5 things to do when you visit the North End

If you’re visiting Boston, you must make a stop in the North End to check out the history and eat, eat, eat.

Laura Mangone, Esmeralda Muhaj, and Adela Achim shared a laugh outside Caffe Paradiso on Hanover Street in the North End on June 11, 2020. Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

Boston’s North End is famous for its Italian food, feasts, and streets full of shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. It is a one-square-mile waterfront community not far from Faneuil Hall. Are you visiting Boston? Here are five reasons to spend an afternoon walking through the North End’s cobblestone streets.

The history.

The North End, settled in the early 1600s by English Puritans, is home to some of Boston’s oldest streets. The Freedom Trail, the world-renowned 2.5-mile trail marked with a red line that links 16 nationally significant historic sites, runs through the North End. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, part of the trail, dates from 1659. The North End is also home to the Paul Revere House. Revere, a Revolutionary War patriot, is famous for his ride from Boston to Lexington and Concord to warn the Patriot leaders that the British were coming. Sexton Robert Newman hung the lantern signal for Revere’s ride at Christ Church (commonly known as the Old North Church), which was founded in 1722. The church boasts the oldest set of change ringing bells in North America. The 1713 Clough House is one of Boston’s oldest surviving brick residences. 


The food.

A plate of Mozzarella and Prosciutto, crispy garlic calamari, and arancini at Bacco Ristorante. – Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Visitors flock to the North End largely to eat. With nearly 100 restaurants and bakeries to choose from, there are plenty of options. Most of the cuisine is Italian. Diners can choose from a large and loud restaurant with strolling singers or linger in the quiet corner of a tiny eatery that offers just a handful of tables. Here is a list of North End restaurants. If pizza is your fancy, check out the famous Regina Pizzera, which has been serving up slices of pizza since 1926. Oh, and a delicious dessert from Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry on Hanover Street is a must.

Hanover Street.

Hanover Street is the North End’s “Main Street.’’ After visitors finish their meals, they can kick back with an espresso and gelato after a stroll down the lively and fragrant street. The street is home to countless restaurants as well as boutiques, stores, and ice cream parlors. Be prepared to stand in line at Mike’s Pastry. Or head over to Bova’s Bakery on nearby Salem Street. The North End’s side streets are well worth exploring and offer coffee, butcher, and florist shops, restaurants, bakeries, liquor stores, fish markets, and more. In the mood for a show? Visitors can watch sketch comedy and improvisation performed at the Improv Asylum


The feasts.

Summer festivals and feasts abound in the North End. Saint Anthony’s Feast is the most popular, which has filled the streets of the North End with colorful food, costumes, and song on the last Sunday of August since 1919. It is the largest Italian Religious Festival in New England and was named the “Feast of all Feasts’’ by National Geographic magazine. The cobblestone streets come alive with parades, strolling singers, pushcarts full of authentic Italian foods, live entertainment, and more. The highlight of the feast is the 10-hour procession of the Statue of Saint Anthony through the streets, complete with marching bands and floats. Other feasts include the Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso di Sciacca and St. Agrippina di Mineo Feast.

The architecture.

Paul Revere began his famous journey to Lexington from his house in the North End. – Christopher Klein for The Boston Globe

The Paul Revere House, downtown Boston’s oldest building, was built around 1680. Revere bought the Elizabethan Tudor-style home, known for its beam construction, gables, and overhanging first floors, in 1770. The house boasts period details such as decorative brackets, pendant ornaments, diamond panes on the casement windows, and decorative nail patterns in the doors. The former McLaughlin Elevator Building is the oldest cast-iron building in New England and now houses condominiums. Its Italianate style structure was popular between 1840 and 1855. The early Georgian style of Old North Church echoes the style of the London churches designed by Christopher Wren. The Pierce-Hitchborn House, built around 1711, is an example of early Georgian architecture and is one of the earliest remaining brick structures in Boston. It is now a museum.


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