Where to Stay in Boston First Time: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

The best areas to stay in Boston for first-timers are Downtown, Financial District, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South Boston, South End, and North End. These are popular neighborhoods for tourists that offers a wide variety of attractions and amenities. In this post, I will help you to decide where to stay in Boston without a car, for couples, nightlife, family, as well as the safest places to stay in Boston.

Boston is the capital and most populous city in the state of Massachusetts, as well as the New England region of America. With a rich history, countless tourist attractions, and a number of successful sports teams, Boston is an incredibly popular destination for tourists.

Boston is generally a safe city for tourists, but as any big city, you should use common sense, take some precautions, and stick into tourist areas. You should also avoid Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan as it’s more dangerous than other part of city. Downtown and Back Bay are some of the safest neighborhood in Boston for toursist.

If you are looking for the best place stay in boston without a car, look into Downtown, Back Bay, Theater District, and Financial District because they are super central neighborhood with well-connect public transportation, as well as plenty of things to do and see within walking distance. Booking hotels in these areas, you can easy explore attractions by walking or taking the subways.

Downtown is also the best area to stay in Boston for first timers due to its proximity to Boston’s famous tourist attractions and many choices in accommodations. If you stay in Downtown, you will be located in the heart of action within walking distance to many bars, restaurants, and shops.

However, while Downtown is definitely great for history, it may be slightly outdone by North End. With a number of historic buildings, districts, and a portion of the Freedom Trail, North End Is an ideal place to consider for anyone prioritizing history on their trip.

South End is a great place to stay for those interested in Latin culture or traveling on a budget, while South Boston is the best choice for those interested in Irish culture or wanting to stay near the airport. Speaking of different cultures, Chinatown and the Theater District are great options if your preference is for East Asian culture, or even if you are just a fan of the performing arts.

If you like sports, Back Bay is a great choice for visitors coming to see the Boston Marathon, while Fenway Park and a huge selection of sports bars are found in Fenway-Kenmore.

There are even districts worth considering that aren’t the most obvious for tourists. The Financial District is ideal for business travelers, Beacon Hill is perfect for people looking for high-end accommodation, while Charlestown offers something a little quieter and more residential.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Downtown
💎 Best luxury hotel:Boston Hotel Commonwealth
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:The Godfrey Hotel Boston
💰 Best budget hotel:Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Back Bay/Fenway

Best areas to stay in Boston for tourist

1. Downtown, where to stay in Boston for first-timers

Downtown, where to stay in Boston for first time tourists

Downtown Boston is the best place to stay in Boston for first-time travelers due to its central locaiton. Downtow is the most popular area for sightseeing where you can find the city’s top attractions such as Boston Common, Boston Public Gardens, City Hall, Boston Public Library, the Freedom Trail, Haymarket, Faneuil Hall, and Quincy Market.

Downtown offers great shopping, lively nightlife, and fine dining. Some of the best hotels, bars, restaurants and shops are conveniently located within walking distance of one another.

Boston has a long history, dating back to the founding of the U.S, and was one of the most important locations in the war for independence. The Boston Tea Party was a political protest that took place in the Boston Harbor and was responsible for considerable growth within the American revolution.

Visitors to the Waterfront neighborhood will not only get a sense of everything that happened to shape the country but can also visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Here you’ll see artifacts from the event itself and learn everything there is to know about the most infamous event in Boston’s history.

You’ll also find the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5-mile string of parks, it contains green spaces, a carousel and an ever-changing collection of fine arts, making it an ideal place to stay in Boston for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The Waterfront neighborhood isn’t the only part of Downtown Boston that has attractions on offer though. There is the iconic Boston Center Plaza and Boston City Hall, where the city’s governors have worked since 1968.

Then you have Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a legendary marketplace and meeting hall that was opened by Samuel Adams in 1743. It is one of the most iconic buildings in not just Boston but the country as a whole, now being listed as a National Historical Park and featuring the popular Quincy Market.

