If there is a town on the East Coast that crosses witches' points of interest with historical, seafaring and natural attractions typical of New England, it is definitely Salem. What to see in this town with a dark past? Not just witches and legends as you can find out in this article!Our journey takes us to the Northeast of the United States and more specifically to the region of New England made up of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, the smallest in America. Our goal today is Salem which is about forty minutes from Boston along the US-1 N.
- How to reach Salem?
- Salem: a brief historical introduction
- The Witches of Salem
- Witch-themed attractions ...
- Salem Downtown
- Pioneer Village
- Willows Park
- Salem State University
- The Salem Pier
- Salem's historic neighborhoods
- Events in Salem
- Shopping to Salem
- Recommended restaurants
- Where to sleep?
- How to get around in Salem? Use the trolley!
- Other useful resources
How to reach Salem?
If you don't have a rental car you can take the ferry from Boston Long Wharf (1 Long Wharf) to Salem (10 Blaney St.). Another option is bus 459 from Boston-Logan airport and then from Salem number 450. MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority www.mbta.com) buses, trains, subways and ferries operate transports in Greater Boston. Salem is part.
Salem: a brief historical introduction
Together with the city of Lawrence it is the capital of the county of Essex. Salem is a coastal town on the Massachusetts Bay, at the mouth of the Naumkeag River, whose name derives from an ancient Indian tribe of the place. Its population is about 42.000 inhabitants of which about 82% is made up of white ethnicity with a predominance of Europeans and, later, Latins. The town was founded in 1626 by a group of European fishermen from Cape Ann in northeastern Massachusetts.
The Witches of Salem
The name Salem comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, which means peace. The city, however, owes its fame to witches, or rather, to witch trials. It is no coincidence that the town has been nicknamed the witch city. Even if one witch hunt had already occurred from 1647 to 1688, with the 1692 trials began the most extensive series of accusations, arrests and executions ever inflicted in the British possessions of the "new world" for the crime of witchcraft.
It all began when two ten-year-old girls showed symptoms of demonic possession after which six other girls from the village of Salem highlighted this condition. A court questioned the young women to identify the people who had evoked the evil one in them. They were tragic and cruel moments with unmotivated executions. This horrific practice ended when Massachusetts Governor William Phips dissolved the court at the time his wife was placed on the suspicious list.
However, it seems that Salem still has an account with the past. This town, now inhabited by the great-grandchildren and descendants of those who in the past was responsible for the witch trials, is tormented by disturbing visions and curses that do not seem just coincidences. In Salem there are in fact four places where paranormal and inexplicable activities are particularly intense. This is the Charter street cemetery (cemetery), of the old house of one of the judges of the inquisitorial court (the Joshua Ward House), a hotel (the Hawthorne) and the hill Gallows Hill where in 1692 the death sentences were carried out in the so-called "witch tree". All of this makes Salem even more intriguing.
Witch-themed attractions ...
In the downtown (the city center) various attractions, from the most realistic to the most imaginative, are linked to these facts of the past. At 310 Essex Street stands the Witch house, the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin involved in the Salem Witch Trials. This house is easily recognizable thanks to its black painted walls. In the city it is the only existing structure with a direct link to the story of the witches. The visits take place from March to November but it is possible to visit it even in winter by inquiring about the opening hours.
Il Witch museum (19 Washington St.) contains documents related to the witch trials, witchcraft practices, characters and stories. International visitors can request to hear the explanations in their own language (including Spanish). In front of the building there is a statue of Roger Conant, the founder of the city, although many tourists mistakenly think that it represents the image of a character linked to the world of witches.
Tickets for the Witch Museum
Those wishing to deepen their knowledge of witch trials more concretely should go to the Witch Dungeon museum (16 Lynde St.) where professional actors stage the events related to the 1692 witchcraft of Salem. At the end of the show, a tour of the dungeons is carried out.
And that's not all: lovers of the world of witches can discover the legends and facts dedicated to them Witch village (28 Derby St.). To take home a memento of these "dark" moments, visit the gift shop. To the Lappin park (intersection between Washington St. & Essex St.) a corner of magic is immortalized; on June 15, 2005, the statue of the leading actress Elizabeth Montgomery who played the character of Samantha Stephens struggling with a life as a wife and mother with magical powers in the sit-com was located here Bewitched (in Spain, Bewitched). A few episodes of the 1970s of this successful television series were set along the streets of Salem.
