For the ultimate guide to Boston, go here. 

One of the America’s great historic cities really does offer the perfect variety of lifestyles – from an active urban core with stunning civic buildings, iconic sites (Old North Church, anyone?) a vast, green Commons and Public Garden, to picturesque residential neighborhoods that are lively, walkable, and transit-connected. And perhaps most stirringly, a dynamic waterfront that embraces islands, a commercial harbor, one of the world’s first great aquariums, and pedestrian-loving spaces for breathing that New England salt air.

Photo: Denis Tangey, Jr.

Get to know this celebrated New England waterfront city, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Boston, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay. 

By Bob Curley and Tracey Minkin

One of the America’s great historic cities really does offer the perfect variety of lifestyles – from an active urban core with stunning civic buildings, iconic sites (Old North Church, anyone?) a vast, green Commons and Public Garden, to picturesque residential neighborhoods which themselves are lively, walkable, and transit-connected. And perhaps most stirringly, a dynamic waterfront that embraces islands, a commercial harbor, one of the world’s first great aquariums, and pedestrian-loving spaces for breathing that New England salt air.

Boston by the Numbers

Population: 667,137
Average July high: 83
Average January low: 20
Median home price: $499,400
Average commute time: 19 minutes
Number of sunny days: 200

Best Beaches and Other Attractions

Even the beaches are historic here. The first public beach in America, the three-mile tawny crescent of Revere Beach is four miles north of Boston, reachable by public transportation, and the home of the largest sand-sculpting festival on the East Coast.

Meanwhile, whether for grabbing sun in the spring, shade in the summer, leaf peeping in the fall and a bit of skating in the winter, Boston’s Public Garden and Commons are the heart of the city. You can base an entire day from these two adjoining green spaces, exploring the neighboring pockets of restaurants and shops on Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the South End, and downtown.

Fenway Park is a quirky, century-old baseball temple in sports-mad Boston; catch a Red Sox game and munch a Fenway Frank in the shadow of the “Green Monstah.” The Boston Museum of Science’s kid-friendly (but also adult-pleasing) exhibits include the world’s largest Van de Graff generator, which will raise your hair with artificially created bolts of indoor lightning. The New England Aquarium was one of the visionary examples of world-class aquariums as anchors for waterfront renewal. It’s the beating heart of Boston’s, and it remains a wonderful and educational visit. Don’t miss it.

And for a dose of the natural world, head out to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Parks, where you can camp, fish, paddle, hike, and tour lighthouses within sight of the downtown skyline.

RELATED: Best Beaches in the U.S.A.

Where to Eat and Drink

Follow the Freedom Trail to Boston’s historic North End, which not only is home to the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House but famed for its Italian food (Boston Food Tours's North End Market Tour explores insider spots in this legendary Italian neighborhood, with tasting stops for wine, cured meat, and pastries.) It’s worth enduring the inevitable wait in line for Sicilian pizza at Galleria Umberto, and the raw bar at Neptune Oyster is stocked with shellfish from as near as Nantucket and as distant as Alaska’s Windy Bay. L’Espalier is a happy marriage of New England and French cuisine in a romantic Back Bay locale that has been a warranted local favorite for decades.

Locals fill the seats along with guests at Hotel Commonwealth's three top restaurants, including an oyster bar lined with thousands of shells from renowned Island Creek Oyster Farm. And for on-point cocktails (and plates), make your way to Townsman, a brasserie-style restaurant in downtown Boston helmed by Beard nominee Matt Jennings. 

Now, when it comes to coffee, we know: Boston runs on Dunkin’. But don’t fall for that. George Howell Coffee operates a stand in the Boston Public Market and a beautiful café on the ground level of the Godfrey Hotel in Downtown Crossing. Both deliver impressively fine espresso and coffee pours.

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Where to Stay

The warm and inviting XV Beacon boutique hotel is perfectly sited for morning strolls through the Boston Common. You can’t miss the massive arched entry to the Boston Harbor Hotel, the city’s prime address for harbor-front luxury lodging that’s close to Faneuil Hall and the Aquarium. “Canine ambassador” Carly Copley welcomes you to the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which has reigned over the Back Bay since 1912.