Considered by many to be one of Boston’s most charming neighborhoods, the Back Bay was developed in the mid-19th century by reclaiming land in the Charles River basin. Most famous for its rows of Victorian brownstone homes, the Back Bay neighborhood is one of the best preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the country.
Initially developed as a residential-only area, commercial buildings started to be introduced to the area around 1890. Today, the Back Bay is home to numerous architecturally significant buildings and office buildings, including the John Hancock Tower, which is the tallest skyscraper in the city. One of Boston’s most walkable enclaves, the Back Bay has several “must-see” attractions for anyone who wants to truly appreciate what the neighborhood has to offer. To that end, here are six places you need to see while in the Back Bay neighborhood, all of which are easily accessible via stops along the Green Line.
One of Boston’s main squares, Copley Square was named for John Singleton Copley. A statue of Copley, who was one of the first Americans to find fame as a painter, can be found within the square. Other attractions, such as Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library can also be found at Copley Square.
Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, Trinity Church is recognized as a National Historic Landmark building and is rated as one of the top 10 buildings in the country by the American Association of Architects. Completed in the late 1870s, the current structure was built to replace the nearby Episcopal church from the 1700s that burned down. Nearly every inch of the church’s interior is covered with artwork created by painter John La Farge, while the numerous stained glass windows add to the overall beauty and charm of the building.
Boston Public Library
Designed by Charles Follen McKim, the Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival hybrid Boston Public Library was completed in 1895. In addition to being an attractive and interesting building, the library contains numerous research archives and approximately 24 million items, including books and electronic resources. As such, it is the third largest public library in the United States behind only the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
Old South Church
Dating back to 1875, the Old South Church building was designed by Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears. Designed in the Gothic Revival style, the interior of he church features highly carved Italian cherry woodwork, stenciled plaster, limestone and stained glass.
Offering views of up to 100 miles in the distance on a clear day, the Skywalk Observatory is located on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center. Tickets start at $15 and provide 360-degree panoramic views of Boston and beyond.
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Spanning 32 acres, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall feels like a grand Parisian boulevard with its memorials and statues dotting the 1.3-mile length. The mall ends at the Public Garden, providing a relaxing way to end your trip through the Back Bay neighborhood.