The Waterfront/North End/Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Businesspeople and sightseers dominate the hotels in these neighborhoods, which become increasingly desirable as the Rose Kennedy Greenway evolves.
Best For -- Travelers who want easy access to the Financial District and waterfront attractions, the airport, and Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Drawbacks -- Touristy atmosphere, distance from the Back Bay and Cambridge, expense (at most properties).
Financial District & Downtown Crossing
The hotels in this area are closer than their Waterfront competitors to the major shopping areas, the start of the Freedom Trail, and the subway to Cambridge.
Best For -- Businesspeople and sightseers year-round; winter weekend travelers on a budget.
Drawbacks -- Generally drowsy at night and on weekends; weeknight room rates tend to be high.
Beacon Hill/North Station
These neighborhoods are home to many downtown workers; while they walk to work, visitors can stroll to the waterfront attractions.
Best For -- Access to public transit. Travelers who prefer the residential feel of Beacon Hill to the more businesslike atmosphere of downtown will be happy here.
Drawbacks -- Generally pricey; check with a B&B agency for more affordable alternatives. The narrow streets around North Station attract rowdy crowds after big events at the TD Garden arena and on weekend nights.
Expensive -- Across the street from the TD Garden and North Station, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Boston Garden, 280 Friend St. (www.hiexpress.com; tel. 888/465-4329 or 617/720-5544), consists of 72 units in a five-story building that was previously a hostel. Rates start at $195 for a double, skyrocketing during popular events at the Garden, and include continental breakfast. Valet parking costs $36, and Wi-Fi access costs $10 per day.
Charlestown is home to the final stops on the Freedom Trail. Away from the Charlestown Navy Yard (home to "Old Ironsides") and the Bunker Hill Monument, this is a largely residential neighborhood.
Best For -- Travelers with business in Charlestown or east Cambridge, families who want to be close to the Freedom Trail, and anyone who needs easy access to downtown (by MBTA ferry or water taxi, and on foot).
Drawbacks -- Access to the Back Bay and central Cambridge isn't quick or easy; lodging and nightlife options are limited.
South Boston Waterfront (Seaport District)
This rapidly evolving neighborhood isn't quite a full-fledged destination yet, but its hotels are magnets for business travelers and conventioneers. The Institute of Contemporary Art and Boston Children's Museum are in this area, which is accessible by Silver Line bus from the airport and South Station.
Best For -- Access to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Seaport World Trade Center, and Logan Airport. Cambridge is a quick trip from South Station.
Drawbacks -- Downtown is some distance by bus and subway or on foot (Faneuil Hall Marketplace, for instance, is at least a 15-min. walk), and access to the Back Bay isn't great. Dining options are limited, and there's no shopping or entertainment to speak of.
This lively area -- a small part of it was once the red-light district, but the whole neighborhood gets nicer by the day -- is near the Public Garden, Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway but not very green itself.
Best For -- A compromise if you need access to both downtown and the Back Bay, often for less than you'd pay in those areas.
Drawbacks -- Narrow, congested streets create a gritty atmosphere; the Theater District is crowded before and after performances but deserted late at night.
The South End
Berkeley Street runs from the Back Bay across the Massachusetts Turnpike to the most convenient corner of the sprawling South End, where you'll find these two lodgings.
Best For -- Budget-conscious travelers with business in the Back Bay; easy access to the South End's excellent restaurants.
Drawbacks -- Access to Cambridge isn't easy; Berkeley Street is fairly busy all day and into the evening.
The Back Bay
Boston's widest variety of lodgings is in this neighborhood, which stretches from the area around the Public Garden past the Hynes Convention Center.
Best For -- Anyone who wants to be where the action is. The Boston area's best shopping and people-watching is here. Budget-conscious travelers have more options here than in any other centrally located part of town. The Esplanade, the recreational area on the Charles River, is a great place for a walk or run.
Drawbacks -- Rates can be extremely high, especially during citywide events such as the Marathon. Tour groups overrun the neighborhood year-round, especially during foliage season. The most convenient T access is on the unreliable Green Line. Reaching Cambridge isn't easy or consistently fast (the subway can be as slow as the pokey No. 1 bus).
Expensive -- The 16 units at the Inn @ St. Botolph, 99 St. Botolph St. (at W. Newton St.; tel. 617/236-8099; T: Green Line E to Prudential), are so popular that they're almost always booked, but I suggest checking anyway. In a residential neighborhood a block from Huntington Avenue and the Prudential Center, guests pretty much fend for themselves, which is perfect if you like the atmosphere of an upscale B&B but not mingling with the staff and other guests. The lavishly decorated suites have self-catering kitchens (management supplies the breakfast fixings) and Wi-Fi but no other services -- no parking, bell staff, health club, or restaurant. Rates for a double start at $209.