Downtown has plenty of accommodation options that suit all budgets from backpackers hostels, guesthouses, and apartments in historic buildings to luxury lodgings.

Stay in Downtown if you are a first-time visitor; you travel without a car; you prefer to stay somewhere with a central location; you want a choice of the best hotels and amenities in Boston.

Best places to stay in Boston Downtown:

luxury ($$$): Boston Hotel Commonwealth This five star hotel is in perfect location, only 250 m from Fenway Park. You can enjoy food at the fine dining restaurant, Eastern Standard; fresh seafood at Island Creek Oyster Bar, and grab a drink from The Hawthorne Bar. There is parking onsite if you drive a car.

mid-range ($$) : The Godfrey Hotel Boston This 4-star hotel is located in a real heart of Boston, only 200m from famous Freedom Trail. All guest rooms has air conditioned, a TV, private bathroom with bath robes and free toiletries. There is private car parking nearby the hotel.

budget ($): Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Back Bay/Fenway This three star hotel is located within walking distance of Fenway Park. There is free WiFi , free daily breakfast, private car parking, fitness centre, and indoor rooftop pool.

🔍MORE HOTELS IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON

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2. Financial District, where to stay in Boston for business travelers

Financial district - where to stay for business travelers

The part of Boston known as The Financial District is actually a section of Downtown Boston. Home to the headquarters of countless major corporations, it is the best neighborhood to stay in Boston for business travelers, as it provides them with the utmost convenience.

In the Financial District, you will find the headquarters of famous financial institutions such as DWS Scudder Investments, Putnam Investments, and Fidelity Investments.

Not only does it have numerous bars, hotels, and restaurants catering to those staying in the area while working in the city, but it also has attractions for you to enjoy as well.

For example, locations like Post Office Square provide beautiful examples of the historic architecture Boston is known for.

In the neighborhood, you can also find Exchange Place and International Place complexes, Custom House Tower, Old State House, Bell-in-Hand Tavern, the Frost Ice Loft, and Howl at the Moon.

On top of that, the rest of the attractions and amenities Downtown Boston is known for are just a short walk away. That makes it ideal for when you have a slightly longer break from work as well.

While accommodation prices in the area are admittedly quite high and cater to business hotels, its location still makes it the prime choice for anyone whose main purpose for their visit is work.

Stay in Financial District if you are traveling on business; you don’t plan to hire a car during your trip; you aren’t concerned about price.

Best places to stay in Financial District:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN FINANCIAL DISTRICT

3. Chinatown and Theater District, good for Asian cuisines

Chinatown and Theater District, good for Asian cuisines

The Theater District and Chinatown are a pair of neighboring districts sandwiched between Boston Common and Downtown Boston. With their compact, intertwined nature, they are two of the best neighborhoods in the city for those who prioritize diversity in their attractions.

The Chinatown district is one of the largest Asian areas in America outside of New York City and is the last remaining historic Chinatown in all of New England.

Featuring shops, bars, restaurants, and various other businesses run by Chinese, as well as Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino people, it’s a great place to enjoy a different type of culture and cuisine.

Some of the best restaurants in Chinatown to try are Shabu-Zen, Gourmet Dumpling House, and Winsor Dim Sum Café.

Meanwhile, the Theater District is the heart of the city’s theatre scene. The Washington Street Theatre District at the center of the area contains 7 buildings listed on the National Register Of Historic Places, including the Boston Opera House, Paramount Theatre and Modern Theatre.

With all of these attractions in such a small area, it makes The Theater District and Chinatown a great choice for anyone wanting a vacation filled with culture, live performances, and memories that will last a lifetime.

Stay in the Theater District and Chinatown if you are a foodie who is interested in east Asian cuisine and culture; you want to catch a theatre performance.

