A Modern Take on Historic Boston

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Jul 14, 2010
Mandarin Oriental Boston
Mandarin Oriental Boston / Photo courtesy of the property

A major part of Boston’s romantic appeal has always been its historic charm – and brownstone-lined Commonwealth Avenue and cobblestoned Beacon Hill are not going anywhere. But couples who want to enjoy the city’s celebrated past while also indulging in all things hip and modern, take note: Boston’s newest, sleekest side is pretty darn sexy. Here are my picks for staying and playing in style.

Mandarin Oriental, Boston
Less than a year old, this 136-room, 12-suite luxury hotel offers stylish serenity, from its inviting marble lobby with fireplace and artwork by Frank Stella and David Hockney (the hotel has 35 museum-quality pieces) to its spacious Asian-inspired Back Bay rooms (shown above) with divine bathrooms and views over neighboring rooftops. The Spa is a stunner, with a Sanctuary Suite for couples and separate women’s and men’s “heat and water” areas with crystal steam room, vitality pool, and experience shower. Plus, the Boylston Street locale, one block from shop-lined Newbury Street and a short stroll from Boston Common and Beacon Hill, make it ideal for enjoying the sights. From $395/night.

Ames Hotel Bold yet functional design – deep gray walls, crisp white linens, mid-century-modern–inspired furnishings, and white marble walk-in showers – epitomize the Morgans Hotel Group’s always provocative aesthetic. Located in the 19th-century Ames building, the eight-month-old hotel offers 114 rooms (shown at left). Couples should book a Deluxe Corner King for large Romanesque arched windows or splurge on the one-of-a-kind Apartment for an urban oasis to remember. Downstairs is Woodward, a modern restaurant-tavern serving regional-ingredient-driven cuisine. The Court Street location puts you on the edge of Beacon Hill, the North End, and the revitalized waterfront. From $195/night.

Liberty Hotel Celebrate your romantic “life sentence” with tongue-in-chic style at this former jail turned hotel (opened in 2007) that handcuffs the historic to the here and now with great style and panache. The 300 rooms, most in a new 16-floor tower, feature elegant contemporary decor (choose an upper floor for magnificent Charles River views). But it is the cat-walk-lined, circa-1851 rotunda lobby, and playfully named Clink restaurant and Alibi bar (shown at right), which was actually the jail’s old “drunk tank,” where you can sip mojitos as you stare down mug shots of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Jim Morrison, and Lindsay Lohan, that will leave you pleading for more. From $295/night.

L’Espalier Chef Frank McClelland’s award-winning restaurant is not new – it has been pleasing foodie palates for several decades – but its location is. After more than a 20 years in a cozy Back Bay townhouse, L’Espalier moved into new digs adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental. As someone who dined at the old restaurant, with its distinctly romantic vibe, I found the new space’s (shown at left) three rooms, decorated in minimalist-chic gray, white, and gold, to be a bit impersonal. But after one nibble of my amuse bouche, I knew McClelland’s New England-meets-France cuisine was as fabulous as ever. My soft-shell crab appetizer and duck breast entrée (the menu changes regularly based on local seasonal ingredients) were some of the best I’ve tasted, with rich yet refreshing flavor combos and satisfying portions. Three course prix fixe, $82 per person.

Institute of Contemporary Art Modern art has a worthy setting in this sleek, four-year-old glass-and-metal building that cantilevers to the edge of the waterfront. Fans of cutting-edge art can appreciate the talents of more than two-dozen 20th-century-born artists in the permanent collection (displays rotate) and special exhibitions, such as Mexican tattoo artist Dr. Lakra (he draws over vintage pin-ups and movie posters). Admission $15 per person.

For general trip-planning information, see our Boston Travel Guide.

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