Perfect Weekend in Salem, Massachusetts

By Yankee Magazine

May 21 2020

Salem, MA – Chestnut Street

Stately brick architecture and quiet signs of autumn along historic Chestnut Street in Salem, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming.
In Salem, Massachusetts, the season of the witch brings more than just pumpkins and spooky doorstep decor — it also brings big-time crowds. Although tourism peaks here in the weeks surrounding Halloween, this highly walkable city makes for a terrific visit all year round. Between the top-notch art museum, eclectic shops, great restaurants, and heaps of historic architecture, it’s easy to see yourself spending a perfect weekend in Salem, Massachusetts. Here are some of our favorite ways to spend a weekend in Salem. For more inspiration, check out episode 8 on season 4 of Weekends with Yankee, in which cohost Richard Wiese learns about Salem’s maritime history, takes a tour of the seaside mansion known as the House of the Seven Gables, and gets a tarot reading at a witchcraft store downtown. –Katherine Keenan
Stately brick architecture along historic Chestnut Street in Salem, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming.

Plan Your Perfect Weekend in Salem

5 Essential Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts

Peabody Essex Museum

Hailed as the oldest continuously operating museum in the U.S., the Peabody Essex Museum boasts about 1.3 million artworks and artifacts as well as 22 historic buildings — and counting. A recent expansion included a 40,000-square-foot addition, part of a grand initiative to revamp visitors’ experiences of all PEM collections by 2022. In addition to a large New England collection, the museum has two enormous libraries, key pieces of American Impressionism and Chinese and African art, and the only complete Qing dynasty house located outside China. Named a 2020 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Art Museum.”

The Salem Witch House

This eye-catching 17th-century home is the only building left in Salem with direct ties to the city’s infamous witch trials. For more insight into that era, check out the nearby Salem Witch Museum. There, guided tours take visitors on an elaborate journey back in time that includes numerous stage sets, life-size figures, and ample intrigue. If you’re looking the best place to get a grasp on the town’s history and the Salem trials, look no further.

The House of the Seven Gables

The inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel of the same name, the House of the Seven Gables is the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England. Admire the original architecture, view the exhibits, stroll the seaside gardens — and keep an eye out for the top-secret staircase.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

History abounds at this nine-acre waterfront park, which includes the Custom House where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked, wharves where privateers docked during the Revolutionary War, and the Friendship of Salem, a 171-foot replica of a ship once used to sail the globe in search of spices and trade goods.


Got a yen for some old-world witchery? At this magic shop you’ll find experts in tarot card readings, palmistry, spirit mediumship, astrology, and more. After all, what’s a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, without a touch of the occult?

3 Places to Stay in Salem, Massachusetts

The Hawthorne Hotel

This elegant hotel was recently voted the best U.S. city-center historic hotel by Historic Hotels of America and has been a Salem institution since 1925. Sitting right on the corner of the Salem Common, the 93-room Hawthorne has hosted President Bill Clinton as well as Hollywood A-listers such as Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence. Oh, and if do you happen to visit during October, don’t miss the Hawthorne’s Halloween party — it’s legendary. 

The Hotel Salem

Just the thing for visitors who like to be in the heart of it all, this chic boutique hotel is located in the former Newmark’s department store on the bustling Essex Street pedestrian mall. Part of the Lark hotel chain, it includes bargain-priced “micro rooms” as well as more typical guest rooms. The midcentury modern decor will delight Mad Men buffs, and the view from the top — at Salem’s only rooftop bar — can’t be beat. 

The Merchant

Thrilled by the idea of staying where George Washington once slept? Check out the Merchant, an 11-room hotel that strikes the perfect balance between history and modernity. The lobby fireplace was originally cast by Paul Revere, and portions of the Salem witch trials took place on the property; on the other hand, today’s guests can enjoys complimentary iPads and a cushy lounge. 

4 Restaurants to Try in Salem, Massachusetts

Gulu-Gulu Café

With a bohemian ambiance, live music, and a bar stocked with craft beer, this artisan sandwich spot has been a downtown Salem staple since 2005. On your way there, check out the neighboring Bewitched statue, which depicts actress Elizabeth Montgomery atop a broom.


Located on Pickering Wharf, this innovative seafood restaurant boasts a stellar raw bar and serves up killer dishes such as sesame seared tuna and buffalo calamari. (And the view is pretty great, too.)

Adriatic Restaurant & Bar

What could be better than an evening spent dining outdoors at this downtown Salem restaurant? Prepare to be transported to the Mediterranean by fresh dishes inspired by the regions surrounding the Adriatic Sea.

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

Although this legendary old-school candy store is hardly a sit-down eatery, we think it offers twice as much fun. Try Salem Gibraltars, made from an original 1806 recipe, plus unicorn fudge and Black Jack molasses sticks.

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