Boston's Charlestown was the traditional home of employees at the now-decommissioned Navy Yard. It has experienced a shift in its population and industry and an increasing number of young professionals are joining the families who have lived in the area for years.
Charlestown was first settled and laid out in 1629 by engineer Thomas Graves, making it Boston's oldest neighborhood. Initially quite large, at least 10 towns have peeled away from the King's original land grant over the last 400 years. Becoming a city in 1848, Charlestown was annexed by Boston in 1874. Located on a peninsula between Boston Harbor and the Charles and Mystic Rivers, Charlestown can sometimes feel cutoff from the rest of the city.
By far the most notable event to happen here is the Battle of Bunker Hill. On June 17, 1775, British forces stormed Minuteman positions, where they had dug in atop the hill overnight. While the redcoats would raise their flag above the hill that day, the Pyrrhic victory was a sobering experience for the British. The losses incurred that day would influence the Empire to use more cautious tactics for the rest of the war. Mostly destroyed after the fight, it wasn't until 1786 that the first bridge across the Charles River was built to connect Charlestown with the rest of Boston.
The Charlestown Navy Yard was established in 1800; providing industry and jobs for many residents. During the Civil War, over 26,000 men enlisted at the Navy Yard, where many ships pivotal to the Union campaign were constructed. In 1827 it was decided a memorial was needed to commemorate the battle, and The Bunker Hill Monument you see today was completed in 1843.
Throughout the mid-1800s an influx of Irish immigrants arrived in Charlestown, many forced from their homeland during the Great Irish Potato Famine. The area long remained an Irish and Catholic stronghold similar to South Boston, Somerville, and parts of Dorchester. Since the late 1980s the neighborhood has changed dramatically due to its easy access to downtown and its colonial architecture. As in many Boston neighborhoods, gentrification has greatly influenced the area but Charlestown still retains an Irish American influence.
Get in edit
By foot edit
Walking is the way to go, because the real meat of what you want to see here is often located a bit aways from the train stations. Only a few buses serve this small neighborhood, so you'll find walking is generally the fastest way to get from A to B. Careful not to overexert yourself! There just aren't the transit options here that you will find elsewhere in the city. It's all about pacing yourself. Many residents often walk to work downtown, which could be a 5 to 25 minute trip depending where you start from.
By public transit edit
The Orange line stations Community College and Sullivan Square both serve Charlestown, although somewhat poorly located on the far western edge of the neighborhood. Bus routes #92 and #93 run every 50-65 minutes throughout the area as well. No late evening or Sunday service for the buses. If you are coming from Cambridge, there is no direct transit route. You'll have to travel via Somerville towards Sullivan Station, or travel via Downtown Boston towards Haymarket station; and then connect from there. The F4 water taxi runs between Long Wharf and the Charlestown Navy Yard. The Navy Yard dock is very close to the U.S.S. Constitution.
By car edit
Not at all recommended. Traffic is horrendous getting in and out, and the area most visitors will want to see is compact and easily walkable. If you must, you can drive in from Exit 23 (Government center/North End) and Exit 28 (Charlestown/Sullivan Square) on Route I-93, the Charlestown/Somerville Exit on Route 1 after the Tobin Bridge, Storrow Drive in Boston or Memorial Drive in Cambridge.
Get around edit
Most of Charlestown is accessible by walking, which usually takes less than 30 minutes from end to end of the neighborhood. If driving or biking, keep in mind many streets are very narrow and run uphill and downhill.
- 1 Bunker Hill Monument, Monument Square (T: Community College). Mid-Mar to Nov: 9AM-5PM daily; Dec to mid-Mar: M-F 1PM-5PM, Sa-Su 9AM-5PM. For the history buffs in the family there is the Bunker Hill Monument. Even for those who are unfamiliar with history that dates back to 1775 will enjoy the history lesson given on the site of this revolutionary war landmark. Climbing to the top of the monument is free, but during the months of April, May, and June, a pass must first be obtained from the nearby Bunker Hill Museum, which are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Free.
- 2 Bunker Hill Burying Ground, Bunker Hill St between Polk and Elm Sts, ☏ . Open M-Sa upon request with 24 hours notice. Charlestown's second oldest cemetery, established in 1810. Free.
- 3 Phipps Street Burying Ground, Phipps and Lawrence Sts, ☏ . Open M-Sa upon request with 24 hours notice. Charlestown's first cemetery, established in 1630. Free.
