Known as "Little Italy" for over a hundred years, the North End proudly carries the torch of Boston's Italian heritage. Its narrow, dense streets consistently draw hordes of visitors looking to experience old world culture and first class dining. The West End was a sister neighborhood, until it was almost entirely demolished during the 1950s. Today it's the site of a huge sports arena and massive amounts of new construction.
The draw of the North End was evident even to the first Puritan colonists, when powerful minister Increase Mather made this neighborhood his home. This area shared fortunes with Beacon Hill, and people from all walks of life came together to live and worship. The Old North Church was put up in 1723, the oldest church in Boston still standing. As the years wore on, the English and free Blacks living here would be pushed out by a wave of Irish immigrants who arrived in great numbers. Stately mansions were converted into tenements, and living conditions deteriorated. By the mid 19th century, the North End developed something of an unsavory reputation, a red-light district along what is today North Street being chiefly responsible.
By the 1880s the Irish had decamped, and the North End became dominated by Jewish and especially Italian immigrants. These families would barter trade skills to one another, slowly repairing and replacing the area's dilapidated housing stock with what you will see here today. A poorly considered expressway project constructed in the 1950s cut this neighborhood off from the rest of Boston. Although this did have the beneficial effect of strengthening already close community connections, and family owned businesses continued to thrive.
When the ugly expressway was removed in 2007 by the Big Dig, a hulking metal barrier was replaced by a welcoming green garden, and the North End was united with the rest of the city once more. This connective parkland invites visitors from around the globe to explore the narrow brick streets, historical highlights, and unparalleled Italian dining that make the North End such a unique destination.
Once simply a small bay and mill pond to early colonists, the West End is another of Boston's neighborhoods built on reclaimed land. After the American revolution, the pond had turned into something of a convenient—although increasingly stinky—garbage dump. By the dawn of the 19th century it was decided to use the earth from one of Beacon Hill's three original hills to fill the pond in.
The creation of this new neighborhood quickly relieved pressure on the town's overcrowded housing stock. Some of the areas first residents would be African American, joining friends and family living nearby on Beacon Hill's north slope. This was one of the few places in the United States where African Americans had a political voice before the Civil War. In the coming years they would be joined by immigrants arriving from across Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.
By the 1950s the once overcrowded area was in the process of "de-slumming" along with the North End. It wasn't perfect, but small shops were still in business and many families still considered it a fine place to live. A city plan to "redevelop" the area was overwhelmingly opposed by residents during a meeting in late 1957. Their pleas fell on deaf ears, however, and eviction notices were handed out a few months later. The following year, a majority of the West End would be razed to the ground.
Today a vibrancy is slowly returning to the remaining pockets of what once was. It will never again feel like a sister to the North End, but as the tall buildings of glass and steel take the place of 50s era parking lots, the West End stands ready to turn the page and write its next chapter.
The North and West End are of similar size and can be traversed in around 15-20 minutes, so walking is usually going to be your best option. The easiest way to get to the North End is to follow the Freedom Trail from downtown Boston; follow the crowd across the Greenway and you're there. For the West End, turn left as the Greenway ends and the Charlestown bridge looms.
By public transitEdit
By far the largest station in the area is North Station. Not only is this a major stop on the Orange and Green lines, four Commuter Rail lines and the Amtrak train to Maine depart from here as well. See Boston by train for more information. While covered more in depth in the downtown article, Haymarket on the Orange and Green lines can be a very useful station for the visitor. Accessible by Green line tracks; Science Park is the station you want if you're visiting the Science Museum. If you're going to be on the Blue line anyway, Aquarium or Bowdoin stations may also prove useful to you.
Here are two more neighborhoods where driving is a terrible idea. The North End in particular has streets so narrow they barely accommodate pedestrians, much less automobiles. When visitors aren't clogging up the thoroughfares in summer, the snow picks up that slack in wintertime. There are a few (expensive) parking garages in the West End and downtown if you're determined to go that route. A few businesses in this area may provide valet parking, but call ahead to ensure a spot and don't expect it to come gratis.
- 1 Old North Church (Christ Church in the City of Boston), 193 Salem St (T: North Station), ☏ . Jan-Feb: 10AM-4PM daily, Mar-May: 9AM-5PM daily, Jun-Oct: 9AM-6PM daily, Nov-Dec: 9AM-5PM daily. Old North Church was Boston’s second Anglican church. It is most famous for sending the message from Paul Revere that the British were coming by lighting the steeple with lanterns. "One if by land, two if by sea." Paul Revere had convinced congregant Robert Newman to alert the American militia in Concord, Massachusetts to British troop movements. Newman placed two lanterns in the church steeple and alerted the militia to the approaching British army as Paul Revere began his ride to warn John Handcock and Samuel Adams. By taking a more in-depth behind-the-scenes tour of the church, its history is revealed while exploring the bell tower, and its crypt. $3 donation; behind-the-scenes tours are $6 adults, $5 students/seniors/military, $4 children under 12.
