Back Bay (Boston), Massachusetts
Located in the Boston, Massachusetts, Back Bay is considered by many to be one of the most desirable urban neighborhoods in the country. The community is also a study in contrasts, giving residents and visitors a wide variety of options in how they want to enjoy the area. You have the Victorian brownstones along Newbury Street, which is now home to some of the most exclusive shopping in the nation. Along Commonwealth Avenue, you have a beautiful green mall, running down the center of the road, with residential brownstones along either side. On Boylston Street you have more retail, which is adjacent to high-rise office and residential development that gives Boston a second (maybe extended?) downtown area.
The area can be reach via mass transit by taking the Green Line light rail to the Arlington, Copley, or Hynes Convention Center stations. Or you can take the Orange Line subway to the Back Bay Station. Multiple MBTA Commuter Rail lines also have a stop at the Back Bay station. Other nearby Main Street communities include Charles Street in Beacon Hill and Harvard Square in downtown Cambridge, Massachusetts just across the Charles River.
Brownstones that were once primarily residential now almost exclusively house retail along Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.
Trendy shops and outdoor cafes line Boylston Street in the Back Bay neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts.
A view of the Back Bay skyline from the Charles River. The two tallest buildings in Boston (and New England as well, for that matter) are located in Back Bay.
We start our tour on the far western edge of Newbury Street at its intersection with Massachusetts Avenue. In the distance you can see Fenway Park and the Massachusetts Turnpike just before it heads underneath Back Bay through the Prudential Tunnel.
We'll continue east along Newbury Street. This is the 300 block. Known as Upper Newbury because of its higher block numbers, the area has traditionally been known for its hip stores and art scene.
Speaking of the art scene, across the street, young artists show off their works along a gritty backdrop.
Shops and cafes along the 300 block of Newbury Street. The Interstate 90 sign points drivers in the direction of the Massachusetts Turnpike, which has an entrance just up ahead.
One way to get around town. Rent a bike from this Hubway station and return it to another station nearby. The map on the sign lets riders know where they can go.
Just off Newbury Street along Hereford Street are residential neighborhoods. The Burrage House is a mansion that's reminiscent of a French chateau. Today the building is separated into five condos. Check out the conservatory in the back.
Along the 200 block of Newbury Street, front yards give retailers plenty of room to show off their merchandise.
Unique to urban retail, the Newbury Street brownstones allow for businesses on multiple floors. Here you can walk down to a coffee shop or walk up to a clothing boutique.
Looking down Gloucester Street, you can get a view of the Prudential Center. Built in 1964 it was once the tallest building in Boston and also the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. In front of the Prudential Center is the Hynes Convention Center.
If you turn around, facing north, you'll find more shops along Gloucester Street.
An apartment building is located on the otherwise mostly commercial Newbury Street. Also, parking can be tight on Newbury, but if you can find a spot, the meters take credit cards. Notice, the John Hancock Tower in the background? It's the tallest building in Boston and New England.
Boutiques now occupy the brownstones along Newbury Street and the ground floors house restaurants, many with outdoor seating.
Another view of Newbury Street's brownstones, again with the John Hancock Tower prominently in the background. When the Prudential Center became the tallest building in Boston, eclipsing the old John Hancock Tower, a new John Hancock Tower was built just so it could reclaim its status of tallest building around.
Shops and even a market occupy the intersection of Newbury Street and Fairfield Street.
Newbury Street's unique architecture, including large floor to ceiling bay windows, gives businesses and excellent chance to show off their goods and even let in a lot of light. Window shoppers also benefit with plenty to look at on multiple levels.
On the left side of the picture, you can see all the signage the businesses in the area use. On the right side, there's that John Hancock Tower again. The tower is part of a High Spine development process which allows for very tall buildings to be constructed along the Massachusetts Turnpike, while leaving other historic neighborhoods untouched and well-preserved.
From this angle, you'd hardly notice that the two tallest buildings in New England are just a few blocks away.
We continue east on Newbury Street, which is home to numerous art galleries ranging from hip and trendy to very upscale.
Newbury Street has long been famous as home to many unique independent retailers. However, in recent years more chains have begun to move in.
Mannequins practically sprout up from the bushes in front of the stores, particularly this one that sells clothing and other goods made from hemp.
We now come to the 100 block of Newbury Street. As the street numbers get lower, the prices go up and the more you begin to see the high-end and exclusive retailers.
The shops may be chains here but at least the architecture is unique with a wide variety of styles occupying the brownstones. And it makes for great window shopping. The front yards are a good clue that these used to be residences.
Retail occupies the ground floor of The Newbry. Built in 1938, it's one of the few large office buildings along Newbury Street and occupies a full block all the way to Boylston Street.
