I’m hitting halfway through my semester abroad and the ‘homesickness’ is starting to set in; every once in a while I feel myself pining for my city thousands of miles and multiple oceans away, Boston. Without a doubt, venturing to new corners of the world is a travel experience that is overflowing with adventure and excitement… But there’s something about the familiarity of Boston– a city I’ve been honored to call home for the past year and a half- mixed with the spontaneity of discovering new nooks and crannies that I miss. In honor of me admitting that I miss ‘my place’, here’s my top 10 list of things to do and places to go when you visit. At least now I can live vicariously through your travels to a city that is undoubtedly amazing, knowing someone else is reveling in a few of my favorite things to eat, see and do!
Have a Boston favorite I missed out? Comment at the end and share your secret spots!
1. Catch the Sunrise Over the City from the BU Bridge:
Waking up at the crack of dawn is a small price to pay to bask in the rays of golden sunshine as the city silhouette is immersed in light- on some morning’s the sky is illuminated in dreamy hues of pinks and purples. This one’s top of the list because it’s something I got to witness almost every morning for a year straight, walking from one side of campus to the University’s boat house for early morning rowing practice. Up until now, Boston’s golden hour has been a pretty well kept secret; it’ll be just you, the rowers out on the Charles below and the rising sun sharing the most beautiful hour of the day whilst the rest of the city is still fast asleep.
2. Splurge on a meal, served with a view that steals the show on the side:
Perched high above the city at the top of the Prudential Center, Top of the Hub provides the closest thing to a bird’s eye view of the city you can get save jumping in a helicopter or plane.
At $42, their 5-course Sunday brunch is on the costlier side but worth it in my opinion (lunch and dinner options are, however, also available). With views to kill over Back Bay through to Beacon Hill and beyond across the harbor, there’s no need to rush and plough through your meal, appreciate the sights. It’s definitely something you want to treat yourself to at least once! Just make sure to call ahead to reserve, and ask for a window seat whilst you’re at it.
3. Cross the Charles and explore Cambridge:
Head to Cambridge and spend a day in the illustrious Harvard bubble. Take it all in as you stroll across the richly historic Harvard Yard, giving in to temptation and taking touristy pics along the way (I’m guilty of it too). Next, make your way to Harvard Square for Cambridge’s take on Newbury Street, stopping at Zinneken’s for a cookie-butter slathered Belgian waffle. If you’re looking to indulge in the academic air, check out one of the Museums at Harvard, most of which are open to the public at a small fee. Otherwise, just meander along the streets and alleys, lapping up the air of established traditionalism and atmosphere the area has to offer
Top tip: for the best bagels out of New York, make sure you pay Bagelsaurus a visit… Arrive early because the line builds up and the bagels sell out.
4. Stop, sit, and sip at Boston’s cafés and bakeries:
You didn’t travel all this way to sit and sip on coffees whilst savoring on pastries, but Boston wouldn’t be Boston if it weren’t for all these fine grain spots. Steer clear of Starbucks and Dunkin, support some local favorites. I can’t come up with a shortlist of my top 3, let alone a single personal favorite, so instead here’s a handful of options. With multiple locations across the city, Tatte Bakery is the key to my heart, my ultimate go to… Thinking Cup on Newbury and Crema Café in Harvard Square are two other trusted favorites. Pavement Coffeehouse is a student hotspot, with free wifi and the best homemade almond granola on offer at all their locations. Finally, for a sweet treat alongside your coffee, Patisserie on Newbury is filled with mouth-watering freshly baked french sweet and savory treats.
5. Follow the Freedom Trail:
Winding throughout downtown Boston, follow the Freedom Trail and stop at 16 sites of historical significance along the way. If you don’t get around to doing the whole thing in one straight shot, make sure you prioritize stopping at the Boston Common/Public Gardens, Faneuil Hall (located next to Quincy Market), and Old State House. A great self-guided walking tour, the trail offers you not just a retrospective glance of the city but the chance to take in all the atmosphere and charm of the city on the hill.
6: Get artsy at the MFA:
A whole treasure trove waiting to be unlocked, the Museum of Fine Arts can’t be missed. Absolutely cavernous, you’ll need to dedicate at least an afternoon to this melting pot of traditional and modern, East meets West. The perfect antidote to a rainy day, the MFA has statues, portraits, installations, ornaments, photographs and much more, guaranteed to cater to all artsy interests and keep everyone happy!
7. Visit for a sports event (and get tickets to go):
Sport is not simply a game or match that is watched by lackluster spectators; Bostonians eat, breathe, and sleep for their local teams, heroes. From the Red Sox who call Fenway’s iconic Green Monster their home, to the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins, Boston buzzes at the mention of an upcoming fixture. And that’s not even to mention Marathon Monday, the Head of the Charles Regatta or the intercollegiate rivalries and tournaments. It’s a pretty great place to be on game day; join in the action and sing alongside the passionate crowd cheering their beloved athletes!
8. Fall in to fall:
Known as autumn to the rest of us, Boston is a great place to base yourself in time to explore the iconic New England season. Visit Salem (just a 40 minute train ride from Boston’s North Station) during the month of October and get in to the Halloween spirit as Haunted Happenings sweep across the town. Spend an afternoon apple picking at one of the many orchards nearby Boston (and make sure to try some apple cider donuts if available, or at least one pumpkin spice flavored something or the other). Wander a little further afield to the Berkshires/Western Massachusetts or New Hampshire and Vermont to take in the fall foliage as the leaves fade into varying shades of amber and red.
9. Take to the seas for a different perspective:
Weather permitting, a harbor tour is a great way to sit back, relax, and take in the sights of the city from a different angle. Most tour cruises and ferries leave from the wharfs at the waterfront (Aquarium is the nearest T underground station) and reservations generally aren’t required, unless traveling in a large group. Bronze up as you bask in the afternoon sun, passing sites like Fort Independence on Castle Island and learning a little more of the city’s history along the way!
10. Spend a rainy day reading at the Boston Public Library:
Savor the silence in Bates Hall on the second floor, sitting alongside others fastidiously studying and engulfed in their reading. With free wifi, power outlets and ample desk space (apart from during university finals season in May and December), it’s easy to spend hours focused on work in undisturbed concentration.
P.S. sneak snacks in at own risk. If you are willing to stealthily slip food in under the guards’ radar, opt to indulge in some of Cameo Macaron‘s french macarons. The truck is generally parked outside on Boylston Street on Saturdays, but check their website for an up to date schedule!