The first time I went to the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore (Oct. 1999), I wasn't impressed. Maybe I was hoping for more, maybe I thought it was too earthy, maybe I expected it to be more "gentrified", maybe it seemed a little more edgy that what I was used to. I recall thinking "this is it?".
A year-and-a-half later, Fells Point has really grown on me. With all too many urban centers in the US becoming big sprawling places that roll up the carpet after the workday's over. There are notable exceptions: the big 4 northeast corridor cities (NYC, Boston, Philly, DC), San Fran, and Chicago come to mind). With the population declines in Baltimore and desolate nature of many neighborhoods on weekends, I was afraid Baltimore was rapidly degenerating that way.
Fells Point gives me hope...this neighborhood seems to be defying the trend of exodus to the suburbs. On the northern edges between Fells Point and Johns Hopkins Hospital is apparently a sizeable Latino community (restaurants, stores,
churches with displays only in Spanish) I didn't even know existed in Baltimore. A vibrant area, worn-at-the-edges, but interesting to see.
Fells Point itself, with its seafood and diverse restaurants (sushi, Chinese, Latin, Italian), historical rowhouses (Paddy Whalen, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Billie Holliday all lived here at one time), antique/record stores, seems like THE neighborhood to live in in Baltimore for those of us who like dynamic urban ambience (stores for all needs within easy walking distance). Some of my initial perceptions were correct: true, it IS very earthy with a large working-class element, and it IS moderately touristy (but not overly so); but Fells Point is a diverse, real urban neighborhood that exudes a uniquely Bawlmore charm and now I've learned to appreciate it for THAT.
Incidentally, I had the best calzone (veggie!) I think I've ever eaten at Lucia's in Broadway Market (on Broadway between Thames and Fleet), and got a good coffee in the Market too. Paul Stevens Ltd. on Thames St. one block east of Broadway had decent crab cake sandwiches ($9.95) and simple, charming old-world decor but was a little overpriced in my opinion.
Fells Point is about a $8 taxi ride from Baltimore Penn Station or may be reached by water taxis from the Inner Harbor ($5/day pass). Buses run from downtown/inner harbor (go to MTA Maryland for schedules) but I find the frequency leaves something to be desired on the weekend.
If I could do my time (I'm here on a 2-year contract) in Baltimore all over again, I think I would choose to live in Fells Point.