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General

With its extensively developed waterfront, overhead sky-walks, and numerous plazas and promenades, downtown Baltimore is ideally geared to the pedestrian tourist. Economically, geographically and culturally, Baltimore is an amalgam. One of early America's busiest seaports, it was also home to the country’s first important railroad terminal and was a leading manufacturing centre, renowned for shipbuilding as well as airplane production.

Culturally, Baltimore's tradition of diversity dates to 1649 and the passage of the Toleration Act, which permitted the practice of all religions in Maryland. The area’s air of acceptance inspired waves of Polish, German, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants. The various enclaves these newcomers established made Baltimore a collection of diverse neighborhoods.

Places of Interest

Inner Harbor

Any tour of Baltimore should start with the Inner Harbor. For years the area was at the heart of Baltimore's port facilities. As the city's shipping business declined in the post-war years, the Inner Harbor did too. By the mid-1970s, it was a long stretch of dilapidated docks and abandoned warehouses, but the end of the 1970s saw the start of a concerted effort to revitalise Baltimore. A key part of the plan was the creation of Harborplace, a three-acre retail and entertainment complex that anchors the Inner Harbor.

Today, the Inner Harbor's attractions include the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the USS Constellation, and the Pier Six Concert Pavilion. In addition, there are a number of excellent hotels, including the four-star Harbor Court, many fine restaurants, such as Obrycki's crab house, and two very busy marinas. The Inner Harbor's renovation was vital to Baltimore’s renaissance, and it remains the key draw of the city's approximately $625 million-a-year tourist industry.

Downtown

In 1729, about 60 years after the first colonists settled in the area, Charles and Baltimore streets were built. Today, the intersection of these two roads is at the heart of Baltimore's business district, where you’ll find the city's financial and banking institutions, international trade organisations, medical research companies, as well as law, engineering and architectural firms. A grid of roughly 25 blocks, the business district is easy to navigate and is within walking distance of most of the downtown hotels.

The North

Walk up Charles Street about 10 blocks and you'll find Mount Vernon, one of the city's loveliest neighbourhoods. Its chief feature is a park of shrub-lined lawns and flowerbeds, laid out in the form of a cross. The 178-foot tall monument to George Washington stands at the park’s centre. Mount Vernon is also home to the Peabody Institute, the Walters Art Gallery, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and several excellent restaurants, including The Brass Elephant and Tio Pepe.

Just above Mount Vernon is Bolton Hill. Known as the "Gin Belt" during the 1920s, this area was home to the city's Jazz Age bohemian community. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his home here for a while, and Tender is the Night was published during his stay. Today, the area is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the University of Baltimore.

Still farther up Charles Street lies well-groomed Charles Village, home of Johns Hopkins University. Just next door is Hampden, a funky blue-collar/alternative district made famous by independent film director John Waters. Continue north, and you'll find Guilford, which features Mount Washington, a quiet, tree-lined neighbourhood with lots of great restaurants, like The Desert Café.


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