Back Bay is a strange name for Boston’s most elegant neighborhood, famous for upscale shopping and Victorian brownstones. In fact, this entire area used to be a marshy tidal bay. In the 19th century, at a time of rapid growth in the city of Boston, developers filled in the bay and laid out wide boulevards and grand plazas, graceful residences and glorious public buildings. Nowadays, spending a day in Boston’s Back Bay is an obligatory part of any visit to the city.
This Victorian-era neighborhood is a prime destination for shopping and café-hopping. Take time to window-shop and people-watch on Newbury Street, replete with art galleries, fashionable boutiques and gift shops. Or, take a seat at a sunny sidewalk café and watch the world go by. Spying on the beautiful people in this beautiful neighborhood is surely one of Boston’s favorite pastimes.
The centerpiece of Back Bay is Copley Square. The vast civic plaza is home to the city’s most esteemed institutions and iconic architecture. It’s also the finish line for the Boston Marathon (commemorated by the Tortoise & the Hare). Drop in to Trinity Church, that masterpiece by Henry Hobson Richardson, to ogle the stone work and stained glass windows, and perhaps catch a free organ recital. On the opposite side of the square, the Boston Public Library contains a treasure trove of culture and learning – not only books, but also sculpture, paintings and architectural grandeur.
A few blocks up Huntington Avenue, Christian Science Plaza is another Boston landmark, site of the namesake Mother Church. Here, inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library, you’ll find one of Boston’s quaintest and quirkiest sights. The Mapparium is a beautiful stained-glass globe that is three stories high. Visitors can examine the world from the inside – though the globe dates to 1935, so it looks different than the present-day version.
Back Bay also offers the easiest access to the Charles River Esplanade. Laced with pathways and lagoons, the beloved riverside retreat is the neighborhood’s top spot for sailing, cycling and sunbathing. It’s a perfect ending to a day in Boston’s Back Bay.