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A beginner's guide to Beacon Hill

Posted by Sara Brown  September 9, 2011 05:08 PM

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Welcome to Beacon Hill! Your new neighborhood is roughly half-a-mile by one-quarter-mile in size. Beyond those famous cobblestone streets, the golden dome of the State House, and the streetlamps, window boxes, and steep hills –you’ll probably want to know a few other things about your new hood. Here’s a quick guide.

Transit: From Beacon Hill, one has easy access to other parts of the city. At the top of Charles Street is the Charles/MGH station, on the MBTA’s Red Line. Here you can catch the T northbound, towards Cambridge, or south, to Park Street station and points beyond. If you live closer to Beacon Street, the Park Street station might be closer (just a walk through the Boston Common away). There you can catch the Green Line, or connect to the Orange Line through Downtown Crossing.

Grocery Stores: You’ve got options. Charles Street has some options: there's Savenor’s Butcher and Market right at the top of the street, near the T station. They'll deliver your turducken, if you want them to. Closer to Beacon Street is DeLuca’s Market, a Charles Street landmark that is rebuilding after a 2010 fire. John. F. Kennedy, Jr., used to shop there.

Over on Cambridge Street, which separates Beacon Hill from the West End, there’s a Whole Foods Market. And if you explore the side streets of the hill, you’ll find other little corner stores and groceries off the beaten track. You might even find Villa Mexico, a popular Mexican restaurant—located in a gas station convenience store.

Looking for a late night snack? There’s not much, but a few places are open later than others. Harvard Gardens, located on Cambridge Street, has a late night menu seven days a week from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Just down the street, The Hill Tavern has a late night menu daily until midnight.

Nino’s Pizza (70 Charles Street) is open until 10 during the weekends, and Anna’s Taqueria on Cambridge Street is open until 11 p.m.

You might have better luck with early-morning dining. There are three Starbucks in the area (two on Charles Street, one over on Cambridge), a well-known brunch spot, The Paramount, and other cafes, some with a distinctly European theme: Cafe Vanille, Caffe Bella Vita, and Panifico.

Shopping: Charles Street is a shopping destination. There are some well-stocked kids stores, like The Red Wagon, and several boutique clothing shops, but few chain stores. You can check out several home décor and antiques shops as well.

Charles Street is also home to a cupcake shop, a chocolatier, and Charles Street Liquors, which often has elaborate, season-appropriate window displays.

Parking is tricky, and a frequent cause for concern among residents. You’ll need a Beacon Hill resident parking permit to park in most areas. Charles Street and Cambridge Street both have meter parking, though the spaces are often in high demand.

Also, take notice that most of the streets in Beacon Hill are one way.

Be ready to explore the area a little bit—take time to read the little gold signs that indicate a famous resident or a historically significant event (there are many in the neighborhood). If you are a dog lover, you are in luck—Beacon Hill is dog central, with pups of all sizes roaming the streets with their owners (or the dog walker), waiting outside shops, and stopping for treats outside of stores. The dogs even have their own store: Four Preppy Paws, 103 Charles Street.

You’ll also encounter people with guidebooks, headed toward the Freedom Trail and checking out Charles Street. Come fourth of July, thousands of people come to the Esplanade, and the Boston Common and Public Garden also host events frequently throughout the year.

You’re also a short walk away from the Esplanade, the Boston Common, and the Boston Public Garden—all great open spaces.

Most of all, the neighborhood has a rich civic life. There’s a book club, an active civic association, a group that recently organized to fund a new play space, and a campaign to sweep the streets. There's a committee that takes charge of decorating more than 1,100 gas street lamps over the holidays. You’ll notice people saying hi to each other on the streets, and store employees greeting customers by name.

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