Baltimore, Maryland has always held a special place in my heart. My grandma lived in the county, and we visited every chance we could.
But it’s been more than ten years since I’ve been back east. And I wonder how much of my love for the city was from looking through rose-colored glasses. Now that my husband, Thaddeus, and I are seriously talking about moving—and he’s never been to Baltimore before—I had to go back and see if Charm City was the place for us.
To get acquainted with the city, I planned a walking tour around the harbor, exploring the neighborhoods and the gorgeous row houses that line the streets.
We started in Fells Point. With a rich maritime history, the neighborhood still has an air of a seafaring town. Fresh seafood fills the menus of restaurants in the area, and oysters on the half-shell accompany cold beer at many pubs. Even if you’re craving something other than the ocean’s bounty, there’s no shortage of restaurants here. Fells Point has the highest concentration of bars and eateries in the city. That’s one check mark for Fells.
Next, we popped into the Broadway Market—one of the famous Baltimore City Public Markets—and were greeted with an overload of delicious aromas. The walls were lined with stalls occupied by local artisans selling meats, seafood, and produce. Interspersed alongside them were counter cafés cooking up fresh food made from those ingredients. We sat at the counter of Vikki’s Fells Point Deli, and I had a juicy chicken breast sandwich while Thaddeus dug into an Italian cheesesteak.
After munching on lunch and talking to some locals, we strolled the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets to admire the scenery. Fells Point is one of many Baltimore areas listed on the National Register of Historic Districts—the buildings lining the streets are all original 18th- and 19th-century construction. Walking the brick sidewalk of Shakespeare Street felt like we had gone back in time. The immaculate row houses shaded by mature trees and draping vines created a very homey feeling.
Walking the brick sidewalk of Shakespeare Street felt like we had gone back in time.
“If we move here, this is the neighborhood I’d pick,” Thaddeus said, admiring brick-faced Colonials.
“Well, we’ve only just started this walk,” I reminded him with a light elbow nudge into his side.
The two of us passed by a bakery in a historic storefront, and each grabbed a sweet. Savoring our treats on a bench overlooking the harbor, we opened up Zillow to take a peek. Not bad. Smaller than our place in Tucson, but doable.
We hopped on the water taxi to head across the harbor and got off at Federal Hill. The neighborhood, named for the prominent hill in the otherwise lowlands of the harbor area, is another historic district that shows its pride.
Less touristy of a feel than Fells Point, Federal Hill is authentic Baltimore. Extremely walkable, the neighborhood retains its historic vibe with beautifully kept brick-front buildings. Cobblestone sidewalks, the Cross Street Market—another one of the city’s cool public markets—and locally owned stores line the sloped streets. But what sold me to this neighborhood were the views.
We walked over the hill itself and soaked it all in. The view from the top toward the city’s skyline was sublime. We had wanted to move to a bigger city and even though Baltimore ranks only three spots higher than Tucson regarding population, this view made it feel like Baltimore is an actual big city.
“Is Federal Hill taking over Fells Point for you?” I asked my husband as we sat on the bench enjoying the vista and a light breeze.
He had to ponder the question for a bit before replying. “It’s close, but I think I’m still leaning toward Fells Point.”
“This view won me over,” I told him, not being able to take my eyes from the skyscraper-laden picture before me. I snuggled up as the breeze picked up. We waited for the sun to start setting before heading down the hill. The Inner Harbor and Downtown neighborhoods were our next stops.
We lucked out and ended up in town during Baltimore’s Light City festival. With displays all over the Inner Harbor neighborhood, the area was literally—and figuratively—glowing. Live bands played at an open stage, colored lights shimmered on the water, and people acted like kids as they danced through the interactive light installations.
We spent time wandering around and visiting the different displays while enjoying fare from the many food trucks that came out for the event. One had us stand next to a metal orb and, as we touched hands without touching the orb, the lights above shined. One had colored patterns on the ground, creating the illusion of the path under you shifting, swaying, and spinning. One had an installation of light below the water that created silhouettes of the plants and animals lurking in the depths of the harbor.
All in all, it would have taken hours to explore all of the light displays, and we had been on our feet a lot that day. We decided it was time to head back to the hotel, but we did want to walk through the tall buildings of downtown we had seen from across the water.
Baltimore may be similar in population to Tucson, but the density was a night and day comparison. And the skyscrapers further proved that. I felt so cosmopolitan as we walked by the massive glass towers.
“I love this!” Thaddeus exclaimed as he looked directly up while surrounded by the buildings. “Do you think there are places to live right in downtown?”
“The row houses in Federal Hill would be way nicer than a high rise condo,” I countered. “And from there we could see the towers from our window.”
“But in one of the towers we’d get an even better view,” he quipped.
“We’ll have to talk more about this.” I smiled and grabbed his hand as we made our way back to the hotel. It looks like we’re getting closer to taking our next big step.