Best places to stay in Chinatown:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN CHINATOWN

4. Back Bay, one of the safest area to stay in Boston

Back bay - great area for shopping

Back Bay along with Downtown is one of the safest neighborhood in Boston. It is a beautiful Parisian-style and affluent neighborhood on the banks of the Charles River, it is home to some of the most iconic events and locations such as Copley Square with its Trinity Church, Copley Place, Boston Public Library.

For starters, Back Bay is the location of the finish line for the world-famous Boston Marathon. Despite being called the Boston Marathon, the race actually begins in a separate city altogether, Hopkinton. 

The competitors then race the 26 miles between the two, following a route just south of Commonwealth Avenue. This makes Back Bay a perfect place for anyone visiting Boston to take part in the festivities of the event. 

While you’re waiting, the finish line is set on an intersection containing a number of iconic locations, including Copley Square and the Boston Public Library, so there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

One of the most-visited parts of Back Bay, Copley Square features sculptures, green spaces, and a farmer market every Tuesday and Friday. It is surrounded by buildings with iconic architecture, making it a great place to relax and take in some history. 

Some of those buildings are the Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library. Opened in 1895 and proclaimed a palace for the people, Boston Public Library boasts lavish decorations, an arcaded courtyard, and consistently displays a collection of works of art.

Another is the John Hancock Tower, the tallest skyscraper in all of New England. While its famous viewing deck has been closed for some time now, it still gives a stark comparison between the distinctive architectural styles Boston has seen throughout the years.

Just around the corner you also have the Hynes Convention Center. Home to a number of the most popular events and conventions held in the city, it can make Back Bay a great place to stay in Boston if you’re here to attend more than one thing.

Another interesting place to visit is the Mapparium, an inside-out stained-glass globe that is bisected in the middle by a glass walkway, located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

Beyond events and history, Back Bay is also known as a great neighborhood for shopping as well. 

For starters, you have the shopping malls of Copley Place and Prudential Center, known as The Pru by locals. Connected by a sky bridge and featuring a combined 155 stores, as well as hotels, offices, and eateries, they make Back Bay a great place to stay in Boston for the shopaholics out there.

Don’t miss out on the Skywalk Observatory which is the city’s only sky-high vantage point offering a sweeping 360-degree view.

Then there are Boylston Street and Newbury Street. Located just a short walk from the two malls and featuring yet more stores and restaurants, it creates a level of choice beyond most people’s wildest dreams. 

One beautiful area of Boston is along the banks of the Charles River, especially the Charles River Esplanade near the Hatch Memorial Shell.

Back Bay offers a wide choices of accommodations that suits all budget travelers from budget apartments to luxuy lodges.

Stay in Back Bay if you plan to go shopping; you are attending the closing ceremony of the Boston Marathon or one of the events held at the Hynes Convention Center.

Best places to stay in Boston Back Bay:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN BACK BAY

5. Fenway-Kenmore, best areas to stay in Boston for nightlife

Fenway, where to stay in Boston for nighlife

Fenway-Kenmore is located on the west side of Boston, immediately west of Back Bay, on the southern bank of the Charles River. it is an academic and cultural district with many universities and colleges.

Fenway-Kenmore has great nightlife scene around Lansdowne Street with plenty of bars and clubs. There are several Boston’s top sports bars such as House of Blues, Bill’s Bar, and Loretta’s Last Call.

The most popular attraction in the area, and what most people associate Fenway-Kenmore with, is Fenway Park. Fenway Park is an outdoor stadium capable of holding more than 37,000 people and is the home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox.

This makes Fenway-Kenmore the best place to stay in Boston for anyone visiting to attend a game. Baseball isn’t the only thing the stadium is used for though. Over the years, soccer, American football, and boxing matches have all been held here, along with events like concerts and extreme sports competitions.

Located just a short walk from the stadium, you will also find the iconic Kenmore Square. Featuring a number of sports bars, buzzy restaurants, and even the iconic Citgo sign, it is just as suitable for your average tourist as it is for the countless sports fans who come here throughout the year.

