Welcome to Bawl'mur, Hon!

In the spring of 2005, Baltimore joined Barcelona and Belize on Frommer’s list of “Top 10 Up-and-Coming Destinations.” Visit us and find out why! Millennium Baltimore has evolved into a great place to live and work, without losing its quirky charm. As a small city, it offers the best of both “small” and “city.”

WHERE do you want to live, and how? Whether you’re single or married, DINKs or parents, city folk needing nightlife on your block or country folk longing for your own weeds—we’ve got it. Perhaps you crave water views or a chimney; perhaps you’d like to be close to good public schools, bike paths, your church, the subway—regardless, Baltimore has a neighborhood for you. And our prices will look good, too, especially to those of you emigrating from either coast or a larger city. Our residents live all over Baltimore City and County, in all kinds of safe, attractive areas—and yet most are within a 30-minute commute to work. What’s more, resident parking is subsidized and prioritized. Those living near Homewood love the free Hopkins shuttle, which runs so efficiently that the city sent teams to study it a few years ago to upgrade its own bus service.  The new city Circulators are free bus routes laced through downtown, including a loop that stops right in front of the Dome.  And the subway has a Hopkins stop also, expanding the ability to live out in the county yet not be dependent on a car.

Consider yourself lucky—you’re looking at Baltimore a good 30 years into its renaissance. Hopkins in particular has deployed an intelligent and farsighted planned growth, which now serves as a model for other institutions. One of our best moves is the in-progress Biosciences Research Park and neighborhood redevelopment, which is taking over a huge expanse of previously decayed neighborhood contiguous to our northeast border: picture an array of high-tech bioengineering businesses and labs, as well as physical and economic rejuvenation for the whole neighborhood. New medical student residencies, retail and residential assets, all under way, some already open.

If safety is your worry, fear not: the campus today is safer than it has been in decades. The garages are well lit and well patrolled by security guards. There are literally hundreds of new cameras surveying campus, perimeter, and adjacent neighborhoods. Residents get the best parking, in the closest lot to the main campus. Hopkins shuttles serve various sites, including Greenspring Station, Bayview Medical Center, the undergraduate campus, offices in the county, and several clinics. The new City Circulators provide free bus shuttles amongst several popular downtown residential and commercial areas. and run right to the Hospital as well.  Too tired to drive home after a night of call? The hospital will even pay your cab fare home and back!

As you get to know Baltimore, remember that it is a town of myriad neighborhoods which fiercely defend their individual flavors and identities. Shipping and industrial history drew every ethnic and religious group here sooner or later, each establishing its own little enclave of shopping, worshipping, schooling. There are parts of Baltimore where you’ll hear more Spanish, Polish, Russian, Korean, or Greek than English, and where neighborhood newsstands and storefront signs may be in languages unknown to you. And we’re not referring to the sometimes impenetrable dialect native to Bawlmurrr, in which Druid Hill Park becomes Droodlebark and awl is what you put in your engine. Enjoy the diversity—when summer festival season arrives, each weekend sees a new ethnic group displaying its culture, costumes, music, dance, food, art, and exuberance all over the city.

Start your tour of Baltimore at the Inner Harbor—no, not the touristy stores and eateries (you’ll have time for that later). Walk counterclockwise around the harbor’s rim to Federal Hill Park, where you can survey the bay and the downtown area while a breeze snaps the flag and happy dogs swirl around their owners’ ankles. Fort McHenry, where “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written, lies just a couple miles away. “The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”—it all happened right here! Revolutionary and Civil War buffs, you’re about to enter nirvana, as the entire region abounds in names resonating throughout history. A block west of your perch is the American Visionary Art Museum; take a moment to admire its enormous Bird’s Nest balcony, the giant mirror-covered egg, and the 32-foot hand that protrudes from an exterior wall and suspends a movie screen for (free) outdoor summer film fests.

