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Welcome to Baltimore


As Maryland's biggest city and one of the USA's busiest ports, Baltimore's position at the end of the Patapsco River that feeds into Chesapeake Bay gives the city easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and it became an important port and shipbuilding centre. It was home to a large number of US Navy vessels as well as the famously swift Baltimore clipper ships that destroyed or captured many of the British merchant ships during the War of 1812. Unlike Washington DC, Baltimore survived the vengeful attack by Britain, and with the triumphant flying of the American flag over Fort McHenry the country's national anthem, the 'Star-Spangled Banner', was born.

Since its important role in the Revolution, Baltimore has experienced a turbulent history. Its fortunes have see-sawed from post-Revolution prosperity to a city crippled by the violence of divided loyalties during the North/South Civil War; from a railroad-rich 19th century to the devastation caused by the fire of 1904; and the economic despair of the Great Depression.

Nicknamed 'Charm City' for its fusion of small town hospitality and city finesse, Baltimore combines an interesting mix of neighbourhoods, a diverse range of attractions, and delicious seafood specialities of the Inner Harbor that include the abundant Maryland steamed blue crabs. The distinct neighbourhoods are an attractive feature of Baltimore, among them the historic maritime district of Fells Point, the broad avenues of wealthy Mount Vernon, the village ambiance of Little Italy and the Bohemian neighbourhood of SoWeBo, or Southwest Baltimore. The dividing line between the northern and southern US states runs through the city and its southern heritage is visible in the wide front porches of the houses, and the typically laid-back attitude of its residents.

No holiday in Baltimore is complete without sampling its active nightlife. Fells Point is the most popular district for entertainment, with a large selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs. The Powerplant Live! area near the Inner Harbor has several blocks of nothing but restaurants, bars and clubs. Other neighbourhoods in Baltimore with good nightlife include Canton Square, Mount Vernon, Hampden, Federal Hill, and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

The waterfront area and Inner Harbor are the heart of this vibrant and growing city and has become a major tourist destination featuring the World Trade Center with its 27-storey high Top of the World Observation Level, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, and the Port Discovery children's museum covering everything from art to black history and archaeology. The water taxi service, besides providing an efficient means of harbour transport, is an excellent way to experience the waterfront and affords fantastic views of the city's skyline.

Information & Facts


The climate of Baltimore is coastal temperate, with a high annual rainfall spread throughout the year, common with most USA east coast cities. The city experiences hot, humid summers and cold, damp winters. In the height of summer, temperatures in downtown Baltimore can rise to 91°F (33°C), while during January, the coldest month, it is often just below freezing. The ocean moderates the weather, so it is not as cold in winter or as hot in summer in Baltimore as it is in eastern cities that are further inland. Snow does fall in winter though, usually in the form of a few snowstorms that deposit a few inches on the city streets.

Getting Around

Most visitors to Baltimore will head for the compact Inner Harbour and downtown areas, which are easy to navigate on foot or by public transport. Water taxis act like a bus service and are a cheap and convenient way to get around the Inner Harbour, servicing many attractions as well as other districts. The inexpensive bus network connects all parts of the city and is an easy way of getting around, although usually involving a number of transfers. The metro and light rail system provide limited coverage, mainly aimed at commuters, connecting downtown with the northern and southern suburbs. Taxis are usually ordered by phone, but they can be found at taxi ranks or hailed on the street. Driving in central Baltimore is unnecessary and not recommended due to difficult and expensive parking, but the layout is fairly easy and congestion limited to rush hour.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

The B&O Railroad Museum's roster of rolling stock, historic railway buildings, and assortment of memorabilia from stations and trains makes it a must-visit for trainspotters, but even for those who are not train fanatics this is one of the best sights in Baltimore and is a fascinating place for the whole family. Housed in the huge Roundhouse is an enormous collection of locomotives, passenger cars, classic heritage trains, mail cars and Pullman sleepers. A full-scale model of the first locomotive, Tom Thumb, is on display along with a red caboose from 1907. Other exhibits include posters, historic photographs and newspaper cuttings, as well as a superb model railway, and numerous interactive and entertaining exhibits. Some recreate experiments from the 1830s such as sail-powered carriages, hand cranks and propulsion using dogs or horses. The B&O was the first railroad in the US, dating from 1827, and the museum is located on the site of the first station in America.

