Having spent my library school years in Boston, Massachusetts, I can definitely say this city is one of my favorite places. It has several great destinations for book lovers, if you only know where to look. From waffles with your books, to a Harry Potter haven, to statues of characters from the most famous Boston children’s book, it has it all. With so many schools and so much history, you’ll need multiple trips to visit all the destinations in Boston for book lovers. Recognizing I’ve left much out, the following is a walkable afternoon tour of my favorite Boston bookish destinations.
To Be Read:
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Brunch at Trident Booksellers and Cafe
Is there anything better than a hot breakfast with your book? Trident Books Cafe, unlike other bookstore cafes, has a full restaurant which includes breakfast all day. I don’t mean a few pastries and coffee, I mean waffles, eggs, french toast, and much more (check out the menu here). I suggest making this your first stop of the day to fortify yourself with a hearty brunch before setting out on the rest of your bookish tour. The two-story bookstore is on Newbury Street, a several-block shopping street filled with small boutiques and eateries. The restaurant has outdoor seating as well as indoor on both the first and second floors of the shop, so you’ll be able to find a table where you can people watch, study, or get lost in the book you just bought in the shop. Before you leave, pick up a copy of the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, you’ll want it for later in your tour.
Step into Diagon Alley in the Fairy Shop
After breakfast at Trident Books, if you continue on Newbury Street in the direction of the Public Garden, you’ll walk by a shop advertising Harry Potter. Although the Fairy Shop used to be filled with fairy and unicorn themed items, it is currently a haven for Harry Potter fans. Behind the purple-curtained door, you’ll find yourself in a small shop filled with Potter momentos from floor to ceiling. While inside you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a shop on Diagon Alley. The owner told us he rethemes the shop when he gets a new notion and feels the current theme has run its course. So hurry in here before a new fandom takes over!
Visit the Boston Public Library
A block up from Newbury Street, you’ll find the Boston Public Library. This building has two very distinct sections, the old and the new. The old half is worth a visit. Enter through the side facing Copley Plaza. Take the marble stairs leading up past two carved lions to the main reading room. Although you’ll have to be quiet because people do study there, take a peek inside. Downstairs you can take tea in the tea rooms or take the door into the inner courtyard, which is also worth viewing. If you do want to visit the newer section, continue through the door on the other side of the courtyard.
Ride on the Swan Boats
In the middle of the Boston Public Gardens is a small lake. Large flat pedal boats with rows of benches and an oversized swan at the back which hides the boat pedals drift back and forth in a short, circular course. These are the Swan Boats. Although, according to the website, this attraction did not originate from the literary inspiration which it is rumored to have, these boats with swans happen to run in the same location where a scene in author E. B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan takes place. If you have small children, they may find this connection fun and enjoy a ride on the boats. Otherwise, stop on the bridge over the lake for a moment to watch before heading to the next literary stop.
Climb on the Make Way for Ducklings Statue
In the corner of the Public Garden near the Beacon Street and Charles Street gate, marches a bronze line of ducklings behind their mother. This statue was inspired by, and pays tribute to, the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. You may have to wait a while to get a photo of it because children love climbing on the statues, but while you wait you can read the copy of the book you purchased earlier at Trident.
Browse Brattle Book Shop’s Outdoor Carts
Down a short side street off the Boston Commons is Boston’s only used bookstore with an outdoor alcove filled with book carts. This is Brattle Book Shop. In good weather the carts fill the empty lot next door to the two-story shop.
Find The Old Corner Bookstore Plaque
Between 1845 and 1865 this bookstore housed the publishers of authors Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, Emerson, Thoreau, and others. Unfortunately the bookstore is long gone and all that’s left of the building’s literary history is a plaque on the exterior of the shop. It has, however, been designated as a stop on the Boston Freedom Trail, so you’ll come across it if you follow the red brick line that starts in the Boston Commons. While it’s no longer possible to step into the bookshop where these greats of American literature once gathered, the last stop on this tour will take you to the restaurant where they all regularly ate.
Dine Like The Saturday Club at Parker’s Restaurant in the Omni Parker House Hotel
End your tour by splurging on a fancy dinner at Parker’s Restaurant. This is where The Saturday Club, the Boston area writers of the early 19th century, who are now considered some of the greatest American writers, met for dinner, readings, and impassioned discussions and philosophising on the last Saturday afternoon of every month. The Transcendentalists of Concord would take the train into the city. Charles Dickens joined them while in the US for a book tour and gave his first American reading of A Christmas Carol here. And Longfellow drafted his famous poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere while meeting with The Saturday Club.
Parker’s Restaurant has a large and fascinating history. It seems anybody who’s been anybody has either dined, stayed, or worked at the Parker House. The most delicious history, however, is that Parker’s is the originator of the Boston Cream Pie, so you’ll definitely want to have one for dessert.
After dessert, head up to the mezzanine level where you’ll find a large mirror at the end of the hall by the elevators. This is the mirror Charles Dickens used to practice in front of before his public readings.
(Note: Parker’s does have a dress code. From the website: “Appropriate dress is required. Jackets for gentlemen preferred. Shorts and shirts without collars are not permitted. Footwear is required.” So leave yourself time during your tour to freshen up for dinner.)
My favorite way to get around Boston is to walk, however there are subway stations almost every 2-3 blocks so getting around Boston is very easy. The first thing you’ll want to do when you arrive in Boston is acquire a Charlie Card, a refillable subway card. With it, each ride is $2.40.
Check out the corresponding vlog: Bookish Boston Vlog
Have you been to Boston? Have I left out any literary destinations? Do you want to go? Have you read any good books that inspire you to travel to Boston? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
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