The Idealist

Idealist City Guide: BOSTON food, design and style

The beautiful city of Boston is well known for its New England style food, history and accent. Just a short hop from New York on the eastern coast of the United States and famed for its place in New England history, for Harvard, MIT and the Kennedys, Kerouac and countless other famous names, it’s a great place to get a taste of America.

There are many great areas of Boston to enjoy, from the upscale stores downtown, Newbury Street and Back Bay, to the Italian neighbourhood in the North End, Charles Street on Beacon Hill and across the river into Cambridge and Harvard Square. Unlike many American cities, Boston is eminently walkable, although the T transit system is cheap and convenient too.

On our trip, we stayed across the river near Kendall Square, where thanks to MIT there’s a bunch of hotels and AirBnB choices. While in town we recommend visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Square, the JFK Museum and if you have time taking a whale-watching trip off the coast.

Today’s tour is focused on great places to visit, shops for unique finds and fun spots to eat and stay.

Boston’s best Galleries & Museums

Boston MFA facade with the Appeal to the Great Spirit monument

Museum of Fine Arts: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a massive comprehensive art collection — over 450,000 pieces, in fact. Exhibits here range from traditional paintings to more abstract images and even films. It’s also a great place for newer fans of art to get a glimpse at some of the various styles and media.

465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
(617) 267-9300

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 

Down the road from the MFA and the legacy of Isabella Stewart Gardner, art collector, philanthropist, and art patron, the museum emulates a 15th-century Venetian palace, drawing particular inspiration and houses an art collection of world importance including Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Matisse. It’s also home to exhibitions of contemporary art and many concerts and lectures. Visitors dressed in Boston Red Sox gear get discounted entrance and visitors called Isabella get in for nothing. Go Red Sox! The new wing by Renzo Piano cost a whopping $120 million.

25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115

Institute of Contemporary Art: The Institute of Contemporary Art was founded in 1936 to honour and preserve contemporary art. It features unique exhibitions which change regularly, so be sure to check out what they have while you’re in town. This is more of your edgy contemporary art, but the view of the harbour and the building itself are worth the trip alone.

25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210
(617) 478-3100

Old State House: The Old State House is often considered to be where the American revolution started. It’s the oldest surviving building in Boston, and one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. Visitors can learn about the history of Boston and explore the actual site of the Boston Massacre of 1770.

206 Washington St, Boston, MA 02109
(617) 720-1713

 

Style Shopping Boston

South End is well known for its well-heeled neighbourhoods, so if you’re looking for home accessories, antiques or unique finds, start your search there. Across the river in Cambridge is the Cambridge Antiques Market (East Cambridge, near Lechmere in what is otherwise not the prettiest of areas) which is a fab spot for vintage interior pieces.

Art and Unique Objects

There are some great places to shop for interesting things to take home, from markets, to art and gift stores, comic book stores and bookshops. We love:

South End Open Market @ SoWa – Every Sunday from May through October, locals and tourists alike flock to the South End for this open market. Tents range from crafts, design, and vintage, to food trucks and farmers’ market.

Shake The Tree – carries handmade jewellery, home goods, stationery, small brand apothecary, craft cocktail supplies + barware, global cookbooks, and baby gifts. Inspired by travels to Paris, the souks in Morocco and the vibrant colours of flower markets in India, owner Marian Klausner has filled the brightly lit space with everything she loves. The store is located in Boston’s historic “North End” Italian waterfront neighborhood, close to the Freedom Trail.
67 Salem Street, North End, Boston 617.742.0484 shakethetree@rcn.com

The stores at the Museum of Fine Art, Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum (listed above). These are all great spots for tasteful stuff you can fit in your suitcase.

Furniture and accessories

Five floors of contemporary style

Located in the historic Sherman Building, Room & Board offers a wide selection of contemporary furniture, from living room and dining room furniture to outdoor sets. And with five floors to shop, there’s a good chance you’ll find something unique that you absolutely love here. We tend not to feature chain stores in our listings, but especially for visitors to Boston, this place is worth a stop.

375 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02115, (617) 351-0020

European Styling

Lekker Home: Even when you’re in Boston, you still see plenty of European influence. Lekker Home uses that inspiration for its selection of European furniture, their mainstay being Dutch furniture. But a great selection of furniture isn’t all you’ll find here — there’s also plenty of great lighting and other accessories.

