Best of Salem - Salem, Massachusetts

Each year, I receive numerous messages from friends, family, and strangers alike asking for recommendations on what to see and do in the Witch City. It's nearly impossible to choose favorites in a city as rich in eateries, shopping, and attractions as Salem, but I've tried to do just that. Here you will find just some of my favorite go-to spots in the city that I'm lucky enough to call home. This of course is not a comprehensive list, so don't be afraid to venture off and explore whatever piques your interest. You won't be disappointed!


Red's Sandwich Shop
The best breakfast in Salem. No question.

Good Morning Chubby (Sundays Only)
On the go? Try a Spicy Chubby!

Unique and craveable breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and sweet treats.


Mercy Tavern 
The best burger in Salem! You have to try the Mercy Burger.

New England Soup Factory
Cozy up with a bowl of the Chicken Pot Pie Soup.

Casa Tequila
Taquitos, frozen margaritas, and all the queso you could ever desire. 


The best view in Salem! A great mix of food for everyone. Try the Crispy Chicken Brochettes.

Bella Verona
Delicious Italian food that transports you right to the North End of Boston.

Broadie's Seaport
Great local spot to fill up on comfort food and fun cocktails. Their chef, Mike creates some incredible meals.

S P E C I A L  O C C A S I O N 

Ledger Restaurant 
Located in the old Salem Savings Bank, Ledger is known for its culinary team and seasonal menus.

Turner's Seafood
A high-end seafood spot located in historic Lyceum Hall.

Adriatic Restaurant 
A frequently changing menu of Mediterranean cuisine with an expansive wine offering.


Pizza World
The weekly go-to for classic pepperoni.

Neapolitan wood fired pizza. Try the soppressata pizza

Salem's best kept secret! Try the Lucifer.


Dire Wolf Tavern
Unmatched creative craft cocktails.

Sea Level
Fun cocktails with a view.

The Tavern at The Hawthorne Hotel
Need a break from the busy season? Tavern on the Green is the perfect escape.

B E E R 

Gulu-Gulu Cafe
Join the Beer Society and try more than 200 beers. I don't drink beer, so you'll see me ordering a Peach Smoothie and probably a doughnut. 

East Regiment Beer Company
Historically inspired brews and snacks.

Notch Brewing
Locally owned and operated, this brewery was the first in the U.S. to focus on session beer. They now have a cult following and can be found in restaurants and liquor stores around throughout New England.

C I D E R S  +  S P I R I T S

Far From The Tree
A hard cider brewery focused on using local apples and traditional practices. Try their frozen drinks!

Deacon Giles Distillery
The Speakeasy Lab and Island Lounge are a great spot to try the latest craft cocktails made with liquor distilled right on site.


Holy Cow Ice Cream
Unique and award-winning flavors. Ritzy AF will remind you of your favorite holiday treat.

Goodnight Fatty (Weekends Only)
Nostalgia, warm cookies, and the best soft serve in Salem.

Dairy Witch
The absolute best sundae you will ever have! Ask for a Fluffernutter Sundae with Chocolate Ice Cream, and add Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, hot fudge, and graham cracker. It's pure magic.


Coffee Time
A delicious assortments of doughnuts, pastries, and coffee drinks.
My go-to is the Iced Mocha Delight and Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut.

A&J King
Renowned bakery known for its artisanal breads and pastries. Get there early, before they sell out!

Caramel French Patisserie
Authentic French macarons, croissants, and cakes. 


Creative lattes, teas, and even cocktails! Their hot chocolate is my favorite in Salem.

Red Line Cafe
A perfect place to grab a frozen latte while out shopping.

Brew Box
Ever had a Cereal Milk Latte? You need to.

U N I Q U E  B O U T I Q U E S 

Emporium 32
Step back in time! This boutique experience is like none other.
Home to vintage wares, unique d├ęcor, and even Zoltar. 

A whimsical boutique inspired by the night.

Diehl & Marcus
An apothecary-style shop that will transport you to the Great Age of Sail.

F A V O R I T E  G I F T  S H O P S

The Happy Sunflower
It's as adorable as it sounds. Bright and cheery gifts for all ages.

The House of the Seven Gables 
Located in one of the oldest homes in Salem, an eclectic mix of literary and nautical gifts.

Moody's Home + Gifts
Unique and locally made gifts.

O N L I N E  S H O P P I N G

Salem Style
I don't go anywhere without my Salem Style cup cozy. The ice in my coffee never melts.

Salem Spice
The highest quality spices at fantastic prices will make you love cooking again.

Daniel Low & Co. 
Timeless heirlooms rooted in Salem's history

BONUS: History by the Sea
Purchase prints of my Salem photography

P L A C E S  T O  S T A Y

The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast
Love history? Why not stay in one of Salem's oldest homes. The house was built in 1667 and has operated as a bed and breakfast since 1962. It's nestled in the Historic Derby Street Neighborhood and gives guests a chance to experience living in Salem, even if only for a weekend.

The Mason Suite 
A beautifully curated Air BnB in a stately 1844 brick mansion located in the heart of downtown. 

The Merchant
Built in 1784, the Joshua Ward House is best known for hosting presidents (and maybe some ghosts.) The home was transformed into a boutique hotel in 2015 and beautifully marries historic architecture with contemporary design. 

W A L K I N G  T O U R S

Black Cat Tours
A locally owned tour company that has made it their mission to accurately share Salem's history - as the truth is stranger than fiction - They've been voted one of the 10 Best Ghost Tours in the US by USA Today. 

Rekindled History
Owned and operated by a local architect and preservationist, Rekindled History offers Salem's best architectural walking and historic home tours. Recently, they partnered with the Daniels House to offer an immersive experience in the 1667 home. 

