Sophisticated, historic yet modern, Boston has achieved world-class status in recent years. A weekend getaway to this fair city of high culture, haute cuisine, and five-star hotels is just a short car—or ferry—ride away.
If you are looking for a luxurious experience with water views, plan a stay at the Boston Harbor Hotel on Rowes Wharf. Bordered by the Financial District, the North End, Faneuil Hall, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the hotel’s central location offers myriad choices. You won’t be disappointed by the elegant ambiance, unparalleled service, and spectacular panoramic views of Boston Harbor. The grand hotel’s incredible archway—referred to as the gateway to the city—welcomes guests arriving by land or by sea, with its 34-slip marina.
The rooms and common areas are beautifully appointed with traditional furnishings and fabrics, and historical maps from the Norman B. Leventhal Collection adorn the walls. The guest rooms offer dramatic views and dreamy soft beds to collapse into after a day of museum crawling. And its contemporary spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, and saltwater pool positively enhance the luxe stay.
Dining at the Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar is a must during your time at the hotel. At the helm of this four-star dining sensation is internationally renowned executive chef Daniel Bruce, who transformed Boston’s culinary experience for food and wine enthusiasts by opening Meritage in 2002 and founding the Boston Wine Festival. The Meritage reopened last spring after an extensive renovation, and Bruce continues the tradition of his vineyard-to-table dining concept.
Chef Bruce works with wine director and general manager Nicholas Daddona to create a symphony of flavors for the chef’s tasting menu, which changes nightly. It is a simply divine five-course foodie event: Prince Edward Island oysters on the half shell accompanied by cucumber and lime granita paired with a 2011 Hirsh Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast; pan-seared red grouper with Maine lobster, sweet corn, and saffron essence paired with a Nicolas Joly Clos de la Bergerie–Savennieres from the Loire Valley; savory cocoa-rubbed hanger steak paired with a 1998 Andrus Reserve Cab blend from Napa; artisanal samplings from the cheese cart paired with a 2012 Hendry HRW Zinfandel; and, to finish the meal, strawberry foam and chocolate ice cream paired with a Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui from Piedmont, Italy.
After dinner, take a stroll on the HarborWalk just outside the hotel—the place to take in the city at night. Designed to connect the public to the restored Boston Harbor, this boardwalk links the water’s edge to the city’s open space system. In the morning, walk over to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). Designed by award-winning architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the ICA weaves together interior and exterior space, producing shifting perspectives of the waterfront throughout the museum’s galleries and public spaces. This October, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957 is the first comprehensive exhibition of this progressive school’s avant-garde artists.
Another stellar stay while visiting the city is the Four Seasons, a luxury hotel that has hosted top celebrities, rock stars, and politicians over the years. Called “Boston’s living room,” the hotel’s Bristol Bar overlooking the Boston Public Garden is the perfect place to sit and sip while you plan your culturally charged day’s itinerary. Concierge David White is at the ready to make suggestions and reservations and assist you in any way possible. White has been with the Four Seasons for 15 years and knows all the best places. His first pick for a cultural outing this October is the Rembrandt and Vermeer exhibit Class Distinctions at the Museum of Fine Arts, beginning October 11. This groundbreaking exhibit offers a new approach to understanding 17th-century Dutch painting and will include pieces never seen before in the United States.
Another one of White’s suggestions is a visit to the Harvard Art Museums—the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler Museums—which opened their new facility, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The original Picasso drawing, Mother and Child and Four Studies of Her Right Hand (1904) has been in the Fogg Museum collection since 1929. This October, American artist Corita Kent is on exhibit. Kent juxtaposed spiritual, pop cultural, literary, and political writings alongside symbols of consumer culture and modern life to create bold prints during the 1960s.
After a day of museum-hopping, pop back to the hotel for a quick dip in the Four Seasons’ soothing pool, which overlooks the Boston Public Garden, and then head to Ostra (which means “oyster” in Spanish) for a meal you won’t soon forget. Chef/owner Jamie Mammano offers contemporary Mediterranean dishes in which he showcases the region’s authentic flavors. Not to be missed are his yellowfin tuna carpaccio with cured cherry tomato, aged balsamic, black olive, sweet garlic aioli, and jamon iberico—a salty-sweet balance of ham, manchego cheese, quince, and black mission fig. For a main dish, his paella “Valenciana style,” a medley of bomba rice, saffron, Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, squid, and confit chorizo, blends the flavors of the sea beautifully.
For the evening’s entertainment, head to Symphony Hall to catch the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), led by Andris Nelsons, who made his debut as BSO music director in the 2014 – 2015 season. Nelsons will lead the BSO in wide-ranging programs in his second season, which will include the music of Shostakovich, three weeks of thematic concerts honoring the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and concert performances of Strauss’s Elektra.
Back at the Four Seasons after the concert, pop into the Bristol for a nightcap or dessert and, of course, people watching. With a fresh concept and team, the bar has upped its culinary and hospitality game with new general manager Kim Lambrechts. The menu offers the old standbys—the Bristol Burger, for one—as well as updated contemporary nibbles such as Catskill smoked salmon. With Sancerre by the glass, perfectly chilled, or an old-school martini, you can’t go wrong.
Be sure to experience the Bristol’s colossal Sunday brunch, with everything you can imagine and more—fluffy omelets, oatmeal brûlée, French toast bread pudding, a raw bar, and a prime rib carving station. End your weekend with a walk through the Boston Public Garden over to Beacon Hill, where early-19th-century architect Charles Bulfinch designed magnificent brick townhouses. (Number 13 Chestnut Street is a personal favorite.)