A Weekend Traveler’s Guide to Baltimore

An early-autumn trip to Charm City comes complete with culture, crabs, and five-star hospitality.

A picturesque view of Baltimore’s inner harbor. / Photo by Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

You’ve gotta love any city that could produce a curmudgeon as clever as H.L. Mencken and a filmmaker as iconoclastic as John Waters, who once said of Baltimore: “…you’ll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style.” Not only was it the setting for his camp masterpiece Hairspray, but it’s also one of the cities where Edgar Allan Poe retreated to after leaving Boston in disgust. In the 1970s, Baltimore launched a marketing campaign to brand itself as “Charm City,” a nickname that never quite stuck but nevertheless applies. In fact, the recently resurgent city has charisma to spare, with important architecture, historic points of interest, a gorgeous harbor and parks, excellent museums, and superb dining. Those are just a few of the things it has in common with Boston, except that Baltimore is less overrun by tourists, less expensive, and the weather is generally milder. Who knows? Maybe Poe preferred Maryland crab cakes to New England clam chowder. Whatever his reasons for leaving, members of Red Sox nation will feel perfectly at home on the Orioles’ turf.

A staff diver feeds the fish at the National Aquarium. / Photo by David Coffey/Courtesy of National Aquarium


Speaking of the Orioles, a trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards—Baltimore’s retro MLB stadium—is worth it, even if you don’t attend a game. Eutaw Street, located between the ballpark and the iconic B & O Warehouse, is a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants and shops, and past home runs are marked by bronze baseballs embedded in the cement. Six blocks north is Lexington Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country, where you’ll find 60,000 square feet of gourmet food vendors and local businesses. Once you’ve sated your appetite or curiosity, head over to the Baltimore Museum of Art, which boasts the largest collection of Henri Matisse’s work anywhere in the world, as well as cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions. The Walters Art Museum, meanwhile, stitches cultures together by juxtaposing them throughout time, displaying, for example, illuminated Korans and ancient Buddhas alongside Ethiopian icons and European paintings. Fells Point is the bustling, gentrified area along the harbor with waterfront coffee shops, bars, and cafés, as well as sites like the Robert Long House, the city’s oldest-known residence, and idiosyncratic attractions like the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Adjacent to Fells Point is Harbor East, an upscale district that’s home to the President Street Station Civil War museum and a waterfront pedestrian path to the National Aquarium. Finally, the Patterson Park neighborhood features restaurants and shops surrounding the eponymous green space, which has amenities such as a swimming pool, skating rink, and boat pond, as well as regular concerts underneath the picturesque Observatory tower.

Crabs from the Thames Street Oyster House. / Courtesy photo


When people think of Baltimore, they think of Maryland crabs, and our favorite spot for them is the Thames Street Oyster House, which is also in a prime area for a pub crawl. However, don’t neglect the city’s rich ethnic offerings. Try the Greek fish soup and lamb chops at the Black Olive, the sublime tacos at Maximón, or the Afghani baked and pan-fried baby pumpkin at the Helmand. Verde is a quick trip to Naples for pizza, and an artisanal cocktail on the swinging porch benches at the Bluebird is an ideal way to cap off an evening. But whatever you do, don’t skip the artisanal ice cream at Bmore Licks.

The wide selection at Atomic Books. / Photo by Achel Whang/Atomic Books


To scratch that retail itch, try poking around the funky antiques shops in the Hampden neighborhood for treasures and bric-a-brac, or scour the shelves at Atomic Books for “literary finds for mutated minds.” (Titles include Scum Manifesto and Memoirs of a Sword Swallower). Looking for something a little higher-end? Try browsing the boutiques in Harbor East.


Situated on a wharf on the inner harbor, the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore is a five-star boutique hotel with subtly nautical rooms, a champagne vending machine, and impressive art by such contemporary giants as Fernando Botero and Gaia. The on-site Rec Pier Chop House has the city’s best steak, and the long inner courtyard leads to a waterfront swimming pool with beautiful views of the harbor and a top-notch outdoor café.

The outdoor seating area at Maximón restaurant. / Photo by Charlotte Thomsen

Getting There

Both Delta and JetBlue operate nonstop flights from Logan to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

First published in the print edition of the September 2023 issue with the headline “Baltimore.”