by Marissa Wu
Photography by Callie Ahlgrim
The most recognizable cities usually have distinctive skylines, with iconic skyscrapers and landmarks that make them unique. Think of the Transamerica tower, the Space Needle and the World Trade Center. When you catch a glimpse of these buildings against the backdrop of a starry night, you know where you are.
Boston, of course, has its own iconic skyline. Anyone who has lived in the city will probably say that the Prudential Tower has been his or her makeshift compass at least once. The Hancock and Millennium Towers’ sleek glass façades have also been established as defining silhouettes for downtown Boston. Boston University students follow the Citgo sign like the North Star when heading back to campus.
City views are coveted; often the best views come with a steep price. Although there are great options, like the Custom House Tower, which is considerably cheap (tickets to the Observation Deck cost $4), college students are on a budget. Don’t worry, undergraduates: there are plenty of free spots around the city to soak in the skyline.
This bridge has a few names: The Harvard Bridge. The Mass Ave Bridge. Even the Smoots Bridge, because it was measured in Smoots! Oliver R. Smoot was a student at MIT whose measurements were used in a prank by his fraternity brothers. 364.4 of him, head to toe, to be exact. Fun fact: the word “smoot” was added to the American Heritage Dictionary in 2011. Whatever you want to call it, the one undisputable fact is that this bridge gives a majestic view of the Boston skyline from the MIT-Cambridge side. It’s complimented by the peaceful, blue ripples of the Charles River.
Bunker Hill Monument
If you seek a beautiful view (and a great photo for Instagram), but also want to throw in some exercise, climb the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. As the name implies, the monument itself sits on a hill, so you can see the quaint neighborhood of Charlestown laid out before you running into the skyline. Because of the height, you really do see all of Boston, including the avant-garde Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, one of the gateways to the city—it’s that bridge that you never knew the name of.
Institute of Contemporary Art
Located in the Seaport District, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) sits on the water. It is a modern, sleek glass building that is hard to miss. It also has a little secret. On the fourth floor of the ICA, there are floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a serene view of the Boston Harbor. While the city skyline is not front-and-center here, watching the water and the boats (and when it’s snowing, the snowflakes) is a calming, peaceful experience.
Any of these spots are ideal for appreciating the city on a bright, clear day. They also all provide a fun, unique way to get to know the city better, without being caught in the throes of the bustling downtown. Cities have a way of overwhelming and towering over us and it is easy to be whisked into the flurry of activity and forget the beauty that surrounds us. So take a step back and look up.