Buy tickets
      Connected | June 13, 2022

      Hidden Gems to see in Salem, Massachusetts

      Alyse Diamantides

      Written by

      Alyse Diamantides


      Centuries-old buildings, cobblestone walkways and no shortage of touristy witch shops can only mean one thing: you’ve landed in Salem, Massachusetts.

      Named one of the best places to travel to in October by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, the city offers many popular haunts, if you will, to visit. Everyone loves seeing the Witch House and there’s never a shortage of selfie-takers in front of the Bewitched statue. But perhaps you seek the more off-the-beaten path places.

      Don’t worry, we did the work for you and asked a few Peabody Essex Museum staff members what they love to do in this historic coastal city. Take a look at some of the recommended hidden gems that won’t be overrun with tourists this summer.

      The artistically inclined may be inspired to sketch the view of Derby Wharf. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
      The artistically inclined may be inspired to sketch the view of Derby Wharf. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      1. What to see

      One of the more underrated views of the city is the lighthouse at Derby Wharf. Situated down by Pickering Wharf (at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site), the lighthouse was constructed in 1871 to better assist ships entering Salem Harbor. “I’d take a walk down Chestnut Street and out to the lighthouse,” offers Karina Corrigan, a PEM curator and longtime Salem resident. Spotting a luxury sailboat or two is also a plus. The shops and restaurants lining Pickering Wharf add to the charm. On the way back, Corrigan suggests stopping by the garden behind the Derby House, another national historic site, located at 65 Derby Street. It’s sure to be in full bloom this time of year. And if you head a bit farther down Derby Street you’ll hit another favorite among history buffs: The House of the Seven Gables (setting of author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel). Guided tours and grounds passes are available so be sure to plan ahead and reserve your tickets in advance. The ocean view from the back of the house is also worth noting.

      2. Where to eat & drink

      Many restaurants and eateries fill the downtown area and Pickering Wharf. But PEM curator and Salem resident Siddhartha V. Shah only has one place in mind: the Antique Table. Situated on Congress Street, the authentic Trattoria-style restaurant serves up tasty cuisine made from scratch, as do its three other locations on the North Shore. “The food is consistently good, as is the service. I think it has the best outdoor dining spot in town,” he says. If you’re looking for a tasty cocktail to sip on before dinner, head up to the seasonal rooftop of The Hotel Salem on Essex Street. Personal favorite: frosé, homemade guac and the newly added chicken quesadilla. If heights aren’t your thing, the Counter Kitchen & Bar on the hotel’s ground floor serves up equally delicious bites and cocktails.

      Frosé and housemade guacamole at The Roof at The Hotel Salem. Or grab a freshly brewed coffee and sandwich at Front Street Coffeehouse.
      Frosé and housemade guacamole at The Roof at The Hotel Salem. Or grab a freshly brewed coffee and sandwich at Front Street Coffeehouse.

      If you’re in search of a more casual spot for a coffee break or light snack, head over to Brew Box, Front Street Coffeehouse or Gulu-Gulu Cafe (hint: order the crepes). With its outdoor patio and open-concept design, The Derby is also the place to be for dinner and maybe a mimosa tower during brunch. And for the beer drinkers, take the short walk to East Regiment Beer Company (30 Church St.) for a pint in their taproom and grab some grub from the Reggie Kitchen. Newest menu item worth ordering is the coconut crab ceviche with ginger, jalapeno and cilantro. Need we say more?

      3. Where to enjoy the great outdoors

      Your trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop by historic Salem Willows. The waterfront park, arcade and plethora of good places to grab a bite to eat has made it a staple for locals and tourists of all ages for decades. For a classic bite, PEM Director of Visitor Engagement Jen Close recommends the chop suey sandwich. Don’t forget to grab some hot popcorn from E.W. Hobbs as you walk along the path overlooking Beverly and Marblehead harbors. It makes for a perfect scenic afternoon. If you want even more outdoor activities, Mary Butler, PEM director of security, recommends checking out the new bike path that runs along Canal Street and through the city. “It’s a fun, interesting way for a family to be outside and adventurous and see the city without spending any money,” she says. If you didn’t bring your own, bikes are available to rent through Salem Cycle.

      View of storefronts along a Salem street.

      4. Where to shop

      We are partial of course to the Museum Shop inside the Peabody Essex Museum, but for more options, head downtown. Salem offers an eclectic variety of stores and gift shops, like the vintage-inspired Modern Millie on Central Street, the plant oasis of Oak + Moss on Washington Street or the fine wines and kitchen items found only in Pamplemousse on Essex Street. Ask for Nate or Ian, they’ll take care of you. For unique greeting cards, children’s gifts and North Shore inspired prints head over to Roost & Company. “If you’re looking for something of value to take away, that’s definitely the place to go,” Butler adds. But if you’re in search of some witchy trinkets or souvenirs, there’s plenty to choose from along Essex and Washington streets.

      For readers who want to step back in time, PEM’s content producer and Salem resident Dinah Cardin recommends Diehl Marcus & Company (11 Central Street), an eccentric gift shop sporting finely curated antiques and apothecary goods from across the world. The store mirrors as a performance and event venue with retro burlesque-themed bingo, sound healing workshops, movie nights and shows held upstairs.

      Left, a view of the Hawthorne Hotal. Right, a view of Hotel Salem.

      5. Where to stay

      When relatives are visiting from Ohio, Butler likes to give them plenty of options for where to spend the night. “It really depends on what you’re looking for, as each one offers something different,” she says. The Hawthorne Hotel is a timeless slice of history, while the Salem Waterfront Hotel offers picturesque views of Pickering Wharf, and the Hampton Inn features all things new and modern. Just keep an eye on prices, as even some of the smallest rooms are the most expensive. If you’re interested in more of a modern and chic lodging experience, try The Merchant Salem on Washington Street. Airbnb travelers are also in luck if they can snag a reservation at The Salem Porch House, a one-bedroom condo with views of the Salem Common. Hint: book early!

      Instagram post of a porch view.

      Something we missed? For a full listing of all events, shops and restaurants that call Salem home, head over to Destination Salem at

      TOP IMAGE: Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      Keep exploring


      Salem community leaders share a few of their favorite things

      18 Min read


      PEMcast 6: Getting Outside

      17 min listen