Narrow cobblestone streets, Federal-style brick row houses, and antique gas lanterns: Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood simply oozes charm. Stretching along the riverfront of the Charles River Esplanade and backed by the Boston Gardens, Beacon Hill is one of the oldest and, undoubtedly, most picturesque neighborhoods in Boston.
The 1.6-square-mile enclave has three sections, each of which is home to plenty of attractions, restaurants, and shops. The South Slope’s cobblestone lanes, lined with Victorian homes and flickering gas lamps, harken back to a time when wealthy Brahmins ruled Boston society.
History comes alive in the North Slope with the Museum of African-American History and gold-domed Massachusetts State House, standing sentry over the city with its winter skating pond. The “Flat of the Hill” is home to the famous Cheers pub and the beautiful Public Garden. The formal Public Gardens are a wonderful oasis in the heart of the city, and Charles Street buzzes with lively bars and eateries.
Ready to explore one of Boston’s most desirable neighborhoods? Plan your adventure with a complete guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Beacon Hill.
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What to see & do in Beacon Hill, Boston
This lush green space in the heart of the city is the perfect spot for a stroll. Established in 1634, Boston Common is a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.
Boston Common’s long and storied history includes being the site of public executions and as a campground for British Troops during the Revolutionary War. It’s also the place where Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II gave legendary speeches.
Today, the 44-acre Boston Common is used for concerts, events, festivals, and gatherings. The park is the starting point of the Freedom Trail, a great spot to launch any first trip to Boston. It’s also the main park in the Emerald Necklace string of connected parks throughout Boston.
You’ll find loads to do here, from tennis and baseball to jogging, ice skating in winter, or just relaxing and soaking up the spectacular scenery.
Boston Public Garden
Another beautiful urban space that shouldn’t be missed is the Boston Public Garden. Right next to the Boston Common, this famous Victorian-era garden features exquisitely manicured lawns and plants, a vast pond, and meandering paths dotted with statues.
Wander along the pathways and admire the vibrant floral patterns that are based on traditional Victorian gardening techniques. Head to the lagoon and enjoy a peaceful ride on one of the Swan Boats – be sure to take some breadcrumbs to feed the ducks!
You can’t miss the imposing equestrian statue of George Washington but don’t skip out on checking out the park’s famous and far more endearing Make Way for Ducklings statues.
Massachusetts State House
Dominating Beacon Hill from its position on Beacon Street, the gold-domed Massachusetts State House is as beautiful as it is imposing. Designed by famous Bostonian architect Charles Bulfinch in 1798, the state capitol building is home to the Commonwealth’s government.
The brilliant gold dome that now stands was once made of wood and leaked terribly before it was covered in copper by the American Revolution hero Paul Revere in 1802. The copper was replaced by gold leaf in 1861 and now stands as a beacon of justice for the city.
Set aside at least an hour to tour the Massachusetts State House. It’s packed with fantastic exhibits about the American Revolution and the Civil War. One of the most popular things to do in Boston is to take a free guided tour and discover the role Boston played in the fight for liberty.
Museum of African American History
Immerse yourself in the African-American way of life and learn more about their rich and diverse culture and history at the Museum of African American History. Just a short walk from the Massachusetts State House, the Museum of African American History celebrates the history and culture of African Americans in the United States.
Beacon Hill is home to one of two locations housing the Museum of African American History, the other of which is in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The Beacon Hill location features two prominent buildings: the Abiel Smith School and the African Meeting House.
Make the Abiel Smith School your first stop, where you can purchase tickets and explore the exhibit galleries. The school was built in 1835 to educate African American children and is the oldest public school in the country.
Learn about the city’s early African-American culture through fascinating exhibits at one of most popular museums in Boston. Read the powerful stories of black families who struggled for human rights and advanced the cause of freedom. Pop into the museum store to browse the books and inspired gifts.
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The second part of the Museum of African American History is the African Meeting House. Built by free African American artisans in 1806, it is the oldest extant black church building in the nation. Explore exhibits on the history of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the struggle for civil rights on a guided tour.
You can’t visit Beacon Hill without popping into Cheers! One of the most well-known sights on Beacon Street, this Boston bar made history in the 80s in the celebrated TV sitcom of the same name. The former Bull and Finch Pub was renamed Cheers after the show and is one of the most popular attractions in Beacon Hill.
Expect a bit of a surprise when you head inside: It looks nothing like the pub in the show! Only the outside scenes of the façade were shot here. Despite that, the pub is a lovely, comfortable spot to enjoy a Boston lager and watch a game with the locals. Pick up a few touristy but fun souvenirs on your way out.
Nichols House Museum
If you’re a fan of Charles Bulfinch (of Massachusetts State House fame), pay a visit to the Nichols House Museum on Mount Vernon Street. Built in 1805, the art-filled mansion offers a wonderful insight into the lifestyle of the American upper class during that time.
Named after peace activist and garden designer Rose Standish Nichols, the four-story Federal-style row house is decorated with original art and décor. Take a guided room-by-room tour of the lavish home to see how Boston’s society lived.
