Boston has been one of my favorite cities to visit on business. One of the hardest things about business travel is the strict time constraints and the uncertainty in how long any possible outings might take. It’s easy to think you’ll grab a quick bite to eat and wind up taking over an hour and missing a meeting just because you didn’t know how slow a particular restaurant would be or how hard it was to get to.
That combined with typically packed meeting schedules leads most business travelers to see very little beyond their hotel and meeting rooms. To help you out, I’ve added in time estimates and links to Google maps for each of the places I recommend in this Boston Business Traveler’s Guide. Let me know if you wind up using these tips and how they work out! And always contact me if you have any questions. 🙂
Where to Eat in Back Bay on Business
If you’re in Boston on business, chances are your hotel and meetings will be in the Back Bay neighborhood. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling for business is find all of the great cafés, coffee shops, and lunch hangouts nearby. These are all my favorite eats in the Back Bay area.
Café Madeleine517 Columbus Ave time to spend: 30 min
This is the best café for espresso drinks, french pastries, and a charming atmosphere in the Back Bay neighborhood. I tried most of their pastries and they were all excellent, although the chocolate almond croissant was my favorite. Their croissants were the real deal and their cappuccino made me feel like I was back in Europe again. Their service is quick and you can get things to-go. They have a few tables outside in their patio area as well as bright and cheery counter-seating inside, making it the perfect spot to take a few minutes for yourself and relax before a long day of meetings.
Food Trucks in Back BayPrudential Center (in front of Christian Science Plaza) time to spend: 20-30 min
There are several food trucks that hang out in this plaza, and they make for a perfect quick bite in between conference sessions. While everyone else at the conference was eating fast food at the mall, or pre-packaged sandwiches from starbucks, my friends and I walked one block further and got freshly made, healthy food for the same price as a slice of generic reheated pizza at the mall. WIN! The trucks rotate daily, and you can check which trucks are where at this super-convenient site.
Flour Bakery131 Clarendon St time to spend: 1 hour
I couldn’t recommend this place more. It was my favorite lunch spot in the Back Bay. Think freshly made bread (the really good kind), high quality sandwiches, and killer pastries. Their dessert bar rivals any other. This place is popular, rightfully so, and gets pretty busy so make sure you have at least an hour to kill if you’re eating in.
Things to Do in Boston on Business
Boston has a seemingly unending list of cool things to do, and no list could possibly hit them all! The key to sightseeing on a business trip is to do it in short bursts, in the evenings, or over a long lunch. You might even consider extending your trip an extra day to give yourself some time to explore. These were some of my favorite things to do for getting a feel for the city even when you’re short on time.
Explore Boston’s North EndMap time to spend: 2 hours – full day
Exploring the North End was my favorite thing to do in Boston. I could happily spend an entire day just grazing on cannolis, sipping cappuccinos, and hopping from café to café. It has some adorable and tiny parks, cute old timey streets, and the best Italian fare in the city. Stay for dinner to experience one of the area’s many authentic Italian eateries. Of the places I tried, here’s what I recommend:
Modern Pastry (map) – Delicious cannolis made on the spot – the way they should be. If you eat one thing in Boston, this should be it. I did a side-by-side comparison with the other famous spot, Mike’s, and Modern Pastry won hand’s down.
Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shoppe (map) Skip the sit down-restaurant, Bricco, and duck into the alley next to it to wander into Bricco Salumeria & Pasta Shoppe for fresh pasta, mozzarella, and good no-fuss, extra-fresh sandwiches.
Note: Many places in North End are cash only, so come prepared.
The Freedom TrailTrail starts at the Boston Common Visitors Center time to spend: 2 hours – full day
If you’ve never been to Boston, then you really can’t miss the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a string of historical sights from the American Revolution that you can see by following a red line throughout the city. It has a little something for everyone and you don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate it. It will take you through old historic sites, beautiful churches, a charming cemetery, some government buildings, and big green parks, a ship, and more.
Of course, you can take a tour, or you can do it on your own for free. There’s an official Freedom Trail iPhone app, or just search the app store for free ones. You can go as in-depth as you want, and pick and choose which sites you explore more and which you just breeze past. You could spend anywhere from 2 hours breezing through the trail, just admiring things from the outside, or an entire day exploring the whole thing in depth, taking tours, and stopping for lunch along the way.
