It’s hard to miss the Inner Harbor, with its bevy of museums and waterfront activities, but if you’re looking to expand your horizons, we have plenty of communities ready to welcome you. Here are a few of the ones we recommend visiting to get an authentic feel for Baltimore’s diversity and culture. But don’t limit yourself to these ten—there is so much to discover.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Baltimore, this area was once a bustling shipbuilding port. Fell’s Point’s visage has remained largely unchanged since its founding—picturesque stone streets, waterfront restaurants and cozy boutiques. Travel back in time with a stop at the oldest-standing residence in Baltimore City, the Robert Long House, which is open for tours by reservation. While you’re in the area, learn about Fell’s Point’s history at home to the first African American-owned shipyard in the country at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum. Then stop for a drink at the city’s oldest bar, The Horse You Came In On Saloon (rumored to be Edgar Allan Poe’s last stop before his mysterious death).
Once a 19th-century blue-collar mill town that has evolved into the epicenter of hipster Baltimore kitsch, Hampden’s main drag, aka “The Avenue,” is a great place to grab a bite, share a beer, check out some local shops and catch the overall vibe. Stop by Café Hon, a classic diner that celebrates the city’s working-class women of the 1960s who spoke “Bawlmerese.” (“Hon” is short for “honey” and is a favorite term of endearment for locals.) Each June, the spirit of the hons comes to life during Honfest which fills The Avenue with food, drinks, music and bee hive hairdos.
Known for its sweeping views of the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill is characterized by historic brick rowhomes and locally-owned shops and restaurants. It’s also home to a mix of newcomers and families that have lived here for generations. Must-sees include the American Visionary Art Museum, Cross Street Market and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Plus, Federal Hill is right next door to Locust Point, where Fort McHenry beckons to history buffs.
Mount Vernon is an elegant neighborhood filled with grand old mansions that once belonged to Baltimore’s 19th-century industrialists. Today, the neighborhood is a National Landmark Historic District filled with museums, shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. There is so much to see and do in this neighborhood, but we recommend a stop at the Washington Monument, the Walters Art Museum, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Maryland Historical Society. Then stay for a performance from the world-renowned Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District
While this area’s designation as an arts and entertainment district may still be in its infancy, the neighborhood has had a long history as a cultural center for the city’s African American community. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Pennsylvania Avenue was the place to go to see the latest singers and musicians perform, most notably at the Royal Theater, which hosted entertainers like Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and James Brown. Unfortunately, the theater no longer exists, but a monument stands in its honor. Keep an eye on this neighborhood for big things to come soon—proposed ideas for include a museum devoted to jazz legend Cab Calloway, or a museum for Black women’s history.
Canton & Brewers Hill
The heart of this waterfront neighborhood is a quaint village square rimmed with restaurants, pubs and shops along O’Donnell Street. But wander off Canton Square to the surrounding blocks and find the quintessential Baltimore, from the nearly-lost Baltimore art form of the painted screen to rows of classic marble stoops on traditional Baltimore brick and formstone row houses. Canton Waterfront Park is a hot spots for events like WTMD’s First Thursdays, an outdoor summer concert series, and the annual Baltimore Seafood Festival.
Next door, Brewers Hill gets its name from the two landmark breweries it was once home to: National Brewery and Gunther Brewing. You’ll know you’re there when you look up and spot the winking Mr. Boh illuminated at the top of the tower where National Bohemian (or Natty Boh) was once produced.
Little Italy is a small but mighty community full of families that have lived here for generations, many of which own the plethora of delicious Italian restaurants on every block. To name a few: Germano’s Piattini has an active cabaret line-up, Café Gia is known for its colorful mural and balcony, Aldo’s Ristorante and La Tavola are top picks for fine dining, and family-owned favorite Sabatino’s has been around for generations. The neighborhood also hosts a number of events throughout the year, like the Feasts of St. Anthony and St. Gabriel and the Madonnari Arts Festival in the fall.
Just east of the Inner Harbor, where industrial warehouses once stood, you’ll now find upscale hotels, high-end stores and locally-owned boutiques. And the dining options are just as good. Some favorites include: Charleston, Cinghiale, The Bygone, Tagliata, The Elk Room, Loch Bar, Maximon, Azumi, Ouzo Bay, James Joyce Irish Pub, Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion, Apropoe’s, Lebanese Taverna and The Oceanaire. And don’t forget to stop at the Civil War Museum at President Street Station, where President Abraham Lincoln once stopped to avoid an assassination attempt.
Port Covington is the site of a master redevelopment plan started by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank that is transforming this formerly industrial port area into a hub of economic growth. Currently it’s home to Sagamore Spirit Distillery, Americana restaurant Rye Street Tavern, maker space City Garage, seafood restaurant Nick’s Fish House and waterfront hangout South Point. Soon it will be filled with a food hall, hotel and updated green space.
Pigtown was named in the late 1800s when cargo railcars from the Midwest would let loads of pigs out, which created a spectacle as they ran through the streets to their final destination. The neighborhood is now home to the annual Pigtown Festival which honors that heritage with the “Squeakness” pig races during a weekend full of food, drinks and music. Here you’ll also find the Mount Clare Museum House in Carroll Park, Mobtown Ballroom and the B&O Railroad Museum.