Boston: home of the Red Sox, Harvard University and Mark Wahlberg. For a properly authentic Boston experience, trade the well-trodden tourist sites like the Freedom Trail for our pick of lesser-known hidden gems that the city has to offer.
You’ve heard of hidden bars and secret restaurants, but have you ever visited a hidden shop? At the back of a cluttered, nondescript corner store on Clearway Street, an old Snapple vending machine doubles as a secret door through which savvy shoppers find themselves in Boston’s coolest high-end apparel and sneaker store, Bodega.
2. Caffe Vittoria
Boston is home to a huge Italian-American community and Caffe Vittoria was the first Italian cafe established in the city, back in 1929. Inside the shelves are filled with vintage espresso machines and the walls are covered with coffee mugs and posters. It’s friendly, cosy and technically stopping in for an espresso martini here counts as a cultural experience. One cappuccino with a large slice of history, please!
3. Brattle Book Shop
This is no regular book store, this is one of the oldest and largest used book stores in America. Here Boston’s history mingles with modern city life. The Brattle Book Shop stocks volumes of all categories and genres, from trashy pool-side reads and crime thrillers to great old atlases and historic leather-bound books. You can purchase anything from used books for $1 to ancient and rare tomes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, and find bargains in their outdoor sale lot. When you’re done, they’ll also buy your used books!
4. SoWa Open Market
Home to nearly 200 makers, artists and crafty types, the SoWa Open Market has been making a name for itself as the place to be on Sundays. Every week during the summer months, this market is on hand to dazzle you with its collections of art studios and galleries, hand-made jewellery and ceramics, food trucks, locally-brewed beers, treats and produce from nearby farms and vintage clothing sales.
5. Kelleher Rose Garden
Tucked away behind the Back Bay Fens, when the 200 rose varieties in the Kelleher Rose Garden erupt into bloom it’s hard to believe that this isn’t one of Boston’s best-known gardens. Here the beautifully-manicured lawns, pristine flowerbeds and elegant rose bushes make this garden a tranquil and stunning place to escape busy city life for a moment. Aaaand it doesn’t look half bad on Instagram either…
6. Harvard Film Archive
You don’t have to be a student at Harvard University to make the most of the Harvard Library, especially if you’re a film buff. The Harvard Film Archive (HFA) boasts a collection of over 36,000 movies of all genres, including classic and historic titles, from all around the world. Friday through Monday, tickets are available for the showings held at the state-of-the-art cinema – there’s no better way to get your movie fix in Boston.
7. Wink & Nod
This speakeasy bar and restaurant is a firm favourite of the locals who know where to find it. Not only are the seasonal cocktails seriously good, but the dining menu also changes dramatically every few months. The rotating pop-up restaurant scheme at Wink & Nod allows local, undiscovered and talented chefs to show off their skills and creativity with experimental new dishes.
8. Fenway Farms
Bostonites love attending baseball games and are super proud of the Red Sox, and thanks to Fenway Farms there’s another, pretty unique way to enjoy the city’s baseball heritage. One of the rooftops of Fenway Park, Boston’s premiere baseball park and one of America’s oldest, has been transformed into a working farm. The fresh, organic vegetables grown are served in the restaurant at Fenway Park and used in the concession stands within the park.
9. Blackbird Doughnuts
To satisfy your sweet tooth, head over to Blackbird Doughnuts to sample some of their artisanal treats. Freshly-baked in-store, these doughnuts are lovingly crafted into works of edible, circle-shaped art. Choose from classic flavors or experimental creations such as pink lemonade and spicy hot chocolate. There are two stores in the city and zero excuses not to pay them a visit.
10. Corey Hill Outlook Park
There are plenty of buildings in the city where you can pay to enjoy the view from their rooftop terraces, but there’s a less-crowded spot from where you can gaze at the city skyline, totally free of cost. As the name suggests, Corey Hill Outlook Park sits atop enough of a hill to enjoy some great views across Boston. With its grassy lawns and shady trees, it’s also a fab place for a picnic.