Spellbound Tours
For more than twenty years, Spellbound has been delighting groups with tales of ghosts, vampires, witches, and the unexplained. If you're looking for something spooky and fun, this is it!

BONUS: Peabody Essex Museum's Historic House Tours
The Peabody Essex Museum owns and steward many of Salem's most architecturally significant homes.

H I S T O R I C  H O U S E  M U S E U M S

The Phillips House 
My favorite historic house tour! Located on the "The Most Beautiful Street in America," The Phillips House is a jewel box of early 20th century life of Salem's elite. Pro tip: Each Spring they offer their Irish Experience tour which allows guest to view more of the home than the traditional tour.

The House of the Seven Gables
The House of the Seven Gables complex features a gorgeous seaside garden, multiple historic homes, and one of my favorite gift shops in the city. It's known for its connection to Nathaniel Hawthorne but also has a rich history of female entrepreneurs and America's Settlement House movement.  

The Witch House
Interested in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692? The Jonathan Corwin House, known as "The Witch House," was the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and is the only structure open to the public with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials.

T H I N G S  T O  D O 

Mahi Cruises (Seasonal)
Take a sunset cruise around Salem Harbor and see the city from the water

Bit Bar
Play your favorite classic arcade games while enjoying some libations at Salem's own barcade.

Witch Pix
An award-winning photography studio with themed backgrounds and costumes to commerorate your trip.


Salem Willows Park 
One of my favorite places in the whole world. This beautiful seaside park is known for its white willow trees which were planted in 1801 when the area was used as a contagious disease hospital. It is now home to some beloved seasonal restaurants and an arcade. It's a great place to escape the heat in the summer and the crowds in October .

Salem Maritime National Historic Site
America's First Historic Site opened on Salem's waterfront in 1938. The site features a variety of historic structures and wharves including the Custom House, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter. The Derby House, Hawkes House, Narbonne House, and the West India Goods Store. Derby Wharf  was once bustling with tall ships and activity. Salem was a globally recognized port, and it was here that new items arrived daily to be traded and sold throughout the northeast. The Friendship of Salem, a replica tall ship, is docked here. 

Salem Common 
Salem Common has served as public land since the 17th century. The grassy eight acre park hosts community events throughout the year and is known for its appearance in the 1993 Disney film "Hocus Pocus."

A N N U A L  E V E N T S

Christmas in Salem
Each year, residents open their homes to the public for tours in support of Historic Salem, Inc.

Food Truck Festival
A two-day festival on Salem Common featuring dozens of food trucks. 

Trails and Sails
10 days of free events! Each year the Essex National Heritage Area celebrates natural landscapes, historic homes, and museums with a series of free tours, lectures, and excursions. 

Looking for more Historical Haunts? Check out my guest posts for Things to do in Salem!
Need to know where the bathrooms are? Click here.  What about parking? Click here.

Visit for more information for your trip to Salem, Massachusetts.

Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, MA, USA
Collins Cove
Salem, Massachusetts

Today, at last, we bring honor and dignity to the hundreds of souls that were laid to rest along Collins Cove, once residents of Salem's Almshouse and Hospital for Contagious Diseases.

I want to express my deep gratitude to those who helped me give this voice to the voiceless and believed in the importance of recognizing those buried here.

The memorial reads:


Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial
Salem, Massachusetts

This stone represents years of research and advocacy. I've wondered what I would say if this moment arrived and today, like so many things about this project, the words found me.

    “The optimist in me always thought that the ultimate purpose of memorials was that they were dress rehearsals for our collective memory, that in the course of building a shrine to the fallen, we remind ourselves of our broader obligations to the vulnerable. You give the benefit of your empathy and generosity to the memory of someone… and then it becomes easier to extend that empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering who are still among us. You get good at meaningful adjacency for the dead, and that makes you better at practicing it on the living.

    But that's not what happens, is it? We go to any length, any length to commemorate one person's death, deploy armies of architects and engineers, then in the same breath look the other way as we step over someone lying on the street.” – Malcolm Gladwell


Our work is not done. May this memorial serve as a reminder to extend our empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering among us.

Read More

Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.
 Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.

Jen Ratliff: Unheralded and Unknown, They Sleep
Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Salem is often celebrated for its history of millionaire merchants and their mansions, but there is another side to the city’s past, that of Salem’s poorest residents: the aged, disabled, ill, or transient, that were relegated to a harsh life at the City Almshouse.

The last almshouse built in Salem, opened in 1816 on Collins Cove to provide housing and support for the city’s impoverished, many of whom were expected to work the adjacent City Farm to offset the cost of their stay. This site was active for over a century and included a small burial ground which would have served as the only option for those who were unable to afford a funeral or that had no family to claim their remains.

Unfortunately, few know of this land’s former purpose and significance, as there is very little evidence of the Almshouse or its burial ground. Join us to learn more about the important history of this site and how we can preserve its memory.

The Pickering House | March 14, 2021

Jen Ratliff (Archivist and Historian) has dedicated herself to uncovering and sharing the forgotten stories of our collective past. While earning a B.A. from Salem State University in Public History, she created multiple exhibits and digital projects for both Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Salem State University, spotlighting items from their archives and the unique stories behind them. In 2020, she was appointed to the Salem Cemetery Commission, following exhaustive research and advocacy for the memorialization of Salem's unmarked Almshouse Burial Ground. She was recognized for these efforts by Historic Salem, Inc. with their Preservation Award in 2021 and was presented with the City of Salem Seal by the City Council in 2022. Jen received an MLIS in Archives Management from Simmons University in 2022 and returned to her hometown, where she launched Historic Cape Cod, which promotes local history and cultural heritage as a form of preservation advocacy.

(Updated May 2022)

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