- 4 (Boston Navy Yard) (T: North Station), ☏ . 24 hours daily. Another Historical landmark are the grounds of the Charlestown Navy Yard, which was established over 200 years ago. The navy yard is located in the Boston National Historical Park, and from here you can access a visitors center, museum, and of course the USS Constitution and the Cassin Young. Free.
- 5 USS Cassin Young (DD-793), 198 3rd St (T: North Station), ☏ . 10AM-4:30PM daily. A Fletcher-class destroyer in the United States Navy, launched in 1943. After serving in WWII at the Battle of Okinawa, she was awarded landmark status in 1986 as one of only four surviving examples of this type of ship. Free.
- 6 USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), Charlestown Navy Yard (T: North Station). Tu-F 2:30PM-6PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. In this historic park is the warship U.S.S. Constitution which is vital to Boston's history. The U.S.S. Constitution now serves as a training ship and is still commissioned for battle, making it the oldest warship in the world. It's over 205 feet (62 m) tall and weighs 2200 tons. Free.
- 7 USS Constitution Museum, Charlestown Navy Yard (T: North Station), ☏ . Apr-Oct 10AM-6PM daily, Nov-Mar Th-Su 10AM-5PM daily. Tour famous Old Ironsides, but first enjoy all-ages hands-on exhibits on sailing skills and crafts. Free.
- 8 City Square, at Chelsea St and Rutherford Ave. City Square is one of the city's newer parks, although the history of parks on this site dates back to 1629 when Market Square was laid out and Charlestown was still a separate city. In 1901, an elevated railroad was built through the square and then the busy Tobin Bridge was constructed. The rail line was eventually torn down and the Tobin ramps were put into a tunnel in the 1990s, allowing the park to be reconstructed above the highway.
- 9 Winthrop Square, bound by Common St, Adams St, and Winthrop St. Also known as the Training Field, this was a common grazing area and militia parade ground during colonial times. The centerpiece of the park is the Soldiers Monument, built in 1872 and dedicated to the men of Charlestown that fought in the American Civil War.
- 10 John Harvard Mall, north of City Square between Main and Harvard Sts. Built in 1943, this shady oasis was built by Harvard University as a memorial to its namesake founder. The park is a little worse for wear, but there is a restoration fundraising campaign in the works.
- The Freedom Trail — A major tourist draw of significant historical sites in Boston. These 17 locations spread over two and a half miles are crucial to understanding revolutionary era America. A few are located here.
- 1 Artist Group of Charlestown, 523 Medford St (T: Sullivan Station), ☏ . The AGC was started in 2002 and has become a staple of the Charlestown art scene ever since. There are many different types of art offered in this gallery. In addition to the group selling its own art, artists from the community who aren't members can display their art. Anything from watercolor paintings to sculptures to photography is on sale at the exhibits. In the spring and summer there is an outdoor festival held at City Square.
- 2 Harvard Art and Frame, 250 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . M 10AM-5PM, T W 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-7PM, F10AM-5PM, Sa noon-4PM. If you decide to buy a photograph at the ACG, this is the place to go to get it framed and matted. Besides framing art, it sells antique prints and paintings.
- 3 The Joy of Old, 85 Warren St (T: Community College), ☏ . Anyone who enjoys rustic antiques would have a blast spending all day gazing at everything from oak bookcases to wicker furniture. The jewelry offered is unique as well; a handmade crocheted and beaded bracelet is an extremely popular item. More best-sellers are necklaces made from handmade glass and gemstones. Someone in the college crowd would be interested in a classic sign like "Dorm Sweet Dorm". For a clean-burning scent that is long-lasting you can pick up one of the soy candles while you are in there.
- 1 [formerly dead link] Grasshopper Cafe, 229 Bunker Hill St (T: Community College), ☏ . 6:30AM-2PM daily. Simple family owned restaurant serving breakfast and lunch. $8-12.
- 2 Sweet Rice Thai Sushi, 187 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . M-Th 11:30AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su noon-9:30PM. Simple Thai cuisine and sushi in a small neighborhood restaurant. Starters $5-8, mains $12-16.
- 3 Brewer's Fork, 7 Moulton St (T: Community College), ☏ . M-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 10:30AM-11PM. Here you will find an extensive selection of beer and cider and a menu focused on their wood-fired oven, mostly pizza. Most dishes $10-18.
- 4 Figs, 67 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . M-F noon-2:30PM 5PM-9:30PM, Sa Su noon-9:30PM. The original location of Todd English's gourmet pizza spot. Pizza $18-24.
