Boston Travel Guide

Districts

Neighborhood nicknames are in (parentheses).

Allston and Brighton (Allston-Brighton)Located west of Boston proper, these districts (especially Brighton) are primarily residential, and are home to many students and young professionals. Brighton is abutted by Boston College, which is the terminus of the Green Line's B Branch. The border between the two is a subject of debate, so they are often considered to be one neighborhood by outsiders.
Back BayThis area of Boston is notable for shopping and dining, as well as sites such as the Prudential Center, the highest observatory in Boston, Copley Square, and Hynes Convention Center. Back Bay is centrally located and is very easy to get to by the T.
Beacon HillBeacon Hill is a historic neighborhood of Boston neighboring Back Bay. It is mostly high-end residential, but also has the Massachusetts State House, Suffolk University, and the Museum of African American History within its confines. Beacon Hill also has limited shopping and dining, and is accessible by the T.
CharlestownA peninsula across the Charles River to the north, this is the site of the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat. The Bunker Hill Monument has a eponymous museum, and also allows people to climb 220 feet to the top. The USS Constitution is home to a large museum and often sails in events accessible to the public. Charlestown is only accessible by ferry, bus, and car.
ChinatownGreat Asian food, great herbalists and next to downtown and the theater district. 4th largest Chinatown in the United States.
Dorchester ("Dot")A large working class neighborhood often considered Boston's most diverse. It includes the JFK Library, UMass Boston, and many wonderful eateries.
DowntownThis is the hub of tourist activity with Faneuil Hall, the Freedom Trail, Boston Public Garden, and Boston Common. It is also the center of city and state governments, businesses, and shopping.
East Boston (Eastie)On a peninsula across Boston Harbor from the main bulk of the city and the location of Logan Airport. Several underwater tunnels connect East Boston to the rest of the city. Large Latin American population.
Fenway-Kenmore (The Fens, Kenmore Square)Fenway Park is the home of the 2004, 2007, and 2013 world champion Boston Red Sox. This area also includes a number of Boston bars, eateries, and the "Lucky Strike" bowling alley.
Financial DistrictBoston's business and financial center, this area has plenty of restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions such as the New England Aquarium.
Jamaica Plain (JP)A diverse residential neighborhood and home to Samuel Adams Brewery.
Mission HillA residential neighborhood, with a very high student population.
North EndThe city's Italian neighborhood with excellent restaurants. It is also the location of the Old North Church and The North Bennet Street School.
Roxbury (Rox,The Bury)The historical center of Boston's African-American community.
South Boston (Southie)This is a proud residential neighborhood with a waterfront district and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on its north side. Home to one of the largest Irish and Irish-American populations in the country.
South EndJust south of Back Bay, has Victorian brownstones and a Bohemian atmosphere. Large Gay population.

Boston is a city of diverse neighborhoods, many of which were originally towns in their own right before being annexed to the city. This contributes to a strong pride within the neighborhoods of Boston, and many people will often tell you they are from "JP" (Jamaica Plain), "Dot" (Dorchester), "Southie" (South Boston), or "Eastie" (East Boston), rather than that they are from Boston. Alternatively, people from the suburbs will tell you they are from Boston when in fact they live in one of the nearby (or even outlying) suburbs. If in doubt, you can look for "Resident Parking Only" street signs, which will identify what neighborhood you are in.

Another consequence of this expansion is that the neighborhoods, in addition to their cultural identities, also retained most of their street names, regardless of whether or not Boston -or another absorbed town- already had a street with the same name. According to a survey by The Boston Globe, there are at least 200 street names that are duplicated in one or more neighborhoods in Boston. For instance, Washington Street in Downtown Boston, is different from Washington Street in Dorchester and another Washington Street in Jamaica Plain. This can play havoc with web-based mapping and direction services.

Be aware that geographic references in district names tend to mean little. For example, South Boston is different from the South End, which is actually west of South Boston and north of Dorchester and Roxbury districts. Some other confusing notables: East Boston and Charlestown are further north than the North End. The West End is in the northern part of town (bordering the North End and Charles River).

Among Boston's many neighborhoods, the historic areas of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Downtown, Fenway-Kenmore, the Financial District, Government Center, the North End, and the South End comprise the area considered "Boston Proper." It is here where most of the buildings that make up the city's skyline are located. The term "Greater Boston" originally referred to the new city boundaries established in the late 19th century as Dorchester, Brighton, Charlestown, and so on were annexed to Boston Proper. Nowadays however it is more apt to refer to the larger area consisting of Boston and its suburbs, particularly those that belong to the same public transit system (the MBTA).

The Back Bay is one of the few neighborhoods with streets organized on a grid. It is so named because it used to be mud flats on the river, until the city filled in the bay in a land-making project ending in 1862. It is now one of the higher-rent neighborhoods in the city. The north-south streets crossing the axis of Back Bay are organized alphabetically. Starting from the east, at the Public Garden, and heading west, they are: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester (pronounced 'gloster'), and Hereford. After Hereford Street is Massachusetts Avenue, more commonly known as Mass. Av., and then Charlesgate, which marks the western boundary of Back Bay. The alphabetical street names continue a little way into the Fenway neighborhood on the other side of Charlesgate, with Ipswich, Jersey, and Kilmarnock, but the streets are no longer arranged in a grid.

There are also several "districts" you might hear mentioned. "Districts" are generally areas of common interest located within a larger neighborhood:

Leather District (sub-neighborhood of Chinatown)
SoWa District (south of Washington, South End)
Theatre District (south of Chinatown)
Waterfront District (South Boston)
Ladder District (Realtor phrase for Downtown Crossing)

source: Wikivoyage

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