If you’re a local living in Boston, you already know how your city is a lively coastal mecca full of history, diversity, a vibrant restaurant scene, and endless attractions for entertainment. You most likely have a favorite spot not many know about too. However, if you’ve just moved into your first apartment in Boston, you’ve likely explored some must-see spots and maybe even enjoyed a baseball game at Fenway Park. But have you uncovered a new favorite coffee shop or found your go-to strip of restaurants and bars?
To help you get to know your new city from the lens of locals, we reached out to Bostonians for the insider scoop on some of the best-kept hidden gems in the great city of Boston. From outdoor activities to museums and speakeasies, check out this local’s guide to exploring your new city.
Hidden gems in Boston for history buffs
Located in the neighborhood of Back Bay and “established in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the country’s first large (and free) municipal library. It moved to its current location in 1895, and this distinctive building features Renaissance Revival architecture and contains amazing artwork including murals, sculptures, and paintings,” shares the Seaport Hotel.
“It’s home to 23 million items, including editions from Shakespeare, original music by Mozart, and the personal library of John Adams. Afternoon tea at the Courtyard Tea Room is a must for all.”
Located in the heart of downtown Waltham, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation tells stories of extraordinary technology, industry, and cultural breakthroughs dating from the earliest days of America’s Industrial Revolution.
”This Boston hidden gem was founded in 1813 at what is now the Moody Street dam,” shares Bob Perry from the Charles River Museum.“It was the very first brick textile mill and modern factory in the world and was the model for what became Lowell, MA, and a great many of the other great New England mill towns that followed.”
The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is a unique hidden gem located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Its picturesque location alongside the historic Reservoir, the exquisite architecture of the old pumping station, and its enormous steam pumps all combine to transport visitors back into time.
What makes this hidden gem such a special spot? Eric Peterson, Executive Director of Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, says, “Truly a cathedral of steam, the museum tells the story of bringing clean drinking water to a growing city using innovation, technology, and brute force. It’s a place where locals and out-of-towners, families, and those inspired by impossible feats of engineering, can mingle together in awe and appreciation for the past.”
Boston’s hidden gems for foodies
This hidden gem in Boston is truly that: hidden. Hecate is an excellent spot to get your evening going or for a nightcap, offering a unique atmosphere with creative cocktails.
“This tiny bar is only accessed via a nondescript door in the alley behind Krasi and features some very cool drinks, a mysterious atmosphere, and chic styling – it’s a must for the cocktail fan,” recommends local Boston blogger JQLouise.com.
“Located on North Street in the heart of the North End is hands down the best Italian restaurant: Ristorante Limoncello. Their signature dish Rosette Al Montasio Ed Olio Di Tartufo, or “Rosette” for short, is absolutely delectable,” boasts Boston local Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD (Dr. MC).
“A family establishment run by Maurizio Badolato, you will also see Maurizio, his brother Corrado, or “Chico” in the restaurant. They are passionate about what they do and care about their customers’ experience. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, the restaurant came to be about 22 years ago when Maurizio hit the lottery on a $5.00 scratch ticket. A true hidden gem in Boston.”
“Ma Maison is a charming, unassuming bistro serving classic French fare, gorgeous Burgundy and Loire Valley wines, and a limited cocktail menu (no off-menu cocktail orders here – they keep it simple – and very truly French),” shares Lindsay Oliver Shores of Paris, Meet Boston. “Speak a little French? Try it out on your server; you are bound to end up in a few nice conversations with the staff or the owners en français.”
Boston-based photographer Hannah MacLean of H. MacLean Photography recommends Tatte Bakery if you need some sweet treats and tasty drinks in Boston.
“It started in Copley Square and has grown to include several Boston locations. Their flatbreads are amazing, and they have great coffee, along with many specialty caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks. My family enjoys grabbing lunch at the Beacon Hill location after taking walks in the neighborhood, which, by the way, is a beautiful historic neighborhood that everyone should stroll through at least once.”
Located in Union Square in Somerville, this is another great spot to enjoy drinks with friends. “Vera’s is a cocktail-centric neighborhood hangout. They also have a comedy club and simple comfort fair,” shares Joe St.Pierre Photography.
If you’re wondering what to order, his drink of choice is the ‘black revolver,’ but he also recommends the Negroni. If you’re looking for your new go-to bar to sip on tasty cocktails and enjoy a good laugh, this hidden gem in Boston is the place for you.
Outdoor hidden gems and other activities to check out in Boston
If you’re searching for a great outdoor escape away from the hustle and bustle of the city, look no further than Belle Isle Marsh Reservation. “It’s the perfect walking trail or photography location, a great spot to watch the planes take off, and has the most amazing sunsets throughout the summer,” shares Boston local Kerry of Kerry Callahan Photography.
Cruise around Boston Harbor
Whether you’ve had a long day touring apartments in Boston or just looking for a fun evening activity, set sail and soak in the city views with a sunset cruise.
“Sunset cruises around Boston Harbor are special. I’ve always loved the Boston skyline, and we’re so lucky to have the harbor to cruise around in,” says Boston local Alyssa Loring of Feathers and Stripes. “Depending on which sunset cruise you choose, you can learn a little about Boston’s history while enjoying a beautiful sunset.”
Get outdoors and enjoy the Charles River
“Another gem of Boston, while it may not be so hidden, is the Charles River,” shares photographer Gina Brocker. Flowing 80 miles through Massachusetts, this is one of the most prominent urban rivers in New England where many locals enjoy recreational activities throughout the warmer months.
“I like to hop in a kayak and see the city from a whole new angle. If you have your own canoe, kayak, or paddle board, you can launch from Herter Park or the MDC boat ramp. And if you don’t, you can rent one, explore the river, and get a new sense of Boston.”
A local favorite, Trapology Boston is a unique hidden gem in Boston that should be checked out when you’re exploring the city. Boston-based photographer Nicole Loeb says, “This escape room is creative, challenging, and a really fun activity for both locals and people traveling to Boston. Created and designed by Boston locals, it’s immersive, entertaining, and an awesome experience.”