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Back Bay Neighborhood Guide

Updated: October 10, 2023

This post provides information about the Back Bay neighborhood in Boston.

We include tips on where to eat, things to do, where to shop, and even hotel accommodations.


The Back Bay neighborhood is situated along the Charles River just west of Boston Common. 

Due to its centralized location, this is one of the more popular spots to stay while visiting Boston. 

As a result, there are a lot of great hotels in the area, and you can find more details about that in our full post covering where to stay in Back Bay

This is also a very popular location for family activities like a baseball game at Fenway Park or even just a trip to the Boston Public Library.

A view of Prudential Center in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Image Source: Pixabay user T BW.
A view of Prudential Center in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. Image Source: Pixabay user T BW.

If you’re planning to do a little shopping, you might also want to head to Prudential Center and Copley Place for some of the most fashionable brands in the city.

There are also a lot of great restaurants in the area, so you can rest assured you’ll be able to get a good meal while you’re in Back Bay.

One of the main reasons people like to stay in this neighborhood is because it’s a very walkable area.

Depending on where your hotel is located, chances are you’ll be within a 15-minute walk of sites like Fenway Park and Boston Common.

We’ll cover some of the best things to do, places to eat, and where to shop while you’re in the Back Bay neighborhood in greater detail below.

Where to Eat in Back Bay

There are a lot of great restaurants in this neighborhood, and we’ll cover some of the best options in this section. 

Surf & Turf

Fresh lobster is just one of the dishes you can expect to find on the menu at many Back Bay restaurants. Image source: Pixabay user luow.
Fresh lobster is just one of the dishes you can expect to find on the menu at many Back Bay restaurants. Image source: Pixabay user luow.





Boston's Eataly is not only one of the best Italian restaurants in the area, they also offer cooking classes so that you can learn about how to make your own excellent Italian food at home! Image source: Pixabay user Michelle Raponi.
Boston's Eataly is not only one of the best Italian restaurants in the area, they also offer cooking classes so that you can learn about how to make your own excellent Italian food at home! Image source: Pixabay user Michelle Raponi.




Places to Eat with Kids

Places to Eat Alone

While all of these restaurants are quite popular, it’ll be much easier to find a good place to eat either seafood or Italian dishes. 

Boston is of course located right on the water, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are quite a few excellent fish houses and oyster bars.

Although you might want to visit the Little Italy neighborhood for some of the best Italian food in the city, there are still quite a few great places to eat here in Back Bay as well.

Where to Park in Back Bay

Finding parking in Back Bay can be challenging, but there are options. Your best bets are the following:

  • Prudential Center Garage
  • 100 Clarendon Street Garage
  • Back Bay Garage

All offer easy access to the neighborhood's attractions.

Fairmont Copley Plaza is a standout hotel that offers luxury and historic allure. Located in the center of Back Bay, it provides easy access to shops, dining, and other local gems.

Activities and Things to Do in Back Bay

If you’re looking for something fun to do in the Back Bay neighborhood, there are a lot of attractions and activities you might want to consider. 

Here are a few of the best ideas for free, family-friendly, and nighttime events to enjoy.

1) Go to Fenway Park

If you’re a fan of the Boston Red Sox, you might want to head to the historic Fenway Park during the baseball season (April - October) to catch a game. 

Since this is one of the more popular activities in the area, you might want to purchase tickets well ahead of time.

Even if you’re visiting Boston during the winter, you might still want to consider a trip to this ballpark, because they actually offer tours of the stadium almost year-round.

For more details, make sure to read our post covering Fenway Park tours.

TIP: Tours of Fenway Park are included at no extra cost with the Go City Boston Pass.

2) Walk Through Boston Common

This beautiful park is an excellent location to visit pretty much any time of the year. 

During the summer, they typically host a few different events including theatrical shows. 

In the winter, you can expect the Frog Pond to be transformed into an ice rink, which is perfect for families!

If you’re planning to visit some of the more notable historic sites in the city, chances are you’ll at least pass by this park.

So, you might want to consider just walking through it to see what all the hype is about.

3) Visit Prudential Center

If you’re interested in doing a little shopping, this is one of the best locations in the city for fashionable brands and noteworthy stores. 

We’ll go over even more details about the stores you’ll find here in the shopping section.

But, suffice it to say you’ll want to have plenty of money to spend if you’re planning to visit Prudential Center.

4) Walk the Freedom Trail

You can learn more about the history of Boston by following the Freedom Trail to some of the most notable sites in the city. 

This trail starts at the southern tip of Boston Common, so it should be easy to reach from the Back Bay neighborhood.

Not sure where to start? Consider taking our pay-what-you-wish Freedom Trail tour!

Alternatively, you can also take your own self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail using our map and guide.

5) See a Theatrical Show

Although the theater district is closer to the city center than Back Bay, it is usually within a 10-15 minute walk.

So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to catch either a musical, concert or even a stand-up comedy show.

Here are some of the closest theaters you might want to check:

TIP: Tours of the Boch Center Wang Theatre are included with the Go City Boston Pass.

