City Life: Cool, calm and cultured
A world apart from its noisy neighbour, New York, Boston is a cornerstone of American history with an altogether arty atmosphere. But that doesn't mean that this big city doesn't have bright lights of its own.
A historic hilly city bounded by the Atlantic and surrounded by the leafy landscapes of New England, the capital of Massachusetts is a melting pot of culture, architecture and cuisine. Breathtakingly beautiful bridges sweep across the Charles River from Boston central to Cambridge, home of Harvard University. Downtown, a gentle mix of glass high-rises jostle for position among a hodge-podge of grandiose landmarks and stately low-rises. Beyond the bustle of the port, genteel neighbourhoods such as Beacon Hill, Back Bay and South End harbour green gardens, picturesque parks and serene squares, linked by cobblestone streets and red-brick paving. It's a compact city, easily navigated on foot, and one that's made for stumbling upon cute corner cake shops and cafes, curious little boutiques and keep-to-yourself restaurants.
Boston is a pedestrian's paradise, and often a driver's purgatory; the city centre is tricky to navigate and parking can be both problematic and expensive. If you plan on traveling outisd ethe city, there are numerous car hire outlets at the airport, including Hertz (www.hertz.com), Dollar (www.dollar.com), and Alamo (www.nationalcar.com).
Boston's Logan International Airport is one of the USA's busiest, with regular transatlantic flights to London from British Airways, United and Virgin, as well as carriers to a number of major European and US destinations. There are regular Silver Line bus transfers to South Station, where you can hop on the subway ('the T') to the city centre.
The city is a major interchange for Amtrak's east coat lines, with trains linking South Station to New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and stations in between.
US country code: +1; Boston: 617.
Revisit the old classic Little Women by Boston-born Louisa May Alcott. Nathaniel Hawthorne's meditation on adultery in puritan Boston The Scarlett Letter or Henry David Thoreau's back-to-nature musings in Walden are other essential classics, but for something a little more modern, try the postmodern epic Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Do go / Don't Go
March and April are known as the mud months in Boston on a count of the rapidly slush-turning snow, rain and general chilly dreariness. The warm summer months are ideal, especially for visiting beautiful beaches in Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. From November to February, and particularly around Christmas, Boston transforms into a magical winter wonderland, although the cold can be biting.
Lobster and oysters and clams, oh my! Boston is a real cultural melting pot in terms of cuisine but seafood always takes pride of place on the menu. Try the sumptuously fresh lobster rolls from B&G Oyster (+1 617 423 0550) or Neptune Oyster (+1 617 742 3474). Head to North End, Boston's Little Italy, for cheeses, olive oils and cured meats.
Boston cabs are white versions of the classic New York City car, and are easily flagged down or found at the city's many ranks. Note that the 'On Duty' signs are rarely an indication that that is the case - so just stick out your arm and hope. For pre-booking, try Boston Cab (+1 617 536 5010) or Town Taxi (+1 617 536 5000).
As in New York, Bostonians pay 15-20 per cent for service, which usually works out at around double the tax on any bill.
US dollar ($).
Boston is a famously walkable city and a decent walking map will be invaluable for both for seeing the tick-box sights and finding your way around the historic nooks and corners.
In addition to the eminent Museum of Fine Arts (www.mfa.org), with its almighty Egyptian collection, and the more maverick Institute of Contemporary Art (www.icaboston.org), Boston has a wealth of little galleries and intriguing exhibitions - the LaMontagne Gallery (www.lamontagnegallery.com), showcases emerging local artists and is an inspiring alternative to the big-name museums. For a break from all the art, the The Salem Witch Museum (www.salemwitchmuseum.com) is 30 minutes away, (www.salemwitchmuseum.com) and offers a macabre recreation of the 1692 trials and executions.
Foraging fashionistas flock to Louis Boston (www.louisboston.com) in the New England Museum of Natural History building, the city's answer to London's Harvey Nichols and the Big Apple's Barneys. On Newbury Street, Riccardi (www.riccardiboston.com) is a hipster's hypermarket stocking a colossal collection of international designers, with strong leanings towards Japanese houses such as Evisu, Come de Garcons and some exclusive brands. Any gaps in Riccardi's wardrobe are amply filled by Alan Bilzerian (www.alanbilzerian.com) on Newbury Street, where you'll find a catwalk-busting selection of McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and more. The city's South End is more alternative, with visionary vintages finds in Bobby's From Boston (+1 617 423 9299) at 19 Thayer Street and under-the-radar classic French style at Looc (www.loocboutique.com) on Union Park. Bypass the Borders on Beacon Hill and head over the road to Commonwealth Books (www.commonwealthbooks.com) an enchanting antiquarian bookshop where you can thumb through higgledy-piggledy piles and browse on leather Chesterfields.
Bostons' best views are to be enjoyed from the waterside or the rooftops of the city's towering skyscrapers. The Tavern on the Water (www.tavernonthewater.com) is a great spot to admire a beautiful Boston skyline by night, and the Skywalk Observatory (and the neighbouring Top of the Hub restaurant) at the Prudential Centre (www.prudentialcenter.com) offers 360º views while you shop.
The Freedom Trail (www.thefreedomtrail.org) is a 2.5-mile red-brick path that winds around every historical monument and architectural accomplishment that Boston has to offer. Combine it with a little background reading and a smattering of revolutionary knowledge and you'll know enough Bostonian history to rival the most bookish Harvard scholar.
April For seven years, Boston's Independent Film Festival (www.iffboston.org) has been showcasing the latest and greatest home-grown cinema, with a strong empahasis on documentaries. April-September The Red Sox step up to the plate for baseball season at Fenway Park. April-November Humpback, Minke and Finback Whales gather around the harbour; Boston Harbour Cruises (www.bostonharborcruises.com/boston-whale-watch) runs three-hour whale-watching trips throughout the season. August-September 150 comedians from around the globe come to town to extract giggles at Boston's International Comedy and Music Festival. (www.bostoncomedyfestival.com). November Winter sees the frog pond on Boston Common (www.bostoncommonfrogpond.org) transform into a natural ice rink and the city's wannabe whirlers and twirlers take to their skates. December The Boston Ballet's annual performance of The Nutcracker (www.bostonballet.org/nutcracker) is a much-loved highlight of the Christmas calendar - and knocks the socks off panto.