Right on the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Federal Hill is filled with character and charm that reflects its rich history.
My first experience of Federal Hill was from the Inner Harbor; I watched people lounge on blankets across the slopes of the namesake hill as they enjoyed uninhibited views of the 4th of July fireworks display.
And while that is one of the moments where Federal Hill truly shines, a lot of people fail to realize that the neighborhood is a lively collection of restaurants, bars, and nightlife all year long.
You can find everything from modern fusion cuisine to high-end boutiques amidst locally-owned small businesses and blocks of brick row homes.
Keep your eyes peeled for hints of Federal Hill’s past as a military outpost during the War of 1812 – there are monuments, replica cannons, and many notable sights throughout the neighborhood.
Use this neighborhood guide as a map as you make your way through the stunning architecture and historic charm of Federal Hill.
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Tips for Visiting Federal Hill
- Federal Hill played an important role during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Go on a local walking tour to understand and experience its past.
- College students usually take over Federal Hill during the weekend, especially at night. For a calmer, more family-friendly experience go during the daytime Monday to Friday.
Parking in Federal Hill
They do have metered streetside parking, especially on the main stretch, Light Street, but it is very difficult to find a spot during the weekend.
West Street Garage
- Address: 40 E West St, Baltimore, MD 21230
- Rates range from $5 to $29, with hourly and daily rates.
- Address: 402 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230
- Rates range from $5 to $29, with hourly and daily rates.
Things to do in Federal Hill
Take a walk at Federal Hill Park
A signature Baltimore landmark, Federal Hill Park is a popular place for visitors, joggers, and families with little kids. The first thing that most people notice is the panoramic, postcard-like view you get of the Inner Harbor; everything from the docked boats to the famous Baltimore skyline can be seen from this perspective. If you’re there for the 4th of July weekend, this is a popular spot to watch the fireworks from.
Atop the namesake hill, you’ll find a playground, often filled with kids running around and having a good time. There are also lots of people sitting on the grass having a picnic or enjoying the view with a good book – both of which are really good ideas if you have the time!
Keep an eye out for replicas of cannons from Federal Hill’s war-filled past as a military battery and Fort Federal Hill.
American Visionary Art Museum
You’ll know when you get to the American Visionary Art Museum by the stunning building itself, which was inspired by the Fibonacci series, and the outdoor mirrored mosaic school bus which is the work of at-risk and incarcerated Baltimore youth.
The artists whose works you’ll come across at the museum could be anyone from a psych patient or a prison inmate to a farmer or an educator. It’s what makes this art museum stand out from the rest. A lot of the exhibits take you out of the norm and into the minds of self-taught artists from across America. A must-visit while in Federal Hill!
There are many other independent art galleries in Federal Hill you could visit such as the Tradestone Gallery, School 33 Art Center, and the Crystal Moll Gallery.
Baltimore Museum of Industry
Fittingly housed in an old cannery, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells a story about Baltimore’s thriving workforce in the early 20th-century manufacturing industry.
They’ve recreated so many different experiences, putting visitors in the middle of interactive exhibits such as a garment loft, a print shop, and of course, a cannery among other things. You’ll get an interesting perspective on how things worked and how workers lived their day-to-day lives.
If you’re there with kids, take part in the fun guided tour that is filled with activities for children.
Illusions Bar and Theater
For over a decade, Illusions Bar and Theater has been offering Baltimoreans and visitors a unique activity to take up while in Federal Hill. While there is a stunning 1920s art deco bar, the family-owned business’ specialty is a 75-minute comedy and magic show unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
I guarantee you’ll be amazed and amused but keep in mind that the show is only for guests over the age of 21.
Cross Street Market
One of the few original Baltimore food halls remaining from the 19th century, Cross Street Market has more than just a hot meal and a cold drink – though you should definitely indulge! There’s fresh seafood at the Atlas Fish Market, classic Maryland-style sandwiches at Bullhead Pit Beef, and a 100% plant-based menu at Gangster Vegan.
They also have an in-house florist, cocktail and wine bar, a meat market, and a bakehouse full of sweet treats.
Annual Events in Federal Hill
National Night Out (August)
Everyone gets together with local police and firemen to have a good time; kids can check out police vehicles and firetrucks, get their faces painted, and more!
Cross Street Farmers’ Market (May to October)
Support local business with this bustling farmers’ market that happens every Saturday from 9 AM to noon. Be sure to pick up some freshly baked treats from some of Baltimore’s best culinary artisans.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Other than the obvious Cross Street Market food hall, here are a couple of great places for a meal in Federal Hill:
Mother’s Federal Hill Grille
This local tavern is great to watch sporting events or enjoy a game of pool as you feast on traditional pub foods.
A sushi house with authentic Japanese eats, be sure to try the curry fried shrimp.
ZAATAR Mediterranean Cuisine
Shawarmas, kebabs, falafel bowls – you’ll find all the delicious Mediterranean staples at ZAATAR.