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Salem, MA City Guide

by Stephanie

Today’s Salem City Guide comes to us from interior decorator and blogger of HausWitch, Erica Feldmann. When not working with clients to create inviting personal spaces, Erica enjoys discovering the historical wonders of Salem, MA with her boyfriend, and today she shares some of that with us.  Thank you, Erica, for taking us on a guided tour of this magical city! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Salem City Guide

Salem, MA is a 30 minute drive or train ride from Boston. A five-minute walk from the train station will put you right in the middle of town. Although “Witch City” has a rich history, it is possible to have an amazing experience without any witch-related activities. That said, you should still totally do some of the witch-related activities. Between its beautiful historical architecture and the Salem State University students keeping the place young, Salem mixes old and new in a perfectly lovely way. You can tour a 17th century graveyard and then walk straight across the street to the Peabody Essex Museum for an exhibition on Modern African Art. Hipster cafes are housed in centuries old buildings and a stroll down the tree-lined streets with your ipod makes for a great afternoon. So whether you want to go the tourist route, hop on a trolley and see some ghost tours or you’d rather see the city like a local I hope this guide will help you get around my favorite little New England gem.

Check out the Google Map of all of the below listings!

Downtown/Essex Street

Essex Street is the Main drag of Salem. It runs straight through the historical district, down the center of town, all the way to Salem Common and the Hawthorne Hotel. If you only have an afternoon in Salem you would never have to stray far from Essex to tour a lot of the city. The center of town is a quaint, pedestrian-only cobblestone walkway with a generous sampling of what Witch City has to offer.

Gulu Gulu Cafe

Gulu Gulu is my favorite place to eat in Salem. Possibly New England all together. Get a wrap! Get a crepe! Get some grape leaves and tabouli! With a super cool vibe, good music and a gallery for local artists, Gulu Gulu is the place to be. Did I mention that they consistently win “Best Beer Menu” in Boston Magazine’s “Best of the North Shore?” Because they do.

Witch City Consignment

This place is amazing. It’s 10,000 square feet of indoor yard sale, vintage furniture, figurines, records; you name it.

The Barking Cat

The Barking Cat is an indie pet boutique of the cutest variety. They have a great selection of natural, healthy pet foods, treats and toys. My cats are totally nuts about the Dr. Pussums cat nip toys.

Life Alive

An “Organic Café” serving crazy-healthy vegetarian salads, wraps and soups. Try the Dandi-Blend Coffee Substitute for a detoxifying treat made from dandelion, beet and chicory roots. (That really tastes like coffee!


There are a lot of Occult Stores in Salem, but Hex is everything you think of when you think of an Occult store. (Which I’m sure you do on he regular.) The shop’s discreet sense of humor makes it perfect for gift and souvenir shopping. Grab an “It Sucks to Be You” spell candle, or maybe a voodoo doll dog toy and let Fido do your dirty work.

Modern Mille

Lovely consignment shop filled with colorful on-trend and vintage ladies’ clothing. Dresses, purses and a plethora of tutus in every color of the rainbow.


Re-find has two locations (one for men, one for women) right around the corner from one another. Both shops carry new and like-new clothing and offer a sell/trade option.

Harrison’s Comics

Basically this place has every comic book, graphic novel or collectable toy from the past, present and probably future too.

Hawthorne Hotel

The  Hawthorne Hotel is located right next to Salem Common in the city center. They have a great Sunday Jazz Brunch, and you can rent bikes (for free!) for a great way to tour the town. The rooms are traditionally furnished, there’s a restaurant and a tavern, and its pet-friendly. Oh yeah, I hear it’s haunted. (Everything in Salem is haunted btw.)

Peabody Essex Museum

The museum’s multi-cultural collection features over 800,000 works of Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Native American, Oceanic and American art. The 200 year-old Yin Yu Tang house was brought to the PEM and reconstructed in its entirety. In a gorgeous museum filled with interesting objects, the Yin Yu Tang house is definitely a highlight.

The Olde Spot

After spending the day touring Salem pop in here for a pint or two. I’m not normally a pub person per se, but this English-style pub has a great beer selection and above average food.

Derby Square Books

This tiny space is literally CRAMMED FULL of books. With tiny pathways carved out of the floor-to-ceiling piles, the place may seem claustrophobic to some, but the super low prices are worth it. Prepare to be impressed when the shopkeeper knows exactly where that book you asked for is amongst the chaos.

Mudd Puddle Toys

Mud Puddle is a specialty toy store featuring a carefully chosen selection of eco-conscious and educational toys.