Directly west of the museum is historic Federal Hill, a popular place to live or visit. A strict three-story height limit keeps the scale of this neighborhood both human and charming. Bistros, bars, and Zagat-quality restaurants abound, intermingled with Ken-Zo’s Magic Shop and other curiosities. Many of these blocks feature renovated 1800s rowhouses, stripped to their original brick walls; some have rooftop decks, gardens, and back-alley parking, mingling the best of old and modern. Join the jostling crowd lined up three-deep at Nick’s Sushi in the Cross Street Market, one of several neighborhood markets scattered throughout downtown that not only serve the walk-in lunch crowd, but also sell farm-fresh fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, and flowers. (The similar Northeast Market, just two blocks from the hospital up Monument Street, offers hospital staff some of the best lunch deals in town.)

Harbor East now boasts a Whole Foods, multi-plex cinema, fabulous yet affordable dining (happy hour at Ra Sushi or Lebanese Taverna is unbeatable), upscale shopping and art, and all sorts of new condos and rentals for indulgent downtown living.

Further east, the Inner Harbor melts into the funkier cobblestones of Fell’s Point, once the heart of this seaport town, serving sailors and ships from around the world from the 1600s to the early 1900s. Fell’s Point retains a slightly ribald, melting-pot flavor in its many restaurants and bars. Mix in a little French Quarter North, and you’ve basically got it. This is high-camp, high-funk Bawlmur, where blue collar meets white and where sightseers, street vendors, and foot traffic rule. (You’ll meet frequent-flier patients in the ED who give the Wharf Rat, a local bar, as their only home address.) Dig through the buried treasure at Killer Trash or the other vintage/used/consignment stores. Grab a snack at the Broadway Market, a beer at the Horse You Came In On, or a bite at Jimmy’s (one of the last outposts of the cheap greasy-diner meal) ; explore the explosion of Central and South American bistros and cantinas in Little Hispania . . . or get dressed up (rather loosely defined here in Baltimore) and revel in luxury at  the Admiral Fell Inn, Mezze, or Kali’s Court, where it’s not uncommon to see a Ferrari parked at the front door.

Immediately east of Fell’s Point is Canton, a vital bedroom community of 19th-century row houses, brand-new townhouses, and condos in rehabbed industrial buildings; bars and restaurants; contemporary furnishings and accessories stores; a downtown Safeway; and cobblestone streets along the waterfront. O’Donnell Square is the center of the nightlife scene here. Prices drop as you move just a few blocks to the east edge of Canton, Brewer's Hill, where re-gentrified warehouses and renovations have reclaimed and polished some prime living space overlooked by Baltimore's home town boy, Natty Bo, atop the old brewery building.

Mount Vernon, several blocks north of the harbor, is the heart of the city. Our Washington Monument precedes that other one by years. Bordering the monument is the Walters Art Museum (FREE all the time)  holding an endless collection of medieval armor and weaponry, Asian art, and ancient Greek and Roman artifacts. Next door is the Peabody Institute of Music, part of the Hopkins University system. Its newsletter will help you keep up with free concerts, find a music teacher, or even locate a group (classical, jazz, reggae?) with whom to jam. East and west, the square is lined with elegant old houses, displaying the fine detail, woodwork, and majestic bay windows no longer seen in modern construction. Some of these graceful façades house clubs and institutes; others, high-ceilinged apartments with hardwood floors and fabulous views. Nearby are funky galleries and storefronts featuring exotic imports, beads and crafts, vibrant accessories, coffee- and teahouses, and all kinds of restaurants, ranging from great sushi to French, Indian, Thai, and the can’t-miss Helmand, for the best Afghan food in the world!

