Located in downtown Boston,
Government Center sits at the crossroads of the North End, the West End and Beacon Hill,
putting much of Boston's best city life within walking distance, including restaurants and shopping. At the heart of Government Center lies City Hall, surrounded by the expansive, modern City Hall Plaza. The streets here are lined with court houses
and office towers, making for busy urban streets in the day that empty out after dark. However, those who live nearby enjoy first rate public transit, with all four subway lines within walking distance, along with the feeling of being at the center of it all.
Restaurants & Nightlife
In addition to the food trucks and lunch spots inside Government Center, residents find a number of eateries just a few blocks in any direction. To the east near Faneuil Hall, locals find New American cuisine, steak houses and seafood, while Mediterranean, French, Middle Eastern and gastropubs stand to the south and west.
Lunch favorite Zo serves what may well be Boston's best gyro, along with soups and salads. The small spot hides inside a large office building, where regulars come for the chicken or pork gyro, served with meat heaped on a warm pita and drizzled with creamy tzatziki sauce. Prices are low for the large portions, and though it has no wait service, customers can sit inside or take their meal to the patio tables overlooking the John Adams courthouse.
Customers come from all over to sample the French cuisine at Marliave, awarded Boston Magazine's title of Best Downtown Restaurant. The classic menu receives high praise, from the Caesar salads and rarebits to steak frites, but the special mention goes to the seared scallops and the oysters, which are half price during happy hour. The refined atmosphere evokes the glamour of a bygone era with brass railings and black-and-white tiled floors, making it a good choice to impress first dates or potential clients. Upstairs, the additional dining room has a more modern feel with large windows and crisp table linens, good for big parties and family celebrations.
Past Pemberton Square, customers order classic seafood and burger fare with contemporary twists at Scollay Square. The neighborhood spot has a fun atmosphere that's dressed up by the old architecture with soaring ceilings and Corinthian columns. Standouts include the gooey lobster mac and cheese and the lightly fried fish and chips. Regulars also recommend coming for the crab cake Benedict at brunch.
At night, locals head out to one of the many taverns and lounges near Pemberton Square and Downtown Crossing or dance to pop hits on Chatham Street near Faneuil Hall. At 21st Amendment, locals mingle with out-of-towners at the wooden bar, where they order festive yet unfussy cocktails like a gin and tonic with fresh lime juice or Irish-whiskey eggnog, along with guinness and IPAs on tap. The bar has an old tavern feel with exposed rafters, latticed windows and small tables that fill up during happy hour, and the contemporary dinner menu includes pub favorites such as the popular nachos loaded with chili and grilled chicken or white pizza topped with prosciutto and artichoke hearts.
The bars downtown tend toward upscale lounges or moderately priced pubs. One notable exception is The Hideout, a no-frills spot with white-washed brick walls that serves relatively cheap brews, along with top picks like Angry Orchard and Grey Lady Ale. Formerly known as the Black Horse Tavern, this local watering hole has an easy going atmosphere, and the lack of crowds makes for a nice change of pace. The establishment also serves oysters and dinner fare, and the open mic on Thursdays attracts Boson's better up-and-coming comedians.
History & Culture
Formerly known as Scollay Square, Government Center was created in the early 1960s when the Victorian-era city hall was demolished alongside whole city blocks to make room for the new municipal plaza. The site of the Boston Massacre lies on State Street at the corner of Devonshire Street, where British soldiers opened fire on a taunting crowd, killing five and fueling passion for independence across New England.
The massacre is re-enacted every year at the Old State House, which once served as headquarters for the colonial state legislature and today houses a Revolutionary War museum exhibiting artifacts such as tea from the Boston Tea Party. Nearby at the Orpheum Theatre, music fans come to Boston's oldest theater to see favorite bands, as well as musicals. Every year, thousands pack into City Hall Plaza for Boston Calling, a three-day annual festival that attracts such talents as Modest Mouse and Jack Johnson.
Government Center caters to pedestrians and commuters with wide, busy sidewalks and some of the best public transit in Boston. Walking is the preferred mode of transit here, and many residents live car-free. Shops and markets in neighboring Downtown Crossing make it relatively easy to run errands on foot, and locals can quickly hail a cab, especially during the day, with Uber servicing the area for backup.
