|Economically, geographically and culturally,
Baltimore is an amalgam. One of early America's busiest seaports, it was
also its first important railroad terminal. Not content to be a shipping
hub, it also became a leading manufacturing center, renowned for
shipbuilding as well as airplane production.
Situated just below the Mason-Dixon line, Baltimore is, strictly speaking, a Southern town. Yet its industrial base and urban energy cast it more in the mold of America's Northern cities.
Culturally, Baltimore's tradition of diversity dates back to 1649 and the passage of the Toleration Act, which permitted the practice of all religions in the colony of Maryland. In subsequent years the region's air of acceptance inspired waves of Polish, German, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants. The various enclaves these newcomers established made Baltimore a collection of diverse neighborhoods, which is not to say that the melting pot always simmered peacefully. In the early 19th century, for example, Baltimore acquired the nick-name "Mob Town" because of its inhabitants' tendency to take to the streets en masse to demonstrate various ardently held beliefs.
Today, by and large, things are much quieter, but the neighborhoods retain their distinctive character--so much so that, no matter where you stand in Baltimore today, you can walk six or eight blocks in any direction and be in what, for all intents and purposes, is a different city.
A grid of roughly 25 blocks, with its long axis running east and west,
it's an easy area to find your way around in. It's within walking distance
of most of the downtown hotels, and, as with the rest of the city, it's
filled with great places to eat--everything from breakfast and lunch
counters like David & Dads to four-star restaurants like Sotto Sopra.
To the North
Just above Mount Vernon is Bolton Hill. Known as the "Gin Belt" during the 1920s, this area was home to the city's Jazz Age bohemian community. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his home here for a while, and Tender is the Night was published during his stay. Today, the area is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the University of Baltimore, as well as a present-day bohemian hangout: Spike and Charlie's.
Still farther up Charles Street lies well-groomed Charles Village, home of Johns Hopkins University. Just next door is Hampden, a funky blue-collar/alternative district made famous by independent film director John Waters.
Continue north, and you'll find Guilford, which features the wonderful Sherwood Gardens, and Mount Washington, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with lots of great restaurants, like The Desert Café.
Finally, your northward trek will land you in Towson, one of the city's busiest suburbs.
To the South
To the East
Just past Little Italy is Fells Point. This was once the chief Colonial shipbuilding center, and frigates known as Baltimore Clippers were launched from the end of Broadway, the neighborhood's main drag. Today Fells Point is known for its craft and antique shops, restaurants, bars and coffeehouses.
During the weekend the neighborhood is jammed with college-age revelers who flock to the many party-oriented dance clubs like Bohager's. But during the rest of the week, a mix of young urban professionals and bohemians come on the scene to eat at restaurants like Bertha's and Ding How, and relax and listen to live music at places like Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot and The Full Moon Saloon.
Just above Fells Point is Butcher's Hill, an area once home to dozens of butchers who sold their wares at Fells Point's Broadway Market, and farther north is Old Town, a neighborhood settled by German and Irish immigrants in the early 1800s.
Just to the east lies Canton, one of the most recently re-vitalized of the city's neighborhoods. Originally an industrial area populated by Welsh, German, Polish and Irish immigrants, Canton today is a lively residential area known for its friendly eateries like Nacho Mama's and upscale bars like The Gin Mill. To the north of Canton is Greek Town, another quiet residential neighborhood famous for its restaurants, Ikaros foremost among them.
To the West
Another famous sometime-Baltimorean, Edgar Allen Poe, is also memorialized in Pigtown--at PSInet Stadium, home turf of the Baltimore Ravens, the only National Football League team named after a poem.
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