Neighborhood Guide: Beacon Hill

Table of Contents

Where can you find the state’s legislature, iconic movie locations, and cobblestone streets, and plenty of green space around Boston? If you answered Beacon Hill you’d be absolutely correct. Today we are sharing the ins and outs of this historical neighborhood.

The area is a designated National Historic Landmark District, meaning the architecture is protected by rules and regulations. When you step into the neighborhood, it will look pretty much the same as it did hundreds of years ago — from the street view, at least. Let’s hit the brick sidewalks and take in all the charming details of this community.

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The neighborhood has earned a walkability score of 99. | Photo via @england_amber

Need to know

Beacon Hill is only about one-half square mile and is broken into three areas: the South Slope, North Slope, and Flat of the Hill.

Nearly 10,000 people call this area home today, and some well-known people were also residents at one point. Sylvia Plath lived off Willow Street, Robert Frost stayed off Mount Vernon Street + Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne all lived off Pinckney Street.

Today, visitors of Beacon Hill will see the Federal-style row houses, narrow streets, and bustling sidewalks.

The early days

Beacon Hill is one of the earliest communities in the Greater Boston area, with an extensive history to share. The name comes from the beacon that once topped the highest point in the area to warn locals of invasions. While it is still a very hilly area, it looks different today from the three hills that originally made up the neighborhood, as land was filled in around the city.

We can thank Charles Bulfinch for how this neighborhood looks today. He designed the Massachusetts State House that was completed in 1798. He started the Mount Vernon Proprietors with four other businessmen (aka Boston Brahmins), which developed most of the wealthy area known as the South Slope overlooking the Boston Common.

The North Slope was the home of the working and middle class, including many free African Americans. This area was a prime location for Underground Railroad activity during the Civil War. Today, there is the Museum of African American History + Boston African American National Historic Site to commemorate this often overlooked history of the area.

Can’t miss

There is no shortage of iconic locations throughout the neighborhood. If you are short on time, here’s a few bucket list things that you can’t miss.

  • Stopping by the gold domed Massachusetts State House at 24 Beacon St. that was designed by Charles Bulfinch and is open to the public for tours.
  • Taking your photo on the cobblestones of Acorn Street with the historic gas lit lanterns + brick clad row houses.
  • Visiting the Make Way for Ducklings statue inside the Boston Common, based on the children’s book by Robert McCloskey that follows Mrs. Mallard and her children.
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Most of the shops can be found off Charles Street. | Photo via @bitsofbeaconhill

Shop

To shop big brands, Bostonians usually head to Newbury Street or the Prudential Center. If you want to shop local, residents know to head to Beacon Hill. The community is full of small businesses to support.

  • Find high end fashion and contemporary favorites at Crush Boutique.
  • Find the perfect present at Blackstones with a variety of housewarming gifts, collectibles, and knickknacks.
  • Stock up on fresh florals from Rouvalis Flowers.
  • There is something for everyone at Black Ink — a quirky gift shop known for supplying unexplained necessities.

Outdoors

The views around Beacon Hill don’t stop. No matter the weather, there is so much to explore in this very walkable neighborhood.

  • Pack a picnic or just take a long walk around America’s first public park — the Boston Common. Keep the scenes going across the street at the Public Garden.
  • Lace up your walking shoes and follow the bricks of the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail.
  • Learn about the history of the 19th century Black community on the Black Heritage Trail.

Eat + drink

Exploring this hilly area can work up a ravenous appetite. Grab a bite and enjoy a drink on a scenic courtyard patio or inside one of these local eateries.

  • Enjoy a side of people watching with your breakfast + lunch at Cobblestones at 30 Charles St.
  • Toscano is a traditional Italian eatery located at 47 Charles St. and the menu features handmade pastas, sausages, and local cheeses. Pro tip: there is limited outdoor seating available by reservation only.
  • Looking for something casual and delicious? Check out the eclectic menu at Figs, located at 42 Charles St.
  • Grotto is a cozy underground restaurant at 37 Bowdoin St. with exposed brick walls, sips of wine, and local artwork.
  • The Paramount dates back to 1937 and is known for its affordable breakfast menu. Get there early, there will likely be a line of like-minded hungry folks at 44 Charles St.
  • You never know who you will see having a pint or a business lunch at 21st Amendment, located across from the State House.
  • The Alibi at 215 Charles St. is a former jail house and uses celebrity mug shots as decor.
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Don’t miss a photo of George Washington in the Public Garden. | Photo by BOStoday team

Getting around

This is one the most picturesque neighborhoods in Boston, so walking or hopping on a Bluebike is ideal to make sure you can take in all the views.

MBTA stations around Beacon Hill are:

  • Park Street – Red and Green Lines
    Arlington — Green Line
  • Bowdoin – Blue Line
  • Charles / MGH – Red Line

MBTA bus routes are also available.

If you’re traveling by car, where can you leave it? There are a few public parking lot + garage options:

Where to live

If you’re sold on Beacon Hill + looking to buy a home, here are some housing options currently on the market:

  • 1 Chestnut Street, Unit 3B | 1 BD, 1 BA | $1,150,000 | This 780 sqft space is located inside a Federal-style building dating back to the 1820s.
    42 Mount Vernon Street, Unit 1C | 2BD, 2 BA | $1,549,000 | This recently renovated condo is inside a quintessential Boston brownstone located between Louisburg Square, the State House, and Boston Common.
  • 36 Myrtle Street, Unit 1 | 2 BD, 1 BA | $649,000 | This condo features lots of natural light with windows in every room, a large eat-in-kitchen with a gas stove, and close proximity to the shops and restaurants on Charles Street.
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