Boston: Fort Point and Seaport, 11 of the best things to do | Guardian travel feature

Boston Tea Party ship and museum on the Fort Point Channel, Boston

Boston Tea Party ship and museum on the Fort Point Channel, Boston. Photograph by Robert Hull

Boston’s Fort Point and Seaport district is the city’s up and coming area, with a dynamic food scene, cutting-edge galleries and a decent line in craft beers. By Robert Hull

Flour Bakery and Cafe

Flour Bakery, Fort Point, BostonClose to the Boston Children’s Museum and just off buzzing Congress Street is the sweet satisfaction of Flour Bakery and Cafe. It was founded when Harvard-educated management consultant Joanne Chang swapped spreadsheets for cakes and cookies to became a pastry chef. Chang opened her first bakery-cafe in Boston’s South End in 2000 and the second in Fort Point, in 2007, and says the intention with each of the (now four) shops is they become a part of the fabric of their neighbourhood. The motto here is, “Make life sweeter … eat dessert first!” and it’s an easy ethos to buy into. You’ll probably still end up deliberating long and hard over which cake to order, though. But if it helps, the sticky buns with caramel and pecans ($3.50) are justly famous (foodnetwork.com/shows/throwdown-with-bobby-flay/2-series/sticky-buns.html), the chocolate melt macaroons ($1.75) slip down well with an espresso, and the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting ($5.50) will sate anyone’s sweet tooth.

  • 12 Farnsworth Street, flourbakery.com. Open Mon-Fri 7am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm

Trillium Brewing Company

Lean against the impressively solid bar at this family-owned brewing company during its tasting hours and you’ll get the chance to savour samples of up to three of its brewed-on-the-premises ales. If you like what you sup – and on our visit the note-perfect selection was a Belgian-style house IPA, the tropical-slanted Dry Stack Batch and the sturdy but smooth Pot & Kettle porter – then you can buy a glass or take some away in bottles or ‘growlers’. Though the building was acquired four years ago, the tasting room has only been open for 18 months. The site had to be cleared of Big Dig dirt from Boston’s public works highway project but there’s a local-legacy touch that comes from knowing the wood for that solid bar was donated by a place around the corner.

  • 369 Congress Street, trilliumbrewing.com. Tasting room hours Tues-Thurs 4pm-7.30pm, Fri midday-7.30pm, Sat midday-6pm

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

If a family-friendly activity floats your boat then indulge in some American revolutionary behaviour at a museum that’s on Fort Point Channel. The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum reopened in June 2012 following an impressive renovation, and its hour-long group tour is led by actors dressed up in 18th-century garb. It paints a vivid, though fun, picture of a city’s frustration at ongoing “taxation without representation” under King George III. And explains why, on the night of 16 December 1773, Bostonians gave vent to their anger at this by throwing crates of tea overboard from ships. Naturally, you exit through via a cafe and a gift shop that sell tea – it’s not water-damaged, though. Part of the annual re-enactment is now ticketed as the city makes a bigger spectacle of the event with a waterfront viewing area. If you’re tempted, the InterContinental Boston hotel, which overlooks the museum, offers Tea Party packages from $299 (intercontinentalboston.com/special-pkg/tea-party-package.aspx).

  • 306 Congress Street, +1 617 338 1773, bostonteapartyship.com. Open daily (winter/spring) 10am-4pm and summer/autumn 10am-5pm. Online tickets $22.50 adults, $13.50 kids

 

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (ICA)

ICA, Boston.

ICA, Boston.

When it opened in December 2006 in a prime Seaport spot with views of the harbour and the financial district skyline, the ICA was the first new art institution built in the city in nearly 100 years. The gallery/museum – designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro – keeps a fresh focus, too, with exhibitions and projects from artists including Ragnar Kjartansson, Adriana Varejão and Christina Ramberg, and in displaying work in a range of media. It organises group visits, offers regular free tours and film nights, puts on music events and talks, and has a superb resources room with a superlative view. Inside and out, its clean lines and fresh feel give freedom to the art to express itself and for the public to enjoy a relaxing space to take it all in afterwards.

  • 100 Northern Avenue, icaboston.org. Open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. Admission $15 adults, under 17s free

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Boston’s Fort Point and Seaport district, a waterfront tale | Guardian travel feature

Boston’s Fort Point and Seaport district, a waterfront tale | Guardian travel feature

Wharfs and the Summer Street bridge, Fort Point, Boston

Wharfs and the Summer Street bridge, Fort Point, Boston. Photograph: Robert Hull

Fort Point & Seaport has become Boston’s go-to neighbourhood for great coffee, restaurants, galleries and much more. Robert Hull explores an area of harborside walks and artistic heritage …

The barman at Trillium Brewing widens his eyes and puffs out his cheeks. If a look could answer the question of how dramatic the changes have been in Boston’s Fort Point district, then this is it. It’s an expression replicated by staff in the now-numerous coffee shops, restaurants, galleries, bars and venues in an area gaining a reputation as the new entertainment hub of one of America’s oldest cities.

