I have a confession. When people ask me where I’m from, I usually tell them I grew up in Boston but felt like a New Yorker living in exile. I always loved the quaint historic streets and liberal intellectual outlook, but in some ways, Boston felt provincial and preppy, full of people wearing Red Sox caps and polos or awkward nerds I went to high school with. But now that more than 10 years have passed since I moved away, the city seems different—more savvy and cosmopolitan. Those so-called nerds are on their way to curing cancer or engineering robots. Innovative chefs are opening hip new restaurants and bars. Entire neighborhoods are changing, in some cases literally springing up where before there were vast expanses of empty parking lots.
Of course, you can still find the old Boston of Paul Revere and the Founding Fathers. Historic enclaves like Beacon Hill and the North End retain their charm, and the Boston Tea Party is a nice reminder that the city has always had a rebellious streak. But while in the past, glass-walled skyscrapers like the John Hancock Building and the Prudential Center seemed at odds with the stately brownstones of the Back Bay, the city now seems keener to integrate the past with the present. Wander around Fort Point, and you’ll find contemporary art galleries and boutiques in redeveloped warehouses and factories. You can sleep in a former jail reborn as a swanky hotel and dine in a century-old restaurant revamped for the Instagram age. We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you find the best of the new Boston and some of the old.
Where to Stay
The Liberty Hotel: It used to be a punishment to sleep here, but now visitors to Beantown pay top dollar for the privilege of staying in the former Charles Street Jail, a member of the Luxury Collection. The hotel’s design incorporates cheeky references to its notorious past, including the original catwalks overlooking the lobby and mug shots of celebs like Lindsey Lohan adorning the bar. Unlike the inmates, you can actually appreciate the prime location in Beacon Hill.
The Envoy Hotel: Opened a couple of years ago, the Envoy—a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection—brought sleek style and a perfectly positioned rooftop bar to the rapidly developing Seaport. Rooms and suites feature high-tech touches, Netflix streaming, and quirky décor, like TVs perched on bicycle wheels and maps of Boston etched onto glass room dividers.
Verb: This also relatively new hotel is located right by Boston's iconic Fenway Park. Inspired in equal parts by rock 'n' roll music scene and Palm Springs of decades past, this quirky sleeper features an outdoor pool, in-room record players, and retro music posters and album art decor adorning the walls. Attached you'll also find Hojoko, an Izakaya-style restaurant that serves late-night ramen and Japanese-inspired tiki drinks, which, I don't know about you, but, for me, is a major draw to stay here. —Irina Grechko
Nine Zero: In addition to offering some of the best views of the Boston Common park and gold-domed Boston State House, this boutique hotel played host to celebrities like Lady Gaga. We love it for its health-oriented amenities like free bikes, yoga mats in every room, and in-room spa services that range from a calming massage to body treatments. —IG