Baltimore City Guide: Neighborhoods & Things to Do
Affectionately dubbed “Charm City,” Baltimore is one of the most historic cities in the nation, with a rich and fascinating timeline. First settled by Europeans in 1661 (the area had few Native Americans at that time), the city of Baltimore was officially established in 1729. Baltimore was a critical defense for the United States in the War of 1812 with Great Britain. In fact, the national anthem was birthed in Baltimore. Since then, Baltimore has grown and changed considerably. Much of the historic flavor remains in the distinctive rowhouses that line the city, while modern creativity inspires with local art scenes and innovation. The renowned Johns Hopkins University resides here, just one of the many colleges in the area. Be sure to get some crab cakes and craft beer when you visit Baltimore!
Baltimore city highlights
When you move to Charm City, you’ll soon understand why Baltimore’s quirky nickname has stuck. Here are some of the charming places to see in Baltimore:
- Inner Harbor: One of the most favorite tourist spots is the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where you can enjoy shops and restaurants as well as family attractions like the historic ships anchored there. Kids and boat lovers will love exploring the authentic ships, including the last sail-only warship and World War II submarine. Adults will enjoy the top restaurants and nightlife.
- The National Aquarium: The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a world-class aquarium with lots of fascinating fish to see and, of course, dolphin shows!
- Fort McHenry: You can visit the location that inspired the U.S. national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. This important American defense location survived during the terrifying Battle of Baltimore from September 13 to 14, 1814. Self-guided tours of the fort are available.
- Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum: The famous gothic author lived in Baltimore, and you can visit his house and learn more about the environment that spawned creepy tales such as “The Raven.”
- Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum: Do you like trains? You’ll want to check out the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, recognized as the “birthplace of American railroading.”
Baltimore city guide to the best neighborhoods for renters
Check out some of the featured neighborhoods in our Baltimore city guide to find out about where to search for condos, homes and apartments for rent in Baltimore.
If you want to be where the action is, look for a rental in downtown Baltimore. You’ll have access to all the great shops and restaurants, with easy access to the Inner Harbor. With bus and light rail access, you can also easily get around to the other parts of the city. If you like historic religious architecture, check out the beautiful Baltimore Basilica, which features neoclassical style in the first Catholic Cathedral built in America.
This waterfront neighborhood runs along the southeast portion of Baltimore and has the distinction of being both trendy and family friendly. Local attractions include O’Donnell Square, the Maryland Korean War Memorial, Canton Waterfront Park and the American Can Company building, which has been restored. It’s also a great spot for nightlife and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of historic row houses and new townhouses. Because Canton is so popular, you’ll want to snap up a rental when you find it.
Mount Vernon in Baltimore (not to be confused with George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia) is the city’s cultural center. Located just north of the downtown core, Mount Vernon offers modern and historic apartment buildings surrounded by theaters, museums, libraries and performing arts centers. You can check out the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall or survey the city from the top of Baltimore’s own Washington Monument.
Baltimore’s Federal Hill began life as a place of defense during the War of 1812. Replicas of the original cannons are perched atop Federal Hill as a reminder of its history. With many beautiful rowhouses and 19th century architecture and views of the harbor, it’s a beautiful place to live and visit. Be sure to check out Cross Street Market and check out the constant events, including the Kinetic Sculpture Race featuring human-powered “moving sculptures.”
When people visit Baltimore, one of their first stops is the Inner Harbor. This formerly industrial area that contained shipbuilders and steel mills now has restaurants, tourist attractions and kitschy gift shops. And while as a Baltimore resident, you probably don’t need yet another crab-themed souvenir, you might still enjoy living in the Inner Harbor. This is where you can find a luxury apartment with amazing views of the water and the city.
Northern Baltimore is the vast area above central Baltimore that includes Hampden, the Johns Hopkins University campus, Roland Park, Mount Washington and other unique neighborhoods. Some areas, such as Roland Park, are among the most affluent. You can also enjoy Druid Park and the Maryland Zoo, which is the third-oldest zoo in America, also known for housing the most African black-footed penguins.
This waterfront neighborhood was established way back in 1763 and offers a host of boutiques, antique stores, restaurants, coffee shops and bars. This National Historic District contains more than 300 registered historic buildings such as the oldest residence in Baltimore, the Robert Long House (available for tours). You’ll also want to visit the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, which explores the first African American-owned shipyard in the United States.
The “hipster” area of Baltimore, Hampden has working class roots as a former mill town. The quirky neighborhood honors its blue-collar heritage with “Honfest” to celebrate local history and the unique “Bawlmerese” Baltimore accent. The main drag, 36th Street, is known as “The Avenue.” With shops, restaurants, street art and local parks, this is a great area for the young and active…and the old and adventurous too!
Charles Village is nestled against the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus. This walkable neighborhood is known for its “painted lady” homes, and it was the first “garden suburb” of Baltimore due to its front yards back in the 1890s. Great things to do in Charles Village include the 32nd Street Farmers Market and walking tours of the beautiful Victorian homes.
Officially deemed the Northwestern District, this large grouping of Baltimore communities includes Reisterstown Station, Fallstaff, Park Heights and Hanlon. It’s also where you will find the second oldest horse racetrack in the country, the Pimlico Race Course, hosting the Preakness Stakes and a portion of the Triple Crown. Seabiscuit, Secretariat and other famous horses have been seen here. Northwestern Baltimore also has a very strong Orthodox Jewish community, the second largest in the country.
Greenmount West is named for being west of the Green Mount Cemetery, one of the oldest American garden cemeteries and the burial place of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Greenmount West offers lofts and “maker spaces” for artists, and it’s located in the heart of Baltimore City’s Arts & Entertainment District.
Highlandtown was originally called “Snake Hill” (you can see why they changed the name). After Union Troops abandoned Fort Marshall (on Snake Hill), an Irish immigrant built the first house here in the late 1800s. It was actually built out of the cabin of a boat. Thus began the history of this diverse and eclectic Southeast Baltimore neighborhood, filled with historic rowhouses, new apartment complexes and lots of shops, restaurants and bars.
This historic Baltimore neighborhood is entirely residential (no commercial businesses) and is known for its quaint, European style architecture. The Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Historic buildings include an original Victorian cottage from 1892, an Italian-style villa called Castalia built in 1928, and Canterbury Hall, a beautiful three-story Tudor-Gothic style apartment building from 1912 that now offers 15 rental units with historic touches such as glass doorknobs and ornamental gas fireplaces.
Mid-Town Belvedere, on the west side of I-83 across from Johnston Square, offers access to downtown as well as Baltimore’s Penn Station. Its namesake, the famous Hotel Belvedere, is now a condominium. As a renter, you have your choice of row houses and high-rise buildings in this happening area filled with restaurants and cultural attractions such as the Lyric Opera House and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.