Fort Point’s rise has come amid eight years of a skyline of cranes, new office blocks and warehouse conversions. There is consensus on the reasons behind the boom – accessibility, investment and a food scene driven by chefs and restaurateurs such as South-Boston local Barbara Lynch (Menton, Drink, and Sportello), Ming Tsai (Blue Dragon) and Jeremy Sewall (at ultra-hip oyster house, Row 34). Where you won’t find accord is over what the area is called: some say Fort Point, others, Seaport. There are those who want to call it the Innovation District because of its draw for creatives – centred around the civic space ofDistrict Hall. Just don’t call it The Waterfront; Boston had one of those before this zip got hip. Continue reading

Kirsty Wark’s favourite places in Scotland : Guardian travel interview

Glenfinnan viaduct, Scotland

Glenfinnan viaduct, Scotland

The broadcaster and author on her favourite views in Scotland, the drinking dens to discover and the restaurants leading the country’s flourishing food scene. Interview by Robert Hull

If I were to describe Scotland to someone who didn’t know it, I’d say it’s a place of vast lochs, gentle hills and mountains – and that it’s beautifully green. I’d add that it’s also very easy to navigate because at its narrowest, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is less than 50 miles wide.

Though there are places in Canada,even vistas in upstate New York, that I’ve felt are very Scottish, I’d have to say nowhere can quite compare to Scotland.

The first thing you should do – or taste, actually – when visiting is to find a whisky that you like and have a dram. There are plenty of wonderful whisky shops, particularly in Edinburgh, which can help you with your decision.

Kirsty Wark

Kirsty Wark

My favourite city view has to be from one end of Edinburgh’s George Street to the other. It doesn’t matter which end. I also love the view of the Glenfinnan viaduct in the Highlands. It is a wonderful piece of engineering and, of course, Scotland has bred some great engineers. Viaducts and bridges are wonderful landmarks that string the country together. Continue reading

Iceland on film: a film-inspired road trip for Guardian Travel

Reynisdrangar seen from Vik, South Iceland

Reynisdrangar seen from Vik, South Iceland

There is no best-location Oscar. But if there was, as the makers of Prometheus, Game of Thrones and Thor have recently found, it would surely go to Iceland

The sun has yet to rise but the morning light is already illuminating the reasons why Iceland is renowned for its landscape. I’m standing on a helipad in the south-eastern town of Höfn: with its harbour behind me, I can see snow-covered mountains separated by four icy tongues, each part of the enormous Vatnajökull glacier.

A few lights glow yellow-orange in windows but the main colours are sky blue, a sliver of pink around the clouds and the dark-brown mass of mountains yet to reveal their rugged detail. I’m not waiting for a helicopter; this just seemed like a good place to take in the view … sort of. The wind speed is more than 40mph – that’s an eight (fresh gale) according to Mr Beaufort’s scale – and, as I frame a photograph, the wind inflates the hood of my parka and personal lift-off feels imminent.

Despite the conditions, the drama of this view makes it easy to understand why Iceland has, in recent years, become almost as popular with filmmakers as it is with tourists. And I’m here to explore the locations that have tempted Hollywood producers. Continue reading

Neil Finn on Auckland: for Guardian Travel

Neil in studio - Tony NybergThe solo artist and Crowded House frontman on food, music and the great outdoors in Auckland, New Zealand

The city has so much character. It’s a sprawling place that weaves around bridges and harbours, and there are lots of neighbourhoods, such as Britomart, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, where good things are happening. I love the Polynesian aspect to the city. There’s a strong Maori presence and tradition but there’s also been an influx of people from the islands, too.

Buy fish and chips and climb Mount Eden. Get your food at The Ancient Mariner and head up the nearby hill (Maungawhau in Maori). You get a great 360-degree view of the city and a volcanic crater to peer into. You can walk up or take a car … but don’t leave the handbrake off: I once saw a car roll into the crater.

One of the venues I’m fondest of is Powerstation(powerstation.net.nz). I played there before Christmas and it’s just one of those really good clubs – nothing when you first walk in, but with a room full of people it has a big vibe. For a more close-quarters gig, there’s the Kings Arms. It’s a good place to see up-and-coming bands, as is the Golden Dawn.

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Filmed in Iceland: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty in The Secret Life of Walter MittyIt’s not uncommon to find Iceland grabbing attention in Hollywood movies – it’s just rare for audiences to know it is Iceland. In the last two years, the country’s glaciers, volcanoes, black sands and waterfalls have lent the required other-worldliness to films such as Oblivion, Prometheus and Thor, while also featuring in HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series.

But in the Ben Stiller-directed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which goes on UK national release on 26 December, the island’s epic scenery gets a lead role, and this time the locations aren’t supposed to be an alien planet – this time it’s all about Iceland.

Stiller’s romantic comedy, which is based on the classic James Thurbershort story, is about a daydreamer who is forced to leave behind his flights of fancy and challenge himself by seeing the real world. The film features Iceland as an integral part of the story – a first for a blockbuster.

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John Grant on Reykjavik: for Guardian Travel

John GrantThe American singer-songwriter, 45, on his adopted home’s best restaurants, coffee and hostel – and why you should think twice before taking a northern lights tour

I first went to Reykjavik for the Airwaves music festival (icelandairwaves.is) in 2011. I went back a couple of months later to record my second album, Pale Green Ghosts. After that I decided I just didn’t want to leave.

Reykjavik has a mixture of southern and northern mentality. There’s a laid-back, relaxed attitude, but also the feeling things are going to get done.

There is a lot going on in the city but you can find your own space. I love the fact that there are small shops to explore and cosy cafes to relax in.

The first thing I would do is head to Mokka (mokka.is) for a coffee. It’s the place that is on the cover of Pale Green Ghosts. As soon as you open the door you can smell them making waffles. Mokka opened in 1958 and is the oldest coffee shop in Reykjavik – and it hasn’t changed. A lot of locals, and artists, hang out there. It’s a great place to start and get a feel for the city. Continue reading