Outskirts & Brookline
What Bostonians consider "outskirts" would be centrally located in many larger cities. Brookline starts about 3 blocks beyond Boston's Kenmore Square.
Best For -- Travelers who want more room and lower prices than properties in other areas generally offer. For those who must drive, parking is generally (but not always) cheaper than it is elsewhere.
Drawbacks -- Unless they're in town only to visit Fenway Park or the Longwood Medical Area, sightseers staying in this area essentially become commuters to downtown Boston. If you're visiting Cambridge, public transit connections are unwieldy at best.
Expensive -- The 188-unit Courtyard Boston Brookline, 40 Webster St. (off Beacon St.), Brookline (tel. 866/296-2296, 800/321-2211, or 617/734-1393; T: Green Line C to Coolidge Corner), is a well-equipped, conveniently located business hotel. It has a breakfast cafe, indoor pool, exercise room, and shuttle service to the nearby Longwood Medical Area. A double in high season goes for $179 to $399, which includes Wi-Fi; parking costs $24.
Moderate -- The Holiday Inn Boston Brookline, 1200 Beacon St. (at St. Paul St.), Brookline (www.holidayinn.com; tel. 800/465-4329 or 617/277-1200; T: Green Line C to St. Paul St.), overlooks the trolley tracks just outside Coolidge Corner. The six-story hotel has a restaurant, exercise room, small indoor pool, and shuttle service to the nearby hospitals. Rates for a double start at $169, including Wi-Fi; parking costs $21.
Inexpensive -- A summer-only hostel occupies a former Howard Johnson hotel just outside Kenmore Square: The Fenway Summer Hostel, 575 Commonwealth Ave. (tel. 617/267-8599; fax 617/424-6558; T: Green Line B, C, or D to Kenmore). The 485-bed hostel offers well-equipped accommodations in a building that doubles as a Boston University dorm during the school year. Rates are $36 to $45 per bed for members of Hostelling International-American Youth Hostels, $39 to $48 for nonmembers. Private rooms for one to three guests cost $99 to $129.
Across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge has its own attractions and excellent hotels. Graduation season (May and early June) is especially busy, but campus events can cause high demand at unexpected times, so plan ahead.
Best For -- Well-heeled visitors to Cambridge, and travelers to downtown Boston and the South Boston waterfront, which are relatively easy to reach on the T from both the Harvard Square area and East Cambridge.
Drawbacks -- Access to most other areas of Boston, notably the Back Bay and South End, can be slow, expensive, or both. Budget accommodations are limited, and parking at most hotels is almost as expensive as parking in Boston.
Expensive -- The Hampton Inn Boston/Cambridge, 191 Msgr. O'Brien Hwy., at Water St., Cambridge (tel. 800/426-7866 or 617/494-5300; T: Green Line to Lechmere), is a 5-minute walk from the T. Rates at the 114-room hotel start at $189 for a double in high season and include parking, buffet breakfast, and high-speed Internet.
Moderate -- The 112-unit Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 250 Msgr. O'Brien Hwy., at Sciarappa St., Cambridge (tel. 888/887-7690 or 617/577-7600; fax 617/354-1313), is a limited-services property 10 minutes from the Green Line on a busy street. There's no restaurant, but each room has a fridge and microwave, and a supermarket is a block away. Rates for a double in high season start at $160 and include parking -- a big plus in Cambridge -- Wi-Fi, and breakfast.
At & Near the Airport
Accommodations in this neighborhood range from high-end business hotels to budget chain lodgings, but even the least expensive properties aren't the dirt-cheap motels found near airports in many other parts of the country.
Best For -- Anyone with an early flight. If you're not staying at the Hilton, make sure that you know the shuttle schedule and that the front-desk staff knows you have a plane to catch.
Drawbacks -- Distance from attractions, relying on the hotel shuttle to get to the subway (except at the Hilton).
Expensive -- The Embassy Suites Hotel Boston at Logan Airport, 207 Porter St., at Cottage St., Boston, MA 02128 (tel. 800/362-2779 or 617/567-5000), is a 273-unit hotel with an indoor pool, exercise room, and business center. Each suite in the 10-story hotel has a living room with a pull-out couch. Room rates, which start at $199, include breakfast and shuttle service to the airport and the Airport T stop; Internet access costs $10/night.
Moderate -- If the Comfort Inn is booked, consider the Hampton Inn Boston Logan Airport, 2300 Lee Burbank Hwy., Revere (tel. 800/426-7866 or 781/286-5665), on a commercial-industrial strip about 3 miles north of the airport. A free shuttle bus serves the 227-room hotel, which has a pool. Rates start at about $129 for a double and include continental breakfast and parking.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.