Other attractions are found in the downtown with its brick buildings that follow one another on Church, Essex, Central, New Derby and Washington streets. Let's start with City hall (120 Washington St.), the City Hall which is considered to be the oldest operating building in the United States since 1837. TheOld city hall (32 Derby Sq.), The old Federal style town hall. Inside is the Salem museum, open daily from June to October, which tells the story of Salem and guides the visitor also through exhibitions.
At 148 Washington Street is the Joshua Ward Home, one of the first brick houses in the city. President George Washington is said to have slept here on October 29, 1789 while visiting troops. If you have time, relax at Common park (Washington Sq.), A green area of over 3 hectares where cattle circulated in the past: now it is a pleasant place to walk under the light of the street lamps and stop under the romantic gazebo.
All around there are 30 historic buildings. Also in the downtown area, three museums deserve a mention. The most important and renowned in the city is certainly the Peabody Essex museum (161 Essex St.). Inside there are paintings, sculptures, drawings, photos, fabrics, decorative objects and architecture from various parts of the world, mainly from 1700 to today. The museum also promotes exhibitions, festivals on certain weekends, family art programs and an interactive room where you can develop your creativity.
The museum Wax Museum of Witches and Seafares presents the history of Salem interactively focusing on witches and the merchant trade. All ready to set sail for an adventure? And then the New England Pirate museum (274 Derby St.) is the place to be. On a walking tour of about 30 minutes, you will meet around 60 pirates from the 17th century and see their treasures up close. Then we will visit the reproduction of a port village and board a pirate ship, finally we will enter a cave of (fake) bats full of hidden loot. These pirates were the real rascals and villains of 1692 in old Salem. It is possible to hear the tales of Blackbeard who visited the north shores of Boston.
Anyone wishing to visit the downtown following a predetermined route can follow theHeritage trail, a red line in the pavement that runs through the city center passing through significant places in Salem such as the Witch museum and the Peabody Essex musem.
Just a 10-minute drive from the center is the Pioneer village (310 West Ave-Forest River Park), a reproduced village which tells the life of the first pioneers, the Puritans, who sailed from England to the "new world" in 1630 and their relationship with the native Indians. Over 1 hectare of colonial architecture ranges from thatched cottages, to the governor's house to the farrier's workshop; this is the first such museum in America.
It is open on weekends from June to September. Tickets can be purchased at the Witch House, where on some days in October you can hear tales of the tales of Salem.
If you have time and love to relax in natural places, stop at Willows park (167 Fort Ave.), an area formerly used for patients from the nearby hospital, now a public park directly on the water. The name of the park was attributed thanks to the willows planted in 1801. Inside there is a carousel with horses, a games room, two small but lovely beaches and stalls with take-away food.
Salem State University
Salem is a college town and this gives it a young soul. Inside the Salem State University there are books, brochures and documents concerning a tragic event that took place on 25 June 1914 that the city does not want to forget. The Great Salem fire was a devastating fire that occurred on Boston Street at the Blubber Hollow leather factory. For two days, the fire destroyed 1.376 buildings and left almost half the population homeless and many people unemployed.
The Salem Pier
The town, being located on the coast, has had an important maritime tradition since its foundation, as evidenced by the Maritime national historic site (160 Derby St. in the port area) where the reproduction of the commercial vessel Friendship of Salem, one of the historical symbols, towers over the water. Also in the area of the docks is the Derby Wharf light, a lighthouse built in 1871 and kept alive by the United States Parks Service. It is recognized by its square white tower that emits a visible red light for 7.4 kilometers.
The port area is a living entity on a commercial and recreational level. It is possible to take a walk overlooking the water at the Pickering Wharf (Wharf St.), a shopping and dining complex that runs from the harbor to the Maritime national historic site. Speaking of the sea in its broadest sense, one cannot help but remember the presence of the Costal guard air station founded on February 15, 1935 to which, in 2013, President Obama gave even more prestige by signing legislation that recognizes Salem as the birthplace of the National Guard.