The Freedom Trail pairs well with a visit to North End, as you will run right through the neighborhood as you follow the path. Build in some extra time if you plan to linger with a cannoli and cappuccino.
Public Market100 Hanover St time to spend: 30-60 min Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Public market is a massive indoor market of local food shops and artisans. You can get anything from meats to sweets. They even have beer and wine! It is sort of like an upscale farmers market. Great for picking up snacks or a picnic.
Boston Public Library700 Boylston St time to spend:15 min – 3 hours
This public library was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and a complete surprise, as we just wandered in not expecting much. You can walk through and admire it in 15 minutes, or you can bring your work with you and hunker down in the reading room for hours. Sometimes they have small exhibits as well.
Boston Public Garden and Boston CommonBoston Public Garden: 4 Charles St Boston Common: 139 Tremont St time to spend: 30 min – 1 hour
These two side-by-side parks are a great place for a leisurely walk to stretch your legs or just see the light of day after sitting in meeting after window-less meeting. They’re right between Back Bay and downtown, so they are convenient to almost everything. Grab an ice cream cone or a coffee and head to the park to walk among bronze ducklings and frogs, or even ride a swan boat for a few dollars and glide around the pond for a while! Swans operate April – September, weather permitting.
Beacon Hill WalkJust north of Boston Public Garden and Boston Common (map) time to spend: 1-3 hours
Beacon Hill is made for strolling, with its charming small-town feel, quaint shops, and colonial architecture. A great dinner spot in the neighborhood is Fin’s Sushi+Grill on Cambridge St.
Charles River EsplanadeRuns along the south bank of the Charles River (map) time to spend: 1-2 hours
Take a leisurely stroll along the Charles River on the famous walking path – the Esplanade. There’s a separate bike path alongside, or you can even rent kayaks and paddle down the river. Or take a more relaxed approach and just hunker down on a bench and watch the ducks go by.
Art museum465 Huntington Ave www.mfa.org time to spend: 2 hours $25 admission, free with student ID. Wednesday nights after 4pm, admission is donation-based.
This is one of the biggest art museums in the US, with a massive collection. See everything from American period pieces to Greek sculpture to Asian tapestries to photography. We were here for about an hour on a Wednesday night and could have stayed longer. We found ourselves rushing through at the end to see the major galleries before close. Or maybe we rushed out because my friend was escorted out by a guard for entering a restricted area… Either way, there are plenty of impressive artifacts and paintings to satisfy any art buff. Check their website for current hours.
Where to Stay in Back Bay
If you’re in Boston for a conference, you’re likely going to want to stay in the Back Bay area where all the big hotels and conferences are. Fortunately, this is a great neighborhood to stay in, as it has lots of good food, beautiful parks, tasty coffee shops, and convenient public transport. It’s also very walkable, which is my favorite type of transit when I’m exploring a new city!
The Boston Marriott Copley Place (map) was hosting the conference I was attending, and their conference rate beat all the other hotels in the area so staying there was a no-brainer. The hotel was huge and really nice, with spacious rooms, comfortable beds, and clean bathrooms. I would recommend it. We even had a great view from our window.
After the conference, I spent an extra day exploring the city and moved to Loews Boston Hotel (map), as all the Marriott rooms were booked up. I was lucky enough to snag a media rate room at Loews (thanks to this blog) so their rooms were actually just as affordable.
While the Marriot had been great for a business conference, I liked the smaller, more intimate feel of Loews when I was on my own. It was also a bit closer to a lot of things to do.
If you can’t swing the Loews Boston Hotel regular rate, which is in the $200-$300 range, try searching on tripadvisor for deals from their partners. When I looked around, it showed me some last minute deals for $159 a night, which is a steal for that neighborhood.
In the end, I hope this business traveler’s guide to Boston has helped you get out of your hotel room and enjoy the city, even if it is just for a few hours!
Did you find this post helpful? What are your favorite things to do in Boston? Let’s hear it in the comments!
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