Where to Stay in Baltimore

SD › Best Places to Stay in Baltimore
Updated: February 20, 2022
By Santorini Dave

Best hotel in Inner Harbor Baltimore.

The Four Seasons has a great waterfront location in central Baltimore.

Where to Stay in Baltimore

The biggest city in Maryland (tiny Annapolis is the actual state capital), Baltimore forms part of the densely populated northeastern seaboard of the USA, though it definitely lags Washington, DC (to the south), and Philadelphia and New York City (to the north) in the tourist stakes. Quirky and irreverent, much of the city feels like it’s well off the beaten path, but TV shows such as The Wire only tell part of the story – Baltimore boasts a rich cultural legacy, with the area around the harbor crammed with restaurants, museums, and historic homes, as well as some of the freshest crab anywhere in the world.

Most of the top attractions in Baltimore lie around the harbor. The Inner Harbor at the western end remains the city’s tourist hub, with some of the biggest hotels and family-friendly sights such as the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center. Heading east, historic Little Italy merges into modern Harbor East with another smattering of hotels, and eventually Fells Point, one of the city’s most popular entertainment districts. On the south side of the harbor, things are much quieter, though Fort McHenry is here, as well as some classic crab shacks. Just north of Inner Harbor is Downtown Baltimore itself, the city’s faded commercial heart, with posher Midtown and Mount Vernon further north and a series of edgier neighborhoods to the west.

While it’s relatively easy to explore Downtown and the Inner Harbor on foot, public transport is required to go further afield. All the harborside attractions can be reached by water taxi (including the National Aquarium, Fell’s Point, and Fort McHenry); buy tickets on board (limited services Oct to April).

Baltimore-Washington International Airport is 10 miles south of the city center. From here it’s just $1.90 into the city on the Light RailLink Line (roughly every 20 minutes, 35-minute journey)
• The MTA’s bus, subway, and light rail lines cover much of the city, but taxis or cars are required to see everything – avoid public transport late at night to be safe.

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but with more time, these districts are also worth checking out:

Druid Hill Park: This large urban oasis northwest of Midtown Baltimore is home to several outdoorsy attractions including the Maryland Zoo and the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens.

Pigtown: This memorably named neighborhood, just southwest of Downtown, is home to the B&O Railroad Museum, Charm City Books, historic Mount Clare Museum House in Carroll Park, and the Mobtown Ballroom, where regular dance classes and events take place.

Charles Village & Johns Hopkins University: The sprawling Johns Hopkins University campus lies 3 miles north of the Inner Harbor, home to historic architecture, the University Museums (2 historic houses, Homewood Museum and Evergreen Museum & Library), and the Baltimore Museum of Art, one of the city’s best museums. The adjacent Charles Village neighborhood primarily serves the students with bars, cheap restaurants, and live venues. The best place to stay around here is the Inn at The Colonnade.

Best Places to Stay in Baltimore

Best Neighborhoods in Baltimore for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Inner Harbor or Harbor East
    Your best bet, especially with kids, is to stay close to the waterfront and the attractions at Inner Harbor. There’s also plenty of accommodation further up in Downtown, but Inner Harbor is a much more pleasant and relaxed neighborhood, with the focus squarely on tourism, entertainment, and outdoor activities (as well as being within walking distance of the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards). Also consider the modern and generally high-quality hotels in Harbor East, a short stroll away along the waterfront. From here it’s a short walk to the restaurants of Little Italy.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Fell’s Point
    Though parts of Fell’s Point can get packed with tourists during the day and revelers at night, it remains one of Baltimore’s most attractive neighborhoods. Dating back to the mid-18th century, its cobblestone streets (known as “Belgian block” streets) are lined with red-brick row houses, gabled cottages, and Greek Revival structures – the Robert Long House dates back to 1765 and is thought to be the oldest home in Baltimore. The neighborhood is well connected by water taxi to the rest of the city and boasts a small cache of romantic hotels, including the plush Sagamore Pendry and the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf, as well as the more affordable Admiral Fell Inn Harbor.
  • Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Fell’s Point
    Restaurants, pubs, and sports bars line Broadway and the historic side streets of Fell’s Point, Baltimore’s traditional nightlife hub. It’s changed dramatically over the last 40 years – it used to be a working-class community of sailors, artists, and Polish immigrants – but it remains lots of fun and absolutely crammed with places to drink. Highlights include Bertha’s, an old-school bar open since 1972 and known for its fresh mussels, and the more upscale Rye, a lauded craft cocktail bar. The Rockwell and Cat’s Eye Pub offer DJs and live music, morphing from bar to dance club as the evening wears on. We also like Max’s Taphouse for the huge selection of craft beers and famed speakeasy Elk Room nearby in Little Italy.