- 2 Paul Revere House, 19 North Sq (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Apr 15-Oct 31 9:30AM-5:15PM daily, Nov 1-Apr 14 9:30AM-4:15PM daily. Closed Mondays Jan-Mar. Paul Revere is known for his midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, warning all the people along the way that the British were coming. He owned this home for over three decades and it's downtown Boston’s oldest building, dating from somewhere around the 1680s. The average visit is 30 minutes depending on the time of year. $5, $4.50 seniors/students, $1 children 5-17.
- 3 Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Hull St & Snow Hill St (T: North Station). 9AM-5PM daily. The city's second cemetery founded in 1659, Copp's Hill Burying Ground contains more than 1200 marked graves. The remains of notable early Bostonians are interred here, including much of the Mather family; Samuel, Increase, and Cotton. During the Revolutionary war occupying British forces would use the headstones of particularly hated patriots for target practice. Visitors can still see the impressions made by musket fire in the gravestones today. Free.
- 4 Museum of Science, 1 Science Park (T: Science Park), ☏ . 9AM-5PM daily (Summer until 7PM). The Museum of Science is colossal—easily one of the biggest in North America. It has IMAX theaters, 3D theaters, and a separate planetarium. The museum not only has an enormous permanent collection spanning several stories, but it has the largest Van de Graff generator in the world, which produces frequent electricity shows, a weather generator, many multimedia presentation areas, and at least 2 temporary exhibitions at any given time. A few exhibits remain that were designed by Charles and Ray Eames, but they are showing their age. The roster of events changes daily, and is distributed upon entry. It's worth a visit as long as you are all right with the possibility of getting a migraine. Adults $25, seniors $21, children $20. Plus another $8-10 for the Omni Theater and Planetarium.
- 5 Otis House (Historic New England), 141 Cambridge St (T: Bowdoin), ☏ . F-Su 11AM-4:30PM, Mar-Nov W-Su 11AM-4:30PM. $10, $5 students.
- 6 West End Museum, 150 Staniford St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Tu-Th noon-5PM, F 1PM-5PM, Sa 11AM-4PM. Free.
- 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.
Live Long and Prosper
One of the most notable people to hail from Boston in modern times was born right here in the West End. Yes, Leonard Nimoy, made famous for his role as Spock in Star Trek grew up in this area before it was demolished. Raised the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, Leonard was no stranger to the inside of a synagogue. Fans of the series will recognize the "Vulcan Salute", but may not realize the gesture is inspired by his faith. Pay a visit to the Vilna Shul and look around carefully. Above the ark you just might notice the shape of a raised hand extended, with the ring and middle fingers being held apart.
- 1 Improv Asylum, 216 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Comedy club.
- 2 TD Garden (Boston Garden), 100 Legends Way (T: North Station), ☏ . Box office open M-F 10AM-6PM. $20-400.
- The Sports Museum, inside TD Garden, ☏ . M-F 10AM-4PM, Sa Su 11AM-4PM. If you love sports, check out The Sports Museum. A variety of memorabilia from Boston teams is on display. $12, students and seniors $6.
Throughout the summer there rarely is a dull moment in the North End. There is seemingly a different Italian festival every weekend, often thematically based on Catholic saints.
- Saint Anthony’s Feast (Festival of Santa Lucia): The weekend of the last Sunday of August (T: Haymarket), ☏ . One of Boston’s largest events of the summer, Saint Anthony’s Feast offers colorful parades, strolling singers, the Filippo Berio Culinary Pavilion, Italian folk dancing, an open air piazza, continuous live entertainment, and religious and cultural services throughout the weekend. Hundreds of pushcarts line decorated streets, calling visitors to sample an array of traditional Italian foods including calamari, quahogs, pasta, cannoli, zeppole, handmade torrone and gelato. Children of all ages can try their luck at games of skill, or enjoy pony rides and other small amusements. The festivities are capped off during the Grand Procession of Saint Anthony, which begins at Noon on Sunday. A statue of Saint Anthony is borne on the shoulders of church members and devotees through the winding streets of the North End. Accompanied by marching bands, drum & bugle corps, color guards, floats and hundreds of followers. The procession culminates with the return of the Statue of Saint Anthony to Endicott Street as confetti, streamers and balloons cascade from the rooftops. Free.
