Given its rich and complex history, Boston is surprisingly compact. It is possible to stroll across the central area in little more than an hour, and whether you saunter through gracious Beacon Hill or the stately boulevards of Back Bay, the dimensions of the city often seem more European than American.
With its bookstores, cafés and antique shops, Charles Street recalls Paris, while fashionable Newberry Street bears a resemblance to London's posh Mayfair district. Not to be missed is an evening at Symphony Hall, where the instrumentalists create magic with the building's legendary acoustics. Another mandatory stop is the Museum of Fine Arts, housing an amazing collection of Oriental sculptures and ceramics, as well as a superb array of American paintings. I also recommend the Peabody Museum adjacent to Harvard Yard, which displays artifacts acquired by the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The beautiful Common and adjoining Public Garden remain the principal focal point of the city. Their tree-shaded green spaces slope gently up to Beacon Hill, where the State House provides a symbol of Boston's illustrious past.
Whenever I’m in Boston, I try to visit Symphony Hall (301 Massachusetts Avenue), which, acoustically, is considered to be one of the top three concert halls in the world. As well as being home to the Boston Symphony, it also plays host to the Boston Pops and the Handel and Haydn Society.
For those who share my interest in all things nautical, a visit to the USS Constitution Museum (Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charleston) is a must. Launched in 1797, the ship is known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” for its legendary endurance.
Harvard Art Museums
In late 2014, three of Harvard’s notable museums were brought together in a new facility designed by Renzo Piano: Harvard Art Museums (32 Quincy Street, Cambridge). One striking glass roof now unites the collections of the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum.
This reinvention involved expanding the Fogg’s original building into a structure that provides 40 percent more gallery space than before. We spent a morning exploring the assembled riches. Highlights from the Busch-Reisinger Museum include remarkable works of German art, while the Arthur M. Sackler Museum contributed an unusually deep Asian art collection; I particularly admired the Japanese screens. Depth and diversity are why I love museums such as this — for their unexpected pleasures and not just the obvious masterpieces.