6) Check out the Boston Public Library

This historic library is one of the oldest landmarks in or around the Back Bay neighborhood. 

Since you can visit without paying a dime, it’s also a nice free activity if you’re running low on money.

Another nice thing about the Boston Public Library is that they offer free tours multiple times each week. 

7)  Ride the Swan Boats

The Boston Public Garden is even closer to Back Bay than Boston Common, and it’s home to the Swan boats which you can ride around the pond in this area.

Tickets are $4.50 for adults and $3 for children, so it’s a nice and affordable activity. 

TIP: This service is also included with the Go City Boston Pass.

8) See the Mapparium

The Mary Baker Eddy Library is home to a unique attraction called the Mapparium. 

This is essentially a large globe that you can walk into. 

Whether you’re a fan of geography or you’re looking for a fun educational experience for your kids, this is one site you won’t want to miss.

While the library is free, the Mapparium itself is ticketed and costs $6 per person.

TIP: Tickets are included with the Go City Boston Pass.

9) Visit the Trinity Church

This is one of the oldest churches in the Back Bay neighborhood, built in 1877 and full of beautiful stained-glass windows. 

Visitors are always welcome, and they often hold Christmas concerts in the winter.

This church also offers drop-in guided tours every day at 11 a.m., so if you want to learn more about its history, that might be a good time to show up!

10) Check out Copley Square

Surrounded by Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, and Old South Church, it’ll be hard to miss this public square while walking around the Back Bay neighborhood.

One of the more popular activities here is the Copley Square Farmers Market, which is open rain or shine on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

If you head to Copley Place nearby, you’ll find plenty of great shopping at stores like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Tommy Bahama, and several other notable businesses.

11) Shop at Newbury Street

If you’re looking to experience the best of Boston's shopping, Newbury Street should be your prime destination.

As you stroll through the area, you're met with a blend of high-end designer boutiques, diverse cuisines in ambient cafes, and a dash of 19th-century architecture that gives the street its unique character.

Since Newbury Street is renowned as one of Boston's premier shopping districts, a visit is almost a given when in the city.

For more details on what Newbury Street has to offer, delve into our post about this shopping haven.

TIP: Newbury Street shopping experiences are further enhanced during special events like the "Open Newbury" where the street becomes pedestrian-only!

12) Stroll Charles River Explanade

This green space beside the Charles River is a treat for both residents and guests alike.

Offering panoramic views of downtown Boston and the city of Boston skyline, the Charles River Esplanade is particularly splendid during June when summer sets the city abuzz.

During warmer months, you can enjoy brunch by the river or engage in fitness activities in the dedicated fitness center areas.

If you're more inclined towards relaxation, simply finding a spot on the terrace and watching the world go by is equally rewarding.

So, whether you’re out for a jog or just seeking some tranquility by the water, Charles River Esplanade offers it all.

13) Visit Commonwealth Avenue Mall

Set in the heart of the Boston Back Bay region, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall isn't a typical shopping mall.

It's a beautiful green space adorned with statues, and memorials, and lined with rows of trees — a nod to Arthur Gilman, who designed it with the inspiration from Paris.

The mall is perfect for those looking to stroll through and take in the fusion of Boston's architecture and nature.

The presence of various art galleries nearby also makes it a cultural hotspot.

Considering a visit? Then our post about the ins and outs of Commonwealth Avenue Mall will be of great assistance!

Where to Shop

The area of Back Bay surrounding Prudential Center is filled to the brim with tons of great places to shop. 

Here are just 20 of the best stores to visit in the neighborhood.

Needless to say, most of these are fashion brands, so this is a better place to shop if you’re specifically in the market for some new clothes. 

That said, there are also some specialty stores like The Fairy Shop and Newbury Comics which would be better for other audiences.

Where to Stay in Back Bay

Back Bay is one of the most popular neighborhoods for travelers and tourists to stay, and there are a lot of different hotels in the area to choose from.

Although this is where you will find some of the most expensive hotels in the city, there are several places that offer rooms for as little as $100-$150 per night.

Fairmont Copley Plaza is a luxurious option in the mix of hotels. This iconic hotel offers top-notch amenities and a touch of historic charm. Its location in Back Bay makes exploring the whole neighborhood has to provide convenient.

If you're looking for advice on the best hotels in this neighborhood, make sure to read our full post covering where to stay in Back Bay.

In addition to details about a variety of hotels, this post also provides information about the range of prices you can expect depending on when you choose to visit.

No matter what your budget is, you'll probably be able to find a nice place to stay in this neighborhood!

About The Author

Brian Burgess

Brian was born in Cambridge and has been living in the Boston area all his life. He is a graduate of Boston's Emerson College with a degree in communications with a journalism/history focus. He has been leading tours for Free Tours By Foot Boston since it was started in the city of Boston in 2012, and enjoys sharing his knowledge of Boston's rich history with not only the guests on his tours, but with everyone he meets.
Updated: October 10th, 2023
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