Faneuil Hall & Quincy marketplace are two large indoor spaces protected from the weather, which is especially nice when hanging out in Boston during the winter holidays. Boston is a very windy city with open waterfront, and this complex is a pleasant location to warm up, walk around, check out decorations, eat and shop. At Christmas it is a festive place with music and entertainment.
With so many attractions in this part of town, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace are arguably the epicenter, surrounded by a large outdoor plaza that connects with other shops and restaurants housed in gorgeous stone warehouses.
Despite its touristy panderings, Faneuil Hall is worth a visit–after all, it has been a marketplace and political gathering place in Boston for about 270 years, why not? Boston’s waterfront underwent years of revitalization and has been so ensconced in the city’s collective conscious, that one cannot imagine what it would be like not to have this tremendous commercial success around.
When the waterfront was reborn about 35 or 40 years ago, Faneuil Hall received more visitors per year than Disney!
If I remember correctly, the waterfront revitalization of the late 20th century started with the New England Aquarium as the anchor feature (no pun intended.) I do remember it was a huge topic of discussion and news story for the longest time. My parents were among the guests at the glitzy opening gala.
Faneuil Hall was originally a commercial center located right at Boston’s waterfront edge. In due time, the shoreline was filled in, as was much of the city, and now Faneuil Hall is a few blocks from the waterfront–although it hasn’t moved an inch!
By the mid 1800s, businesses out grew Fanueil Hall, and the large parthenon-like building, Quincy Marketplace, was built right behind it. The new structure was named after the city’s mayor at the time, Josiah Quincy, and not John Quincy Adams, the esteemed hometown boy who became the sixth President of the United States.
According to Wikipedia, dear old Josiah Quincy organized the construction of the second commercial building without any tax or debt! Jiminy Cricket! We coulda used him during the Big Dig!
The entire complex is set on a brick and cobblestone plaza, and includes three restored 19th century buildings in Neoclassic and Greek Revival architecture. The two structures house restaurants, shops, offices and public gathering places. Massachusetts’ feisty political spirit lives on in Faneuil Hall as all state and federal election have at least one candidates’ debate here during campaigns.
Boston’s waterfront obviously spans miles, and acres of it have been going through a continual revitalization in one shape or form from the city’s earliest days. More recent phases have been in Chelsea (including the Chelsea Navy Yard where my grandfather worked as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy), the South Boston Seaport District, and xxx.
‘Anchors’ of the Seaport is the World Trade Center and the newest home of ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art). Previous draws to the area were restaurants like internationally-acclaimed Anthony’s Pier 4; my absolute favorite as a kid! The ICA design is celebrated for its cantilever auditorium that hangs over the water, outdoor decks, and the long corridor with benches on one of the upper floors on the waterside, that is an excellent space for quiet contemplation or lively conversations and meetings.
Starting from the ICA, there is a long promenade all along the water to Rowe’s Wharf with its ginormous vaulted archway. This hardscape trail is an excellent contiguous walking and jogging path with several gathering places along the way. When I was last there, it was a long stretch of hard surface, with no green space or shade along the walkways or seating areas.
The restaurants at Rowe’s Wharf have outside seating in summer and it’s a great location for a casual, but cosmopolitan atmosphere.
But, I digress! Back to Faneuil Hall!
The setup is similar to Pike’s Market in Seattle, with many nosh spots to sample, along with souvenir shopping. But the similarity ends there because Pike’s Market is an actual food market with high quality and good selection.
Haymarket Square straddles Faneuil Hall and the North End and has a twice weekly open air produce market with very reasonably priced items year-round where the locals shop.
Another reason for Faneuil Hall’s popularity is its prime location between City Hall and Government Center, the waterfront bars, hotels, restaurants, New England Aquarium, the North End’s Italian restaurants and bakeries, and the Financial District. It’s not too far from the Downtown shopping district either.
Many of the condos in the area are in similar stone buildings with plank flooring and beamed ceilings overlooking the water. It was the hottest and coolest new place to live around the time the revitalization was completed and remains a desirable location.
Faneuil Hall is always packed, and In summer the plaza is filled with locals and tourists grabbing lunch or dinner, soaking up some rays and watching the street performers. On mild winter December days, carolers and bell ringers entertain shoppers and revelers.
Back Bay Handbell Ringers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzVZ-cYL9M0
Locals, and former residents who now live in the ‘burbs, come back year-round for the Haymarket Square Farmers Market. There are shops selling meats, fish and cheese next door to the produce vendors. Unfortunately, the produce is not locally sourced, but purchased from a wholesaler in the area. But the prices are considered very reasonable and nothing beats shopping in an outdoor market. I’ll get into that more in a later blog post.
Here are a few excellent shots Haymarket Square in earlier days: http://www.bostonmuseum.org/haymarket/history.html