1. Crab cakes Benedict. Belgian waffles with fresh fruit, cream and warm maple syrup. Posh corned beef hash and eggs. Set yourself up for a day of sightseeing at the venerable Taj Hotel Cafe, while people-watching on to Arlington and Newbury Street. Many of the staff are long-timers and it shows – their understated expertise is pitch perfect. (15 Arlington Street, +1 617 536 5700; tajhotels.com)
2. For retro brunch eats, head over to Somerville’s Davis Square: Rosebud American Kitchen and Bar’s frontage is a pristine, refurbished diner car, with red banquettes so shiny you can almost see your face – eating a griddled omelette followed by blueberry pie, washed down with lavender lemonade – in them. (381 Summer Street, +1 617 629 9500; rosebudkitchen.com). Owner Joe Cassinelli also has another brunch hit, the nearby Painted Burro, its authentic Mexican dishes and Bloody Marias just the tonic for giddy weekends. (219 Elm Street, +1 617 776 0005; thepaintedburro.com). Burn it all off with a bit of candlepin bowling at Sacco’s Bowl Haven (45 Day Street, +1 617 776 0552; flatbreadcompany.com).
3. Enjoy maritime views all year ‘round from the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA); a jutting jewel in Seaport’s corporate crown. Not just a fantastic exhibition space, it also houses music and dance performances, talks, and family activities (100 Northern Avenue, +1 617 478 3100; icaboston.org).
4. At the XV Beacon hotel, just a flick of a switch beside the bed ignites a gas fire – which is very welcome if you’re looking to visit in autumn or winter. This gentlemanly boutique hotel (dark wood, marble bathroom, chaise longues and an original elevator) is an easy walk from Park Street Station at Boston Common. Take cocktails at the ground level bar in Mooo steakhouse (not a typo; that is its name) before hitting the tiles. Rooms from $338. (15 Beacon Street, +1 617 670 1500; xvbeacon.com)
5. Charles Street is firmly on the tourist trail, but for good reason, its independent boutiques an antidote to the multinational brands on nearby Newbury Street. Pick up quirky cards, gifts and stationery in Black Ink (+1 617 723 3883; blackinkboston.com); bespoke jewellery and vintage-inspired womenswear at the beautifully curated Holiday (+1 617 973 9730; holidayboutique.net); natural, high performance skincare at Follain (+1 857 233 5211; shopfollain.com) and cutting-edge clothing, homewares and accessories at December Thieves (decemberthieves.com).
6. In handsome South End – all leafy, Victorian brownstones – stroll down upscale Union Park Street to where independent boutiques can’t help but tug the purse strings, such as chic homewares and designer clothing store Michelle Willey (michellewilley.com). On nearby Washington Street, Viola Lovely (violalovely.com) purveys covetable brands – Isabel Marant, MSF, Mother Denim – while Boomerangs (action.aac.org), specialises in second-hand glad rags in support of HIV/AIDS services.
7. Of Irish-American stock, restaurateur Barbara Lynch – only the second woman to receive the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurateur, in 2014 – has it all sewn up in the Fort Point area, with four of several businesses in the one building on Congress Street. There’s Sportello, a contemporary Italian (sportelloboston.com); Drink cocktail bar (drinkfortpoint.com) and Menton (mentonboston.com), her newest, and most fine dining, enterprise. Prices are steep, portions are minuscule – but flavours are big and technical prowess is high.
8. Buzzy South End tapas bar Toro (+1 617 536 4300; toro-restaurant.com) is where our party of three found not one dud among the authentic pimentos del padron, tortilla Española, gambas al ajillo, grilled corn with alioli, lime, pepper and aged cheese, and churros con chocolat. If that excites you, wait until you see the cocktail menu…
9. Aesthetes will find much to love at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Avenue, +1 617 267 9300; mfa.org), a splendid, colossal treasury of some 450,000 artworks and artefacts, from Ancient Egypt to contemporary photography. It’s beautifully designed, and staff are as friendly as they are knowledgeable. Expect to spend a full afternoon here.
10. On Harvard Square, Cambridge, is Alden & Harlow (40 Brattle Street, +1 617 864 2100; aldenharlow.com), a super restaurant and bar that does things with Brussels sprouts that you never thought possible. Dishes are inventive, healthy and downright delicious, while dangerously moreish cocktails change on a regular basis. It’s a bold claim but, this, and the aforementioned Toro, were my standout restaurants on this trip.
AER LINGUS flies from Dublin to Boston twice daily, and from Shannon once daily.