1313 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
(617) 542-6464

South American Styling

Diseño Bos: If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, check out Diseño Bos’s selection of South American furniture, accessories and lighting. Frank Campanale, the owner, found inspiration for his store after a month-long holiday in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, which still inspires the fur and hide rugs and colourful patterned textiles found in Diseño Bos today.

460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118
(617) 423-2008

High end Italian styling

IL Décor: A range of stunningly beautiful modern furniture greets visitors of IL Décor, all of it carefully selected from contemporary designers with a unique, stylish take on interiors. And the best part is, IL Décor has almost everything, so you can find the perfect nightstand for your bedroom or give your living room an overhaul.

10 St James Ave, Boston, MA 02116
(617) 580-3443

Vintage modern

Abodeon: Adobeon’s slogan is “A celebration of modern design through the decades,” and it’s a fitting one. Here you’ll find a range of mid-20th century vintage modern furniture and current modern furniture, including unique lighting solutions and chic accessories.

1731 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 497-0137

Award-winning designers

Twelve Chairs: Miggy Mason and Roisin Giese founded Twelve Chairs in 2010 as a result of their combined passion for interiors. After gaining attention on both a local and national level, they moved their store to the historic south end of Boston where they design and sell their unique creations today.

581 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118
(617) 982-6136

Staying Over

The Inn at St Botolph: The Inn at St Botolph is situated in a historic brownstone building in Boston. It’s a contemporary hotel with a twist — their aim is to make you feel like you’re living in your own fully furnished luxury apartment in the city.

99 St Botolph St, Boston, MA 02116
(617) 236-8099

The Godfrey Hotel Boston: The Godfrey is a chic hotel with luxury features located near downtown Boston, which makes it a great choice for visitors who wish to walk from destination to destination. And if you need something to perk you up in the morning (or at night), there’s a lobby bar and coffee shop in the hotel.

505 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111
(617) 804-2000

Hotel Commonwealth: If you want a great mix of luxury boutique, Hotel Commonwealth is the perfect choice for you. It’s located in Boston’s Back Bay near Fenway Park and has easy access to the subway. It houses a New England-style restaurant and an oyster and cocktail bar, so you can get great food without going out.

500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
(617) 933-5000

Food

Oishii: If you love sushi and other authentic Japanese food, Oishii is as good as it gets in Boston. From classics like spicy tempura tuna to more ambitious dishes featuring caviar or wagyu beef, Oishii has something to satisfy everybody. And if you’re not a sushi fan, don’t fret — there are plenty of other entree options.

1166 Washington St #110, Boston, MA 02118
(617) 482-8868

Harvest: Located in Harvard Square, Harvest is a staple of fine dining in Boston and a proponent of farm-to-table ingredients. They cook up all of the Boston staples, from pork loin and lamb to lobster and oysters. If you’re visiting in the summer, try getting a seat in the beautiful garden terrace.

44 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 868-2255

Rosebud American Kitchen: It’s always nice to try new foods, and fine dining is great, but sometimes you just can’t beat a classic diner. There’s no overly complicated, ultra-fancy menu here — just comfort food favourites like Korean BBQ sliders, mac ‘n cheese, fried chicken and fish and chips. If you want delicious, no-nonsense food, check out Rosebud.

381 Summer St, Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 629-9500

Must-See Attractions

Harvard Yard

Harvard: It doesn’t get much more revered than this. Harvard was built in 1636 and is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The Harvard Information Center is dedicated to greeting visitors who come to see the school, and they can provide you with both historical information and tours.

(617) 495-1573
Smith Campus Center 30 Dunster Street Cambridge, MA 02138

Freedom Trail: If you love history, you’ll love the Freedom Trail. It’s a 2.5-mile path throughout Boston that takes visitors by 16 significant historical locations, giving them a taste of the United States’ past. If you’re particularly interested in a few historical sites, you can always skip some of the others to make more time.

The Freedom Trail Foundation 44 School Street, Suite 250 Boston, MA 02108
(617) 357-8300

Boston Common: The Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States, dating all the way back to 1634. With sprawling green fields and plenty of activity, t’s a great place to relax, have a picnic, and people watch.

139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111

Travel

A flight from London to Boston will cost between £350 and £750 depending on the airline you choose and type of flight you take. You can also fly into Providence, RI or New York and get a train up the coast.

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Feature photo copyright: tonobalaguer, MFA demerzel21, Harvard janniswerner / 123RF Stock Photo.

  • Ben is a painter and DJ and loves all things concrete, urban and handmade. Based in London, when he’s not working on an interior renovation, he’s riding his scooter down some alley or other in search of the perfect cortado.

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