Red’s Sandwich Shop

Located in the Old London Coffee House (a meeting place during the Revolutionary War) Red’s is favorite among locals and tourists. The prices will amaze you and so will the Monte Cristo. Leave your diet at the door.


Lovely little kitchen boutique that also stocks a great selection of wine, beer and mead.

Aroma Sanctum

If you’re as obsessed with scents as I am schedule an appointment here to create your own custom fragrance out of all natural essential oils

Old Naumkeag Antiques

Lovely little antique store featuring nautical items wood furniture.

Bella Verona

Cozy little Italian restaurant, perfect for date night.

Ristorante Gioia

Another great Italian restaurant with a cozy, romantic atmosphere. Ask the hostess for a table by the picture window that looks out onto downtown and you can people watch if candlelight and romance isn’t your thing.

Salem City Guide

Old Town Hall

One of my favorite buildings is Old Town Hall which was built in 1817. I like just walking by it, but going in is great too! The first floor houses the Salem Museum and the top floor, historically used as a meeting hall now also hosts “Cry Innocent” a live action re-enactment of a witch trial.

Salem Common

Around since 1685 Salem Common was used as a training ground for the militias of the Revolution. Luckily for us, these days the Common is a lovely park, perfect for a picnic or a game of catch.

Salem City Guide

Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey is an amazing little shop tucked away just off the main drag; you’ll know it by the letters in the window spelling out “Good Food”. With its lovely selection of locally sourced groceries, deli sandwiches, herbs, and teas, Milk & Honey has everything you need to make your next organic dinner while leaving you totally nostalgic for the days of small town grocers.

Salem Wine Imports

Conveniently located right next to Milk & Honey, grab a bottle of wine to top off your meal!


Front Street

Running parallel to Essex street is Front Street. This quiet little pocket of the city is a quiet just off the main drag and has plenty of awesome stuff and cobblestone charm all its own.

Front Street Coffeehouse

A great indie coffee shop/local art gallery that also serves smoothies, juices and sandwiches. Enjoy the free wifi and a Milky Way Latte if you need a sugar buzz.

Burying Ground

One of the oldest cemeteries in the country, the Burying Ground is the final resting place of many of Salem’s wealthiest and most notable residents. The carvings on the gravestones (some of which date back to 1683) are super interesting and worth the trip down morbid lane.

Artist’s Row

Gallery and retail spaces for Salem’s local artists and artisans. Definitely check out the Salem Arts Association and  Salem Collective of Artists and Musicians(S.C.A.M.) stalls if you want skip the souvenirs and take home a great piece of local art.

Maria’s Sweet Somethings

A sweet lover’s paradise. A mecca of all things candy and desert. Chocolates, truffles, 32 flavors of ice cream and packaged candy surrounded by gumball machines and other toys.


Roost is an expertly curated shop filled with the zietgiest-iest greeting cards, books and home and garden décor. It has that “just thrown together” (by a merchandising genius!) look that makes you want to buy everything right down to the fixtures. (Which, by the way, are gorgeous pieces of vintage furniture.) You’re welcome.

The BoutiqueAnother great ladies clothing boutique featuring unique seasonal finds and nice jewelry.

Salem City Guide

Historical District

Everyone loves Salem in October. It’s the official Halloween Headquarters of the world. But my favorite time of year is summer when the McIntyre Historical District is just about the most charming place in the world. Centuries-old homes, gorgeously tended gardens, and cobblestone sidewalks make this a perfect place to experience the history of Salem. The houses even have little plaques describing who built them and when. Take a relaxing, and free(!) stroll around the McIntyre district and keep your eyes peeled for tiny parks and secret gardens!

The Ropes Mansion Garden

In the height of summer this garden looks like something out of a movie. Sandwiched between a nearly 200 year old church and a Colonial style mansion and barely visible from the street the garden is an oasis of beauty and calm. There’s even a koi pond. Also, its haunted.

Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street is the archetypal, beautiful New England street. Make sure your McIntyre District stroll includes a walk down this beauty.

Deb’s Diner

Deb’s is a good ol’ fashioned diner that even serious diner aficionados (like me) adore. Sit at the counter and watch the cook make your Peanut Butter and Fluff French toast right before your very eyes. Then take that walk down Chestnut Street to burn off some of the calories!

