Baltimore  was built around the Inner Harbor, its waterfronts once teeming with steamships. As the economy changed, the wharves began to rot—and so did downtown Baltimore . An innovative redevelopment plan called Harborplace  (203 E. Pratt St., 410/332-4191, www.harborplace.com , Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Free) became a model for urban renewal, and today the Inner Harbor is home to museums, restaurants, the National Aquarium in Baltimore  (501 E. Pratt St., 410/576-3800, www.aqua.org , Mon.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; longer summer hours, $21.95 adult, $12.95 child, $20.95 senior), and waterfront promenades. The surrounding downtown area is a mix of offices, museums, and historic buildings. Camden Yards (333 W. Camden St., 888/848-2473, http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com ) is home to grand stadiums for the Orioles and Ravens.
One of Baltimore ’s oldest neighborhoods, Fell’s Point is a place where tug boats still operate from the old City Recreation Pier, and it’s the site of historic buildings and unique characters. Bars and restaurants line the ballast-stone streets, as do small shops; take a walk down Thames Street, then follow the boardwalk around Henderson’s Wharf and wind your way back to the brick row houses and hidden courtyards. Fell’s Point was its own settlement until it was absorbed by Baltimore Town in 1773, and still retains an independent character.
As Italian immigrants settled here in the mid-1800s, they began to open businesses and restaurants and made a new community for themselves. The surrounding area has changed a great deal in the past decade, with fancy townhomes and condos now rising to the north and south. There are three important museums here: the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House  (844 E. Pratt St., 410/837-1793, www.flaghouse.org , Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., $7 adult, $5 child, $6 senior), the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture  (830 E. Pratt St., 443/263-1800, www.africanamericanculture.org , Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m., $8 adult, $6 senior, free for children under age 6), and the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd St., 410/732-6400, www.jhsm.org . Tues.–Fri. and Sun. noon–4 p.m., $8 adult, $3 child, $4 student).
East of Fell’s Point is another historic waterfront community, but one that’s undergone a transformation. Condos and new construction line the waterfront, while just a street away, century-old brick row houses and narrow streets provide a glimpse of old Canton. O’Donnell Square is the hub of Canton’s busy nightlife, where bars and restaurants host the young, party-minded people who live in the area (and beyond). One of the city’s most-used public spaces, Patterson Park  (Patterson Park  and Eastern Aves., 410/276-3676, www.pattersonpark.com , daily dawn–dusk, Free), marks the northern border of Canton.
Named for the large hill that provides one of the best vantage points of downtown Baltimore  and the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill is a thriving residential, shopping, and entertainment district, with activity often centered around the refurbished Cross Street Market, one of the many city-owned markets in Baltimore . Bars, clubs, and restaurants along Charles Street and Light Street make the heart of Federal Hill a boisterous place on warm weekend nights.
Home to the finest 19th-century architecture in Baltimore , Mount Vernon was founded as the site of the nation’s first monument to its first president. As the city’s fortunes rose, many of the new captains of industry and Baltimore ’s landed bluebloods built grand marble homes in the blocks that radiate out from The Washington Monument  (600 N. Charles St., 410/396-0929, Tues.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–4 p.m., $1) on Mount Vernon Place. Today, Mount Vernon is the cultural hub of the city, home to the Walters Art Museum  (600 N. Charles St., 410/547-9000, www.thewalters.org , Wed.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Free) and The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (1212 Cathedral St., 410/783-8000, www.bsomusic.org ), where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs.
An old 1800s mill settlement, Hampden is now a home to young, hip residents as well as established working families. “The Avenue” (36th St.) offers expensive home furnishings and apparel as well as thrift-store scores, plus bars and restaurants. Quirky and un-sanitized, Hampden is one of the city’s hidden charms. Just east of Hampden is Homewood, a neighborhood that surrounds Johns Hopkins University. It’s an area of broad avenues and small parks, as well as cultural icons like the Baltimore Museum of Art  (10 Art Museum Dr., 443/573-1700, www.artbma.org , Wed.–Fri. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Free) and Homewood House (3400 N. Charles St., 410/516-5589, www.museums.jhu.edu/homewood , Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–4 p.m., $6 adult, $3 child, $5 senior)