Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

5-Hour Itinerary: A Day in the Back Bay

5-Hour Itinerary is a series—based on the New York Times’ “36 Hours”—in which we serve as your guide to the ultimate Boston day-trip, stringing together thoughtfully chosen locations into a one-of-a-kind itinerary.

Face it: finding time to trek into Boston can be difficult for the busy Boston College student. However, that doesn’t mean that dreams of a city adventure have to be hopeless. If you make visiting the city a priority now before you wind up buried beneath a semester’s worth of work, you’ll thank yourself. Students looking to break out of the BC bubble often find the popular Back Bay a good place to start. Known for its shopping and restaurants, this area's convenient location along the Green Line make it remarkably easy to spend a day there. Take the D branch to Hynes Convention Center—in no time, you'll find yourself in the perfect spot to kick off your time in the city. To help guide you once you've arrived, The Gavel has compiled a list of the best locales to shop, eat, and unwind in the Back Bay.  

1. The Shops on Newbury

A visit to Newbury Street offers the chance to explore trendy boutiques and street vendors, all while walking past beautiful brownstone buildings. The shops are endless and easy to stroll past without losing too much time.

Anyone looking to venture into the wide array of shops has plenty of options to choose from, including Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Francesca’s, and Kate Spade. The outdoors enthusiast can find a different sort of shopping experience, with shops such as Patagonia, Nike, Timberland, and The North Face. Located alongside these recognizable brands are specialty shops, many of which are found in few locations outside of Newbury. Meanwhile, vendors that sell paintings and custom jewelry are perfect for the more artistically-inclined. 

Since any of these stops can quickly become pricey, there are always other alternatives. Gallery-hopping is also an option, and browsing the former mansions located all along Newbury Street is a leisurely and cost-free way to spend your time.

2. Restaurants

As you stroll through Boston's beautiful streets, you will undoubtedly work up an appetite. Luckily for you, brunch, lunch, or dinner can all be enjoyed once you've reached the Back Bay. Stephanie’s on Newbury and the Met Back Bay both make great spots for brunch, each offering unique dishes and a comfortable seating.

If you’re looking for something more casual, Cafeteria Boston offers great comfort food with a trendy spin. Outdoor seating is a great way to get a view of the shops along Newbury Street while sitting beneath fairy lights. For a unique eating experience, try Trident Booksellers and Cafe, an independent bookstore that also offers great food.

3. Coffee Shops

When faced with your inevitable caffeine cravings, don’t be lured in by Starbucks. While in the city, take the chance to try an uncommon café that can’t be found closer to campus. For a great atmosphere, try Thinking Cup, home not only to specialty teas and coffees but well-made pastries and café food. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, look into the Wired Puppy, a European style café with only two locations: Boston and Provincetown.

4. Boston Public Garden

If you walk from the Hynes Convention Center to the end of Newbury Street, you will hit the entrance to the Boston Public Garden, adjacent to Boston Common. Trips in the garden in warm weather are good for lazy strolls, and the blooming flowers and statues make for easy photo ops. In the warmer months, try a 15-minute Swan Boat ride for $3.50—if only to say you’ve done so before you leave BC—and enjoy an idyllic ride around the Public Garden Lagoon.

Although the Public Garden is the closer of the two, there’s no reason not to venture into the Common. Come winter the Frog Pond, located in the Boston Common, turns into an ice skating rink. Keep an eye out for BC student nights at the pond through the Campus Activities Board, which provides discounted ticket and skate rental prices.

5. Copley Square

If you venture one street over onto Boylston Street, you will find Copley Square. A great spot for sightseeing., it has a lively atmosphere and offers many places to explore.

There’s easy access to Old South Church and Trinity Church, both of which offer tours year-round. Tours of Trinity Church are normally $7; however, Trinity Church offers free guided tours on Sundays. From May 12 through Nov. 21, you can check out the Copley Square Farmers Market. Street musicians often provide entertainment, weather permitting.

6. Boston Public Library

Across from Copley Square is the entrance to the Boston Public Library. With architecture and murals beautiful enough to belong to a museum, the library is a must-visit. One can experience the library in under half an hour, but those looking to explore more deeply will not be disappointed in taking their time browsing the many floors and sections.

If you’re seeking a quick snack to perfectly complete your Boston adventure, the Map Room Café is the the library’s in-house café where you can get a sandwich and a cup of coffee. The BPL's restaurant, called Novel, is a great place to kick back after a long day in the city to grab a late lunch and sip on some tea before your train ride back home to BC.

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