Head to the top after you take a walk
- Last Updated: 11:24 AM, November 6, 2012
- Posted: 2:19 PM, November 5, 2012
A gorgeous setting on the Charles River. Modern skyscrapers soaring amid street after brick-sidewalked street of 18th- and 19th-century townhouses and historic sites. Yes, Boston is a beautiful destination for building buffs.
And in a city where driving is a contact sport and public transportation takes you everywhere worth visiting, a car really isn’t necessary. The best way to see this beautiful town is on foot, so bring comfortable shoes and — given that Boston’s streets are notoriously confusing — get the map app on your smartphone ready.
After you arrive Boston’s Logan Airport, take the “T” (the region’s public transit system) to your hotel (cabs are quite expensive, especially after you pay tolls and airport fees, even though the airport is close to the city proper). Long known for only having a few grand dame hotels worth mentioning (including the original Ritz-Carlton, now a Taj property, and the recently renovated Fairmont Copley Plaza), the city has seen a lodging boom in recent years.
One standout is XV Beacon, the city’s first luxury boutique hotel, but more budget choices have popped up, including several new Kimpton properties, such as Nine Zero and the Onyx.
After you get settled, it’s time to, as local band Passion Pit might say, take a walk. Start at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets, at the foot of Beacon Hill. Hit cobblestoned Louisburg Square, perhaps Boston’s most beautiful area. Take a right on Mt. Vernon Street and climb the hill. Among the notable residents of this beautiful square, past and present, are Senator John Kerry and Louisa May Alcott, who put pen to paper at No. 10.
Continue on to 55 Mt. Vernon St. and tour the Nichols House Museum (that rarity of rarities, a Beacon Hill townhouse open to the public), former home of Rose Nichols — writer, landscape architect, and niece of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
But Mt. Vernon Street’s real architectural stars are the Charles Bullfinch-designed Second Harrison Gray Otis House (No. 85) and the Stephen Higginson House next door (No. 87), both now in private hands.
Take a right on Walnut and another down Chestnut, stop to admire Nos. 13, 15, and 17, all Bullfinch designs. Turn right again onto Willow, then left onto the much photographed, impossibly charming Acorn Street with its heel-wrenching cobblestones.
Back at Charles Street, stroll through the serene Public Garden (stopping, perhaps, for a ride on the iconic Swan Boats if they’re in operation during your visit), and in a southwesterly direction head toward Arlington Street and the Back Bay.
Then climb to the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower for a sweeping, 360-degree view of greater Boston and beyond from the Skywalk Observatory. And if you feel like dining with a view, you can go even higher.
The Top of the Hub restaurant is perched on the Prudential Tower’s 52nd floor. While many “view” restaurants are more about the vistas than the food, Top of the Hub’s reasonably priced $58 three-course prix fixe is also worth the visit. (The lobster soup with coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger has been on the menu for ages, and with good reason.) Feel free to indulge. After all, you’ll soon be walking off the calories on your way back to your hotel.