- 5 , 1 6th St (T: North Station), ☏ . 5PM-10PM daily. Fancy French restaurant in the historic Charlestown Navy Yard. Starters $6-12, mains $18-26.
- 6 Legal Oysteria, 10 City Square (T: North Station), ☏ . M-Sa 11:30AM-1AM, Su 10AM-1AM. Legal Seafood's take on a Northern Italian oyster bar. Legal Oysteria is a one-off and serves a very different menu from the chain's other restaurants. Starters $7-14, mains $20-30.
- 7 [dead link] Tangierino Brasserie, 83 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . 5PM-1:30AM daily. The restaurant offers serves Moroccan cuisine, including such lip-smacking favorites as blazing beef tenderloin or striped bass. Valet parking 7 days a week, complimentary limousine service back and forth from nearby hotels. Tuesday through Saturday, from 7 to 10, the restaurant brings in the wild crowd by featuring belly dancers. Main courses: $20-35.
- 8 Pier 6, 1 8th Street (T: North Station), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F Sa 11AM-11PM. Ritzy nautical themed restaurant with waterfront views. Focusing on New England flavors with fresh seafood and local ingredients. Starters $10-15, mains $20-30+.
- 1 Sullivan’s Pub, 85 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . They have weekly events like Trivia Nights on Wednesdays and Karaoke night on Thursdays. They have a wide variety of drinks and reasonably priced. To top it off they have good food.
- 2 Tavern at the End of the World, 108 Cambridge St (T: Sullivan Station), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 10 AM-midnight. Cozy tavern with a small, but well chosen beer list.
- 3 Warren Tavern, 2 Pleasant St (T: Communit College), ☏ . M-F 11AM-1AM, Sa Su 10AM-1AM. This oldest tavern in Massachusetts has had many famous visitors, including George Washington himself. This bar/restaurant has an extensive wine list. You can buy the wine by the glass ($5-8) or by the bottle ($21-29). They offer a variety of domestic and imported draft beers. They have a menu for brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert. Monthly events.
- 4 Sorelle Bakery and Café, 100 City Square (T: Community College), ☏ . M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa Su 8AM-4PM. One Monument Ave. A local café with great coffee and baked goods. They offer their special Sorelle brewed coffee along with specialty coffees like lattes, cappuccinos and chai teas. They have a long lunch menu, if you are interested. And if you are they serve beer and wine with your lunch. They have many awards and good reviews. Coffee $2-5.
- 5 Style Cafe, 197 8th St (T: North Station), ☏ . M-Sa 7AM-5PM, Su 8AM-6PM.
- 6 Zume's Coffee House, 221 Main St (T: Community College), ☏ . M-F 6AM-4PM, Sa Su 7AM-4PM. Another local hangout (pronounced "zoo-meez") with good espresso, pastry, and sandwiches, and big easy chairs to hang out in. Coffee cakes are really popular.
- 1 Bunker Hill Bed and Breakfast, 80 Elm St (T: Community College), ☏ . Is more quaint and a “home away from home” you might want to try. At this Victorian styled home breakfast is made to order. They offer a Jacuzzi, library and laundry facilities. There is a VCR, TV and phone in each room. From $150 to $175.
- 2 Residence Inn Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf, 44 Charles River Ave, ☏ . Has a beautiful view of the Boston Harbor and complimentary services like: a buffet breakfast, the morning newspaper, and a coffee and tea room. Their guest services include: an ATM, grocery shopping service, and room service. On site they offer the Harborwalk Café on Tudor Wharf, which is American cuisine of lunch and dinner. This hotel also includes and indoor pool and a fitness center. Around $229 to $259 per night..
- 3 Green Turtle Inn, Pier 8 13th St (T: North Station), ☏ . Floating bed and breakfast. Stay on one of three different boats afloat in Boston Harbor. From $280 a night.
Go next edit
- Walk over the Charlestown bridge which connects to the North End and visit the Old North Church.
- Get out into Boston's neighborhoods! You could certainly do worse than Union Square in Somerville.
- Holding tickets? TD Garden in the West End is where the Celtics and Bruins play.
- In nicer weather take a boat to South Boston and see the Institute of Contemporary Art.
- Prefer a little greenery? The Arnold Arboretum in Jamacia Plain is easily accessible from the nearby Orange line.
|Routes through Charlestown|
|Malden ← Somerville ←||N S||→ North End → Downtown Boston|