The Back Bay for Arts and Culture Lovers

Boston’s Back Bay is justly known for its rich colonial history, but its arts and culture offering is just as vibrant. The Back Bay is home to world-class music, theater, and art venues, most of which you’ll find within walking distance when you stay with us at Newbury Guest House. 

Let’s start with a one-stop local arts and culture destination: Boston Center for the Arts opened in 1970 as a showcase for working visual artists but expanded over the years to include live performance and exhibits of category-defying new works. Meet resident artists and check BCA’s ever-evolving calendar for dance, live readings, independent films, plays and art exhibits. 

Boston Center of the Arts is a 20-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.


There’s just no beating Hatch Shell on the Esplanade for a quintessential Back Bay live music experience. This Art Deco outdoor concert venue on the beautiful Charles River Esplanade is best known for the Boston Pops’ Fourth of July spectacular, but also hosts free Boston Landmarks Orchestra concerts most weekends and many weeknights during the summer. Take in classical and pop concerts while picnicking on the lawn. Hatch Memorial Shell is a 20-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

Berklee College isn’t just one of the nation’s leading music conservatories – it’s also the site of 

more than 1,500 annual open-to-the-public concerts featuring the work of its most talented students, celebrated alumni, and professional acts. Chances are good you can catch a performance anytime you’re in town. Boston Conservatory at Berklee is a 10-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

The Boston Opera House is a gloriously restored former vaudeville palace and home base for two top Boston cultural institutions: the Boston Lyric Opera and Boston Ballet. It’s also the city’s main venue for acclaimed current and classic musicals – the 2023 lineup includes Hamilton, My Fair Lady, Jagged Little Pill, Beetlejuice and Come from Away. The Boston Opera House is a 30-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

The Bebop is a live, hyper-local music venue disguised as an Irish pub with really tasty food. It offers live music seven nights a week – everything from jazz, blues, and bluegrass to (yes) Irish music and new music from up-and-coming acts (up-and-comers like Bruce Springsteen have been known to drop in for surprise sets). And standup fans should check the Bebop calendar for its frequent comedy nights. The Bebop is a 10-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.


Think comedy’s a drag? Hit Jacque’s Cabaret for nightly shows and some of the best drag performances and open-mic comedy and karaoke nights in town. Jacque’s Cabaret is a 20-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.


The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s collection of nearly 450,000 artworks from myriad movements and cultures is one of the most comprehensive in the world. MFA hosts prestigious traveling exhibits, but its permanent collection alone is impressive – highlights include Dutch Golden Age painting and works by Gauguin, Degas, Pissarro, Manet, Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, and Cézanne. Its 18th- and 19th-century American artworks feature painters John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, John Singer Sargent, and Winslow Homer; and its contemporary lineup includes works by Kathy Butterly, Andy Warhol, Mona Hatoum, Ken Price, and Jenny Holzer. For music historians, MFA offers a collection of 1,100 historical music instruments as well as talks, live demonstrations, and concerts. MFA Boston is an 8-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum houses important European, Asian, and American art, including painting, sculpture, tapestries, decorative arts and thousands of archival objects from ancient Rome, Renaissance Italy, Medieval Europe, the Islamic world, Asia, and 19th-century France. Some of the famous paintings on view include works by Titian (The Rape of Europa); Rembrandt (Self Portrait, Aged 23); Botticelli (The Story of Lucretia); Sargent (El Jaleo); as well as Manet, Whistler and Degas, and the first Matisse to enter an American collection. A stunning example of Italianate palazzo architecture, the Gardner itself is a work of art. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a 25-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

As if having two internationally renowned museums in its backyard wasn’t enough, the Back Bay’s Newbury Street alone has nearly 20 top art galleries, many located in the neighborhood’s famous Victorian mansions. Admire works by the masters and significant emerging artists on the same six-block stretch. A few notables: Newbury Fine Arts features art by an eclectic international mix of top contemporary artists; Galerie d'Orsay offers works from Old Masters including Renoir and Rembrandt to early 20th-century modernists Picasso and Miro, as well as those of contemporary painters, print makers, and sculptors. NAGA specializes in avant garde art and studio furniture, while Galleria Florentia are purveyors of bronzes, porcelains, European wood inlays and breathtaking Murano art glass. Newbury Street’s many galleries are all minutes on foot from Newbury Guest house. 


The Central Branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley square could just as easily appear in the category above; its two buildings, both landmarks, showcase the painting, sculpture, and the architecture of some of the most renowned creators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But if you’re there for the books, you’re still in the right place. BPL’s collection is estimated to be among the three largest in the country; the central branch alone houses over 22.7 million books, maps, manuscripts, letters, drawings, and other original works dating back to the 10th century. Among its literary treasures you’ll find first edition folios by William Shakespeare, the personal library of President John Adams, and original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.

If you love and support independent bookstores, Newbury Street’s own Trident Booksellers & Café may look like a bookshop, but it’ll feel more like heaven, with stacks of classics and the latest releases, a knowledgeable staff, and breakfast served all day. The ideal spot to browse, have a killer custom omelette, discuss books, and attend events almost every night of the week sits just three blocks from Newbury Guest House.


Taking in a Shakespeare on the Common performance under the stars on a warm summer night ranks right up there with a Sox Game at Fenway Park as a don’t-miss iconic Boston experience. Bring a blanket, stake out your spot on the lawn, and be transported by the thrilling language of the Bard, brought to life by stellar performances of the Common Shakespeare Company (this summer, in The Tragedy of Macbeth). The Common is an 18-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

The Charles Playhouse was at the forefront of America’s regional theater movement, debuting plays by O’Neill, Williams, and Brecht, and has the distinction of being home to Shear Madness, the longest play in American history, for over 40 years. Today it’s home to the critically acclaimed Blue Man Group, now celebrating 25 years in Boston. If you like your culture with a beat, don’t pass up the chance to see their rollicking, mood-boosting show. The Charles Playhouse is a 20-minute walk from Newbury Guest House.

The Back Bay is flush with all the beauty, art, books, music, and theater you need to inspire and enrich your visit to Boston, and you can put yourself in the center of Boston’s arts and culture scene at Newbury Guest House. And the scene is always evolving, so be sure to ask our staff about the latest events and happenings while you’re here.