeum (refer to sightseeing listing) is a private library—founded in 1807 and still active today—that is partially open to the public, and is currently hosting Acquired Tastes, an exhibit displaying selections from the Athenaeum’s immense collection of art, antique books, maps and ephemera.
And, tucked away on quiet Joy Street, the Museum of Afro-American History (refer to museums listing) stands as a reminder of the struggle of African-Americans in Boston throughout the last three centuries. Beacon Hill in the late 1700s was actually home to a large black community, and the building just adjacent to the museum was initially built in 1806 as the African Baptist Church, but soon became much more than that—acting as a school for black students and a safe house for blacks to hold meetings and conduct services. The building would become the African Meeting House, and while the building is today closed for renovations, the museum is currently hosting the bicentennial exhibit A Gathering Place for Freedom, which offers insight to the struggle of blacks in Boston and the battles won on their way to freedom and equality.
A hill of (much more than) Beans
Many folks that come to Beacon Hill for dinner never get any further than Beacon Street—that’s the point they see the familiar façade and start hearing theme music in their head. They’ve reached Cheers (refer to listings in clubs & bars and restaurants), and can’t pass up a chance to chow down on the famous bar’s selection of pub grub, sandwiches and appetizers and embrace their inner Cliff Clavin.
Beacon Hill, however, is full of classy, tasty and diverse restaurants to enjoy—ranging from the truly high-end culinary experience of The Federalist (refer to restaurants listing), where the elite eat traditional fare like beef Wellington and Dover sole, to the casual and comfortable charm of Italian restaurants like Toscano (47 Charles St., 617-723-4090) and the venerable and affordable Antonio’s (refer to restaurants listing). Whether diners are in the mood for classic American comfort food like the dishes on the menu at 75 Chestnut (75 Chestnut St., 617-227-2175), classic French bistro fare at Pierrot Bistro Francais (272 Cambridge St., 617-725-8855) or a exotic range of Asian cuisine, sushi and sashimi at Ma Soba (refer to restaurants listing), the Hill has something for every palate.
Couples often choose Beacon Hill as the setting for date night, with some of the city’s most romantic and exotic restaurants also calling the neighborhood home. The Hungry I (refer to restaurants listing)—with its three fireplaces and secluded outdoor rear patio—is legendary for French country cuisine and cozy canoodling, while Lala Rokh (refer to restaurants listing) is a charming spot that serves Persian cuisine which sibling owners Babak Bina and Azita Bina-Seibel call “food to please the soul.” (The pair also own Beacon Hill’s newest eatery, the wine-tastic Italian-influenced Bin 26 Enoteca, just around the corner at 26 Charles St.)
Beacon Hill After Dark
The denizens of Beacon Hill tend to frequently look outside the neighborhood for their nightlife—in part, perhaps, because the Suffolk University student crowd and the upper-class sorts tend to have very different ideas of what constitutes letting their hair down. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some cozy spots in Beacon Hill to kick back with a couple of cocktails and gather with friends—away from the glut of revelers to be found in other neighborhoods.
Just down Beacon Street from the State House, the 6B Lounge (6 Beacon St., 617-742-0306) is a comfortable place to enjoy Monday trivia nights, ’80s nights on Saturdays, and the ever-popular $6 margaritas on Wednesdays. Just across the way, on Bowdoin Street, the 21st Amendment (150 Bowdoin St., 617-227-7100) has long been a neighborhood gathering place—favored by residents, visitors and stressed-out politicians since 1899. Once known as the Bellevue Pub back in its “men-only” days, a young John F. Kennedy was rumored to have written many a speech in one of the bar’s cozy corners. And if you really want to see how the locals unwind, check out watering holes like The Sevens (77 Charles St., 617-523-9074) and the Beacon Hill Pub (149 Charles St., 617-625-7100) for a distinctly casual and no-frills antidote to the overall swankiness of the Hill.
Slice of Life on the Hill
The Upper Crust, refer to restaurants listing. Insanely popular throughout the city, the local chain originated here on Beacon Hill, where they still serve up delicious thin-crust pizza (pictured above), including specialties that offer shoutouts to the neighborhood—like the Charles Street (portabella mushroom, sundried tomatoes and chopped garlic). Bonus cool points for their mode of delivery: bicycle carts that zip through narrow cobblestone streets and back and forth across Boston Common.
Panificio, 144 Charles St., 617-227-4340. This restaurant and café is known for its delicious desserts, and also for its hearty blocks of Sicilian-style available by the slice. Grab one to go, or pull up a seat at the window counter, munch on that sublimely doughy crust, and people-watch.
Harvard Gardens, 316 Cambridge St., 617-523-2727. This Cambridge Street restaurant/bar boasts a diverse menu of upscale dishes, but it’s creative and tasty pizzas like the spinach and kalamata olive with tomatoes, oregano and feta, and the baked brie pizza with wild mushrooms and asparagus, that earn it a spot on this list.
The Urban Oasis
Let’s face it—if you’re living anywhere in Beacon Hill, you’re not doing too shabby. However, even the proudest Beacon Hill resident can’t help but feel that slow burn of envy whenever they venture past the secluded little jewel that is Louisburg Square. This block of gorgeous triple-decker brick townhouses has been home, throughout the years, to luminaries ranging from novelists Louisa May Alcott and Robin Cook (Coma) to 2004 presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. And it’s not hard to see why, when one takes into account the grassy square in the center of the quad (green stuff on the ground is at a premium on Beacon Hill, you see) and the fact that even though busy Beacon Street and the Boston Common are just a few streets away, you’d never guess it here in this insular little hideaway. If you’re planning to move here, though, here are two pieces of advice: Always pronounce the “s” in Louisburg if you want to sound like a proper Bostonian, and also, it doesn’t hurt to be absolutely loaded—properties that come available in the Square sell in the millions.
When Bostonians that don’t reside in Beacon Hill make their way into the neighborhood, it’s usually for one of two reasons: either they’ve got someone visiting from out-of-town who wants to walk the Freedom Trail, or they’re in the mood to spend some money. And, when credit cards are burning a hole in your pocket, the main business drag of Beacon Hill—Charles Street—is as good a spot to come to as any in the city, boasting a plethora of antique stores, hip clothing boutiques and other specialty shops.
Lovers of vintage furniture, jewelry and other antiquities will think they’ve died and gone to heaven, with antique shops peppering the neighborhood, popping up on practically every block of Charles Street. The items at places like Gallagher-Christopher Antiques (84 Chestnut St., 617-523-1992), Upstairs Downstairs Antiques (93 Charles St., 617-367-1950) and Eugene Galleries (76 Charles St., 617-227-3062) will cost a pretty penny—but how can you put a price on the past?
Lovers of more modern fare will find
toys, games and clothing galore for the
kiddies at The Red Wagon
(69 Charles St., 617-523-9402); quirky gift
items at Black Ink
(101 Charles St., 617-723-3883); designer
apparel, snacks and toys for your
four-legged friend at Four
Preppy Paws (103 Charles St.,
617-723-0112), including a souvenir replica
Red Sox jersey for just $37.99; gourmet
foodstuffs ranging from duck eggs to
kangaroo steaks to rabbit sausages at
Savenor’s (160 Charles
St., 617-723-6328); home furnishing goods at
Koo de Kir (65
Chestnut St., 617-723-8111); quality leather
goods, such as belts, boots and coats at
Helen’s Leather (refer
shoes listing); and women’s clothing
and accessories at cute boutiques like
Wish (49 Charles St.,
617-227-4441) and Moxie
(51 Charles St., 617-557-9991).
back to homepage