There’s even Symphony Hall in the southeast section of the district. Home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the second oldest of America’s “Big Five”, it makes a great stop for anyone seeking a slightly more refined style of entertainment.

It isn’t all sports and tourism that make Fenway-Kenmore popular though, as the neighborhood is also the location of Boston University. With nearly 34,000 students studying a range of subjects, it is also one of the best places to stay in Boston for anyone who is, or is visiting, a student there.

Just across the river, you have Harvard Square, home to the world-famous Harvard University. You’ll also find Boston Latin School which is the America’s first public school, Simmons University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Surrounded by stores and restaurants, it makes this easily one of the best Boston Neighbourhoods to stay in for those focused on higher education.

If you like history, there are also several museums to explore include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Museum of Fine Arts which is one of North America’s largest.

Stay in Kenway-Kenmore if you want to spend an evening at Kenmore Square and see the iconic Citgo sign; you want to attend a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra; you are, or are visiting, a student at Boston University;

Best places to stay in Fenway-Kenmore:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN FENWAY

6. South End, trendy, arty neighborhood in Boston

Located just minutes from downtown and the Back Bay, South End is a trendy, arty neighborhood. It’s one of the most beautiful and the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in Boston.

It has many old-school diners, noodle houses, Spanish tapas restaurants, an Italian wine bar, and French bistros.

This city’s historic neighborhoods features the largest intact Victorian house row district in the country. You can find many of them along Tremont Street, Columbus Avenue, and Massachusetts Avenue.

You will find the Boston Center for the Arts, which is a visual and performing arts complex. It is home to the Cyclorama that hosts Art Book Fair every year; the Mills Gallery, Calderwood Pavilion, the Plaza Theatre, and Plaza Black Box Theatre.

If you like holy architecture of the Gothic Revival style, head to the largest Roman Catholic church in New England, Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Other interesting places are the Underground at Ink Block, Titus Sparrow Park, Harriet Tubman Park which is also known as Harriet Tubman Square.

South End is largely popular for another reason though, as it offers more affordable accommodation than many other parts of the city. Connected to Downtown Boston by Washington Street, it’s quick and easy to get between the two, making South End a great choice for those on a budget.

Its location also makes South End ideal for visiting other parts of the city located further out of the center, such as Jamaica Plain.

Jamaica Plain is known as the “Latin Quarter” of Boston, featuring a high Latin population, as well as numerous businesses, festivals, and churches. It even contains the oldest community theatre in America, the Footlight Club.

South end also hosts the 5th Annual SoWa Winter Festival in December in the South of Washington (SoWa) Art + Design District that attracts thousands of visitors. You can enjoy food and activities, the galleries, and artist studios.

Stay in South End if you love good food; you are traveling on a budget; you want to visit Jamaica Plain; you want easy access to the city center.

Best places to stay in South End:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SOUTH END

7. South Boston, staying near airport

Staying near Boston airport

Located immediately to the east of South End, South Boston, known as Southie by locals, encompasses the areas of Fort Point, the Seaport District, West Broadway, City Point, and Telegraph Hill. Dorchester Heights is Southie’s central area and the highest point.

Located just 3 miles from Boston Logan International Airport, it is the best neighborhood in the city for those who prioritize staying near the airport during their visit.

While Boston as a whole is known for its Irish American community, perhaps nowhere in the city is quite as abundant with the culture as South Boston. In addition to the various bars, restaurants, and businesses, it is also the location of Boston’s legendary St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 

This makes South Boston the perfect choice for anyone who prioritizes experiencing the unique culture of the city during their stay. Beyond the culture, there are plenty of other attractions in the area too.

The historic 22-acre peninsula, Castle Island is a beautiful place for sunrise and sunset. You can visit Fort Independence and take a stroll along the Pleasure Bay.

If you want to visit one of the Boston Harbor Islands, you will have a chance to take a ferries ride to the Thompson Island on the weekends from June to October.

