Moving to a second base in this trip, we reach Baltimore, perfectly located in between Philadelphia that sits north, and Washington DC to the south. In terms of logistic and comfort for travelling and sightseeing, this was the best decision I could come across saving us lots of precious time without the need to keep packing and moving with our luggage from a hotel to another switching cities every other day. A second direct benefit for making a base here is cost-saving for accommodation. Both Philly and DC are more expensive in terms of hotels, but also in restaurants and day-to-day life. And lastly, well, this is a city I’ve never been before in the USA and therefore, and added value to the trip.
While often bypassed by tourists, it is nevertheless a very charming place, yet small but good enough for a full entire day sightseeing. The entire downtown and waterfront been recently revamped and gentrified, it is now a thing of the past the turbulent reputation in being one of the most dangerous and decaying cities in the USA. You can hardly see any sign from such past, unless of course, you get to the outskirts neighbourhoods which in turn, there is nothing there for you to see nor reason to go.
Our base in here worked perfectly for breaking the rather heavy non-stop sightseeing past days in New York City, giving us some resting and relaxing time in between, enjoying the very short train rides to Philly and DC and charging the batteries to continue the next days farther south towards New Orleans.
As the capital and largest city in the State of Maryland, it is the main centre of services, financial, economic and tourism; and also an important port in the Atlantic coast. While not very important with respect to other cities in the country, it is historically known and famous for being the city where Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812, which later became the American national anthem. Also taking toe of its motto, “The Greatest City in America” and “The Monumental City”, you cannot be too wrong for not visiting it. It does have both the largest amount of National Registered Historic Districts and more public statues and monuments per capita than any other city in the country. So yes, expect to see a “historic” city in the rather modern USA. While some skyscrapers have been built around, there are lots of beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings all over.
It was in Baltimore where gas lighting was first pioneered in 1816, with a rapidly growing population of refined wealthy inhabitants following the 1812 War of Baltimore against the British invaders and unstoppable development in infrastructure at the time it put the city in the map as a major shipping and manufacturing centre linked to major markets in the Midwest. Among the world’s first for the city are the first dental college in 1840 (Baltimore College of Dental Surgery) and the first telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington DC in 1844.
The first decline was in time with the American Civil War starting in 1861, followed by the Long Depression and Big Panic of 1873 through 1879. Thereafter the big toll was the 1904 Great Fire, and from the 1950’s the migration from the deep south of black population grew steeply, taking over entire districts that were all white. In the 1970’s there were not many white civilians living in the city. The aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior on April the 4, 1968 turned the city in riots that lasted days and still can be seen in the outer districts. Historically, Baltimore it is still a city with one of the highest homicides in the country, however due long lasting efforts this is changing for the better, and the downtown has never been as lively as it is now.
Getting some notes on food that’s easy and also good news. It is famous for the Maryland blue crabs, which are traditionally served steamed, coupled with steamed shrimp, corn on the cob and of course a beer. Crab cake follows the line, as well as is crab bisque or the vegetable crab soup. Coddies is like the traditional fish & chips from the UK, but topped with mustard. Some of the most known (however touristy) places to get a wide variety of anything are Market Place near the harbour where you get plenty of fresh seafood bars; and Lexington market. The area of Fells Point (Harbor East) is always a great choice and where you can find the oldest continuously running tavern in the country, The Horse You Came In On Saloon.
For more information about Baltimore check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The United States of America currency is the Dollar (USD, $). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Baltimore
- Midtown Just above the Downtown, is centred on Mount Vernon with the intersection of North Charles Street (which terminates north at Penn Station) and Monument Street.
-Pennsylvania Railway Station The northernmost end of Midtown, main gateway in and out of the city via railway, the 7th busiest station in the country. Opened in 1911, is as almost any major station, grand in architecture.
-Mount Vernon Place Famous for the Washington Monument, which predates that built in Washington DC itself. One of the most beautiful spots in the city with this intersection of streets surrounded by elegant buildings, noteworthy the United Methodist Church, a great example of Victorian Gothic architecture.
-The Peabody Institute Established in 1857 is the oldest conservatory of music in the United States and one of the world’s most prestigious.
- Downtown The main core of the city, and its financial district. Together with the Inner Harbor just at the south by the riverside, are the main tourist areas.
-Baltimore Basilica Just south of Mount Vernon Place along North Charles Street. Built in 1821 in neoclassical style, is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States.
-One Charles Center Continuing south along North Charles, corner with West Fayette Street. Built in 1962 by famed Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
-Bank of America Building By Charles Center metro station. The former Baltimore Trust Company Building, built in 1929, the largest art-deco tower in the city.
-Hippodrome Theatre West from Charles Center metro station. Built in 1914 was the largest south of Philadelphia in the country. Combines brick and terracotta in its fine facade.
-Battle Monument Square The hart of politics in Baltimore, two blocks east from North Charles Street. The column commemorates the Battle of Baltimore honoring those who died in 1814 during the War of 1812.
-Courthouse East Completed in 1900 is the third courthouse in the same spot, yet larger. This is the same place when on July 28th, 1776 took the public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
-City Circuit Court Opposite the Courthouse, another impressive neoclassical construction embellishing the square and urban plan.