Salem's historic neighborhoods
For those who love to walk quietly and enjoy beautiful architecture, we recommend three historic districts, in particular the Chestnut street historic district, also called McIntire historic district, in honor of Samuel McIntire, builder and carpenter who lived in this neighborhood at 31 Summer St. and who built a series of houses here. It is the largest district in the city with around 400 buildings ranging from the mid 17th century to the early 20th century. Don't miss the aforementioned Witch house. Follow Brand, Flint, Federal, Summer, Chestnut and Essex streets. Another noteworthy district is the Federal street historic distric famous for its residential and civic buildings mainly in Greek Revival, Romanesque and Italian-inspired style. The architecture of the court, the court of cassation and the new law library are noteworthy.
Those who want to immerse themselves in local history should not miss the Charter Street historic district, the oldest district of Salem which includes the aforementioned cemetery site of paranormal phenomena. Here the Pickman house (not open to the public) with colonial architecture located on the border with Witch Trials memorial (Liberty St.), the 1992 memorial dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the witch trial. There Grimshawe house, is the house that belonged to the family of Sophia Peabody who married the famous writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Events in Salem
You can decide when to visit Salem by choosing from the various events that take place throughout the year. We point out a few in particular. In February, the Salem so sweet, a Valentine's Day celebration where chocolate and ice sculptures are the main attractions.
The 4th of July, American Independence Day, is celebrated on Salem’s 4th of July fireworks extravaganza at the Maritime National historic site, with music, activities for children and the inevitable fireworks planned that evening as well as in many other celebrations in the United States.
There are two events in August that celebrate the maritime tradition. The first is the Maritime festival, with free admission, to the Maritime National historic site; visits to vessels, harbor cruises, craft demonstrations and activities across four centuries of maritime history intrigue both adults and children. The second is theAntique & Classic Boat festival al Brewer Hawthorne Cove marina (entrance in Turner St.) which tells the nation's maritime culture through many types of boats, yachts, vessels and even canoes. Some models are museum models, others are still in working order and in many cases the owners invite visitors to come aboard to tell stories of journeys made with their boats and give information on construction techniques.
Music lovers will find their paradise in August al Jazz & Soul festival. This is a free jazz, soul and funk event at Salem willows park (167 Fort Ave). In October, however, the city is full of events related to witches and ghosts. Look for the Haunted happenings, spooky happenings around the city. For the more extravagant, in this month it is possible to go around the village dressed and masked in a Halloween theme. This is the moment when creativity is given free rein!
In December i Salem Holiday happenings are a series of events that celebrate Christmas. The houses are festively decorated and it is pleasant to take a tour of the historic buildings decorated for the occasion and perhaps greet the arrival of Santa Claus at theHawthorne hotels (18 Washington Sq. W.).
Shopping to Salem
You cannot miss a stop at the various shops scattered around Salem. For a souvenir of the stay Salemdipity (86 Wharf St.) in addition to souvenirs sells postcards, collectibles and books. In downtown do not miss the souvenirs of Bewitched in Salem (180 Essex St.). Da Salem spice the sense of smell and sight are attracted by the smells and colors of spices, pepper, chili and tea that refer to the maritime era of the city. Lovers of spirits, especially rum and gin will be able to stop by Decan Giles distillery (75 Canal St.). Wizards, witches, spirits and potions float in the air from Old World witchery (246 Essex St.) and da Crow Haven corner (125 Essex St.), two great places for magic lovers.
For food lovers we recommend a couple of restaurants with American cuisine. Victoria Station & Vic’s Boathouse (86 Wharf St.) with typical New England cuisine and meat dishes combined with the “all you can eat” salad bar, where you can combine side dishes and soups with the main course as often as you like. All ingredients are local as far as possible.
Entertainment, live music and water views add an extra touch to the tasty meal. Another noteworthy restaurant is Finz seafood & grill (76 Wharf St.) renowned for its seasonal seafood as well as meat dishes. Those who have not booked can wait comfortably on the sofas of the pleasant lounge where there is a fireplace. In summer, on the other hand, you have the pleasure of eating on the outdoor patio overlooking the water while in the colder months three internal windows allow you to enjoy the view of the port of Salem and its waters.
For an exotic touch try the oriental cuisine of Koto grill & sushi (90 Washington St.), the Thai delicacies of Thai Place (2 E. India Square Mall) and colorful dishes with the spicy touch of Mexican cuisine atHowling Wolf taqueria (76 Lafayette St.).
Where to sleep?
