Beacon Hill, the prominent neighborhood bordered by the Charles River, is the perfect spot to enjoy a weekend getaway exploring Boston. Up and down hilly streets lined with historic brownstones and brick sidewalks, you will find luxury, elegance, history, and a few cheeky spots to experience.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Boston Athenæum
In 1807, the Boston Athenæum was founded by a group of Bostonians whose goal was “combining the advantages of a public library [and] containing the great works of learning and science in all languages.” The Athenæum is an independent library and museum housing over 500,000 books for member circulation; 100,000 rare books, maps, and manuscripts; and stunning works of art.
Walking through the glass-floored stacks will leave you awestruck. The five-story building with two basements has an unfathomable amount of bookshelves.
Pro Tip: The first floor is open to the public. The remaining floors are available to view with a guided tour or a day pass.
2. Boston Common
In the center of Boston is her gorgeous green space, the Boston Common. Originally a grazing pasture, in 1634 it was dedicated as a city park, America’s oldest. The Common has been a gathering place reflecting our country’s early historical events. “Gatherings” during the American Revolution were often held here, along with Colonial militia musters. Between 1768 and 1776 the British occupied the Common, utilizing it as a military encampment.
Today, rolling out from the State House, the Common is where residents come to enjoy fresh air, have a picnic lunch, or simply take a stroll along the Frog Pond. More than a garden water feature, the Frog Pond is a hub of activity. In the summer it is a spray pool and hosts family movie nights, in autumn there is a pumpkin festival, and in winter you can don your ice skates and take a twirl.
The new memorial, Embrace, is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s hug celebrating the Nobel Prize award. It is an impressive piece of artwork and needs to be on your must-see list.
Pro Tip: The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has been producing a free summer concert on the Common for several decades. It is the ideal spot to enjoy a beautiful summer picnic and a superb performance of the Bard of Avon.
3. Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden, America’s first public botanical garden, was designed in a Victorian style with meandering pathways, the Lagoon, fountains, statues, and hundreds of colorful plantings.
The Make Way for Ducklings bronze statue commemorating Robert McCloskey’s famous children’s book is a must-see for children of all ages. The ducklings are often seen sporting seasonal garb, like Boston Bruins’ hats during the playoffs. They have even been decked out in unicorn hats.
Of course, no trip to the Public Garden is complete without a ride on the Swan Boats. They have been a tradition in Boston for over 100 years. The short boat ride is a charming way to view the Boston skyline framed by the gorgeous trees sprinkled around the garden.
4. Charles Street
As you navigate the uneven brick walkways of Charles Street, the neighborhood vibe is evident. As tourists are snapping photos of the cute shops with charming overhanging signs, residents are gathered chatting about daily life. At the end of the day, school children are entertained by a neighbor’s dog out on a walk while parents catch up on the latest news. Specialty shops that have carved a niche market fill street-level windows and spill onto the sidewalk.
5. Acorn Street
Beacon Hill’s tiny little Acorn Street is notable for being the most photographed street in Boston. The charming cobblestone alley is hemmed with preserved brownstones and offers a quintessential historic Boston vista.
6. Louisburg Square
Louisburg Square is known as one of the most prestigious addresses in Boston. The street, bisected by a central green, is lined with homes of the rich and famous.
A famous toast (attributed to John Collins Bossidy) came to mind as I was walking down this tiny street:
And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.
7. CLINK. And The Liberty Bar
The former Charles Street Jail has been transformed into the luxurious Liberty Hotel. An ingenious reuse of space, the hotel is home to CLINK., an unusual dining room where guests are seated in semi-private “cells.”
The Liberty Bar in the center lobby rotunda is a popular place to meet up with friends and enjoy an adult beverage. The soaring 90-foot ceilings give the bar space a cavernous feel as lively conversations float upward, creating a happy cacophony.
Pro Tip: You can tour The Liberty Hotel. Get ready for all her past secrets will be revealed.
On the edge of Charles Street and steps from the Longfellow Bridge is Peregrine, a spot for diners with a foodie soul. The restaurant is situated in the lobby of the Whitney Hotel and is a favored spot for neighborhood dining. The elegant, modern atmosphere is the perfect setting for an enjoyable meal.
I suggest you begin with the garlic shrimp served with garlic potatoes and tossed with an anchovy vinaigrette or the duck confit served with fennel cream, persimmon, and an AgroDolce sauce. Entree options like paella di Alghero, filled with mussels, shrimp, clams, and fregola, or the Peregrine Steak with garlic potatoes, broccolini, and kombu butter are perfect dinner options. Order both and share for a fabulous surf and turf dining adventure.
