Walking through the heart of Beacon Hill via Charles Street, the first thing that hits you is the area's unadulterated cuteness. Meticulously kept brick sidewalks and byways, Federal-style row houses adorned with brass door knockers and intricate ironwork, gurgling fountains tucked into the courtyards of exclusive addresses — the levels of quaintness exhibited in these parts are as mind-boggling as they are charming. One of Boston's oldest neighborhoods and home base for generations of wealthy Brahmin families since the 19th century (many of which still live here), Beacon Hill feels like an historic village dropped into the center of a city.
And yet, improbably enough, a crusader's heart beats readily in this adorable enclave. The area was a center for the anti-slavery movement and women's suffrage in the 19th century, and today it's home to countless politicos, thanks to its proximity to the Massachusetts State House. Its South and North Slopes are some of the most expensive real estate in the nation — much filled with rare antiques and period art — which makes it no surprise that Charles Street, running along the section known as the Flat of the Hill, is renowned as a prime retail source for such goods.
Antique hounds will find success poking around any one of the Street's blocks in high-end, high-quality galleries and shops such as Regency Antiques, Polly Latham and Antiques at 80 Charles. But those are hardly the only treasures the Street yields: Stock up on specialty foods at old-
fashioned markets like Deluca's and Savenor's (the late Julia Child's butcher); find handmade stationery at Rugg Road; delicate frocks at boutiques like Wish and Holiday, and funky home furnishings at spots such as Koo de Kir and Flat of the Hill. And when it comes time to eat, the street's full of as many snazzy newcomers as now-classics. Step into Lala Rokh's
intimate interior for refined Persian dishes, the sleek Bin 26 Enoteca for handmade pastas and an eclectic wine list, Figs or The Upper Crust for gourmet, thin-crust pizzas, or Beacon Hill Bistro for sophisticated, French-leaning fare. To cap it all off? Order up a frothy cappuccino at Panificio, or indulge in one of the ultra-rich, individually decorated miniature gateaux at Cafe Vanille. Life doesn't get much cuter than that.