Remember, people still live in the North End, it hasn't gone full Epcot Center just yet. You can find a few stores with tacky tourist trinkets, but their presence is refreshingly limited. This is a neighborhood where residents walk to local fruit stores, butcher shops and corner markets for their groceries.
- 1 Polcari's Coffee, 105 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. Old school North End coffee house founded in 1932.
- 2 Stanza Dei Sigari, 292 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Noon-1AM daily. A one time speakeasy "hidden" underground away from the prying eyes of the law. Sells a wide selection of premium cigars, and is also known to mix a fine martini.
- 3 The Old North Church Gift Shop, 193 Salem St (T: North Station), ☏ . Jan-Feb: 10AM-4PM daily, Mar-May: 9AM-5PM daily, Jun-Oct: 9AM-6PM daily, Nov-Dec: 9AM-5PM daily. If you're looking for a nicer souvenir, the gift shops at the Old North Church are a great option. There are actually three different ones: Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop; The Printing Office of Edes and Gill; and the main gift shop. You can probably guess what the first two specialize in, while the main shop has a little bit of everything. Even t-shirts for those in the market.
- 4 Hilton's Tent City, 272 Friend St (T: North Station), ☏ . M 10AM-7PM, Tu-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 9AM-6PM, Su noon-6PM. Today they do most of their sales online, but don't miss this great old shop in the West End. Four stories of outdoor gear, for camping, backpacking, and more uses. Plus a bargain basement!
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Mid-range||$20 - $40|
Many visitors travel to the North End specifically for the dining experience. There are a plethora of Italian restaurants here, and almost all of them are good. If you haven't decided exactly where to eat, all you need to do is walk down Hanover Street and you'll be presented with no shortage of quality choices. In the high season just stop to eat whenever you see a short line, as many North End restaurants don't do reservations. Don't browse too long however, as around suppertime the area can become awash with hundreds of your empty stomached competitors. If you're on a budget, the ATM is your friend. Many establishments here are cash only.
- 1 Galleria Umberto, 289 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-3PM. A feeling of the old neighborhood lingers. Open only for lunch, this often-overlooked North End spot not only serves up fantastic Sicilian specialties, it's one of the cheapest places to eat lunch citywide. Locals in the know form a queue in front of the counter that can spill out the front door. There are plenty of tables inside, but they can become quickly overwhelmed during tourist season. $1.50 a slice. Cash only.
- 2 Mike's Pastry, 300 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-10:30PM, F Sa 11:30PM. Mike’s pastry is the tourist hotspot in the North End. You will have undoubtedly seen their distinctive string wrapped boxes before you arrive. Customers wait patiently in long lines out the door, and down the block to get their hands on these prized sweets. Mike's specializes in Italian pastries like cannoli and napoleons alongside a few other offerings: gelato, cakes, and biscotti. In addition, the pastry shop offers to customize your cakes for any event. If you don’t feel like eating dessert, try their fabulous hot beverages like espresso or cappuccino. There are places to sit inside, but the shop is mostly a take-out style establishment. Cash only. $2-6 per item.
- 3 Modern Pastry, 257 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-10PM, F 8AM-11PM, Sa 8AM-midnight. Modern pastry is a seventy-year-old family run business that is one of the most popular bakeries in the North End. Narrowly piped in popularity by Mike's, but not by quality. Only you can judge who has the best cannoli. If you go here, be prepared to wait. If you manage to score a table, relax and soak in the atmosphere and great people-watching views. Modern pastry presents a wide variety of fresh Italian pastries like cannoli (which are made upon order), cakes, chocolate ganache, and torrone. But that’s not all, they also sell imported Italian goods like pasta, olive oil, fresh breads, coffee beans, and Nutella. Cash only. $2-6 per item.
- 4 Osteria Rustico, 85 Canal St (T: North Station), ☏ . M-F 7AM-7PM. There are only six tables and the menu is not very extensive, however the exceptional food makes up for this. For lunch, be sure to try the house salad "the Casalinga" with grilled chicken. For dinner, the seafood pasta is out of this world. Starters $4-8, mains $8-10.
- 5 Monica's Mercato, 130 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 9AM-11PM daily. Some of the best sandwiches and artisanal treats in the city. Sandwiches $8-12.
