Given its tight topography and thick density, it’s little surprise that the Boston area is one of the more walkable urban areas in the United States. But some neighborhoods are eminently more walkable than others.
Using data from WalkScore, we’ve run—or ambled—down the best enclaves for pedestrians, whether they’re out for a leisurely stroll or hustling to catch a bus, go to work, etc.
Beacon Hill is about one square mile of hilly (what else?) streets and promenades amid some of Boston’s most tourist-y sites, including the Massachusetts State House and the northern edges of both the Public Garden and Boston Common.
It can be a little tricky for pedestrians and bikers at some intersections, particularly just off the Charles/MGH Red Line stop. Then there are streets such as Acorn and squares such as Louisburg (pictured), and everything’s okay after that.
These neighboring neighborhoods occupy about 30 square blocks on the southern edge of Boston’s downtown. The Leather District clocks in at only nine blocks.
It’s this compactness amid downtown’s general walkability that makes both Chinatown and the Leather District so easy to get around in on foot. The neighborhoods are designed—more by fate than intention—for people rather than cars.
If there is one Boston neighborhood designed for walking not only for getting around but for sight-seeing, it’s the North End.
Compact and largely car-unfriendly, Boston’s traditional Italian-American enclave is full of famous spots such as Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, never mind any number of tasty restaurants, delis, bakeries, etc.
Boston’s smallest official neighborhood is absurdly compact: It’s barely six square blocks carved out of the history of the city’s development.
That tininess makes Bay Village eminently walkable and bikable and altogether pleasant, with its quaint streets and historical sites such as the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe.
Back Bay scores slightly lower than the top four neighborhoods in walkability (it gets a 96 from WalkScore), but parts of it are as pedestrian-friendly as Bay Village and the North End.
Check out the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, which runs the length of the neighborhood, and the window-shopping along Newbury Street.
WalkScore gives the South End a walkability score of 96—even with all the construction ongoing along the neighborhood’s northeastern and eastern edges.
It’s the South End’s lower reaches that are especially pedestrian-friendly, particularly around Blackstone and Franklin squares.
The tightly clustered neighborhood just over the Fort Point Channel from the South Station area is one of Boston’s more pedestrian- and biker-friendly areas.
It’s got plenty of waterfront for strolling, and traffic is generally light. Plus there’s the Boston Children’s Museum and the Boston Fire Museum.
The area sandwiched between Beacon Hill and the North End contains a large volume of parkland and plaza—try the Thoreau Path. Exercise caution in the busy area around North Station and TD Garden, though.
Head over the Charles—maybe take the Red Line?—and you’ll soon find the most walkable neighborhood in Cambridge.
The similarly named university dominates the fast-changing area, of course, but there are plenty of parks and waterfront (and waterfront parks), too, as well as non-Harvard attractions.
Best of all, it’s a relatively quick stroll to other largely walkable Cambridge areas such as Central and Porter squares.
While in Harvard Square, why not hop on the Red Line and head a couple of stops to Somerville’s most walkable neighborhood?
Davis Square has a WalkScore of 96. There is plenty of eating and shopping to be had, and Cambridge is a quick step over the nearby municipal border.