The Downtown Crossing neighborhood of Boston is a centrally located neighborhood that features a variety of dining, shopping, and experiential activities that appeal to a wide variety of vacationers. A large portion of this neighborhood is pedestrian-friendly and is easy to get to which makes it an ideal place to explore for a low-key kind of Boston day.
However, because there are so many options in Downtown Crossing, it may seem a little overwhelming at first glance, but once you start exploring with this guide, you'll easily ease into this diverse, bustling neighborhood at the heart of one of the most historic cities in America.
How to Get To Downtown Crossing In Boston?
Downtown Crossing is served by two close-by subway stations (called the "T" in Boston) and an overground, commuter rail station nearby at South Station. If you're staying in the city then using the T is probably preferable and more accessible-- not to mention much more affordable than the commuter rail.
The most central T station is Downtown Crossing, served by both the Orange Line and the Red Line. If you're staying in the Fenway or Back Bay neighborhoods, then you can take the Green Line to Park Street, a stop also served by the Red Line. To avoid station crowds at Downtown Crossing, some folks prefer to alight at Park Street and walk to Downtown Crossing. This is a nice option, especially on nice weather days since the Park Street stop is built literally underneath the Boston Common, and travelers exit right in front of the historic Park Street Church, a stop on the Freedom Trail.
If you're up for a longer walk, walking to Downtown Crossing from neighborhoods like Back Bay or Seaport takes about 25-35 minutes; from Back Bay, that's through the Common with views of Beacon Hill, and from Seaport, it's along the bay (with views of the Boston Tea Party Ship Museum!).
Where To Shop In Downtown Crossing In Boston?
Downtown Crossing has all the major national and international chains where you can track down affordable finds (like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Primark) but the area is also home to other unique shops that are unquestionably Boston.
Brattle Book Shop, located on a side street that connects Downtown Crossing with the Boston Common, is one of America's oldest used book stores. There are multiple floors of books featuring both general used books and an entire floor of rare and antique books. It's most famous for its very picturesque used book lot located right next store, tucked in between rustic brick buildings.
If you're feeling committed to the quaint, antique book store adventure, progress on to Commonwealth Books. Tucked in an alley on a brick-lined lane off of Washington Street, Commonwealth Books has everything from medieval manuscripts to mid-century paperbacks. They have an extensive collection of antique finds so if you're looking for something special and unique to bring back home, then this shop is where to find it. The location itself is extremely historic--Spring Lane is one of the oldest roads in Boston! The shop claims the alleyway dates from 1630.
Where To Eat In Downtown Crossing In Boston?
This neighborhood is jam-packed with every imaginable kind of food, ranging in both styles of dining to the genre of food. Some are familiar chains (just in some interesting settings) while others are incredibly unique to Boston.
Fast and Casual
- Chipotle ($)- It doesn't sound exciting, however, this Chipotle location is housed in the Old Corner Bookstore, an 18th-century apothecary turned 19th-century bookstore turned 21st-century burrito chain. All the famous authors of the 19th century were clients at this bookstore including Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
- Chicken & Rice Guys ($)- a simple and yet filling gyro and chicken plates restaurant with some of the best side sauces in town. They also offer tofu options for vegetarians.
- Roche Brothers ($-$$)- a grocery store may not seem like the most thrilling place to grab a bite to eat while on vacation, but Roche Brothers is famous for its prepared food section. Easy to grab on the go, with selections spanning from sushi to sandwiches.
Sit Down, But Still Lowkey
- Legal Seafoods ($$-$$$)- the famous Bostonian chain where you can snag a decent 'lobstah' roll while also sipping yummy cocktails.
- Scholars American Bistro and Cocktail Lounge ($$)- a local favorite with bar foods, cocktails, and beer on tap, the dark leather booths, and hanging chandeliers will make you want to rewatch the Dead Poet's Society.
A Nicer Night Out
- Yvonne's ($$$-$$$$)- with a variety of beautifully themed rooms that look like they belong in Regency England, this spot is best for visually aesthetic cocktails and spectacularly plated food. A great place for the 'gram.
- Parker's Restaurant ($$$-$$$$)- located inside the famously historic and infamously haunted Omni Parker Hotel, this quintessentially Bostonian restaurant has a world-famous Boston Cream pie on its menu worth trying.
What To Do In Downtown Crossing In Boston?
Downtown Crossing has a handful of offerings for the out-of-towner. If you're planning on walking the Freedom Trail, one of its more famous stops, the Old South Meeting House, is located in this neighborhood. Best known for being the starting point of the Boston Tea Party, the Old South Meeting House has a rich history outside the Revolutionary War, like the congregation's role during the Civil War. This site is a joint ticket with the next stop on the Freedom Trail, the Old State House, located right outside the Downtown Crossing neighborhood. Both sites are open from 9 am-6 pm daily.
If you're looking for something more experiential, Downtown Crossing is home to the Boston Opera House. Reminiscent of the theaters in the West End of London, the Boston Opera House is where Broadway shows stop in the city, and during the winter, the Boston Ballet stages a beautiful rendition of the Nutcracker.