What to Do in Boston’s North End

In Boston's oldest residential neighbourhood, tour Old North Church, eat contemporary Italian at Parla and watch a comedy show by Improv Asylum

Old North Church/Thinkstock

Boston’s oldest residential area is just one square kilometre in size, but it’s filled with Italian restaurants, old-world food markets, wine shops and 18th- and 19th-century churches.

Photo by Joyelle West

Built in 1723, Old North Church is Boston’s oldest surviving church building. On a 30-minute tour, peek inside the bell-ringing chamber, and learn about what happened on the night of April 18, 1775, when Patriots (colonial rebels) lit lanterns to warn the city that the British were coming and sparked the American Revolutionary War. On your own, walk among the box pews in the nave and wrap up your visit in the cramped underground crypts, where you’ll find 37 colonial-era tombs.

For another celestial treat, take a short stroll east to Battery Street’s All Saints Way, where area resident Peter Baldassari’s collection of Catholic saint prayer cards and statues covers a small alley. The installation towers up six metres with tributes to St. Joseph, St. Jude and Mother Teresa, one of the shrine’s latest additions.

Back on Salem Street, pop into some shops. Polcari’s Coffee is an 85-year-old Italian spice, tea and coffee store, while the Salmagundi hats and accessories shop stocks more than 4,000 hats. Walk one block to Hanover Street’s Parla, a contemporary Italian eatery. Accompany arancini rice balls or lobster ravioli with an off-the-menu cocktail. Toss dice from a julep cup to select one of 20 special, off-menu drinks. The higher the roll, the more adventurous the drink.

Photo by Joyelle West

A few doors down, Improv Asylum’s basement theatre presents a 90-minute evening show. The six-comedian house troupe performs sketches, musical numbers and improv in the round, tackling politics, celebrity culture and life in “Bahston.”

Read more from our Boston Neighbourhood Guide