    If you’re looking for something a bit more local and off the tourist trail, hit the bars in Canton to the east of Fell’s Point, where spots such as Cardinal Tavern, Of Love & Regret, The Chasseur, and Mahaffey’s Pub are popular with a local 20-something crowd. There’s also a burgeoning nightlife scene in Federal Hill (along Charles Street) and adjacent Riverside (Fort Avenue).

    • Earn kudos by drinking “Natty Boh” (aka National Bohemian Beer) in Baltimore, the local lager with a cult following.
    • Bars in Baltimore must legally close by 2am sharp (some clubs are licensed for after-hours, but not many). Take a taxi or Uber at night to be safe.

  • Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Harbor East and Remington
    Baltimore has a growing reputation for its culinary scene (in addition to its long-popular Chesapeake blue crabs), but the top spots tend to be spread out all over the city – Hampden, Charles Village, Fell’s Point, and even touristy Inner Harbor are all home to excellent places to eat. For fine dining, we’ve picked Harbor East – it’s a safe, compact area filled with high quality eateries. Standouts include Italian steakhouse Tagliata and Italian wine bar Cinghiale, though the authentic trattorias of Little Italy are also just a short stroll away. Lauded Japanese restaurant Azumi gets regular deliveries direct from Toyosu fish market in Tokyo, while opulent Bygone is a lavish homage to the 1920s. One of the first restaurants here remains one of the best, Charleston, founded by Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf. We also love Monarque, Chef Marc Hennessy’s French steakhouse.

    For more affordable eats, hit laid-back Remington, a compact neighborhood just north of Midtown. Highlights include Clavel, Lane Harlan and Carlos Raba’s award-winning taqueria, and hip food hall R. House with 10 different counters. We also love PaperMoon Diner, Café Los Sueños, and the handmade biscuits at Blacksauce Kitchen.

    • There are no hotels in Remington – the Inn at The Colonnade lies on the other side of the Johns Hopkins University campus, and the hotels of Midtown are a short ride away.
    • Though it’s stranded somewhat over in Locust Point on the south side of the harbor, no visit to Baltimore is complete without a meal at L.P. Steamers for its legendary steamed crabs encrusted with Old Bay Seasoning.
    • Old Bay Seasoning is another local product with a loyal following. It was created in Baltimore in 1939 and has been marketed by McCormick & Company since 1990.

  • Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Harbor East and Hampden
    Like its culinary scene, shopping in Baltimore tends to be diverse and decentralized. Harborplace Mall anchors the Inner Harbor and is home to all the major chains as well as local souvenir shops, while Lexington Market in Downtown is the place for local foodstuffs. Mount Vernon is home to the city’s Antique Row (the 800 block of N Howard Street). However, Harbor East is probably the best choice for national chains and also locally-owned boutiques; it’s conveniently compact, pedestrian-friendly, and slightly less touristy. The flagship store for the Baltimore-based Under Armour is here, and so are J.Crew, Lululemon, Lush, Anthropologie, Sephora, and Free People, as well as independent clothing and accessories boutique Sassanova and home gift store Curiosity.

    We also love the indie shops in Hampden (just northwest of Johns Hopkins University campus), where the main drag lies along 36th Street (known as “The Avenue”). Highlights include women’s fashion at Doubledutch Boutique, Atomic Books, quirky gifts at Bazaar, and knitters’ favorite Lovelyarns.

    • There are no hotels in Hampden – the Inn at The Colonnade lies on the other side of the Johns Hopkins University campus and the hotels of Midtown are a short ride away.
    • From Central Baltimore, take the Light Rail Link to Woodberry. It’s a 10-minute walk to The Avenue in Hampden from there, or take bus #98 (aka Hampden Shuttle Bug; every 40 minutes) from the Woodberry station.

  • Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Hampden
    Because it’s off the beaten path (and a little hard to get to), Hampden is one of Baltimore’s most interesting and quirky neighborhoods. In the 19th century, it developed as a working-class mill town, but today it’s more hipsters and artists than blue-collar workers. The main drag, aka “The Avenue,” is a great place to soak up the atmosphere, shop, have a beer, or eat. Make sure to stop by Café Hon (as in “honey”), a classic Baltimore diner, or have a meal at The Food Market, followed by drinks at the Bluebird Cocktail Room.
  • Unsafe Areas of Baltimore
    Central Baltimore is generally much safer than it often feels (or is portrayed on silver screen), though the usual precautions should be taken at night. Like in any major city, be aware of the surroundings. The local tourist office recommends that visitors follow best safety practices including: plan the route before leaving, avoid walking alone in unlit areas, and keep valuables out of sight. Neighborhoods like West Baltimore and nearby Cherry Hill post high crime rates, but tourists are highly unlikely to end up in these areas. Most of the neighborhoods listed here, including Inner Harbor, Fell’s Point, and Harbor East, have a visible police presence and remain generally safe, even at night.

