There is something about Boston that seems to set it apart from the rest of the country. To visitors, it often feels more like a European city, with a walkable downtown littered with parks and brownstone buildings. Ans even while the city has erected skyscrapers to keep pace with its high-tech economy, it has kept its older buildings intact. Businessmen and bicycle messengers race past white- steepled churches and historic houses that played essential roles in the war for American Independence.
While Greater Boston ranks as the seventh-largest urban area in the country, with more than three million people, the city itself barely breaks the top 25, with just 600,000 people. To Bostonians, that makes the city exactly the right size, thank you very much—big enough that you can find most everything you need, but small enough to get to know the major people and places in town quickly. Among them are the cultural institutions that give Boston its identity: the Boston Pops  on the Fourth of July, the swan boats in the Public Garden , and the recent world-champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park . New symbols mark the city’s drive into the 21st century, including the breathtaking Zakim Bridge  and the “Big Dig”—the city’s ambitious attempt to put the central expressway underground (which unfortunately has been recently beset by engineering problems).
Indeed, the city has come a long way from the days of scrod and clam chowder. The resurgence started in the late 1990s with the dot-com boom, for which Boston, with its educated populace and venture capital companies, was especially poised. Even after the dot-com bubble popped, however, the revitalization of downtown has continued, with million-dollar condos springing up on block after block and a bumper crop of inventive restaurants , hip lounges , and international boutiques . The result is a new cosmopolitan air that has improved upon, not replaced, the historic charms of the city and made Boston one of the most enjoyable cities in (or not in) America.