Commuters have access to every subway line within walking distance. T train riders can pick up the blue or orange lines from State Street station or walk a few extra blocks for the green line at Haymarket Station or the red line at Park Station. Local bus routes provide additional options for service to North Station,
Charlestown or Woburn.
The flat streets are excellent for biking, and cyclists can cut through City Hall Plaza or ride the dedicated bike lanes that follow route 1. Though the streets to the north are a bit less friendly, Downtown Crossing has many good routes, and the nearby financial district has a whole network of dedicated lanes.
Though no cars are permitted on City Hall Plaza, several major thoroughfares pass directly by the area, including Congress Street and Cambridge Street. Drivers have their pick of expressways to reach I-90 and I-93; however, downtown traffic slows down departures for weekend getaways. Parking proves another hassle. Even metered parking is scarce on weekdays, though you can often find a space on weekends, and parking garages provide a backup plan, albeit at a cost.
Government Center's convenient location comes with a high price tag. Though things like groceries and utilities are typical for Boston, housing costs are high. The average one-bedroom
here rents for $3,445, 70 percent higher than the city average. Meals at the many upscale restaurants add up, and a beer at the bar typically costs $6, although there are more affordable options if you look. Gas prices are 10 percent higher here than the national average, but a one-way fare on the subway costs $2.65, and expect to pay $2.10 for the bus.
Though the news stands and cafes that line Government Center cater to office workers, you can find a wealth of shops within walking distance on Washington Street, including department stores, national clothing chains, and boutique clothing for men and women. To the east sits historic Quincy Market, a famous shopping center that attracts visitors with everything from Ann Taylor and Coach to Newbury Comics and the Black Dog while street performers outside perform magic tricks.
Located in the neighborhood's Fanueil Hall Marketplace, Local Charm offers visitors one-of-a-kind, stunning jewelry for gifts or to treat yourself. This tiny shop offers knowledgeable staff members who are always willing to help you find exactly what you want. Locals are charmed by the exquisite array at affordable prices.
Head over to Spring Lane and browse through Commonwealth Books for titles new and old at reasonable prices, including a huge fiction section, a large collection of out-of-print and collectible books, and bins of antique prints. Books that don't fit onto the many shelves get stacked on the floor, though the staff can tell you with surprising speed if your title is in stock or not, and the relaxed atmosphere invites book lovers to linger over the shelves.
For the weekly grocery shop, locals can walk about 10 minutes to the Whole Foods in the neighboring West End or shop at the small markets surrounding the area, including the beloved Italian grocer Salumeria Italiana in the North End, where you find freshly baked bread, prosciutto and shelf staples that include black squid ink pasta. During warm months, residents find fresh fruit and vegetables at the Boston Public Market on the Greenway every Monday and Wednesday. Though not a large farmers market, the location sells a nice variety, including baked goods, ice cream, fresh fish, meat and nuts.
Though the Government Center area is short on parks, residents find many small green spaces just a few blocks away, as well as large parks within walking distance. Visitors to Union Park can sit under the old shade trees on the tiny green, or head further east to the lush open lawns of North End Park for sunbathing, where free Wi-Fi lets you work while enjoying the beautiful weather and watching the kids play in the water spray fountains. Parents bring children to the small playground at Cutillo Park, which also has basketball courts, or take the little ones to the inexpensive Greenway Carousel for a ride on the lobsters, rabbits and soaring eagles.
A 10-minute walk away, the gardens, gazebos and winding paths of Boston Common still retain their historic and tranquil beauty. The 50-acre grounds claim the title of the nation's oldest public park, which today has added softball fields, tennis courts, and a playground with swings, slides and climbing structures. People feed ducks at the Frog Pond, a shallow reflecting pool that transforms into an ice skating rink every winter. Further west at the Public Gardens, visitors can rent one of the city's iconic swan boats to paddle on the water and take in the sights.
For free summer events, locals trek over to the Christopher Columbus Park for Sunday movie nights or the Waterfront
Performing Arts Series, which has hosted performances ranging from opera and ballet to blue grass and musical theater. Closer to home, City Hall Plaza stages a free gospel showcase every year, along with a night of Latin music and dance troupes.