You will find several museums such as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library which is is full of interesting artifacts, photos, videos, and some of his spouse Jackie’s dresses; and the Boston Children’s Museum is fun option for families and kids.

If you love art, have look at the Institute of Contemporary Art to admire its architecturally intriguing, and collections of Yayoi Kusama, and enjoy the views of Boston habor.

In the Seaport District, you can find the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston Design Center, Lawn on D with its popular attraction, Swing Time, where you can spin and sway on circular swings for free.

A collection of parks like South Boston Maritime Park, Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park, churches, and a vibrant array of events make this a fabulous location for a whole range of interests.

In the center of Thomas Park stands Dorchester Heights Monument, which is a white marble monument to commemorate a 1776 colonialist victory over the British. It was built by Peabody and Stearns.

South Boston has wide range of hotels, apartments ranging from 3-star to 4-star hotels, some has waterfront views.

Best places to stay in South Boston:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN SOUTH BOSTON

8. North End, great area for history buffs

North End, where to stay in Boston for history buffs

Located immediately north of Downtown, Boston North End is one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods.

It is bordered within Route 93, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. You can easily across the water to get to East Boston and Logan International Airport via the Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

North End is an area known for its collection of historic buildings and attractions, with the Blackstone Block Historic District located at its core.

The Freedom Trail winds through the North End, on its way from Boston Common to Charlestown. Dotted along it are some of the most historic buildings in the city, most of which are walking distance apart, making it a great place for a stroll for history buffs.

For starters, North End is the location of the Old North Church (Christ Church). The North Church was built in 1723 and is the oldest church in Boston. It features a bust of George Washington considered the most accurate likeness in existence.

North End is also the location of the Paul Revere House, the former home of the American revolutionary. It has been converted into a museum, allowing visitors to learn about people and events that would have stood and occurred in the very spot they currently occupy.

You can also find the Copp’s Burying Ground, which dating back 1650s. This Boston’s second-oldest cemetery is the final resting place of thousands of people, .

North End’s Main Street is Hanover Street. The street has a countless Italian restaurants, souvenir shop, boutiques, and gelato stands.

There are many green spaces scatered in the neighborhood including the haborside park of Langone Park. It’s home to a Little League baseball diamond, a playground, and three bocce courts. you will also have the Christopher Columbus Park, New England Aquarium, and the the Rose Kennedy Greenway nearby.

As you may be unsurprised to learn, this also makes North End a great place for anyone hoping to stay in one of the oldest hotels in Boston. Considering the history of the city, who wouldn’t want their accommodation to be of a similar calibre?

The North End neighborhood isn’t all history though, as it’s unofficially known as Little Italy too. Home to the largest Italian American population in the city, it boasts numerous Italian restaurants and shops, making it an ideal location to sample another distinctive culture during your stay.

North End host several summer festivals and feasts. The most popular is the Saint Anthony’s Feast, which is the largest Italian Religious Festival in New England. The cobblestone streets filled with parades, pushcarts full of Italian foods. There are also the St. Agrippina di Mineo Feast and the Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso di Sciacca.

Accommodations in North End are mostly mid-range hotels including 4-star hotels, 3-star hotels, and apartments.

Best places to stay in North End:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN NORTH END

9. Charlestown, historic, waterfront neighborhood in Boston

Charlestown, where to stay in Boston for local vibe

Located immediately across the Charles River from North End, Charlestown is a historic, waterfront district in Boston, as well as the end of the Freedom Trail. Originally settled in 1629 as a separate town, it was the original capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

While its Revolutionary War history means it is filled with sites of historical significance, modern-day Charlestown is a largely residential area. This makes it a great place for visitors to come and explore some of the area’s background, without being surrounded by mobs of tourists the whole time.

You can climb to the top of the well-known Bunker Hill Monument. The memorial celebrate the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first important battle of the Revolutionary War. You can learn more about the history at the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum.