Derby Street/Pickering Wharf

Derby Street marks the boundary between Downtown and the Wharf Area. More retail shops and restaurants lead you to the waterfront area of town. Pickering Wharf is another shopping area that doubles as a working marina where yachts and sailboats can dock. The Friendship, a reconstructed version of a 1797 merchant ship used by the East India Company, will remind you that what really put Salem on the map was its important place in maritime history. If you venture just past the Friendship you’ll end up at the House of Seven Gables made famous by Nathaniel HawthorneA&J King Artisan Bakers

A&J King is also my favorite place to eat in Salem.  I have two, I can’t help it! The sandwiches served on their freshly baked baguettes are out of this world. Add an organic soda and have a picnic in Salem Common. Or stay and eat in the simple yet chic café and grab a “Flying Dutchman” on the way out. Seriously.


You don’t see a lot of independent cosmetics stores do you? Well that’s why I like Rouge. The shelves here are lined with great brands like Nars, Stila, Bumble and bumble, and Tocca and you get to skip the headache-inducing experience that is the department store makeup counter.

Pyramid Books

Pyramid is a New Age shop that’s much different than the other witch-kitsch stores in town. Here’s where you can get a great book on meditation and some sage to smudge your new apartment. If you’re feeling game get your Tarot cards read here. Ask for Doug.

Capt’s Waterfront

Waterfront steak and seafood joint that overlooks the wharf and smells like heaven from a block away.


Jaho is a perfect pitstop on your tour of the waterfront. If you need a pick-me-up you can have a violet latte (they have so many awesome flavored syrups) or some life-saving-on-a-hot-day gelato.

Ye Olde Pepper Companie

Started in 1806 by a shipwrecked woman and her son, Ye Olde Pepper Companie is recognized as the first candy store in America. If you’re a History buff or a sweet tooth (or both, like me!) this place is right up your alley. The Salem Gibralters and the Black Jacks are handmade using the original recipes from the 1800’s.

Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast

Darling bed and breakfast with a third floor roof deck and patio garden. Each room is named after an accused “witch” from the Salem trials and   furnished with thoughtful details (like real down comforters). Plus, you guessed it, it’s also haunted.

Salem City Guide

Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream

More ice cream! This shop has great flavors like White Russian and Witch’s Brew, but be warned they’re cash only!

Pickering Wharf AntiquesPretty much your standard antique shop filled with treasures from Salem’s past. Don’t expect to find many slick mid-century pieces, instead get lost amongst the collections of old (like, really old) books of local lore and legend.

Salem Waterfront Hotel

Located right on the water in Pickering Wharf this hotel has an indoor heated pool, and is consistently named on Boston Magazine’s “Best of the Northshore” list.

The Friendship

If you’ve ever wondered what the inside of a 1797 East India merchant ship looked like, you’re in luck! You can tour the Friendship!

The Willows

The Willows is a great place for families and kids because of the arcade, salt water taffy and general run-around-ability. It’s also a gorgeous park for spending a lazy afternoon amongst beautiful old trees right on the water’s edge. The Willows is like combo platter of some of Salem’s prettiest scenery.


Notable Locals

Lucas Custer (artist/musician) S.C.A.M.

Tori Kendrew

(amazing fibers artist)

Greg Orfanos

Local artist featured on Society 6

Dan Blakeslee

Folk musician and Artist 

Daniel Finamore, curator at Peabody Essex Museum and his wife Michele Tolini Finamore, curator of fashion arts at the MFA. Michelle also just wrote a book called Hollywood Before Glamour


Suggested For You


  • Jaho is my favorite little cafe!
    Salem is probably my favorite city (i grew up about 10 minutes from Salem).
    So excited design sponge featured Salem!

  • please don’t overlook Comida, 131 Essex Street, stone’s throw from Peabody Essex, fresh, delicious Mexican food, with a direct family farm connection. They also cater FANTASTICALLY.

  • Great guide! Salem is so much more than witch museums and ghost tours. Having recently moved back to the North Shore, I’m excited to check out some of the new-to-me places on your list!

  • Salem is a beautiful little city with a great alt scene.
    What most people don’t know is that the vast majority of the witches accused and hanged were from other villages, namely, Salem Village (now Danvers), Topsfield, Andover, and Amesbury, and Ipswich. In fact, it is unknown where the hangings even happened. They could have been in Danvers as well.

  • Love Salem! Jaho is the best coffee I’ve had in the States. Great people-watching city and all-around lovely town.

  • I’ve been meaning to take some field trips and Salem, MA seems right up my alley! I’m so happy to read that the walk from the train station is only 5 mins as I don’t drive. Thank you for a lovely city guide right in my backyard!

  • Yay! I grew up a town over from Salem! You’ve found a lot of the great spots that I regularly haunt (pun INTENDED).