- 6 Pizzeria Regina, 11½ Thatcher St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 11AM-11:30PM daily. This location of the small pizzeria chain is where it all began in 1926. Boisterous and loud with being cacophonous, the closely packed tables here feel friendly and not uncomfortable. It's one of the few spots in the North End where locals and tourists both go for a pie. Pitchers of beer available. Expect to wait outside in line during peak hours, the line moves fast but not quite as fast as you want. The other locations of this franchise are forgettable, but don't make the mistake of lumping this one in with the rest. Cash only. Small pizza $12-13, large $21.
- 7 Boston Sail Loft, 80 Atlantic Ave (T: Aquarium), ☏ . 11:30AM-2AM daily. Great seafood at reasonable prices with harbor views? The secret is out, so go at off hours for the best seats. It gets busy, but actually doesn't get as crowded as you might expect. Waits to be seated here are unusual, as a more tourist-focused restaurant next door is perfectly positioned to absorb the masses. Starters $6-12, mains $10-16.
- 8 Giacomo's, 355 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-Th noon-10PM, F-Sa noon-10:30PM, Su noon-10PM. Legendary but tiny Italian place that's always a great value. It's one of the more popular restaurants in the North End, but they don't take reservations, so expect a long line out the door and down the street. They only accept cash, but there is an ATM across the street if you forget. Starters $6-12, mains $16-20.
- 9 Al Dente Ristorante, 109 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. This Italian gem has an amazing selection. Choose from about a dozen homemade pasta and sauce types. The tangy vodka sauce is truly excellent. Sop up any remaining sauce with fresh bread, and wash everything down with a cold Peroni beer. Starters $9-12, mains $15-20.
- 10 Antico Forno, 93 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM. This busy little restaurant has a great atmosphere and good service. Dim lighting gives it a romantic setting with brick walls and a fireplace in the center of the dining room. This restaurant makes their own pasta and sauce from scratch. A good majority of the large menu includes pasta and seafood dishes, as well as pizzas fired in the aforementioned oven. Starters $8-16, mains $14-24.
- 11 Daily Catch, 323 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 11:30AM-9:30PM daily. Of the four, this is the original location. With only 20 seats, it's not the biggest place but great for fresh seafood. Starters $8-16, mains $18-21.
- 12 Lucia, 415 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . daily until 11PM. This restaurant is rather large, just like the menu. Unlike other ristorantes in this area, Lucia offers an excellent selection of cheese. Just like restaurants in Italy, each page of the menu is dedicated to one category of food like salad, seafood, chicken, or pasta. The menu says all dishes are made to order and to allow the chef ample time to prepare the dish. Valet parking is available. Starters $9-19, mains $18-29.
- 13 Maurizio's, 364 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-F 5PM-10PM, Sa noon-10:30PM, Su 4PM-10PM. Maurizio's, top rated in the Zagat Guide and three time winner of Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Award, has been part of the North End dining experience since 1993. Chef Maurizio Loddo hails from the Italian Island of Sardinia and brings a wealth of additional cooking experience from France, Germany and Spain. Wines from Maurizio's exciting list are selected to complement the food. You will find exceptional and affordable picks from all over the globe. Starters $9-12, mains $19-25, bottles of wine around $30.
- 14 Rabia’s Ristorante, 73 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 11AM-10:30PM daily. Rabia’s has a creative and unique atmosphere with romantic dim lighting. Grapes and grape vines (which look very real) dangle and weave around trellises attached to the ceiling. If you are craving seafood, this is the place to go. The menu is heavily focused on all kinds of seafood, including items straight from their raw bar. The menu also has a large assortment of meats and pasta dishes. Starters $7-20, mains $18-30.
- 15 Florentine Cafe, 333 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Noon-midnight daily. The Florentine Cafe is known for their superior food and as one of the oldest bars in Boston. Nice ambiance, looks European. Windows open wide to the street in warm weather, just as cafes do in London. Big, friendly after work crowd at the ample bar. The menu presents a wide range of specialties from pasta to racks of lamb. Full meal will be around $35.
- 16 Dolce Vita Ristorante, 221 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-W 4PM-10PM, Th-Su 1PM-10PM. Dolce Vita was featured in the Improper Bostonian and Traveler’s Journal for its great food, served in a comfortable and open atmosphere. When the weather is nice, the windows open out to the street. A unique appetizer on the menu is a fresh fruit platter. This restaurant specializes in all kinds of meat like veal, lamb, chicken, and sirloin steaks. Starters $5-15, mains $17-34.
- 17 Neptune Oyster, 63 Salem St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Excellent local seafood and raw bar. Restaurant is small but ambiance and food quality are extraordinary. On any given weekend, you will find people lining up outside the front door before they open in order to secure one of their famous lobster rolls. At $29 they don't come cheap, but almost every publication in the city has awarded these lobster rolls with a "best of" designation. Starters $12-market price, mains $28-market price.
