A historic seaport city in Maryland, Baltimore has a lot to offer to leisure and business travelers. It’s the birthplace of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” home of upscale crab shops and Civil War-era attractions, and a booming hub for industries like aerospace, bio health, and cybersecurity. No matter your reasons for visiting, find out how you can plan the ultimate trip to Baltimore.

Arrive at the Airport

The Baltimore area is served by the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) located in Linthicum, which is about 10 miles outside of Baltimore. The airport features direct rail service to and from Baltimore and Washington, DC, plus free Wi-Fi throughout Concourses A through E. BWI Airport is also situated close to highways I-695, 295, 100, I-97, and I-195, making it easy for travelers who wish to rent a car to get around.

Public transportation pickup areas are located as follows:

  • Zones 1 and 3 for hotel shuttles
  • Zone 2 for off-airport parking shuttles
  • Zone 4 for both hotel shuttles and off-airport parking shuttles

The Light Rail service is accessible from the Main Terminal, at the lower level outside International Arrivals. This train runs from the airport to downtown Baltimore, Timonium, and Hunt Valley. A free shuttle runs between the airport terminal complex and the BWI Marshall Rail Station for those who need to board the Amtrak or MARC train to Baltimore.

Buses, taxies, and limos are also available from the airport. While you may be tempted to flag down a cab after a long flight, make sure to inquire about the fare before you get into the taxi. You should also ask about traffic and whether the driver knows alternative routes during rush hour.

One of the cheapest ground transportation options is a shared ride shuttle. Shuttle vans are more cost-effective than taxis because you share the cost with fellow travelers in your immediate area. If you’re traveling with a large group, reserve a private-ride van before arrival for convenient door-to-door service.

When you’re leaving Baltimore to return home, check in at the airport at least three hours before your scheduled departure time. You might need the extra time to check any baggage, get through security, and find your gate. The last thing you want to do at the end of a nice vacation is to feel rushed on your way home.

Inner Harbor
Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

Getting up early is easy when you have so many great restaurants waiting for you in Baltimore. For some excellent down-home cooking, head to Miss Shirley’s Café in Roland Park or Inner Harbor. This local minichain is always crowded thanks to its superb menu, which features funky monkey bread, cornbread squares, house-made shrimp gritters, boiled grapefruit brulee, and morning cocktails. Miss Shirley’s Café was even featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives” on an episode that highlighted the joint’s coconut cream-stuffed French toast and bay-o po’boy.

Another popular Baltimore breakfast eatery is the Blue Moon Café. Featuring a vibrant, funky setting, the café is open 24 hours on weekends, allowing you to fill up in the early morning. The Blue Moon’s menu consists of fresh, seasonal ingredients for all your American favorites. Enjoy a filling country scramble with homemade biscuits, bacon, eggs, cheddar, and sausage gravy. Or how about huevos rancheros Santa Fe style with chorizo and spicy sauce? Blue Moon Café also offers vegetarian options, including a scramble with mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, and eggs — all served with a biscuit or toast.

Looking for huge portions and a landmark experience? Look no further than Pete’s Grill on Greenmount Avenue. Winner of the Best Breakfast in Baltimore, Pete’s Grill has been in business for more than 50 years. It’s located within walking distance of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the 32nd Street Farmers Market, giving you easy access to sightseeing. Even if it’s your first time, folks at Pete’s Grill treat you like a regular.

Once you’re fueled up and ready to explore, make sure you’ve downloaded some helpful apps for getting around. If you’re driving around the city, Waze provides real-time, driver-sourced navigation and traffic information. Charm City Circulator keeps you updated on bus routes and free shuttle service arrival times. You’ll also love the GPS-guided city tours from Explore Baltimore Heritage.

Washington Monument
Washington Monument in Baltimore.

Midmorning: Take in the Sights

With so many historical landmarks located throughout Baltimore, it’s important that you set aside time to wander around to discover a few. You can’t miss the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Place. During the summer months, the urban square hosts free art classes, movies, concerts, and yoga, and the Monument is open to the public anytime you feel like climbing to the top!

The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House is a historic museum located in the Little Italy and Jonestown/Old Town neighborhoods. Step back in time and immerse yourself in a pivotal point in our nation’s history. Built in 1793, the Flag House was home to Mary Pickersgill, the woman who made the garrison flag Francis Scott Key saw over Fort McHenry, which inspired him to write the national anthem. Museum exhibits include a children’s discovery gallery, a replica kitchen, and fragments from the Star-Spangled Banner flag.