    A couple things you missed:

    http://salemwomenshistory.com/ – There’s a self guided tour for download as well as a guidebook you can purchase, but you can contact them or check the calendar for tours & talks.

    – Mary Lou Lord, singer-songwriter formerly on Kill Rock Stars, is from Salem. (She toured with Elliott Smith several times, dated Kurt Cobain, etc.) She and her husband used to have a great thrift store in Beverly, I still have clothes from there. I think she’s still in the area.

    – Boston Bead Co. on Front Street – Supplies & classes, tiny store but I could spend hours in there.

    – Also worth mentioning, if you visit in October, tour the town on foot and be mindful of traffic (stay out of the street, use crosswalks, etc). Salem streets become very congested in the fall because of tourism and it can get ugly. Don’t forget that people live here, students are in school here, etc.

  • A visit to A & J King Bakery is a must for anyone coming to Salem. Their breads (and muffins, cookies, scones, etc.) are amazing.

  • Thanks for this great guide to Salem! I never had much town pride until I moved here six years ago. I’d like to add to the enthusiasm by mentioning a couple places that make me never want to leave Salem.

    It is funny that you mention that the Ropes Mansion looks straight out of a movie because it was Alison’s house in Hocus Pocus! :)

    Salem Screamery: just opened on Washington Street and they are already my favorite. I paired a fresh ginger scoop with a graham flavor scoop last time and it was TOO DELICIOUS!

    Cinema Salem: Salemites have a lot of love for this independent movie theater. It is also one of the last around that puts real butter on the popcorn!

    The Lobster Shanty: Everything about this place makes me happy. They are casual and fun and affordable but they are also serious business about good local food. The owners creativity shows in the menu which has a great balance of staples and surprises. Vegetarian choices too.

  • Great review of Salem. So glad to see the city get some much deserved exposure. However, I’m for such a creative and crafty blog such as DesignSponge. I’m surprised to see the omission of some of the wonderful crafty stores on Front St. Such as Seed Stitch, Boston Bead, and BF Good Stitch.

  • Salem is one of my long time favorite places, Halloween or otherwise. There are great places to go surrounding Salem, and always great food. A perfect place to pick up cool antiques, unique finds, and get a breath of fresh New England air!

  • I saw a very inspirational exhibit at the PEM a few years back of legendary Uris Epfel!!! And this article just made me want to go back and explore it more!!! Thank you Erica for such great tips and suggestions;-)) Hope more to come!!!
    P.S. happy birthday!!!!

  • Maybe I was “out-of-town” when you interviewed Salem people & places…awe, as I am the Crystal Lady Linda , one of just a small handful of original Salem Psychics still working with individual and group Reading sessions from my home privately, over the phone and also at New England Magic on Essex Street on the week-ends. Love your Salem ads and places to visit.

  • There’s a plaque on the building I worked on in Salem, Haley, saying that’s where the gallows were! It’s on federal street. This made me super nostalgic for that little city, I loved living there. I second A&J Kings (fougasse!) and Gulu (smoothies!). A lot has changed in the last few years but it’s all been for the better.

  • I love the Salem city guide. I love living in this great little city. I would also add Seed Stitch Fine Yarn on Front Street. It is a wonderful yarn shop and the owner is adding more and more arts and crafts materials. I also love Two Girl’s Shop on Derby Street. It is a great clothing boutique. You can always find something fun there.

    If you live in the area check out CREAR Salem on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/crear.salem. We are a new group trying to create a community of people here in Salem/Northshore interested in all things creative and crafty. Like us on Facebook and hopefully we will see you at one of our events.

  • I’m just now seeing that my description of Two Girls Shop didn’t make it into the guide somehow! Here’s what it would have said:

    Two Girls Shop
    Need a great pair of jeans? Go to Two Girls Shop! Need some mason jars or cowboy boots? Go to Two Girls Shop! How about some cute housewares, or handmade jewelry? Again! Two Girls Shop! I love this bright, sunny mish mash of everything girly and of-the-moment.

  • It’s so wonderful to read about this great city I call home! Just one more gem I would add to this list, MarketPlace Quilts located on Canal street! It’s a perfect little spot that really gets the creative juices flowing with plenty of beautiful fabrics, patterns, and classes offered!

  • Thank you for taking the time to tell everyone about your experience in Salem. Also thank you for mentioning our store. Next time please introduce yourself or maybe people who read this, please mention it too! I googled witchcityconsignment and found you! http://Www.facebook.com/witchcityconsignment .. I will def share this! Thanks!

  • Great guide. We have just booked Boston for our summer holiday this year, and will be doing a day trip to Salem. Looks like we have a lot to cram in!!