Location and orientation
Boston is a compact city located on the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts. It is a peninsula formed by Boston Harbor, the Charles River, and the Fort Point Channel.
Boston proper is small, only 119 sq.km/ 46 sq.mi., more than a quarter of which is water. Back Bay and South Boston, both highly successful landfill projects, replaced the sea in those areas.
Just over 636,000 people live within the city limits. The entire metro area is home to about six million. It is the fourth most densely populated city in the United States - after Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
Layout of the city
Boston's North End is the historic heart of the city. The North End and part of the waterfront lies north of the Interstate 93, also known as the Central Expressway.
South of I-93 lies the core of downtown, with Government Center and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Further south is the Financial District, which extends to part of the eastern waterfront.
Beacon Hill is west of downtown and east of the Charles River. Boston Common and the Public Gardens, to the southwest, comprise the city's major park area. Chinatown is south of the Common. Further southwest are the Back Bay, South End and Fenway areas.
Across the Charles River, north of Boston, lies Cambridge, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Boston has a rich history and is perhaps best known for its role in the Revolutionary War. Dissenters of Britain's Anglican Church settled the area in the 17th century. Massachusetts became the seat of revolutionary sentiment as England tried to rule the new colonies from across the ocean.
Bostonians' resistance to British rule led to such events as the Boston Tea Party – an insurrection against a British-imposed tea tax – and the Battle of Bunker Hill, where colonists matched the British army. Marking the day the British departed Boston in 1776, Evacuation Day – March 17 – is still an official holiday for the city of Boston.
The city's later history is given more to literary notables. By the late 19th century, resident writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Henry David Thoreau had left their marks on Boston.
Many of Boston's suburbs, including Salem to the north and Plymouth to the south, also have their own colorful histories. Living with the past is a part of daily life in the metro Boston area.
Native New Englanders posses a staunch pride in their historical region. Daily life is infused with reminders: businessmen hustle past a centuries-old graveyard on busy Tremont Street; the Old North Church (where Paul Revere warned that the British were coming) stands at one end of bustling Faneuil Hall Marketplace; and the painted line of the Freedom Trail, marking events of Boston's history, is underfoot downtown.
Boston is also a technology hub. The presence of MIT and the concentration of high-tech companies along Route 128 draw bright students and talented professionals. Excellent medical education, treatment, and research also help define the area.
Adding another element to Boston's flavor is its plethora of educational institutions. Boston Public Latin School, today an elite public high school, was established in 1635 by early colonists. Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, and Tufts are just some of the more than 40 colleges and universities in the metro area. This is the largest concentration of such institutions in the United States.
College sports are popular in Boston, but professional sports bring out the most powerful emotions in the locals. Avid fans fill professional sports venues regularly, but the enthusiasm is not always positive. Even die-hard fans can be brutally candid when their teams do poorly, and the local press is similarly caustic.
A walkable city
Some people say Boston feels somewhat like a small European city. Due to its small size and the difficulty of driving downtown, people frequently walk or cycle when not taking the subway, or the T. You might see a young professional woman leave her office in the financial district at the end of the day, don running shoes with her suit, and walk to Back Bay for to meet friends in an upscale cafe.
People often find serenity in the Boston Common or the Public Gardens. Watching the swan boats traverse the pond from an arched footbridge is a favorite springtime pastime. For those who battle Boston traffic to enter the city, such respites are welcome.
Newcomers will find Boston to be an interesting mix of history and high technology, of energy and calm, of intellect and emotion.