BOSTON: PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY CITY

Blends History and Indie Style Like Nowhere Else

Boston is meant for strolling. The very names of the streets — Commonwealth, Newbury, Hanover — conjure images of 19th-century pleasures, a genteel time of pausing to appreciate a Victorian, browsing in a tiny shop, and naturally, stopping for a brew. Of course, the city’s story reaches back quite a bit farther, before the Revolutionary War, and there is perhaps no place in America that offers such a singular mix of history and urban charm.

Select Oyster Bar

For example, I love the name of one of the city’s newest seafood joints, Select Oyster Bar, because to me it epitomizes what’s so great about Boston — it’s highly curated, indigenous, select. Located in the tree-lined Back Bay, one of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods, Select has chef Michael Serpa serving up such delicacies as hamachi crudo, white anchovies, and the bouillabaisse select, but newcomers will not want to pass up the house specialty — the sharable Gloucester plateau — that carries the name of the street where Select is set.

After my meal, I don’t leave the Back Bay yet — I hang a left out the door and head to Newbury Street, which is lined with picturesque brownstones. Between luxury retailers like Kate Spade and Zegna, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, I spy stores and coffee shops (try the honey cinnamon latte at Thinking Cup) that I’ve seen in no other city.

Boston Public Market

In a demonstration of how Boston remains current yet refers to its traditions, there are the sights and tastes of Boston Public Market on Hanover Street. Though from its name one would guess that the destination has been around for centuries, the market just opened last summer. I peruse its 39 stalls for gifts, from maple products to fair trade, stone-ground Mexican chocolates from Taza.

Faneuil Hall

For browsing and grazing with a true historic feel, make a pilgrimage to the stalls at Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. Faneuil Hall dates from 1742; its copper and gold leaf grasshopper weather vane serves as a symbol of the city. The site, known as The Cradle of Liberty, is one of 16 stops that compose Boston’s Freedom Trail. You can’t really get a feel for the historical importance of the city unless you at least sample this one-of-a-kind route. I pick up a map for the 2.5-mile-long trail right at Faneuil Hall—the visitor's center is operated by the National Park Service.

Faneuil Hall is in the first cluster of sights that includes the Massachusetts State House, the King’s Chapel, the statue of Benjamin Franklin, and the Old Corner Bookstore. North of Faneuil Hall, the last few stops are spread farther afield but well worth the trip. The Paul Revere House (1680) is downtown Boston’s oldest house, though Revere didn’t move in until 1770, five years before his famous midnight ride. The trail continues scenically over the Charles River via the Charlestown Bridge and ends at the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum.

The red-lined trail is easy to follow, and though the official start is lovely Boston Common—the oldest public park in the country, it dates from 1634 — you can begin anywhere you like. In Boston, it’s best to be independently minded.