Across the street, along the zero hundred block of Newbury Street, are more shops and street-level sidewalk cafes. True to Newbury's exclusive image, the famous Georgetown Cupcakes selected Newbury Street for its Boston location.
What was once Boston's Museum of Natural History is now an RH (Restoration Hardware's furniture store). The museum was built in 1864 in the classical French Beaux-Arts style.
The inside of RH is something to behold as well with its large three-story atrium and center steel-cage elevator. Definitely worth a visit, whether or not you're in the market for a new couch.
Here's a view of the zero hundred block of Newbury Street through the window of the third floor of RH.
The Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street also houses an Art Gallery. Inside, you can take a tour of the large collection of Tiffany stained glass.
More shops along the zero hundred block of Newbury Street. Most of these are on the ground floor.
We've almost made it to the end of Newbury Street. Ironically this stretch is referred to as Lower Newbury because of its lower street numbers. However, the boutiques are definitely higher end. So don't let the name fool you.
Newbury Street comes to an end at its intersection with Arlington Street. Just behind the multi-story Burberry store is the historic Arlington Street Church.
If you cross Arlington Street, you'll come to Boston Public Garden which contains various memorials, including a Garden of Remembrance 9/11 Memorial, lakes and even Swan Boats.
We head over to Boylston Street now. The Berkeley Building, completed in 1905, is another fine example of Beaux-Arts style architecture. Its steel frame is ornamented with glazed terra-cotta, copper, and glass.
We'll continue our tour heading west along Boylston Street. This is a view looking back east along the 500 Block of Boylston Street. This part of Back Bay is more commercial than quaint Newbury Street. Here we see more high-rise office, hotel, and residential buildings.
Trinity Church, built in 1877, is an example of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. Behind it, the blue-glass monolith, is the John Hancock Tower. In the glass reflection, you can see the old John Hancock Tower, which was once the tallest building in Back Bay.
Copley Square is a park named after painter John Singleton Copley. Many cultural and education institutions were placed near Copley Square in the hopes of making the area a center of culture. Today, the immediate surrounding area, beyond the park, is referred to as Copley Square.
Shops and cafes line the 500 block of Boylston Street across from Copley Square.
Speaking of the area being known as Copley Square, this station on the MBTA Green Line is referred to as Copley. It's a major station on the line as the B, C, D, and E lines all come together near this stop.
Copley Station opened in 1914, as part of the Boylston Street Subway, an extension of the original Tremont Street Subway, the oldest subway line in the U.S. The original ornate wrought-iron head house is still preserved today at this entrance. Today these lines are served by light-rail trains.
Continuing west, we spot the Finish Line to the world famous Boston Marathon, which is located on Boylston Street just in front of the large Boston Public Library.
More sidewalk cafes along the 600 block of Boylston Street. In the background, on the right-side of the picture, is the Old South Church, built in the Gothic Revival style in 1874.
This Lord & Taylor department store fronts Boylston Street but is also connected to the Shops at Prudential Center, which is an indoor mall. In the background are many high-rise buildings, including the Prudential Center, which make up part of the High-Spine corridor of dense urban development.
Across the street along the 700 block of Boylston Street are more shops and restaurants, some of which occupy historic structures still standing in the urban environment.
More shops and sidewalk cafes along the 700 block of Boylston Street. This was the scene where one of the bombs detonated during the 2013 Boston Marathon.
This Apple Store is one of the chain's flagship locations and features an ornate glass, spiral staircase inside.
Across the street is the entrance to The Shops at Prudential Center. The building in the center is 111 Huntington Avenue. It's part of the Prudential Center complex and is also nicknamed the R2D2 Building due to its distinctive shape.
Continuing west on Boylston Street, we see the Hynes Convention Center, which is connected to the Prudential Center complex.
At this point, we reach the western end on Boylston Street in Back Bay. On the far left of the picture you can see the fencing for the overpass which goes over the Massachusetts Turnpike.
If we head back to The Shops at Prudential Center and walk inside, we see a view of the indoor mall. The one story mall is separated into various "arcades." This is a view of the Back Bay Arcade.
An elevated skywalk connects The Shops at Prudential Center to another indoor mall, Copley Place, over busy Huntington Avenue.
Here's another view of the elevated skywalk that carries foot traffic between the two malls over Huntington Avenue.
Copley Place is an indoor multi-level mall. There's plenty of upscale shopping in both of Back Bay's indoor malls and also public bathrooms, which is nice. But don't spend too much time here. You'll want to get outside and explore all the things that make Back Bay such a unique place.
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Back Bay Association
City of Boston — Back Bay
The Newbury Collection
Newbury Street League
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