To enjoy a nice stay in Salem, there is nothing better than sleeping in one of its delightful hotels with historic charm and views of the water. L'Amelia Payson house (16 Winter St.) was built in 1845. Now it has been transformed into a small but nice B&B in the Greek Revival style. Three guest rooms, a dining room and a sitting room make up the house.
The Salem inn (7 Summer St.) is a structure consisting of three historic houses. Guests can stay in forty expertly restored suites and rooms with antique details, modern amenities and a breakfast room.
The Merchant (148 Washington St.) is a 200-year-old property with historic charm nicely paired with a mix of modern touches. The rooms are spacious and refined with modern furniture and sophisticated fabrics.
The Hawthorne hotel (18 Washington Sq. W.) deserves the title awarded to it in 2015 as the best hotel in America located in a historic center. Its imposing facade befits the distinguished and elegant style in which the hotel embodies its historical soul. The rooms and suites are unique in style and size. There are two restaurants on site.
The Waterfront Hotel & Suites (225 Derby St.) deserves it for its location near the Pickering Marina with its idyllic oceanfront backdrop. Inside there is a restaurant with pub.
All accommodations in Salem
Consiglio: if you are visiting Salem from Boston, take a look at our article with all the tips on where to sleep in Boston.
How to get around in Salem? Use the trolley!
Since 1982, one way to get around the city has been through the Salem trolley, a sort of small bus, with narration on board, where you can get on and off as you please over 13 stops. This service is in effect throughout the day. Some of its stops are the New England Pirate museum, the Witch Dungen museum and the Witch museum. Tickets can be purchased at some shops and attractions such as Salemdipity and Bewitch or at Visitor center (2 New Liberty St.).
Salem has so much to offer and as its motto still making history says, it always has new things to propose and tell. Treat yourself to a wonderful holiday in Salem, perhaps in October, in the period that combines the suggestion of fall foliage with the fun and disturbing atmosphere of Halloween. Also visit the surroundings and enjoy the charm of New England.Want to learn more about New England and Massachusetts?
Il New England it is known for its nature, quiet areas, villages, covered bridges and exquisite maple syrup. The sea and maritime activities are also important, except in Vermont and New Hampshire which are landlocked. Winter attracts lovers of snow sports with an excellent offer of facilities and services, in spring we witness the awakening of life and for many it is a magical season, then in summer most of the outdoor activities are concentrated when the weather is warm but not exaggerated and the evenings are cool. But the most popular season is autumn when the green leaves, especially those of the maples, are tinged with red, orange and yellow.
In New England this phenomenon is called fall foliage and the period par excellence runs from late September to mid-October when the leaves begin to change color starting from the northernmost states down to the southernmost ones as the days go by. In this period, the climate is pleasant in broad daylight and you can stay pleasantly outdoors, while the temperature cools down a lot in the evening and early in the morning.
This is also the time when we see autumnal pumpkins and vegetables of various colors almost everywhere, also associated with corn cobs sometimes of a color as unusual for us as purple, but it's no wonder why pumpkins and purple colors- black represent Halloween that is fast approaching. Nature lovers cannot miss a holiday this season.
The area that we are going to explore in more detail is located in northeastern Massachusetts, the state famous for the landing in 1620 of the pilgrim fathers in Plymouth, on the Cape Cod peninsula with its characteristic hook shape. These settlers from the United Kingdom crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the famous ship called Mayflower. The name Massachusetts derives from a tribe that inhabited the area. The state is known for the presence of the capital Boston, with its American-European charm and proximity to the famous university of Harvard.
80% of this state's population lives in Greater Boston, the metropolitan area made up of satellite towns. Within the federation, the state of Massachusetts ranks 15th in terms of population even if its territory does not have a large area, in fact it ranks 44th in terms of size. For this reason, traveling within Massachusetts or trespassing into another neighboring state does not require a lot of time in the car. For a vacation in New England we recommend stopping over in Boston, visiting it and then continuing the journey from there.
Other useful resources
If you are thinking of embarking on a New England itinerary, I would like to point out some resources that may be useful for planning your trip.
- Our guide on how to plan a tour of New England.
- Our tips on Country Inn: the best Bed & Breakfasts in the region.
- All you need to know about Acadia National Park, New England's most fascinating natural park.
- Our advice on the city of Boston, a reference point for visiting the region.
- Our section with all the recommended itineraries in New England.