The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Baltimore for Tourists

1. Inner Harbor

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was once a grimy shipbuilding and steel mill hub, but since the 1970s, it’s been transformed into a waterside district of shopping malls, restaurants, and family-friendly attractions. It is also the focal point for the harbor’s water taxi system, with fast links to the other major tourist areas of Harbor East, Fell’s Point, and Fort McHenry (the harbor itself is actually the wide but short northwest branch of the Patapsco River). Downtown is a short stroll to the north, with bus, Light Rail Link, and Metro Subwaylink stations also within walking distance. Chief highlights include the National Aquarium, home to over 20,000 different marine animals, the Top of the World Observation Level on the 27th floor of the nearby World Trade Center Institute, and the Historic Ships in Baltimore, which include Civil War veteran USS Constellation. Other attractions popular with kids are the Maryland Science Center and the fun Port Discovery Children’s Museum, housed in a former fish market building. Inner Harbor is also the place to take a cruise along the waterfront.

2. Fell’s Point

Dating back to the 1760s, Fell’s Point is one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods and retains heaps of charm – its cobblestone streets and clapboard and Federal-style buildings seem largely unchanged. Today, Fell’s Point is no longer a gritty seaport but a popular district of restaurants, shops, and especially bars, making it one of the top nightlife hubs in the city. In terms of sights, the Robert Long House is the oldest home in Baltimore and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum preserves the first African American-owned shipyard in the country. A little inland, Broadway Market was built in 1786 and still houses delis, bars, and food stalls. Another tourist favorite is the Horse You Came In On Saloon, said to have opened in 1775, easily making it Baltimore’s (and one of America’s) oldest bars. It was supposedly Edgar Allan Poe’s last stop before his mysterious death in 1849.

3. Little Italy and Harbor East

These two compact neighborhoods lie side-by-side in between the Inner Harbor to the west and Fell’s Point to the east. Harbor East is a relatively modern creation of condos and high rises on the waterfront, filled with high-end shopping boutiques and fine dining restaurants. It’s also home to numerous hotels and is relatively easy to access. The only real “sight” is a small civil war museum – the historic President Street Station – completed in 1850 and where President Abraham Lincoln once hunkered down to avoid an assassination attempt. A block or so north lies Little Italy, a far more historic community and the traditional home of the city’s Italian immigrants. It’s primarily known for its excellent Italian restaurants (we like Angeli’s Pizzeria and the murals at Café Gia), while Vaccaro’s has been the place for Italian desserts and pastries since 1956. In terms of sights, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum chronicles African-American history and culture in Maryland, while next door the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House preserves the 18th-century home of Mary Pickersgill. This indomitable seamstress sewed the American flag at Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the US national anthem. A little further north lies the Jewish Museum of Maryland which encompasses 2 historic buildings, the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel.

4. Federal Hill (South Baltimore)

Federal Hill is another historic residential neighborhood, just south of Inner Harbor, with its slopes offering stellar views of the city center. The unusual American Visionary Art Museum is here, with a changing roster of colorful work from primarily self-taught and intuitive artists. Federal Hill Park itself boasts the best views of the city, while the absorbing Baltimore Museum of Industry charts the city’s rich industrial heritage. The commercial heart of Federal Hill is the bustling Cross Street Market, dating back to the 1840s (this version was built in 1952). To the east lies Locust Point, best known for the fresh crab at L.P. Steamers, and the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, whose defense in the War of 1812 inspired the Star-Spangled Banner (the site is marked by a gargantuan US flag).

5. Downtown and Mount Vernon

Downtown Baltimore is a little down at heel in parts, but remains the city’s business hub and is within easy walking distance of the tourist attractions of Inner Harbor. New development has seen the neighborhood become an increasingly popular residential area in recent years, with good transportation links and a large University of Maryland presence. For visitors, the main attractions include historic Lexington Market, open since 1782 and crammed with local specialty stores, Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave, and just to the west, Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum. To the south is the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum commemorating the great baseball player, appropriately located close to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home to the MLB’s Baltimore Orioles. The northern end of Downtown is blanketed by historic Mount Vernon, a hub for restaurants and bars as well as some key tourist attractions, beginning with the soaring Washington Monument (which visitors can climb), the Walters Art Museum, the Maryland Center for History & Culture (where the original copy of the “Star-Spangled Banner” is displayed), the ornate George Peabody Library, and the Eubie Blake National Jazz and Cultural Center.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.