No visit to Baltimore would be complete without a tour of the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center to view a 10-minute orientation video. Exhibits, restrooms, and a gift shop are also located in the Visitor Center. Tours of the fort are self-guided, so set aside at least one hour to explore on your own. If you’re lucky, your visit may coincide with a concert series or a daily ranger talk.

One of the most notable art museums in the country is located in Baltimore. The American Visionary Art Museum in the Federal Hill neighborhood specializes in outsider art displays. The permanent collection includes more than 4,000 works from all over the world. After viewing the collection, check out the Tall Sculpture Barn and Garden with its life-size, interactive chess set and a 1,300-square-foot sculpture featuring angels and aliens.

And don’t forget to stop by the American Visionary Art Museum’s SIDESHOW shop on the first floor to find a few souvenirs for friends and family back home. With so many fun toys, accessories, art, and books, you might need an extra suitcase to carry all the goodies you find!

Noon: Sit Down to Lunch

Given Baltimore’s reputation as a foodie’s paradise, it’s no surprise that you don’t have to look far for a great lunch.

Take advantage of the city’s location at the Thames Street Oyster House. With views of the harbor, this Eastern coastal eatery offers a raw bar, fresh seafood entrees, and a weekday happy hour. Enjoy a New England lobster roll, a grilled Portuguese linguiça sandwich, classic fish and chips, or Maine lobster and gnocchi. The menu is as diverse as it is fresh, so come hungry!

Since 1886, Faidley Seafood has served up jumbo-lump crab cakes, raw oysters, and other delights in a standing-room-only space the locals can’t get enough of. Located in historic Lexington Market, Faidley Seafood offers clam chowder, lobster bisque, and other great soups along with a slew of entrees. Choose from fried clam strips, steakfish, lake trout, mussels, and shrimp with a side of macaroni and cheese, marinated veggies, or fries. You can also try a little bit of everything with a seafood assortment platter.

Not in the mood for seafood? Try the cozy Petit Louis Bistro with its fixed-priced lunch. The authentic French-style bistro highlights all the French classics, including steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, and truite almondine. For a lighter lunch, try the beignets de crevettes, the soup du jour, or the selection of fromages with fig compote.

World Trade Center
World Trade Center in Baltimore.

Afternoon: Have Fun with the Family

Baltimore boasts plenty of family friendly attractions suitable for all ages. One of the city’s most spectacular attractions is Top of the World, a 360-degree observation tower located on the World Trade Center’s 27th floor. View the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay in the distance, and learn about Baltimore’s history through the exhibition.

Does your family love kitschy oddities? Stop by Ripley’s Believe It or Not in The Gallery Mall. Notable displays include shrunken human heads, exotic animal skeletons, and a 2,000-square-foot mirror maze. Plan to spend anywhere from one to two hours exploring the Odditorium, and feel free to take pictures!

Try your hand at solving puzzles in the Charm City Clue Room. One of the Inner Harbor’s newest attractions, this is Baltimore’s premier escape room. Children as young as eight are encouraged to participate with adult supervision, although you’re better off doing this one with mostly adults and teens. Unravel the mystery to escape before time runs out!

Late Afternoon: Shop Until You Drop

There’s no shortage of great shopping in Baltimore. Head to The Gallery at Harborplace for a vibrant blend of shops and dining options. You’ll find all your favorite stores here, including Forever 21, GNC, GapKids, and Love Madison Boutique.

The Village of Cross Keys is an exceptional shopping mall that offers upscale options like Talbots, Williams-Sonoma, and Renaissance Fine Arts. Spend some time in the beautiful courtyard and watch the world walk by.

Other great shopping experiences are available at Westside Shopping Center, Belvedere Square, The Shops at Canton Crossing, and Southside Marketplace.

Dinnertime: Enjoy a World-Class Meal

Charm City knows how to marry rustic and trendy, resulting in refined farm-to-table restaurants like Woodbury Kitchen. Located in an old factory turned into a chic eatery, Woodbury Kitchen boasts a diverse menu with the likes of potted spring vegetable snacks, English peas on toast, rabbit and dumplings, wood-roasted oysters, and 14-hour beef shin. When you want to splurge on a great date night, Woodbury Kitchen should be your go-to reservation.

Check out The Fork & Wrench for creative, locally sourced fare and signature cocktails. Touted as a “boutique dive bar,” The Fork & Wrench offers a limited menu featuring red snapper, spring chicken, and pan-roasted cod, but everything they do is done to perfection. End the meal with ricotta-filled doughnuts or Bananas Foster bread pudding. Yummy!

