City Hall at night

Downtown Baltimore is Baltimore's central business district and seat of the city government. While home to some iconic Baltimore architecture, and the city's economic heart, visitors, and even locals, tend to keep their distance from this often seedy and decidedly unloved city center, unless they are going to the Baltimore Arena, the Hippodrome Theatre, or visiting Poe's grave at Westminster Hall. Don't make the all-too-frequent mistake of skipping (or fearing) Lexington Market, though, which can be an easy highlight of a visit to the city—on a hungry stomach!

Get in

Downtown is nothing if not easy to get to, being just north of the Inner Harbor, off I-395, and on all major public transportation routes.

By car

There are many parking garages downtown, with an especially convenient one just north of Lexington Market on N Paca St. Coming in from I-95, take exit #53 for I-395, which will dump you on northbound Howard St, straight through Downtown. The B-W Pkwy will terminate on the even more useful Paca St. If coming from the north on I-83, take the right turn for Fayette St.

By light rail

The light rail has two very handy stops at Lexington St (for Lexington Market), and Baltimore St (for the Baltimore Arena and Hippodrome Theatre).

By Metro

Yes, even the rarely used Metro has a few good stops downtown: Lexington Market, Charles Center, and Shot Tower Station.

By bus

With the convenience of the light rail, it's unlikely that you would want to catch a slow, semi-reliable local bus, but #7 would take you down Greene St from Lexington Market through the Inner Harbor, on to Fells Point and then on to Canton. If you are going to Federal Hill, or further to Fort McHenry, Bus #1 picks up at Baltimore St & Paca St. The Circulator's Orange route will also traverse Baltimore St eastbound to Fells Point, and its Purple route runs up Charles St through Midtown to Penn Station.


Cognac, roses, and shadowy figures

For 75 years, the famous Poe Toaster, hooded and clothed in black, would slip into the Westminster graveyard on 19 January to leave Edgar Allen Poe a birthday toast of a half bottle of cognac, three roses arranged in a still secret pattern, left at the original grave. Starting in the 1930s, the tradition continued unbroken until 2009, the bicentennial of America's most famous horror writer's birth, when the toasts ended as mysteriously and quietly as they had always been. Several impostors have attempted to revive the tradition, but their clumsy attempts at stealth and ignorance of the signature floral arrangement have given them away. The legend lives on, though, in current works of crime and occult fiction, such as crime novel In a Strange City by Laura Lippman, and the Washington Audio Theater audio play The Poe Toaster Not Cometh.


The big downtown performance venues are the Baltimore Arena and the Hippodrome, but check Current Gallery's website (see #Buy) for some more off-the-wall DIY-ish performances too.




The Bromo-Seltzer Tower


Baltimore's Downtown business and government district is honestly kind of run down. Crime at night is higher than it should be. Accordingly, high end restaurants are completely missing, and the options are dominated by cheap, quick lunch-focused cafes—you'll need to go north to Midtown or south to the Inner Harbor for a nicer meal. Alewife would be the closest thing to a more fancy spot, and is a great choice for a night at the Hippodrome.

Lexington Market, on the other hand, is honestly a can't miss for anyone with a real interest in Baltimore, as it has several of the best places in the city for some true Baltimore cuisine, as well as history and local color. Don't let the seedy looking surroundings scare you, as you'll be perfectly safe during the day.




Downtown nightlife suffers from the same plight of nice restaurants—no one really likes being downtown after dark, unless for a performance or game at the Hippodrome or Baltimore Arena. Options are few, unless you are looking for the packed, neon-soaked row of strip clubs on The Block: E Baltimore St between Holliday/Commerce St and Gay St. The infamous block began as a premiere destination for burlesque shows in the early twentieth century, but by the mid-century had transformed into a seedy stretch of low-rent strip clubs and sex shops. This, ah, turned on the criminal element to the locale, introducing drugs and violence. The city has never successfully shut down the craziness, but instead put the new Baltimore Police Department Headquarters right next door, which has helped reduce violent crime on The Block in a big way. The strip clubs are getting a little less seedy too. If this is your thing, Norma Jean's would be the most upscale.




The Block, infamously seedy and unnervingly close to major tourist attractions!



Short on coffeeshops, you'll want to head to Enoch Pratt Library, dodging the crowds of homeless inside, to either use the public terminals or free WiFi.

Stay safe

Sadly, Downtown is one of those parts of Baltimore that is not safe by any standards. Sandwiched between pleasant Midtown and the tourist hub of the Inner Harbor, housing the principal businesses in the city and a major university, this should not be the case, but it's Baltimore, folks. Don't run in fear and cowardice—definitely check out Lexington Market, see Poe's Grave, attend a performance at the Hippodrome, or a game at the Baltimore Arena, and bring your family, but be safe. Minimize walking, avoid lonely streets, and park in a well lit area, with no valuables (or really anything) visible.

Routes through Downtown

Owings Mills Midtown  NW  SE  Fells Point East Baltimore
Hunt Valley Midtown  N  S  Inner Harbor Linthicum
END Midtown  N  S  Inner Harbor South Baltimore
Timonium Midtown  N  S  Inner Harbor Glen Burnie

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.