Downtown Boston is really the heart of the city. Many companies and agencies have their headquarters in the area, and City Hall and the State House are also located here. It is probably the most European-like downtown in the US, with pedestrian-ized streets, a very popular large public area near Faneuil Hall, lots of street performers, lots of historic sites, and an efficient public transit system.


Boston's nickname as the "Hub" makes more sense once you visit downtown. The population balloons during the day as hundreds of thousands of office workers and tourists descend on the area. The Massachusetts State Government maintains its seat in nearby Beacon Hill, but most state employees work out of office buildings around Government Center, where City Hall is also located. Downtown is home to major shopping areas, many of Boston's most famous historic sites, and plenty of major private employers. The financial and legal industry in the city is still largely based here, although some have decamped to nicer and newer space in the Seaport.


The area now known as Downtown used to comprise most of the City of Boston, aside from the North End and Beacon Hill. Places like Charlestown and Dorchester were originally separate towns. Boston was founded in 1628 on a head of land sticking out into the harbor, connected to the mainland only by a thin strip of land which is today called Washington St. Other Boston neighborhoods were created through filling in marshland or annexing neighboring towns. Boston was a hotbed of the American Revolution, being home to now famous patriots like John Adams, Sam Adams, and John Hancock. Important pre-revolutionary events like the Boston Tea Party and Boston Massacre happened in what is now Downtown.

Old State House, Boston

After the war, Boston continued to be an important seaport and trading center. Until the 1860's and 70's, Downtown was pretty much all there was to the city. During this period, it expanded dramatically and outgrew its old borders, but Downtown remained the hub, although it is one of the northernmost parts of the city. Much of Downtown burned down in the Great Fire of 1872, tragically taking some of the city's older buildings with it. This area is now the main financial district and is mostly modern skyscrapers. In the 1950's the Central Artery, an elevated highway, was built through downtown, cutting off the waterfront from the rest of downtown. At a cost of $15 billion, it was buried during the "Big Dig" in the 1990s and early 2000s and Downtown is now reunited with its waterfront.


Get in

By Commuter Rail

All of Boston's commuter rail lines serve downtown, either arriving at North Station or South Station. The two stations are at opposite ends of downtown, but are only about a 25 minute walk from each other so either will suffice for getting into and out of Downtown. Generally speaking, places north of Downtown are served by North Station and places south of Downtown by South Station.

By subway

Most of the subway lines in Boston meet in the downtown area, meaning the area is well served by public transportation. Stations serving this area are Park Street (Red and Green Lines), Downtown Crossing (Red and Orange Lines), Government Center (Blue and Green Lines), and State (Blue and Orange Lines). These stations are within a 5 minute walk of one another.

The Blue Line is a main route for travelers coming from Logan Airport. There are cheap ($6-$7) parking garages/lots at the ends of the Blue Line (Wonderland), Orange Line (Oak Grove) Red Line (Alewife in the north, Quincy Adams in the south), and the Green Line's Riverside Branch (Riverside and Woodland). The T will take you into Downtown from each of these garages in about 30 minutes.

NOTE: Government Center Station is closed for construction until 2016.

By car

There are parking garages along Washington St. and underneath the Boston Common. However, these are fairly expensive. On a weekday, parking will probably set you back over $30 and maybe even $40. In the evening and on weekends, it is typically cheaper, between $15 and $20. On-street parking is all but nonexistent. For most people, taking the subway is the better option.

Driving into downtown in the morning or out in the evening should be avoided at all costs. Traffic in downtown is horrendous and the highways leading into and out of the city can be backed up for miles.

Get around

On foot

Downtown is easy to get around on foot, if you have a map. There is no street grid since this part of the city was largely laid out 300 years ago, but the distances are short. Jaywalking is the norm, although technically illegal.

Public transit

If you really wanted to, there are a lot of T stops downtown so you could choose to get around that way, although walking is probably faster and you might end up paying $2.50 to ride 500 yards.

By car

Better not to do this. Downtown Boston is a confusing place to drive to begin with, even for residents. Traffic is bad during all daylight hours and you probably won't find anywhere to park. Even the garages fill up during the day.


Fanueil Hall, early morning

Downtown is Boston's historic center. Many of the classic Freedom Trail sites people associate with Boston, like Fanueil Hall and the Old South Meeting House are here. There are also a number of well maintained parks to relax in and plenty of impressive buildings to behold. Most of the city's museums are in other neighborhoods, but you will find the New England Aquarium on the waterfront.