Eating dinner on a budget? Try the Pinch dumpling house on Park Avenue. You may have had Chinese dumplings before, but you’ve never had gourmet dumplings like this. Pinch’s scratch-made dumplings are prepared in-house daily from the most authentic ingredients available. Dumpling flavors run the gamut of traditional recipes to bold, unexpected flavors like the seasonal pork and pumpkin. Best of all, you can grab dinner to go and kick back and relax back at the hotel.

Late Night: Catch a Show

Baltimore is home to several event venues. Enjoy a jazz show at Baltimore Center Stage, improv classes at Bolton Street Synagogue, live performances at Fells Point Corner Theatre, or musicals at the Hippodrome.

When in doubt, see when the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is putting on its next show. This local theater troupe is dedicated to connecting audiences with the classics in innovative ways.

Federal Hill Park
Federal Hill Park in Baltimore.

Before Bed: Plan Tomorrow’s Tour

Even after a full day of exploring Baltimore, there’s always more to see! Make tomorrow’s sightseeing experience more relaxing by booking a tour.

Baltimore Trolley Tours is Charm City’s premier tour company. Listen to knowledgeable guides as they detail the city’s landmarks and history in climate-controlled trollies. The original tour takes you through the city’s various neighborhoods and its historical role in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Industrial Revolution. Points of interest you’ll see along the way include Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, the first basilica in America, Lexington Market, and Fort McHenry.

For an even more personal tour of the historic districts, hop on a Segway! Baltimore Segway Safaris and Rentals costs just $60 per person for 90 minutes. Discover Little Italy, Fells Point Waterfront, Harbor East, Federal Hill, and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.

For a tour on the water, book tomorrow night’s dinner on the Spirit of Baltimore. The delicious dinner buffet includes entrees, salads, desserts, and unlimited nonalcoholic beverages. During the cruise, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the skyline as Charm City starts to light up for the night. Onboard entertainment includes DJ music, interactive games, and more!

Where to Stay in Baltimore

Since Baltimore is such a popular tourist destination, there are countless accommodation options to consider. Choose from the best Baltimore hotels, hostels, and private rentals to create your perfect trip to Charm City.

Top Hotels

For the best views in the city, stay on the harbor. Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore is a luxury 5-star option boasting a glass tower and world-class service. Enjoy breakfast in bed, 24-hour fitness facilities, a multilingual concierge, and an outdoor infinity-edge lap pool.

Another great option is the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Less expensive than the Four Seasons, it combines splendid views with first-class amenities in the heart of Charm City. Stay near Camden Yards, the Baltimore Aquarium, and other noted attractions with the benefit of on-site parking.

Prefer the downtown area? Book a room in the literary-themed Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown. This boutique hotel features a lobby library, locally sourced cocktails, guest room murals, and other surprises.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you can’t go wrong with La Quinta Inn & Suites Baltimore Downtown with its reasonable rates. The beautifully renovated building is blocks from the Hippodrome and the Inner Harbor. Rooms are small but clean, and you can’t beat the friendly service.

Peabody Library
Peabody Library in Baltimore.

Best Hostels

Backpackers, solo travelers, and couples on a tight budget should consider staying at a hostel. Baltimore only has one, but it’s located in the vibrant Mount Vernon Neighborhood. HI Baltimore Hostel on Mulberry Street features ornate fireplaces, lofty ceilings, a Baby Grand piano, and other quirky details with a laidback vibe you’ll love.

Best of all, when you stay at a hostel like HI Baltimore, you’ll encounter fellow travelers just like yourself who are on the road to adventure. Meet others over the free daily breakfast or in volunteer-led activities. Relax on the outdoor patio and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. The hostel includes coed, female-only, and male-only dorms, which sleep eight to 12 guests each.

Coolest Private Rentals

If you’re traveling with the whole family or a big group or friends, or you simply like your personal space, a private rental might be right for you. Private rentals range from private suites to entire homes, including classic townhouses. With access to an entire apartment, you can settle in and make your own meals, keep up with laundry, and really feel like a local for the duration of your stay.

Before booking a private rental, consider Charm City’s distinct neighborhoods and decide where you’d like to base yourself during the trip. The Inner Harbor is lovely and close to the action, but Mount Vernon is steeped in history and culture. Hampden is close to Johns Hopkins University and The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, while Federal Hill is close to the city’s central business district.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan and book the best Baltimore vacation ever, from accommodations and attractions to tours and transportation, right here on GoDoTrip.