Best Boston Tourism Tips

Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston:
When a Unexpected Location is Ideal

Where it is: Cambridge

First, a clarification: the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston is technically the Royal Sonesta Hotel Cambridge . . . because it is in Cambridge, just on the the other side of the Charles River from Boston.

It can fairly call itself a Boston hotel because it's literally yards outside the city and because so many visitors find it a convenient home base from which to see the best of both Boston and Cambridge.

A guest room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston A guest room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston

It's a mid-priced hotel that, like the boutique Onyx Hotel, compensates for a perceived awkward location – that actually turns out to be a perfect one – by providing excellent amenities at extremely competitive prices . . . even by mid-priced hotel standards.

The Sonesta belongs to the category of mid-priced hotels that are upping their game in order to compete with the ever-escalating service and amenities offered by luxury and boutique hotels.

And the kind of rarefied, spectacular views of both Boston and Cambridge the Sonesta offers are difficult to find at any price. I count it among the top Cambridge Massachusetts hotels, mid-priced or otherwise.

More important, it provides that high level of amenities, starting with its bright, modern guest rooms, at extremely competitive prices . . . even by mid-priced hotel standards.

Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston Lobby with view of Charles River Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston lobby with view of Charles River

Plus it has river and city views that many luxury hotels in Boston would kill for. Trust me when I say that this is one of the hardest working hotels in hospitality business.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston has an unexpected perch. It's not actually in Boston, but just over the water on the edge of East Cambridge, in what looks largely like a quiet commercial neighborhood.

Business and leisure travelers new to Boston have been known to panic on arrival, thinking they've booked themselves into a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Yet ironically, the Royal Sonesta is one of the easiest hotels from which to see and get around the city (or to simply have a comfortable, full-amenity stay, even if you don't have time to see much of the town.)

Once you get there, you look around and realize that

  • the Cambridgeside Galleria, a giant shopping mall, is across the street – and inside it so is Starbucks, the Cheesecake Factory, and California Pizza Oven (not to mention Banana Republic, J Crew, Macy's etc.)
  • the Lechmere T station is only a few blocks away (about 5-minute walk),
  • the Museum of Science, one of the most popular Boston attractions, is only a few blocks away (another 5-minute walk)

Then there is the free hotel shuttle that takes you to several of most popular spots for Boston tourism, making getting around to see the city pretty effortless. From the hotel doors to Faneuil Hall or the Prudential Center without having to look up from your newspaper? Check.

A Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston visitor takes in contemporary art from the world class hotel collection A Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston visitor takes in contemporary art from the world class hotel collection

Or, if you have business at Hynes Convention Center – or Newbury Street or the Prudential Shopping Center – but don't want to meet the shuttle at one of its designated pick up times, the Lechmere T is part of the green line which has stops at those exact locations.

It's a five-minute cab ride to MIT's Kendall Square neighborhood and a ten-minute cab ride to Harvard Square.

It starts dawning on you that this location is looking very convenient . . .

If you're a walker, much of Boston is accessible on foot within 20-30 minutes: TD Garden – go Bruins and Celtics! – the North End and its historical and culinary treats, Beacon Hill, Charlestown and its Bunker Hill monument, the Boston Common, etc.

Walk another 5-10 minutes and you'll make it to Newbury Street or the New England Aquarium. All this, and the hotel is only three miles from Logan International, Boston's primary airport.

Then there is the unusual experience of the hotel itself.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston is possibly the only hotel in Boston or Cambridge that can call itself a cultural center. The inconspicuous exterior belies the remarkable public spaces inside.

Why? Because the Sonesta maintains a museum-quality contemporary art collection in its public spaces and restaurants – we're talking works by Andy Warhol and Richard Serra.

To see artwork of comparable quality anywhere else in town you'd have to hit galleries or private collections or head over to the Institute of Contemporary Art or perhaps the Museum of Fine Art.

Guest rooms at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston are well-appointed with bright, clean, contemporary design, usually with just a touch of playfulness. Wireless internet is complimentary throughout the hotel (and there is an excellent business center). Hypo-allergenic down comforters, high definition flat screen televisions, and coffeemakers – harder and harder to find in hotels – come standard.

Another guest goom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston Anoter guest room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston

The Artist and New England suites are particularly impressive, featuring contemporary Italian furniture, custom Tibetan carpets, and marble bathrooms with heated floors and whirlpool bathtubs. They also feature superstar contemporary artwork by Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein.

The hotel's location has gifted it with spectacular views of the Charles River on one side, and equally spectacular views of the Boston skyline on the other. The higher the floor, the more amazing the views become.

To maximize this asset, the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston has built many (but not all) rooms with one wall almost completely constructed of windows, creating a spectacular canvas effect.

When it's time to eat, you have the options of 24-hour room service, heading into town and choosing from one of Boston's many great restaurants, running into me at the Cheesecake Factory across the street in the Galleria, or one of the hotel's two on-site dining options:

Royal Sonesta Cambridge's Dante Restaurant serves  savory, satisfying Italian food Royal Sonesta Cambridge's Dante Restaurant serves savory, satisfying Italian food

Widely agreed to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the Boston/Cambridge area, Dante serves classic, savory Italian food with a little extra zing. You won't be disappointed.

ArtBar, the Sonesta's hotel bar, serves up delicious seasonal cocktails and new American cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh local and seasonal ingredients. Like Dante, ArtBar features high-impact contemporary art from the hotel's collection.

During the warmer months, enjoy both the great food and stunning views from each venue's outdoor seating.

Additional, very generous perks for summer visitors include free ice cream, free two-hour bike rentals (including helmets), and a free hour long boat cruise of Boston and Cambridge.

For visitors who want a deep, guided tour of the city, the Royal Sonesta sits across the street from the Old Town Trolley Tours stop.

The Royal Sonesta really is a place that seems rather unassuming before you discover all its charms. For a stay in Boston, it's a great home base for business, leisure, and family travelers.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel
40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge, MA 02142; 617-806-4200

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