Freedom Trail

For any visitor to Boston, the Freedom Trail presents the opportunity for an enjoyable and highly informative insight into Boston’s rich history, dating back to the days of the Revolutionary War. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile redbrick walking trail that makes its way to 16 of Boston’s most historic sites. During this tour you will witness a unique collection of churches, museums, meetinghouses, burial grounds, historic ships as well as several other historical sites. Together these sites tell the story of the American Revolution as it unfolded in Boston during the 1700s. This tour is well worth the $12 price of admission for anyone looking for a comprehensive yet extremely enjoyable look into the rich history of the city of Boston. Trips of the Freedom Trail depart from the Boston Common (located directly across the street from the Public Garden) at 11, Noon, 3:30, and 4:30 Daily. For more in-depth details about each of the 16 primary sites on the Freedom Trail as well as information on how to pre-order tickets at a discounted price, visit the Freedom Trail website .

The following sites are part of the Freedom Trail:

  • Boston Common
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Ground
  • King's Chapel
  • King's Chapel Burying Ground
  • Benjamin Franklin statue and former site of the first public school, Boston Latin School
  • Old Corner Bookstore
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Site of the Boston Massacre
  • Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
  • Paul Revere House (North End)
  • Old North Church (North End)
  • Copp's Hill Burying Ground (North End)
  • USS Constitution (Charlestown)
  • Bunker Hill Monument (Charlestown)


  • American Stonecraft. Artisan producer of dishes, coasters, food slates and such. All made from stones pulled from New England farm fields.
  • Peterman's Boards and Bowls. Producer of fine wood products made from fallen or discarded timber from around New England.
  • Hopster's Alley. All Massachusetts & New England beer, wine and spirits. Hopsters Alley is run by Hopsters brewery and you can also get growlers of their own beer here.
  • Mange. Producer of fresh fruit vinegars for use in cocktails and cooking.


Downtown is not Boston's culinary epicenter. Truly exciting restaurants tend to be located in outlying neighborhoods due to the high costs of real estate downtown and the weird demographics (filled with office workers and tourists during the day, deserted at night). Because of this, visitors to the city who mostly stay Downtown may think that Boston is living up to the tired New England stereotype of bland cuisine. This couldn't be further from the truth so leaving Downtown to eat is a must when visiting. While there are a lot of truly forgettable places to eat Downtown, it's not all bad. With a little research you should be able to find a quality meal at whatever price point you're seeking.


Downtown's budget restaurants tend to be geared towards the horde of office workers who descend on the city during the week so many of them are only open for weekday lunch. If you do happen to visit during a weekday, save some money and follow the be-suited crowds to a place that will have better food for much less than tourist oriented spots.



Many of Boston's swankiest restaurants are located Downtown. Be sure to do some research before embarking on a Downtown fine dining adventure. There are some truly world-class restaurants here, but also a lot of overpriced places catering to tourists and expense account lunches.


Downtown Boston is dominated by thumping dance clubs, expensive cocktail bars aimed at the bankers and consultants who work here, and some older dive bars leftover from its seedier days. Most of the spots where you can get a nice drink in a relaxing environment are located in outlying neighborhoods where real estate is cheaper.

Faneuil Hall Area (Government Center or Aquarium subway stop)

This area of Boston caters mostly to tourists. A lot of the bars here turn into dance clubs at night, but during the day they are "Irish" pubs and such. Some of them are quite historic with some of America's oldest bars being located in the cluster of old buildings just north of the marketplace.


When in Downtown Boston, you are probably within sight of a Dunkin Donuts. If not, try turning around. There are also quite a few Starbucks in this area. But you didn't come here to drink your coffee at national chains, there are plenty of other options.

  • 260 Franklin St.
  • 100 High St.





Go next

Downtown Boston is the hub people are talking about when they refer to the city as "the Hub." All major transit lines and two major highways converge Downtown so not only can you get anywhere in the city from here, you can get anywhere else pretty easily too.

Routes through Downtown

END Beacon Hill  SW  NE  Financial District Revere
Fenway-Kenmore Back Bay  W  N  North End Cambridge
Malden North End  N  S  Chinatown Jamaica Plain
Cambridge Beacon Hill  N  S   South Boston Braintree
Hyde Park Dorchester  SW  NE  END
Needham Back Bay  W  E  END

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.