Visit just one neighborhood in Baltimore and you're bound to have a rich experience, but to get a handle on what the city is all about, these neighborhoods help paint a clear picture of the city's flair for life.
Inner Harbor/Harbor East
Start a tour of Baltimore with options aplenty in Baltimore's bustling Inner Harbor.
From sporting events to shopping, restaurants and museums, this captivating area set on the water has something to entertain visitors of all ages. Children will love the National Aquarium and the Port Discovery Children's Museum while adults can find what they need at the Harborplace shopping and entertainment center.
The upscale Harbor East neighborhood is 12 blocks of spas and shopping from local boutiques to high-end retailers. Food options abound and it is all within walking distance of the Inner Harbor.
There is much more to Federal Hill, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods dating to the 18th century, than just stunning views across the water of the Inner Harbor.
That said, Federal Hill Park has panoramic views of the Inner Harbor and is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. A key overwatch position during the Civil War and War of 1812, this public park is a great picnic area.
Afterward, discover Federal Hill, walking down cobblestone sidewalks to find a diverse range of locally owned shops and restaurants. The block-long Cross Street Market is the spot to grab seafood or produce during the day then becomes a hot night spot with bars and restaurants lining Cross Street. Head five minutes away to Locust Point to visit Baltimore's iconic Fort McHenry.
Little Italy or 'The Neighborhood' will take you back to the old country like no other neighborhood in the city.
While the population isn't 100 percent Italian like in was in the early 1900s, the culture is all Italian. Feel the traditions by playing bocce, eating traditional fare at one of family-run restaurants or visiting St. Leo's Church, the emotional and spiritual center of Little Italy.
Named for an English shipbuilder, Fells Point's history is on display over 14 blocks along the Baltimore waterfront.
Discover the historic architecture on your own or let the experts lead the way on the Ghost Tour or Wicked History Tour. No surprise, the seafood is of the highest quality and afterward delve into the extensive bar scene—which are mainly classic taverns—spread over three close blocks.
Canton is another waterfront 'hood, just east of Fells Point, that was founded in the late 19th century.
Get a sense of the history of Canton—named after the Chinese port—with a trip to Patterson Park to tour the Pagoda. The top of the tower provides top views of adjacent neighborhoods and the harbor. Step through the working class neighborhood with restaurants, pubs and shopping and take in the historic rows of Baltimore brick and formstone rowhouses marked by marble stoops.
Canton Waterfront Park offers easy access to water-related activities with a boat ramp and fishing pier while its green space makes it the perfect spot to see festivals and other events. Take time to visit the Korean War Memorial that pays tribute to the 527 Marylanders who died in the war.
Just five blocks north of the Inner Harbor sits a cultural haven.
Take a tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the country's first cathedral, or pop into the Walters Art Museum.
The Washington Monument, available for walks to the top, is the centerpiece of Mount Vernon Place, the hub of what is a National Historic Landmark District. Built before 1900, the Enoch Pratt Free Library is headquarters for the city's library system, or take in plays and live music at Baltimore Center Stage.
Head north of the Inner Harbor to Charles Village. Much of the housing—19th century row houses—are back off the roads allowing for developed yards and wide boulevards. This middle-class neighborhood draws in the younger crowd with Johns Hopkins University nearby and provides a cultural outlet at the Baltimore Museum of Art; both city landmarks near this colorful neighborhood.
Head to East 32nd and Barclay streets Saturdays from 7 am-noon for The Waverly Farmers Market to grab the fresh vegetables and barbecue-ready meats.
For authentic quirkiness and a true Baltimore vibe, a visit to Hampden—especially 36th Street, or "The Avenue"—is a must.
The neighborhood is an eclectic mix of longtime shops and eateries mixed with trendy boutiques and don't be surprised to see pink flamingos on row house yards.
It was memorialized in the John Waters film "Pecker" and known as the place where everyone calls you "hon." Compete to be "Bawlmer's Best Hon" at the yearly HonFest—bring your best beehive hairdo and cat-eye glasses—or join others in Hampdenfest's Toilet Bowl Race.
Station North was the first Baltimore neighborhood—of more than a dozen—to be awarded an "Arts & Entertainment District," distinction from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2002.
Home to numerous galleries and artists live-work spaces, Station North is a central home to Artscape, the country's largest free art festival which draws as many as 350,000 attendees. A stone's throw from Penn Station, the galleries, theaters and eateries are close by to Mount Vernon, Charles Village and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Just west of downtown, Westside blends its historic nature into a happening hotbed of discovery and entertainment.
Find Edgar Allan Poe's grave at the Westminster Hall and Burying Grounds or catch a Broadway-touring production at the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center. A must-do is the Lexington Market, the nation's oldest continually running public market, with goods from 130 merchants.