Admire artworks and furnishings from several generations of the Nichols family, like 19th-century sculptures by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
The city’s only remaining private park, Louisburg Square is one of the most prestigious addresses in Boston. Lined with beautiful Greek Revival bow-fronted townhouses and mansions, the square was designed in the 1840s as a model for development but was never replicated.
Elegant Louisburg Square has been home to several famous residents, including Louisa May Alcott, William Dean Howells, and Secretary of State John Kerry. While you can’t go in and wander around, check out the grand statues of Columbus and Aristides on either end.
Park Street Church
Situated next to the historic Granary Burying Ground on the edge of Downtown Boston, the Park Street Church is worth a visit to admire its glorious design and towering steeple. The church was designed by Peter Banner, who drew inspiration from Christopher Wren’s London churches. Its 217-foot steeple was once the tallest point in Boston.
Take a guided tour of the Park Street Church and find out why it was once called ‘Brimstone Corner.’ Discover how the building was used to store gunpowder during the War of 1812.
Built in 1809 to preserve Trinitarian theology, the church’s first worship service was held in 1810. Today, the Park Street Church has a congregation of more than 1,200 worshippers, with more than 2,000 people attending Sunday Mass.
Where to eat & drink
Boston is a true foodie town, and when it comes to great places to eat in & around Beacon Hill, you’ll find a wealth of restaurants, from casual cafés to fine dining establishments.
For a cozy bistro-style dinner or laid-back weekend brunch, head to 75 Chestnut on Chestnut Street. Nestled amidst the brownstones, this charming little spot serves regional American food using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Keep an eye out for specials like Wine Wednesdays and Sunday Supper.
Take a step back in time at The Paramount. This once-classic greasy-spoon-turned-bistro has been a long-standing Boston favorite since 1937. Tuck into traditional grub like turkey burgers, chicken nachos, and sirloin steaks.
When it comes to classic Italian with a creative twist, there’s no better place than Grotto. Located on Bowdoin Street behind the State House, this subterranean spot is a cozy enclave with exposed brick walls and local art. Dine on homemade pasta and wood-fired pizza paired with global wines.
No. 9 Park
Located in an elegant townhouse in the shadow of the State House, No. 9 Park promises an unforgettable evening of French cuisine and fine wines. The intimate setting is perfect for romantic dinners, as the restaurant’s expert sommelier presents thoughtfully selected wines to pair with your food.
Sevens Ale House
Head to the Sevens Ale House for a Guinness and a game of darts. This friendly local neighborhood dive is laid-back and unpretentious and serves cold brews and traditional pub grub. It’s a great spot for spending an evening watching a game with the locals.
The Tip Tap Bar
For a menu of globally inspired fare with unique dishes, head to The Tip Tap Bar. Helmed by acclaimed chef Brian Poe, the upscale tavern serves creative plates like wild boar gnocchi and swordfish tips. Libations range from signature cocktails to 36 beers on tap – ask for the rare beers list if you want a special treat.
A long-standing neighborhood favorite, Harvard Gardens has something for everyone. An elegant bar is a popular gathering place for singles, while the candlelit dining room is cozy and warm. Add to that a menu of contemporary cuisine and an inventive drinks menu.
Ensconced in the State House, the 21st Amendment is a small, low-ceilinged bar that is a cozy spot to rub shoulders with legislators, power brokers, and journos over a drink. Plenty of ‘business lunches’ get done in this off-hour politico bar.
Where to stay
While Beacon Hill is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Boston for travelers, the accommodation selection is fairly limited. Extend your lodgings search to neighboring areas like Back Bay, Theater District, or Downtown Boston for more options.
A beautifully appointed self-catering option, 94 Charles Street by Thatch is a stylish aparthotel a few minutes’ walk from Boston Common. Comfortably furnished units have modern amenities, including coffee makers and microwaves. Guest laundry is available on the lowest level of the building. Plenty of restaurants are a short walk away.
Gloriously elegant and oh-so chic, the Whitney Hotel Boston is perfectly situated in the heart of the neighborhood to enjoy all its attractions. Top-notch amenities include plush beds with Frette linens, organic toiletries, hand-picked books, and personalized service. Enjoy complimentary chocolates and gourmet goodies in your room and bikes to use during your stay. Relax over drinks in the secluded courtyard garden – a little slice of heaven!
Cozy and quaint, the Beacon Hill Hotel offers a true boutique hotel experience. Just 12 rooms create an intimate retreat with stylish décor and superb personalized service. Sip sundowners on the rooftop terrace overlooking the city before savoring globally inspired cuisine in the renowned bistro on the ground floor.
Overlooking the Public Garden, the Newbury Boston is a comfortable and conveniently located hotel close to Beacon Hill. Exuding luxury, the guest rooms boast antique furnishings, designer linens, and original artworks. Dine at the hotel’s award-winning Comtessa restaurant’s rooftop terrace against a backdrop of spectacular views over the Public Gardens.
Ideally located within walking distance of Beacon Hill, the historic Public Garden, and the State House, the Four Seasons Hotel Boston has all the bells and whistles. Unwind in the luxury spa and state-of-the-art fitness center. Relax in the beautiful, heated swimming pool overlooking the Public Garden. Enjoy a customized shopping experience at the jewelry store.