Discovering Baltimore: Three Charm City Neighborhoods You Need To Know
Baltimore surprised me. With it’s proximity to Washington DC, Philadelphia and the Chesapeake Bay, (all areas I know very well) I thought I knew what to expect; but Baltimore is never what you expect. I saw elements of the coastal South that I now call home and vestiges of the industrial Pennsylvania town where I grew up. It’s a place where you’ll find fried green tomatoes and scrapple on the same menu. It’s a working class town where the real charm is in its neighborhoods, where you’re as likely to chat up a stranger over a can of Natty Boh as a craft cocktail. Most visitors come to Baltimore to visit the Inner Harbor, catch a Ravens or Orioles game or dine on some of Maryland’s famous blue crabs. These are all fine reasons to visit but to discover the real Baltimore you need to check out a few of it’s distinct neighborhoods. Whether you’re looking for centuries of history and cobblestone streets or something a little more modern and funky you’ll soon find out how charming Baltimore can be.
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Since I was staying at the Hotel Indigo, a former YMCA that’s been renovated into a stylish boutique hotel, I first decided to check out nearby Mt. Vernon. With grand nineteenth century architecture, charming garden-filled parks and a gothic-style church Mt. Vernon is regarded as one of the most beautiful historic districts in the US and would not look out of place in Europe’s capital cities. The centerpiece of Mt. Vernon is the Washington Monument, built in 1815 as the first monument to honor George Washington (the Washington Monument on the National Mall in DC didn’t open until 1888). A climb of the monument’s 220 steps lead to one of the best views in Baltimore.
The Walters Art Museum houses one of the most comprehensive art collections in the country with pieces spanning over 55 centuries. On the other side of North Charles Street the George Peabody Library, a research center for Johns Hopkins University, stands as a shrine to the written word. 300,000 books fill the six floors of the library; decorative cast-iron columns, touches of gold leaf and a soaring 61-foot ceiling make the Peabody a beautiful space for events.
Having worked up a hunger head to nearby Lexington Market, a must for any visit to Baltimore. This historic market has been in operation since 1782 and with over 100 vendors offers a true taste of Baltimore. Check out Faidley’s Seafood for some of the best crab cakes in the city then head to Berger’s Bakery for Baltimore’s iconic(and addicitve) fudge covered cookies.
Portland and Austin may keep things weird but Baltimore is the capital of East Coast quirk. The epicenter of Baltimore’s eclectic charms is Hampden, a traditional blue collar community that is now home to artists, young professionals and a uniquely zany vibe that you won’t find anywhere else. Browse the shelves at Atomic Books, an independent bookstore with a bar in the back that stands as a shrine to pulp culture, you may even see native son John Waters when he picks up his fan mail here. A few blocks away a three story flamingo marks your arrival at Cafe Hon, a kitschy cafe serving up Maryland diner classics. Be sure to stop by the Charmery for a some of the best ice cream in the city, nothing says Baltimore like a scoop of the Charmery’s Old Bay Salted Caramel.
A block away from Duff Goldman’s Charm City Cakes in nearby Remington R.House is a modern food hall that serves as a launch pad for some of Baltimore’s enterprising new chefs. Be.bim lets you create your own bebimbop from a buffet of veggies, grilled meat and their selection of signature kimchi while BRD focuses on irresistible crispy fried chicken sammies finished with topped with one of their housemade sauces. Local craft beer and scratch-made cocktails have made R.Bar one of Baltimore’s hottest happy hour spots.
Due east of the famous Inner Harbor lies Fell’s Point, a neighborhood older than Baltimore itself and the first neighborhood in Maryland to be included on the National Register of Historic Districts. Charming brick paved streets are home to some of Baltimore’s oldest businesses as well as a handful of independent boutiques, restaurants and pubs. Serving Fell’s Point since 1786, the Broadway Market serves up a taste of B’More ( the handmade pierogis at Sophia’s Place are not to be missed) while local boutique Hats in the Belfry offers a curated selection of hats that are both classic and on trend. Fell’s Point is also home to the Sagamore-Pendry, Baltimore’s hottest luxury hotel.
Nearby in Brewer’s Hill Gunther&Co served up one of the best meals I’ve had this year. A 16 foot living green wall softens the exposed brick interior of this renovated brewery and also provide fresh herbs for the restaurant. The menu changes frequently based on what’s in season locally but with a raw bar and the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean nearby seafood is always a good bet. Gently seared rockfish with tender fingerling potatoes and fava beans was complimented by a bold tomato-saffron broth spiked with paprika.
Find flights to Baltimore’s BWI airport
Baltimore is spread out, when travelling in between neighborhoods it’s best to go by car.
It’s fun to stay at the Hotel Indigo Baltimore, a renovated YMCA turned boutique hotel near Mt. Vernon and the Inner Harbor
The Ivy Hotel offers timeless luxury in the heart of Mt. Vernon
Spoil yourself at the Sagamore Pendry in Fell’s Point