Best Boston Tourism Tips

The Hotel Commonwealth Boston:
The Best-loved Boutique Hotel?

Where it is: Fenway/Kenmore

Aaah, the Hotel Commonwealth Boston: the city may not have a boutique hotel with a better reputation than this one.

If you've ever wondered what a luxury boutique hotel run with military precision might look like (haven't we all?), you'll have a good idea after spending just one night here. The Hotel Commonwealth is the boutique hotel would-be visitors ask me about the most.


Commonwealth Room at Hotel Commonwealth Boston Commonwealth Room at Hotel Commonwealth Boston

In the Hotel Commonwealth, Boston has a hotel with apparently no trade-offs or drawbacks. If you're seeking beautiful, spacious rooms, outstanding service, plus fresh oysters, delicious breakfasts, complimentary in-room wi-fi, an easy stroll to a Red Sox game, or a quick walk to visit the tadpole at Boston University or one of the other nearby universities, you'll find it here.

First the location: the Hotel Commonwealth is the star among popular Fenway Park hotels, located on the upper end of Commonwealth Avenue, in the Kenmore/Fenway area, and I wonder if this location is part of what drives them to compete so hard on every other aspect.

For Red Sox spectators, the location is ideal, but for business travelers, it may not be as perfect as a hotel in Back Bay or Downtown or even Beacon Hill. But it's still firmly in the most commercial and peopled part of Boston, meaning the city's most popular attractions are still easily within walking distance . . . you'll just walk a few minutes longer than you would in any of the above neighborhoods.


The wares at Island Creek Oyster Bar at Hotel Commonwealth Boston The wares at Island Creek Oyster Bar at Hotel Commonwealth Boston

Newbury Street is about a 10–minute walk. The Boston Common is about 30 minutes. The New England Aquarium is probably about an hour's walk, but you'll be strolling through the heart of Boston – so much to see and do and buy – along the way.

The Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are also just short walks away.

And happily, if you don't want to walk, you can hop on the subway: the Kenmore T station is just a few yards a way from the Hotel Commonwealth's front door. Best of all, if you're in town to see the Red Sox or visit your child at Boston University, it has the best location of any boutique hotel in town. You're a five- and ten-minute walk to each.


Fitness Center at the Hotel Commonwealth Boston Fitness Center at the Hotel Commonwealth Boston

The interiors at the Hotel Commonwealth Boston are all about discreet luxury. They don't do bling here: just tasteful, modern spaces. Classic contemporary, with neutral tones layered with rich ones.

And room . . . so much room! For a boutique hotel – for any hotel really – the guest rooms here are on the larger side. Commwealth rooms – the best of the non-suite guest rooms – facing the front of the hotel (Commonwealth Ave) are actually mini suites, having a small parlor attached with both a desk and chair for work as well as comfy stuffed chairs for relaxation.


Kenmore Room at the Hotel Commonwealth Boston Kenmore Room at the Hotel Commonwealth Boston

Guest rooms facing the back of the hotel are ideal for sports fans as they look directly out onto Fenway Park. And crucially, the rooms, even those facing busy Commonwealth Avenue, are silent. For the best views of the city, including the Charles River and Cambridge, your best bet is probably the Commonwealth Avenue side on the highest floor possible.

At the Hotel Commonwealth, Boston MA visitors will discover that bath amenities are top shelf (and one of my favorites): Fresh – not the adjective, the brand. If you love their stuff as much as I do, you can hit the Fresh boutique on Newbury Street (at Clarendon Street).

Something that strikes visitors over and over as a feature truly unique to the Hotel Commonwealth: the staff's seemingly unceasing, boundary-less sense of responsibility for your happiness and comfort.

Yes, there are the thoughtful touches like champagne and strawberries left in rooms for couples celebrating anniversaries. These kinds of small gestures are the mark of a good hotel.

But how about the concierge who emails you two weeks before your arrival because you're booked for a particularly busy time in the city and he wants to lock up dinner reservations for all the evenings you'll need them?

How about arriving in your room to find a handwritten note and small, delicious edibles simply because a staff member knows you had a travel snafu in making it to the city or to the hotel?

A good boutique hotel makes guests feel prized and respected. The Hotel Commonwealth goes further, consistently making all its guests feel like VIPs. It's the kind of unusually personalized hotel experience that almost makes you feel like you have your own staff.

One well-behaved dog is welcomed per room (alas my feline friends!), though there is $125 deep cleaning fee if your furry cutie comes along. But your pup will think the plush dog bed and elegant water bowl loaned to you by the hotel – not to mention just getting to travel with this loved one/s – make it well worth it.

Enjoy 24-hour room service from Eastern Standard, the hotel's relaxed, upscale restaurant, constantly buzzing with locals and hotel guests. Their menu consists of American and European classics – the Mussels and Frites: yum – as well as the all-important raw bar, a vital component of any foodie's visit to New England.

If you're wise enough to stop there and you have a taste for spirits, be sure to try one of their cocktails. Dazzling (and I love the Blue Parrot).

And you won't want to miss the hotel's other restaurant, Island Creek Oyster Bar, another magnet for locals. Take a seat and enjoy some of the best shellfish in the city.

The biggest complaint I've ever heard about the Hotel Commonwealth Boston? That the guest couldn't come up with an excuse to stay longer!

The Hotel Commonwealth
500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215; 617-933-5000
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