Maryland’s largest city can feel a little overwhelming at times (especially on Orioles game days) but Baltimore is much more manageable—and enjoyable—when you understand its neighborhoods and what they have to offer. From historic Fell’s Point to the Harbor and Federal Hill, each neighborhood has something unique to offer.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is where a lot of the city's main tourist attractions can be found including Maryland Science Center, which has a planetarium and observatory; the National Aquarium, which has more than 17,000 sea animals, including giant turtles, dolphins, and electric eels; Port Discovery Children’s Museum, which has hands-on activities for kids up to age 10; the Top of the World Observation Level in Baltimore’s World Trade Center, which offers sweeping views of the city; and a collection of historic warships docked inside the harbor. There are also several companies offering sightseeing cruises around the bay and plenty of shops and restaurants. If you’re a baseball fan, you can’t miss a game at nearby Camden Yards.
Amazingly, Fell’s Point is older than the city itself, and it is the first neighborhood in Maryland to be listed on the National Register of Historic Districts. Today, it is home to locally owned boutiques, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, making it a favorite hangout for locals and visitors. Located just east of the Inner Harbor, Fell’s Point manages to maintain a small town feel no matter how much development occurs around it.
Some highlights include the new-ish Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, a hotel in a historic building with an acclaimed restaurant by NYC Chef Andrew Carmellini; pastry shop Sacre Sucre; historic tavern-turned-neighborhood bar One Eyed Mike’s; charming bookstore Greedy Reads; brunch mainstay Blue Moon Cafe; famed oyster spot Thames Street Oyster House; and the 233-year-old Broadway Market, which was reborn in 2019 as a food hall. For a more historic stay, book a room at the Admiral Fell Inn, which has previously been a boarding house for sailors, a vinegar bottling factory, and home to shipbuilders developing the Fell’s Point seaport.
Did you know there’s a village square in Baltimore? It’s at the heart of the waterfront neighborhood Canton and is populated with restaurants, pubs, and shops surrounded by traditional Baltimore rowhouses. Canton Waterfront Park (home to the annual Baltimore Seafood Festival) has 8 acres of harbor views, Chesapeake Bay access, and multi-use trails and you’ll spy Fort McHenry sitting prominently across the water. You can also access the beginning of the Waterfront Promenade here. When hunger strikes, head to Alma Cocina Latina for authentic arepas, and if you’re an Edgar Allen Poe fan (the famous poet lived and is buried in Baltimore), grab a drink at the gothic-themed Annabel Lee—named after one of his poems.
Hampden originated in 1802 as a group of homes built for workers in the mills of Jones Falls Valley. It has since reinvented itself as the Brooklyn of Baltimore, a thriving community of independent and locally-owned shops, restaurants, and businesses. Must-visits along the main drag include craft chocolate and shoe store Ma Petite Shoe, home goods store Trohv, The Charmery ice cream shop, comic and art book store Atomic Books, and the exceptional Bluebird Cocktail Room. Hampden also plays host to some of Baltimore’s best events and festivals, including the Mayor’s Christmas Parade, HONfest, and Hampdenfest.
Known for its picturesque views of the Inner Harbor seen from the park atop its namesake Federal Hill, this historic district is filled with classic brick rowhouses, cobblestone streets, and hidden narrow alleys. At the heart is Cross Street Market, a fresh food market that first opened back in 1846 and is currently undergoing a $7.3 million renovation. Surrounding the market is a variety of antique stores, restaurants, taverns serving locally brewed craft beer, and art galleries. The highlight of the neighborhood is the unmissable American Visionary Art Museum. We say unmissable both because you can’t help but notice its mirrored, sparkly facade, and because the outsider art housed inside is a must-see.
Baltimore’s Mount Vernon is a designated National Landmark Historic District and a City Cultural District. The community features some of the most beautiful and best-preserved 19th-century architecture in the country, with gorgeous homes facing small parks that surround the area’s centerpiece, the Washington Monument. The monument is the first formal monument to George Washington built in a U.S. city. Another cultural highlight is the Walters Art Museum, which displays 550 years of art, from Egyptian mummies to 19th-century masterpiece paintings.
There are also two great hotels in this neighborhood: Hotel Revival, which opened in 2018 and features Topside restaurant, private karaoke rooms, and an enclosed rooftop bar, and The Ivy Hotel, the only Relais & Chateaux property in Maryland, set inside a restored 1890s mansion with just 18 rooms, a spa, and the acclaimed Magdalena restaurant.
Harbor East/Harbor Point
One of Baltimore’s newest neighborhoods, Harbor East is a developing area between Fell’s Point and the Inner Harbor. Industrial warehouses have become high-end shops and local boutiques, trendy restaurants like Charleston, and several hotels including the Four Seasons Baltimore, which has one of the city’s best rooftop bars. History buffs will want to check out the Baltimore Civil War Museum at President Street Station, which is the oldest railroad station in an urban environment. The museum explores the city's role in the Civil War and its connections to the Underground Railroad. Nearby is Harbor Point, which is currently being developed into 27 acres of mixed-use space including waterfront parks. The Sandlot, a summertime artificial beach complete with volleyball and tropical drinks, has already opened for business.
Established by German Americans in 1866, Highlandtown is home to one of Baltimore’s three official arts and entertainment districts. There are dozens of artist studios open to the public each month, several community theater companies, street art like the BUS stop sculpture, and a thriving multi-arts space, the Creative Alliance, which is inside the landmark Patterson Movie Theater. Residents are an eclectic mix of immigrants from places including Poland, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Mexico, Honduras, and Cuba which means there’s a wide array of cuisine available.
Just north of Baltimore’s Penn Station, Station North is the place to see murals, thanks to innovative street art projects. Open Walls Baltimore is an outdoor exhibition of 38 murals and installations created by street artists from around the world and curated by international street art leader and Baltimore artist Gaia, whose tiger mural welcomes you on Maryland Avenue. In addition to the commissioned murals is Graffiti Alley, the only place in Baltimore where graffiti art is legal. As the city's first designated arts district there are also plenty of galleries, event and music venues, and restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Pigtown’s roots are as a community of railroad workers. The country’s first railroad tracks were laid in Baltimore, and much of that locomotive history can still be experienced in two railroad museums. You can even ride a train along the first mile-and-a-half stretch of track laid in the United States at the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum, which also has the oldest collection of trains in America—from locomotives to old freight cars to passenger cars. One block north is the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, also known as the Irish Shrine, which is established in a few old row houses where the workers once lived.