date published: May 7, 2007

A Historic Hill
When you talk about the historical highlights of Boston, everything tends to come back to The Freedom Trail—and as Beacon Hill residents know from the throngs of tourists they share pavement with each year, the Trail runs right through the neighborhood. From the magnificent golden-domed State House to the quiet calm of the Old Granary Burying Ground (final resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other Revolutionary War-era luminaries), to houses of worship like Park Street Church and King’s Chapel, the landmarks of liberty are everywhere, and an integral part of Beacon Hill’s identity even today. Refer to freedom trail listings.

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.

A Slice of Life on the Hill
The North End may win the prize for the best Italian fare, but, luckily, Beacon Hillers also have some fine options when it comes to pizza pie.

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.

Shoppers’ Delight
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 to 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).

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