Charlestown is home to the Charlestown Navy Yard, opened in 1800. The famous USS Merrimack was built hre. The Navy Yard is where you can find the USS Constitution which is the oldest ship still afloat in the world.

If you like achitecture, stop by th St. Mary–St. Catherine of Siena Church, opened in 1828. You can admire its Romanesque interior with a hammer-beam oak ceiling and stained glass windows by Franz Mayer & Co.

Sites like the Boston National Historical Park is a fabulous place that often get missed by those who don’t venture outside of the city center.

In addition to its history, Charlestown also offers stunning views of the Charles River. Combined with its smaller population, it makes the area one of the most relaxing neighborhoods in the city.

If you are looking somewhere good to grab a meal and a drink, check out the Pier 6, near the USS Constitution; the gastropub Brewer’s Fork; or grab a pint at Warren Tavern bar that dates back to 1780.

You can find more shopping opputinites, gastropubs, restaurants, bars on the Main Street. There are numerous of accomodations in the area, you can take a look at:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN CHARLESTOWN

10. Beacon Hill, one of the most expensive areas in Boston

Beacon Hill, one of the most expensive areas in Boston

Known as the neighborhood of Federal-style rowhouses, Beacon Hill is located immediately west of Downtown Boston. This is one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods which is considered to be one of the most expensive areas to live or stay in Boston.

The name derives from the fact it is the location of the Massachusetts State House. Traditional federal buildings surround it, with gas lamps and brick sidewalks completing the distinctly historic feel of the neighborhood.

Perhaps nothing symbolizes what Beacon Hill is all about better than the old Charles Street Jail. Located on Charles Street, it was built in 1851 and housed a number of infamous prisoners. It operated until 1990, before being closed due to being considered unconstitutional.

In 2007, it was renovated and reopened as the luxury Liberty Hotel. One of the best hotels in the area, it perfectly combines the style and history Beacon Hill is renowned for. 

In the Beacan Hill, you will find the oldest public park in the country, Boston Common. This 50-acre green oasis hosts many cultural events. It has an old-fashioned carousel, and the adjacent Frog Pond in summer, an ice-skating rink in winter.

You can also take the Guided Freedom Trail tours that start in front of the Visitor Information Center. This 2.5-mile Freedom Trail will give you a chance to see 16 historic sites including King’s Chapel, Faneuil Hall, and the Bunker Hill Monument.

If you head to the 10 1/2 Beacon Street, you will see Boston Athenaeum, which is one of the oldest libraries in the United States. Established in 1807, this historic building is home to an art gallery with a range of exhibits.

You can easily explore Faneuil Hall with Old Town Trolley tour 90 minute historic sightseeing tour, visit the attractions of the Charles River Esplanade and Acorn Street.

If you like museums, the Museum of African American History within the African Meeting House is worth visiting. it has of a range of exhibits, programs, events and educational activities.

Stay in Beacon Hill if you want to stay in one of the wealthiest parts of Boston; you want to see the Massachusetts State House or the old Charles Street Jail.

Best places to stay in Beacon Hill:

🔍MORE HOTELS IN BEACON HILL

Where should I stay in Boston for the first time?

Downtown is without doubt the best area for first timers due to its prime location. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of action, within walking distance to landmarks, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Where to stay in Boston with family?

Downtown Boston is best for family because it is the most convenient location and it has many kid-friendly activities. It also offers a widest range of accommodations, shopping, dining, and nightlife for your family.

Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Boston in this video:

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Overall, Downtown is the best place to stay in Boston for tourist because it is the most convenient location and it has a widest range of accommodation options, If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of the city, within easy walking distance from many tourist attractions, as well as restaurants, bars, and shops.

Once you know the best areas to stay in Boston, you need to book you accommodation and decide How many days in Boston is enough? Well, if this is your first visit, I recommend to spend at least 3 days in Boston which is enough to see highlight attractions, enjoy food and drinks, as well as get the sense of the local culture and history. You can always come back next time and discover more!

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