- 18 Taranta, 210 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 5:30PM-10PM daily. Chef Jose Duarte brings a fusion of Peruvian and Italian in his Certified Green restaurant. The wine list consists of organic, sustainable, or biodynamic wines only. Excellent food quality and great service. Starters $15-17, mains $24-36.
- 1 The Fours (166 Canal St), 166 Canal St (T: North Station), ☏ . 11AM-midnight daily. The Fours is a sports bar that specializes in some great Irish pub dishes. All sorts of memorabilia litter the walls including jerseys and equipment signed by famous Boston athletes and athletes from all over the country.
- 2 Ward 8, 90 N Washington St (T: North Station), ☏ . M-W 11:30-1AM, Th F 11:30-2AM, Sa 10AM-2AM, Su 10AM-1AM.
- 3 West End Johnnie’s, 138 Portland St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Tu-Sa 4PM-2AM, Su 11AM-4PM.
- 4 Caffé Vittoria, 296 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Su-Th 7AM-midnight, F-Sa 7AM-12:30AM. In 2006 The Phantom Gourmet gave Caffé Vittoria a ‘Great Ate’ award. This place has many awards including ‘City’s Best Coffee House’ from City Guide in 2005. Caffé Vittoria sells cannolis, tiramisu, éclairs, and over ten flavors of gelato. They have an extensive drink menu including their signature martinis and specialty drinks. The café has a cigar lounge and hookah bar in the basement with a casual laid-back atmosphere. Cash only.
- 5 Thinking Cup, 236 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . M-W 7AM-10PM, Th-Su 7AM-11PM. North End outpost of this Boston mini-chain.
- 6 Caffe Paradiso, 255 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 7AM-2AM daily.
- 7 Caffe Dello Sport, 308 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . 6AM-midnight daily.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||$175 - $250|
Don't go looking for bargains in these neighborhoods. The North and West Ends are some of the most touristed and developed areas in the city. Expect gut rehabs of historical buildings, excellent service, and sky high prices.
- 1 Mariners House, 11 North Square (Tː Haymarket), ☏ . Built as a boarding house for sailors in 1847, it remains an inexpensive hotel only for active and retired members of the merchant marines and afloat military personnel. $65-110.
- 2 Kimpton Onyx, 155 Portland St (T: North Station), ☏ , toll-free: . New construction boutique hotel with every modern convenience. Handicap accessible. From $200.
- 3 Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill, 5 Blossom St (T: Charles/MGH or Bowdoin), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Good location at the foot of Beacon Hill. Near Massachusetts General Hospital and Whole Foods. Has a pool and free wi-fi. From $239.
- 4 The Boxer Boston, 107 Merrimac St (T: North Station), ☏ . Awarded "Best of Boston 2016" in a Boston Magazine reader's poll. From $239.
- 5 Battery Wharf Hotel Boston Waterfront, 3 Battery Wharf (T: North Station), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Great harbor views. From $249.
- 6 Holiday Inn Express Boston Garden, 280 Friend St (T: North Station), ☏ . From $440.
- 7 Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles St (T: Charles-MGH), ☏ . Located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood by the Charles River and its Esplanade. On a bizarre side note, the hotel occupies a former prison that once held former mayor James Michael Curley (imprisoned in 1904 for fraud), Frank Abagnale, Jr. (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can) and a Nazi U-Boat captain captured in 1945 who later committed suicide. From $309.
- 8 The Boston Yachat Haven Inn & Marina, 87 Commercial Wharf (T: Aquarium), ☏ . If you like waking up to water views, this is the place for you! Summer: $350, winter: $300.
- 9 Bricco Suites, 241 Hanover St (T: Haymarket), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Fully furnished extended stay luxury accommodations. So high end rooms even come with their own butler. Right on the main drag in the North End. From $335.
- Walk over the Charlestown bridge which (surprise!) connects to Charlestown and pay a visit to the USS Constitution, oldest commissioned warship still afloat.
- In nicer weather take a boat to South Boston and see the Institute of Contemporary Art.
- A few steps south and you're Downtown, where the Old State House and Quincy Market live.
- More in the mood for shopping? Head to the Back Bay and explore Newbury Street.
- Prefer baseball to basketball or hockey? Try and score tickets to a game at Fenway Park in the Fenway neighborhood.
|Routes through North End|
|END ← Cambridge ←||N S||→ Downtown → Fenway-Kenmore|
|Malden ← Charlestown ←||N S||→ Downtown → Jamaica Plain|