As you head north, you’ll soon reach Druid Hill Park, once the domain of the horse-and-carriage set. Now you’ll find Baltimore’s oldest synagogue, some beautiful old buildings, the Rawlings Conservatory (with a gorgeous greenhouse in an old Victorian ironworks façade; free all year 'round), and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. The newly revamped Zoo has the nation’s best children’s section (Association of Zoo and Aquaria, award), complete with a petting zoo, milkable mechanical cow, and perpetually hatching chickies. Other residents include a rapidly-growing feisty baby elephant Samson, two rambunctious baby warthogs (yes, pigs can be...cute), a magnificent polar bear environment for Magnet and his two lady friends, a mini-Serengetti plain with rhino, zebras, gazelles and gigantic African porcupine, a feeding station for the inquisitive giraffes, and more, all centered in our oldest and most historic park, Druid Hill-- which also boasts long winding paved bike trails and a discus golf course, From the zoo, it’s a short skip to Hampden, the spiritual heart of Old Bawlmur. Every summer, it’s home to the Hon Fest, where women in impossibly tall beehives, rhinestone cat-eye glasses, and polyester toreador pants compete to be Baltimore’s Best Hon. Backdrop: the 30-foot flamingo on Cafe Hon’s exterior wall, and the one-of-a-kind ambience of the Avenue, a few blocks of 36th Street known for its tearooms, vintage clothing stores, galleries, and endless oddball junqueterias, end-of-the-line discount emporiums, suitably decrepit diners, adorable shoe stores, and a lot of heart-and-soul locals parked on their stoops.

Homewood, the undergraduate campus, is uptown, with a large bedroom community wrapped around it.  If you choose to live near Homewood, you can enjoy the amenities of a college town-within-a-town: the on-campus movie and theater series; the gym, track, and pool; the usual array of student-friendly restaurants, hangouts, and shops; and a free shuttle between the undergrad and medical campuses. Next door is the Baltimore Museum of Art (FREE all the time) , containing the Cone Collection of Matisse works, Impressionist pieces, a stunning modern-art wing, 18th- and 19th-century paintings, and a magnificent park-like free sculpture garden tucked behind the terrific restaurant.

Just north of campus are the winding tree-lined streets and gracious gardens of Guilford, including the jewel-box Sherwood Gardens, in springtime a glorious blaze of tulips and azaleas surrounded by stately Georgian and colonial mansions.

It’s another few blocks to the city/county line. Baltimore’s beltway encircles the city and is in turn woven with various bedroom communities, each with its own special offerings. In choosing your neighborhood, you may want to consider proximity to light rail or the subway, which goes right to the Johns Hopkins Hospital basement. Consider Columbia if a spouse works in D.C., or Timonium if he or she works in York. We have residents living in all of these places.

Above all else, Baltimore has energy. There are ethnic and religious festivals every weekend from spring to fall; farmers’ markets all over the city; endless back roads leading serious bikers and hikers through deep woods (some fewer than 15 minutes from the hospital); and room for the dog to roam in a necklace of parks gracing the city and county (Herring Run, Oregon Ridge, Robert E. Lee, and on and on). The vibrant music community (named the US' Coolest Indie Music Scene recently  by Rolling Stone)  spans the likes of Pro Musica Rara and chamber quartets to the club and DJ scene. The Baltimore Symphony is justifiably world-renowned, yet still offers cheap rehearsal tickets, a Saturday casual series, occasional open houses for kids, and soloists ranging from Bobby McFerrin to Joshua Bell. Theater is alive and well, whether it’s improv and comedy clubs or Broadway shows at the newly opened Hippodrome. The first Thursday of every month, the Walters Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art are free, and many Charles Street galleries and businesses stay open late and offer special programs—treat this as a singles’ night, a mental-health break, or family entertainment; it all works.

And remember, this list is far from exhaustive—but never fear, we keep on top of opportunities and events as they appear on the horizon! Many Thursdays I email the Residents and students an informal and highly editorial Baltimore Blog, 'Go For It', highlighting that week's unusual activities, must-see events, family-and budget-friendly activities, and random hopefully entertaining bits of  information about Hopkins and Baltimore.

Baltimore is a wonderful place to live and work. Come and join us . . . and you’ll soon see why we call it “Charm City.”


Donna Magid, MD, MEd


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