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History Meets Elegance in the Heart of Boston’s Back Bay

By Bojura Angelova

Back Bay

In this second installment of our series about Boston’s distinct neighborhoods, we explore the Back Bay Neighborhood, one of Boston’s most iconic neighborhoods and home of the Hynes Convention Center.

History

Back Bay is considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the country and is famous for its rows of Victorian brownstones, beautiful gardens, cultural institutions, and first-class shopping and dining. But, it hasn’t always been that way: Back Bay was initially a small saltwater bay, which became a swamp land after Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation constructed a dam across the bay in 1821. The dam prevented the natural tides from flushing sewage out to sea, thus creating serious sanitary and odor problems.

In 1857, the city decided to fill in the Back Bay, a project that took nearly three decades to complete, but added more than 450 acres of land to Boston.

In contrast to the rest of Boston’s Downtown at the time, the streets of the newly built Back Bay were straight, wide, and were set on a grid, designed with both commercial and residential spaces in mind. Long boulevards like Commonwealth Avenue and Boylston Street are intersected by smaller streets, set in alphabetical order starting from the Public Garden with Arlington Street, followed by Berkeley Street, Clarendon Street, etc. (a good trick to know when you’re navigating this lovely neighborhood!)

Getting Here

Back Bay has easy access to Boston Logan International Airport (the Hynes is a 15-minute taxi ride from Logan or you can take the Back Bay Logan Express to and from the Boylston Street entrance to the Hynes). Back Bay is also right off Interstate 90, and is easily reachable from I-93 and I-95. In addition, the neighborhood has easy access to Boston’s subway system, the “T” (Green line: Arlington Station, Copley Station, Hynes Convention Center, Prudential Station, Symphony Station; Orange Line: Back Bay Station). Back Bay Station also provides service via the regional Commuter Rail and across the country through Amtrak.

Back Bay is among the most walkable neighborhoods in the city with a walk score of 96/100. This compact, vibrant community has everything you can think of - great shops, parks, restaurants, cultural attractions, and more - all less than a mile away from the Hynes.

Visit the Getting Around section of our website to learn more about Boston’s transportation system, including maps, driving directions, public transportation information, and more.

Stay

The Hynes is connected to three world-class hotels, the Sheraton Boston Hotel, Boston Marriott Copley Place, and Westin Copley Place Boston, for a total of over 3,100 hotel rooms and nearly 200,000 square feet of meeting space all under one roof. In addition, there are a wide variety of hotel options within walking distance of the Hynes of varying sizes and types, from economy to luxury.

Our Hotel Finder can show you the full list of hotels located near our convention centers along with photos and specifications, and helps you identify which hotels are best suited for your groups.

Eat

Back Bay’s dining scene is plentiful with a variety of eateries for every budget, including acclaimed establishments by famous chefs and restaurateurs like:

• Chef Jason Santos’ Buttermilk & Bourbon and Citrus & Salt (formerly Back Bay Harry’s)
Summer Shack by Jasper White
• Ken Oringer’s Uni
• Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park

While you’re in Back Bay, don’t miss Eataly: a vibrant Italian marketplace that features an array of cafés, counters, restaurants, and a cooking school with classes handcrafted by Lidia Bastianich; with sister locations in New York, Chicago, L.A., and around the globe.

Shop

Back Bay’s beautiful tree-lined Newbury Street is filled with sidewalk cafes, art galleries, trendy boutiques, specialty stores, high-end designers and affordable options like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and Forever 21. And if you’re looking for a luxury shopping experience, Copley Place and the Prudential Center are both connected to the Hynes and feature upscale brands like Gucci, Tiffany & Co,. Louis Vuitton, Barneys New York, Sacks Fifth Avenue, and more.

See & Do

Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library offers daily tours highlighting the architecture of its famed Central Library buildings by Charles Follen McKim and Philip Johnson, as well as the art treasures within, including works by Daniel Chester French and John Singer Sargent.

Skywalk Observatory
Prudential Center’s Skywalk Observatory is Boston’s only sky-high vantage point for sweeping 360 degree views of Greater Boston and beyond. Let your eyes and ears do the walking as you experience the exclusive state-of-the-art audio tour detailing the city’s many points of historic and cultural interest.

Trinity Church
Trinity Church is designated as “one of the ten most important buildings in America” by the American Institute of Architects and taking a tour of Trinity Church is a wonderful opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the architecture, history, and spirit of this National Historic Landmark building.

Boston Common & Public Garden
Boston Common (established in 1634) and Boston’s Public Garden (established in 1837) are the first public park and first public botanical garden in the country and two must-visit Boston landmarks. While Boston Common is more practical and pastoral, the Public Garden is meant to impress with its rich variety of plants, monuments, and fountains. The two adjacent parks form a peaceful green oasis in the heart of the city and make for the quintessential Boston stroll just minutes away from the Hynes.

Charles River Esplanade
The Esplanade stretches for about 3 miles along the Charles River from the Museum of Science to Boston University and is the perfect place to run, stroll, bike, or simply relax in the sun, while taking in some of Boston’s best sights.

Mary Baker Eddy Library & Mapparium
The Mary Baker Eddy Library is a research library, museum, and repository for the papers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, and home to the world-famous Mapparium. The Mapparium is a three-story, stained-glass globe and a three-dimensional perspective of the world of 1935, enhanced by an original presentation that features a rich orchestration of words, music, and LED lights to illustrate how ideas have traversed time and geography and changed the world. Gallery NAGA
Gallery NAGA has been exhibiting and selling contemporary art on Newbury Street in Boston since 1977. They represent many of the most highly regarded painters working in Boston and New England, as well as exceptional contemporary photographers, printmakers, and sculptors, including the international doyenne of holography, Harriet Casdin-Silver.

Duck Tours
80 minutes of pure fun in a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle! You’ll cruise by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Beacon Hill and the TD Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square to the Big Dig, Government Center to fashionable Newbury Street, Quincy Market to the Prudential Tower, and more. The tours depart daily from Prudential Center in the Back Bay, the Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium.

Looking for more things to do in Boston? Check out our guide of What To Do for shopping, dining, arts & music, historic landmark, and sports & entertainment suggestions. To give you a better idea of Boston’s make-up, also explore our guide to all the neighborhoods of Boston. Our Interactive Map will help you find the hotels, restaurants, and private event venues in the Back Bay that are best suited for your group.

If you missed our first article about Boston’s Waterfront District, you can find it here.