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Then it's on to the much smaller, but no less impressive, Gardner, a short walk along the Fenway, dating from 1899 and built in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palace.Once the home of Boston socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner, today it houses more than 2,500 works of art spanning 30 centuries, including masterpieces by Raphael, Manet, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Matisse and Sargent.Lunch awaits at Legal Sea Foods in the Copley Square mall.The first outpost of this now-famous empire was established across the river in Cambridge in 1968, and although there are now locations along the eastern seaboard, management hasn't lost its focus on freshness and continues to win "best clam chowder" and other awards.Complete your walking tour of the Back Bay by heading west along Commonwealth Avenue.
Long known for only having a few grand dame hotels worth mentioning (e.g., The Ritz Carlton, now a Taj property, and the recently renovated Fairmont Copley Plaza), the city has seen a lodging boom in recent years.Particularly strong here is the collection of French impressionists -- including the largest trove of Monets outside of France -- and the American masterpieces by Copley, Homer, Cassat and Whistler.After a morning of wandering through the galleries, have brunch at Bravo, the museum's fine-dining restaurant (the crab cakes are delicious, and the wine list outstanding if a bit pricey).One of my favorites is Fifteen Beacon, the city's first luxury boutique hotel, but several less expensive choices have popped up, including several new Kimpton properties, such as Nine Zero and the Onyx.(Beware that hotel rates skyrocket during convention, college homecoming, graduation and leaf peeping periods, so try to avoid visiting then). Indeed, if all you do is stroll Boston's historic neighborhoods, that is reason enough to visit, but, of course, there's much more to do and see.