<p>Photo: Acorn Street, Beacon Hill</p>

With its evocative cobblestones and row houses, Beacon Hill’s Acorn Street might well be Boston’s most photographed byway.

Photograph by Eliot Cohen

Here’s a fresh observation: Boston is on the water. Who knew? For decades, ugly elevated highways crisscrossed the waterfront, blighting downtown. It took about 15 years and nearly $15 billion to put those highways underground in a sometimes controversial project known locally as “the Big Dig,” but Boston has reclaimed its status as a great port city with new parks, walkways, freshly renovated restaurants, newly built hotels, and a sense of excitement that has energized the whole city. New downtown attractions like the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (on the site of what used to be Interstate 93) and the Harborwalk (a walking and running path that lines Boston’s waterfront) are spawning an explosion in great hotels, cafés, and hot spots.

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