Baltimore/South Baltimore

Fort McHenry

South Baltimore is the entrance point for most visitors to the city, coming in off I-95 from the south, and home to one of the city's number one attractions—Fort McHenry, as well as both the Orioles and Ravens stadiums. Those who dig a little further will find a vibrant dining and nightlife scene in beautiful, historic Federal Hill, as well as venerable, but less visited neighborhoods that define what it is to be authentic Baltimore.


South Baltimore was traditionally the industrial heart of Baltimore, even more so than Southeast Baltimore, but real estate in the neighborhoods closer to the Inner Harbor have soared over the past 15-20 years, seeing rampant gentrification by former suburbanites and even D.C. commuters attracted by cheap historic homes close to the city center. As with all neighborhood change, this has displaced, disrupted, and at its extreme destroyed the old local communities. On the upside, though, it has introduced a lot of good restaurants to Federal Hill, which is a fairly easy walk from the Inner Harbor hotels and the Convention Center.

Most, however, visit South Baltimore for one sight: Fort McHenry. The defense of this fort on the Chesapeake, and thus the defense of Baltimore, was pivotal in the defense of the nation in the War of 1812 against the re-invading British forces. Even more famously, the defense of the Fort saw the arrival of one Francis Scott Key, who, seeing the flag still flying after the bombardment, here composed the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, which later would become the U.S. National Anthem.

Anyway, on to the neighborhoods, which, like most all Baltimore neighborhoods, have fiercely independent characters:

Federal Hill is a historic neighborhood containing several bars and restaurants, named after the ratification of the Federal Constitution. In part because of its proximity to the Inner Harbor, the stadiums, and other attractions, this is both the wealthiest and most popular neighborhood with city visitors. The rowhouses, many dating back even to eighteenth century, are wonderfully restored and the streets are beautiful. There are plenty of dining options that are far better than the average places around the big hotels to the north, and nightlife is vibrant (if a little too drunken and trashy F-Sa nights).

Locust Point has a scary name, but is actually a pretty nice place to hang out and have a meal after visiting the Fort. Though the giant condominium building at Silo Point (replacing the old defunct granary) is doing its part to gentrify the neighborhood, it still retains a familiar working class, classic Baltimore community. Fans of the Wire might recognize this neighborhood as the home of the longshoreman (including Nick) from season two.

Ridgely's Delight is a small little triangular neighborhood just northwest of Camden Yards and east of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. It's another very pretty old neighborhood with cobblestone streets, but the local pubs can be a little bland (but perfectly acceptable to hang out with fellow fans on game days). The University of Maryland Baltimore campus is just north, so you'll find plenty of college students.

Pigtown! Yes, Pigtown. No, not Washington Village, no matter how hard real estate agents try to rebrand the neighborhood (and to thus destroy it). Pigtown is just too catchy a name to die. The name comes from its position along the route that pig farmers would once march their livestock to sell at the railyard. Legend has it that the residents at basement level would reach out their street-level windows to snatch a swine or two for dinner. Today, Pigtown has an extraordinary demographic mix—it may be the only neighborhood in the Northeast where rednecks and black folks live together happily and harmoniously. So what's in it for a traveler? Savvy parking spots—visitors don't know about parking there, and you usually can find something even on a game day, if you are OK with a bit of a walk. Nick's Rotisserie Chicken would be the other good reason to visit.

There are plenty of other neighborhoods throughout the south of Baltimore: Violetville, Westport, Lakeland, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, etc. But you are probably less likely to find yourself there, as they are generally hard to get to by public transport, are far from the center, and low on tourist amenities.

Get in

By car

It's very easy to get into South Baltimore by car—it's just hard to park anywhere near the stadiums or the Harbor (Locust Point isn't too hard, though). From I-95, exits #52 for Russel St and #53 for I-395 to Light St will both take you right to the stadiums or the Inner Harbor respectively. Exit #54 will take you right into Locust Point and is well signed for Fort McHenry. The B-W Pkwy simply terminates here and turns into Russel St. The main streets running from Downtown through federal Hill and on to Locust Point are Light St to the Key Hwy to Fort Ave.