Pro Tip: The secluded outdoor patio, nestled between historic brownstones, is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner beverage by the cozy fire.
9. Massachusetts State House
The gold-domed Massachusetts State House presides over the city on her perch high above Boston Common. Take a State House tour and enjoy a peek inside the governmental workings that take place inside this grand building. Docents guide you through marble-floored corridors, Senate and House chambers, and art collections reflecting the history of the Commonwealth.
The cavernous Great Hall (Hall of Flags) was added in 1990. The original open space has been transformed with a glass dome and is used for official events. It is also home to the flags of each city and town in the Commonwealth.
Pro Tip: The 45-minute tours begin in Doric Hall; they run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
10. Charles River
“Well, I love that dirty water / Oh, Boston, you’re my home.”
When the Standells recorded Dirty Water in 1966, the Charles River, like most big city rivers, was a polluted mess. Today, you will still hear Bostonians singing a verse or two, but the River Charles is now a glistening jewel running through the city. Accessible by the Frances Appleton Footbridge, the Charles is perfect for joggers, walkers, and boaters seeking out waterfront sunshine.
The Community Boating program offers memberships and rentals for non-members to set out and enjoy the urban shoreline by boat. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and sailboats are available to rent on a first-come, first-served basis.
11. The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail begins at the Boston Common. The 2.5-mile, point-to-point walk can be completed in under 2 hours; however, it can take the entire day if you explore the sites along the way.
One stop on the trail is the Granary Burial Ground. At the center is the Franklin cenotaph, a stone obelisk marking the grave of Josiah and Abiah Franklin, parents of Benjamin Franklin. Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and Paul Revere are also buried here.
Pro Tip: A tour is a fun way to enjoy the Freedom Trail; however, you can visit the historic highlights over several days for a more relaxing experience.
12. The Whitney Hotel Boston
The best spot for a weekend getaway in Beacon Hill is The Whitney Hotel Boston. A luxurious boutique hotel situated right on Charles Street, The Whitney is steps away from everything you want to explore — no car needed. Boston is famous for its walkability, and The Whitney is perfectly situated to access all the fun adventures highlighted above and below.
You’ll enjoy valet service (a must in the city) and spacious rooms (a welcome surprise), and the staff’s attention to detail will make your visit to Boston stress-free.
I suggest ending your day exploring Beacon Hill with an aperitif in the courtyard and a sumptuous dinner at Peregrine.
Pro Tip: Reserve an upper-floor room — you will love the panoramic city views.
Bonus Attractions Near Beacon Hill
Boston’s Women’s Heritage Trail
The Boston’s Women’s Heritage Trail has several walks in and around Boston. It is a unique way to explore the city with a purpose. Walking is the best way to explore Boston and choosing to walk while exploring the history of Boston’s intrepid women imparts a sense of history and place.
My favorite walk is the Road to the Vote: The Boston Women’s Suffrage Trail. Learning the history of these determined women who changed the course of history is illuminating.
Folk Americana Roots Music Hall Of Fame
Just a short walk from Beacon Hill is the Theater District, where you will find the Boch Center Wang Theatre. Woven throughout the theater is the Folk Americana Roots Music Hall of Fame. The exhibit was launched in 2019 and celebrates America’s diverse musical heritage.
In one hall you will find the Cultural Heroes exhibit by Alan LeQuire. The larger-than-life sculptures of historic icons like Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Woody Guthrie remind us where America’s musical roots took shape. In other rotating exhibits, you might find a tribute to Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, an extensive superstar guitar collection, antique show posters, and more. One thing not to miss is the lifesize AI-generated hologram of Ernie Boch, Jr., Boston philanthropist and music aficionado. The interactive Boch hologram is a wealth of musical information.
Pro Tip: Reserve a group or private tour to experience these amazing collections.
Precinct Kitchen + Bar
Housed in the former Boston Police Headquarters, Precinct Kitchen + Bar is filled with Boston nostalgia. The restaurant and bar walls are peppered with antique photos depicting Boston Police and the historic headquarters.
The modern, open dining room with a view into the kitchen imparts a friendly, casual vibe where diners can relax and enjoy a sumptuous meal. I highly recommend starting with the crab cake served with a white remoulade sauce, red pepper puree, and shaved fennel. I frequently order crab cakes and it surpassed my last best of — it is my new, hands-down marker to measure all past and future crab cakes.
Delectable entrees like the diver scallops with fennel pollen and saffron cream, seared salmon with tomato confit and a miso sauce, or the expertly cooked grilled tenderloin with tarragon butter, showcase the chef’s skill in elevating local ingredients.
Pro Tip: The Precinct Kitchen + Bar is located in the Hotel AKA Back Bay just a short walk from Beacon Hill.