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24 hours in…Boston

Get to know Massachusetts’ diverse capital in just one day with our whistle-stop tour of the city’s best bits, courtesy of Bostonian travel writer Christopher Muther


A statue of George Washington lords it over giant alliums in Boston Public Garden

8am to 9.30am: Fuel up

Grab an Americano and a croissant at the Thinking Cup coffee shop in the Back Bay neighbourhood, then head around the corner to explore the Boston Public Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the United States. During warm months you can take a ride on the famous Swan Boats, which date back to 1877. Across the street from the Public Garden is Boston Common, which is the oldest city park in the US and offers a leafy respite on warm days. 

The Newbury Street shopping district in the Back Bay area of downtown Boston (Getty)

9:30am to 12pm: Ready, steady, shop! 

Just up the road from those historic parks you can find the poshest retailers in Boston. On Newbury Street, stop by Chanel, Valentino and Gucci, or look for bargains at Nordstrom Rack. Keep the shopping safari going nearby in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, where you can find independent boutiques and antique shops, as well as cafés and restaurants. 

An empty frame at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Alamy)

12pm to 1.30pm: Take in a crime scene

No matter what the weather is outside, the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is bright and verdant. The museum is the site of a famous 1991 art heist, and you can see the lonely frames that still sit empty from where the art was stolen. 

Naked lobster roll, fries and beer from The Barking Crab

1.30pm to 3pm: Stop for seafood

If you’re in Boston, you simply must have seafood. There are many hifalutin eateries serving deconstructed clam chowder, but what you need is the real thing. The Barking Crab in the Seaport District fits the bill. It’s an unassuming clam shack in the middle of the city, where you can find one of the best traditional lobster rolls in town. In Boston, a lobster roll is served cold with mayonnaise on a toasted bun. Accept no substitutes. 

Air, Sea and Land installation by Okuda San Miguel at Boston Seaport (Mike Diskin)

3pm to 5pm: Head waterside

Continue to explore Boston’s newest (and coolest) area, the Seaport District. Here you’ll find the 43-mile Harborwalk, which connects the harbour to the city’s waterfront neighbourhoods. Don’t feel that you must walk the whole thing. Instead wander the boardwalk and stop by the Institute of Contemporary Art or enjoy a tipple with a view at one of three hotel rooftop bars along the way – at the Yotel, Envoy Hotel and Omni Boston Hotel. Or grab a Blue Bike, Boston’s bike share programme, and trek into nearby South Boston to explore the former Irish enclave, which is now home to popular restaurants and bars such as Lincoln and Loco. 

King guestroom at the boutique Whitney hotel

5pm to 6.30pm: Check in

Time to check into your hotel and pretty yourself up for a night out. Try the Whitney, a 1909 nurses’ dormitory-turned-hotel that now exudes comfortable elegance. Or splash out on The Langham Boston, ready for its closeup after a two-year, $20m renovation. Alternatively, The Moxy Boston is a highly Instagrammable micro hotel in the Theater District – an ideal bolthole for those seeking a night out on the town.

Delectable fresh pasta from Giulia, Cambridge (Erik Jacobs)

6.30pm to 8pm: Flavours of a city

Make the short hop across the Charles River to Cambridge and Somerville, where you’ll find the current epicentre of innovative dining and nightlife. Giulia, in the Porter Square section of Cambridge, is a warm and welcoming place for top-notch Italian food. Don’t miss Puritan & Company (also in Cambridge), which updates classic New England cuisine – think cod wrapped in filo! Meanwhile, the celebrated Celeste in Somerville offers a Peruvian take on Boston’s fresh seafood and serves the finest Pisco Sours in New England. 

Jagged Little Pill, the musical, at the American Repertory Theater (Evgenia Eliseeva)

8pm to 10.30pm: Music or theatre?

Continue exploring Cambridge and Somerville for superlative nightlife offerings. The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge is a stalwart of Boston’s live music scene. Expect to hear everything from scuzzy guitar bands to polished pop. Down the street at The Sinclair, you can experience live alt-rock or, on Saturday nights, dance to 1960s Motown and Northern Soul at the essential DJ night Soulelujah. For a more subdued evening, there are top-shelf dramas and musicals at the American Repertory Theater. Several recent Broadway shows, such as Jagged Little Pill, have originated here. 

Cocktails at the Street Bar in the Newbury Hotel (Andrew Scrivani)

10:30pm to 12am: Enjoy a night cap

Boston is a town that rolls up the sidewalks early. If you’re looking to wind down before retiring for the evening, the Street Bar, which is in the newly renovated Newbury Hotel, mixes an old-school Brahmin sensibility with a beautifully subdued décor. 

OVERNIGHT: Rest up ahead of more adventures tomorrow

A sweet and sticky start to the day at Union Square Donuts

8am: Rinse and repeat

Make the most of your remaining time in the city by walking through the Boston Public Market, where you can sample local delicacies and purchase New England-made products. Try the sea salt and whiskey caramel donuts from Union Square Donuts with a cup of iced coffee (no matter what the weather, Bostonians drink iced coffee) from George Howell Coffee. There are also healthier options if you’re starting to feel a bit gluttonous. With breakfast in hand, find a bench across the street at the 17-acre Rose Kennedy Greenway and gaze on the public art installations, or simply stop and smell the roses.