-War Memorial Plaza Right behind the Circuit Court, home to the City Hall and another of the squares in this very elegant part of the city.
-City Hall Designed by George A. Frederick in the 1860’s in the Second Empire style (Baroque revival), beautiful day and night with its illumination.
-War Memorial At the opposite side of the square from the City Hall. Built in 1921, dedicated to all the Maryland’s soldiers that died in World War I.
-Phoenix Shot Tower Behind the War Memorial. Completed in 1828, back then the tallest structure in the country. Shot Tower/Market Place is the metro station.
-Market Place linking the Shot Tower metro station with the Inner Harbor, it is full of entertainment venues and restaurants nicely landscaped.
- Inner Harbor The historic seaport is the prime location and sight of the city, and its major drawback to the tourist and locals. It boasts the highest and most desirable real estate in the Mid-Atlantic region. Nowadays completely restored, refurbished and heavily gentrified to the point of being a model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world.
-World Trade Center Built by renowned architect I.M. Pei’s in 1977, it is still the tallest equilateral pentagonal building in the world. The viewing platform known as Top of the World offers 360 panorama views of the entire city.
-USS Constellation Built in 1854 is the last Civil War era vessel afloat. Located at Pier 1, the main highlight among the collection of ships.
-USS Torsk This submarine holds the Navy’s record for dives at more than 10000, and was the last ship to sink an enemy vessel in World War II.
-Lightship Chesapeake Dating from 1930’s it is one of very few surviving in the country.
-Coast Guard Cutter Taney The last surviving U.S. warship that was in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December the 7th 1941.
-Seven Foot Knoll Light Built in 1855 was located atop Seven Foot Knoll in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s the oldest screw-pile lighthouse in Maryland.
-National Aquarium On Pier 3, built in 1981 and ever since a remarkable silhouette of Baltimore with its pyramidal roofs.
-Pratt Street Power Plant At Pier 4 was built between 1900 and 1906, and one of only 11 buildings to survive the 1904 Great Fire. Nowadays a huge venue for the arts, concerts, restaurants and entertainment.
-Museum of Industry Far south along the promenade. Established in 1977 in a former cannery, depicts everything about the industrial past and inventions of the city.
- Camden Yards West from the inner Harbor and the Downtown, served by the MARC commuter railway and light rail, a beautiful station itself side to side with the Oriole Park, however, a short walking distance from the harbour.
-Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower Located in West Lombard Street, was built in 1911. It resembles as a lighthouse.
-Oriole Park Home to the Baltimore Orioles of the Major Baseball League. While built in the 1990’s in retro style, it is considered to be the most beautiful baseball park, inspiring other cities to build their own versions of such retro style ballpark. Tours are available at different times through the day. For the most up to date information check their official website here.
-B&O Railroad Museum Home to one of the most significant collections of railroad treasures in the world and has the largest collection of 19th-century locomotives in the U.S
- Fell’s Point East from the Inner Harbor, it is one of many historic listed districts, home to a large thriving life day and night with lots of restaurants, bars, shops, markets and entertainment. Unless you have plenty of time to visit the city, then I would only suggest you to take the boat through the harbour, which do also calls here to enjoy the views.
Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is located 16 kilometres south of Downtown, and it’s the main gateway into the city with flights across almost every city in the USA and beyond. It is linked to the city via the Light Rail system, and to the main national railway network Amtrak.
Coming overland is the next best option considering the rather short distances between New York at the north and Washington DC at the south. Baltimore lies in the Northeast Corridor, hence train frequencies are very high. The main train station is Pennsylvania, the 7th busiest in the country. Long distance trains connects as far as St. Albans in Vermont (right before the Canadian border) to Miami at the south
Within the city there is the Light Rail system (trams) and a metro line, plus countless bus routes. Everywhere you need to go is covered by any of these, plus as a convenience to anyone, the Charm City Circulator (CCC) is a free of charge circle bus line with frequencies of every 15 minutes, currently offering 3 routes.
Another way of enjoying unparalleled views of the city from a tourist-side perspective are the water taxi routes. These link different points within the Inner Harbor and the outer districts. 5 different lines are available, being the Yellow Line probably the best option any tourist should take at least once, connecting Fell’s Point to Tide Point with stops at piers 4, 7, 8, 10 and 11.
Walking along the main sights is straightforward with generally short distances in between, and definitely the best way to enjoy the city. It will be rare the need for taking any public transportation unless when reaching Penn Station or the Airport.
Like anywhere in the USA, the cost of a hotel night is higher than most of the countries I’ve ever been. Still, the fact that we decided to make Baltimore our base instead of Philadelphia or Washington DC meant we did already save lots. The choice is vast that’s for sure, of any type and kind, therefore not too difficult to find a suitable property. The usual note in here, a good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Brookshire Suites Inner Harbor, in 120 East Lombard Street, with the nearest light rail station being University Center/Baltimore Street. The location was the best to our needs to be honest. Minimal walking distance to the Inner Harbor, and right in the middle of the Downtown area, hence accessible to almost every sight at short distance on foot. The property was really good, with high standards in everything. Large rooms with proper 2 double beds in each as requested, super clean and care in all details, and a nice breakfast included every morning. The staff was very helpful and kind at any time, and without hesitation we can highly recommend it.