The Baltimore Museum of Art, in the leafy city neighbourhood of Charles Village, was founded in 1914 with a single painting. Today, the BMA is home to an internationally renowned collection of European and American fine and decorative arts, 15th through 19th century prints and drawings, works by established and emerging contemporary artists and objects from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. Its 90,000 works include the world's largest holding of pieces by Henri Matisse. The grand museum building, designed by famous American architect John Russell Pope, is surrounded by two beautifully landscaped sculpture gardens, where yoga classes or jazz concerts often take place in the early evening. Visitors can sample signature Chesapeake Bay cuisine on the lovely outdoor terrace of Gertrude's, the museum's well-regarded restaurant.

The Fort McHenry National Monument will forever be associated with America's national anthem, written by the poet Francis Scott Key while watching the British attack Baltimore during the War of 1812. After more than 25 hours of non-stop bombing by the British naval forces in an unsuccessful attempt to stop America gaining independence, the fort still stood with the huge American flag flying high. It was the only action the brick fort had seen in more than 100 years of guarding the water approach to Baltimore. A visit to the fort includes a short historical film 'The Defence of Fort McHenry', and a guided tour with exhibits in the various quarters recalling the siege and the fort's Civil War service. On summer weekends military ceremonies and drills are performed, as well as a living history program simulating the daily activities during the battle. The monument and its grounds are a national park and visits to the parklands are free. There is also a daily changing of the flag ceremony that involves about 20 people required to fold the enormous star-spangled banner. The ceremony is concluded by a short historical talk about the fort, flag and anthem. From the fort there are fine views down the Patapsco River to the Inner Harbor and towards Chesapeake Bay.

The unique sport of lacrosse is played extensively in the eastern United States, and nowhere is it more wildly popular than in Maryland, where 'LAX' stickers are to be seen on multitudes of fancy cars alongside decals for posh private schools, in accordance with the sport's elite reputation. The origins of lacrosse lie with multiple Native American tribes, for whom the game had great significance in both performing religious rites and preparing men for war. The Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame showcases the history of America's oldest sport as well as today's top male and female players, coaches and contributors. A drive to the museum, just north of downtown, takes visitors to the edge of the beautiful campus of Johns Hopkins University and the elegant neighbourhoods of Guilford and Roland Park.

The striking glass, steel and concrete structure on the Inner Harbor houses the Maryland Science Center with five storeys of interactive exhibits, an IMAX theatre, the world-famous Davis Planetarium and an observatory. The Maryland Academy of Sciences is one of the USA's oldest scientific institutions, dating from 1797, and the institution remains focused on education. There are imaginative and hands-on displays ranging from astronomy and space travel, to dinosaurs and general science experiments. 'Your Body: The Inside Story' exhibition explores the biological world inside a human being and the challenges and advances in health science through interactive exhibits are the focus of BodyLink, while Newton's Alley offers dozens of hands-on experiments to provide insight into light, magnetism, mechanics, sight, and sound. The planetarium runs programs with stargazing at night and sungazing during the day through the observatory telescope. Other popular attractions include The Kids Room and the National Touring Exhibit.

The National Aquarium is Maryland's leading tourist attraction, and one of the best aquariums in the world. It was recently voted one of the top ten family attractions in the US. Here visitors can tour the tidewaters of Maryland, the Pacific coastland or a tropical rainforest without leaving Baltimore. The permanent residents include sea horses, turtles, stingrays and octopi. The aquarium offers much more than marine life: there are several special exhibits like the Amazon Rainforest display with poison dart frogs, dwarf caiman, anacondas, sloths, colourful birds and conehead lizards, as well as plants and fish. A sea cliffs habitat features puffins and other north Atlantic sea birds, while the Coral Reefs and Open Ocean tanks are walk-through displays bringing visitors face to face with sharks and exotic fish. In addition to the permanent exhibits, dolphins jump, wave and flip in regularly scheduled shows at the Marine Mammal Pavilion. Visitors can catch an underwater view from an atrium below the pool or watch the tricks from the stands, but be warned: the areas marked Splash Zone really are splash zones, so don't sit there unless you don't mind getting wet.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, two Baltimore men, William Walters and his son, Henry, amassed a diverse range of artwork from around the world, which they then bequeathed to their hometown. The 22,000 pieces they collected span 55 centuries, including ancient Egyptian art as well as late 19th century European art and decorative objects. Some favourite pieces on display at the Walters include seven ancient Roman sarcophagi, judged to be among the finest in the world; a collection of Japanese arms and armour; a medieval ivory casket covered with scenes of jousting knights, one of only a dozen such items remaining; and 900 illuminated manuscripts as well as the letters of Catherine the Great and the diary of Napoleon.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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