For Pigtown, the entrance is on Washington Blvd just southwest of its intersection with Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, which you can pick up from I-395 just before it terminates in the Inner Harbor, or from any westbound street from the Harbor or Downtown. Washington Blvd also runs from I-695 (just west of I-95).

Brooklyn and the other far south neighborhoods are best reached by I-695 or I-895 southbound (I-895 northbound does not have exits, since they want to force you to pay the tolls). Coming from the city, take either Washington Blvd to Patapsco Ave, which is the main road running along the very southern edge of the city, or take the Hanover St Bridge from Federal Hill (Hanover will continue southeast to Brooklyn).

By rail

The MARC Camden Line runs straight from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to the stadiums, but only runs on weekdays, and doesn't run very late.

The Light Rail, on the other hand, is pretty handy if you are going to the stadiums (Camden Yards for the Orioles and Hamburg St for the Ravens), Federal Hill, Westport, or even Cherry Hill. Past Cherry Hill it heads on to BWI Airport, while to the north of Camden Yards it runs past the Convention Center and Lexington Market Downtown and on through Midtown to Penn Station and beyond.

By bus

Consider Baltimore buses to be only for the adventurous, and those with a bunch of spare time on their hands. There are some good routes through South Baltimore, though—as long as they are running on time and not too crowded to board. Bus 1 is the best route around, running south from Charles Center (Charles St & Baltimore St) near the Convention Center down Light St through the center of Federal Hill, and on through Locust Point all the way to Fort McHenry itself. Bus 36 runs down Martin Luther King Blvd from Fayette downtown to Pigtown, then running the length of Washington Blvd. Bus 64 runs through Federal Hill on Light St all the way up to Penn Station and on to North Ave in Midtown, and south across the Hanover St Bridge to Cherry Hill and Brooklyn.

The purple Circulator bus runs along Charles St and Light St in Federal Hill, and goes straight north up Charles past the Washington Monument and on to Penn Station.

If you're feeling really adventurous, you could take the light rail down to the Patapsco stop and try to take Bus 14 to Annapolis. Make sure you are well armed with bus and rail schedules for that trip!

By water taxi

During the months of April–September, you can take Ed Kane's water taxi back and forth between the pier at Fells Point.



Domino Sugar Plant



Camden Yards



Federal Hill rowhouses




Silo Point, symbol of South Baltimore's recent gentrification

Federal Hill is packed with nightlife, and has a good number of legitimately cool venues. The weekends, in the center of the neighborhood (Cross St), are not for everyone, though. It's a frat party after 11PM or so F-Sa, and it is what it is. To be clear, we're euphemizing unabashed douchebaggery, with overuse of the word "bro," cheap hook ups, rampant littering, and not all that infrequent bar fights. Move to the outskirts of that neighborhood, though, and you'll find some real gems for any night of the week.


Federal Hill itself, cannons aimed at Downtown

Although Federal Hill is pretty and close to major attractions, it actually is devoid of any hotels. South Baltimore really isn't the place to stay, unless you are at one of the hotels just north of the stadiums, on the verge of the Inner Harbor and Downtown.





The Federal Hill/Locust Point area actually has some pretty great coffeeshops for lazy, caffeinated wireless surfing.

Stay safe

In the extreme south, particularly in and just around Cherry Hill, there are a few gang-ridden areas that you might want to avoid walking around, but for the most part South Baltimore is pretty safe, albeit looking rough around the edges. Except around the bars at closing time on weekends, Federal Hill is quite safe, Locust Point is always fine, and Pigtown is safe, if not always that friendly (definitely don't walk around there overdressed).

Routes through South Baltimore

Downtown Inner Harbor  N  S  Linthicum END
Midtown Inner Harbor  N  S  END
Downtown Inner Harbor  N  S  Linthicum 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.