The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Salem, MA

Planning a trip to visit Salem, MA? Check out this ultimate guide to visiting Salem, MA.

Salem, MA has become like a second home to me. And although I wish it was a little closer and in driving distance, I’m thankful for a 1.5 hour flight and usually catching a tailwind on the way in! But I love Salem for so many reasons; the history, the witchy vibes, the food and drinks, the architecture, and so much more. I have a ton of posts about visiting Salem but today, I’m sharing my favorite places to stay, eat, and experience. Consider this your ultimate guide to visiting Salem, MA!

If you are flying to Salem, the closest airport is Boston Logan International Airport. It’s only 15 miles from the airport to Salem but depending on traffic, it usually takes 30-60 minutes to get there. I always Uber but you can also take the ferry (seasonly) or the train. To get to the train you will need to take buses and I’ve just never wanted to fuss with it when I have all my luggage but that is an option!

Salem is amazing any time of year and now that I’ve been every season, I can tell you it’s magical at all times. October is INSANELY busy so if you’re making your first trip there, I would avoid going in October. You won’t get to see and do everything you want and you will wait in lines for everything. You will be surrounded by thousands of people and shoulder to shoulder for most of your day. If you want fall/spooky vibes, I’d recommend September or early November! We also LOVE summer; Salem has a ton of amazing restaurants with patios and it’s directly on the water so it’s the ultimate vibe. Winter is also beautiful (Christmas decor was top notch), and spring is beautiful when everything starts to bloom. You really can’t go wrong anytime you visit!

Now let’s get to one of the best parts about Salem.. THE FOOD!

Food in Salem Massachusetts

The Roof Hotel Salem in Salem Massachusetts

Food: One of my favorite parts about Salem is the food. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a bad meal anywhere in town and it is such a foodie scene! Let’s break it down:


-Red’s Sandwich Shop: This is an absolute must if you are visiting for the first time because it’s a staple of Salem. It’s affordable and super quick so you’re in and out, leaving you more time to explore the town. I will say, this is not my favorite anymore but it’s still somewhere you should try at least once!

-Fountain Place: This may be my favorite place to grab breakfast in Salem; it is quick and fresh, and they have gluten-free toast which is always a plus in my book! But the omelet was perfection and I am already dreaming about going back for one! It’s also right on the corner of Essex Street so it’s easily accessible and the perfect spot for people-watching when it’s nice enough to sit on the patio!

-Gulu Gulu: Another one of my favorites! They have a gluten-free breakfast sandwich that I love as well as other food and bakery. This is also my go-to coffee spot; I get the Caramel Brulette latte with almond milk and it’s chefs kiss. I also love their mimosas and they are HUGE!

-Lulu’s Bakery: This breakfast spot is adorable; we were able to meet the owners when I was one a FAM trip with Destination Salem one time and they told us all about the menu and how it’s made up of family recipes and inspiration from her southern roots in Kentucky! Another gluten-free breakfast sandwich option + tons of bakery and coffee drinks as well.

Lunch and Dinner: We’re grouping these two together because I’d be happy eating at these places anytime of day. These are my absolute musts when visiting Salem!

Rockafellas: This is usually my first stop because of the location and the food! It’s located on the corner of Essex Street and has the best patio when it’s nice out! You can also sit at the bar and grab a drink (home to the Mystery Shot if you have ever heard of that and if not and you’re feeling adventurous, stop here). They also have gluten-free (and regular) flatbreads that are out of this world!

Turner’s Seafood: I am not a seafood person so I was a little nervous based on the name but let me tell you, their Chicken Marsala is the best I’ve EVER had. I dream of it and yes, I will cheat and eat gluten for it because it’s that good. The vibe of Turner’s is also immaculate; it’s warm and cozy and one of my favorite spots for date night! This building also holds a lot of history as it was previously Lyceum Hall, where Alexander Graham Bell placed the first long distance phone call and before that, the apple orchard of the accused Bridget Bishop during the witch trials.

The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel: If you want cozy, this restaurant is for you. It’s quaint and cozy and located in the lobby of the Hawthorne Hotel. Burgers, steaks, salads, sandwiches, and delicious drinks! But the high back chairs and fireplace make it the perfect spot to settle in and cozy up!

Finz: Another one of my faves and places where I’ll cheat on my gluten-free lifestyle haha but if you like sushi, GO HERE. It’s located in Pickering Wharf and has the most amazing patio to sit on when the weather is nice! Other favorites here include the Edamame (it’s spicy and so good), Street Corn Shrimp, and my husband and our besties always get the Mussels!

-The Roof (Hotel Salem): Head to the roof of Hotel Salem to experience the best views in the city! They also have delicious food and drinks and it’s always my first stop when I’m there in the warmer months!

There are SO many other restaurants but these are just my non-negotiable stops when I visit! 

The Coven's Cottage Salem Massachusetts

Wynotts Wands in Salem Massachusetts

Coven in Salem Massachusetts

Shopping: The amount of souvenirs I bring home on trips… I can’t help myself!! I always find something new and unique and there’s just something special about bringing a little Salem magic home.

Ascend: You’ll see Ascend a few times in here and it’s because they are amazing and a one-stop shop. Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind crystals, jewelry, handmade sun catchers, and more, they are always my first stop when I get into town. You can also shop online until you can make it in-store 🙂

Coven’s Cottage: Located right next to Ascend on the heart of Essex Street, I usually head here right after and grab my herbs, sage, and other little crystals. They don’t allow photos in the store so it’s something you will have to experience to understand how truly magical it is!

Coven: Have you seen the neon purple “I put a spell on you sign?” That’s Coven! The entire store is an experience; it’s dark, moody, and witchy! I always find something here; prints, sweatshirts, dresses, hats, makeup, bags, and more! It’s located down in the Wharf and an absolute must!

Moon’s Cards + Gifts: This is my favorite store to grab your traditional souvenirs; hats, sweatshirts, t-shirts, etc!

Trolley Depot: Great spot for postcards, ornaments, mugs, etc!

Wynott’s Wands: Calling all my Harry Potter fans! This store is perfection just in ambiance and decor alone. It’s quiet, moody, cozy, and so so magical! You can grab your very own magic wand and the employees are always so knowledgable and will tell you exactly what each want does/is for!

Salem’s Bespoke Boutique: Another spot for jewelry, hats ( I got the cutest beret from here!), purses and more!

Moody’s Gifts: The cutest gift shop with a variety of gifts! I have been collecting Hocus Pocus prints each time I go but they also have plants, jewelry, ornaments, postcards, home decor and more!

Tattoos: I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo in Salem and when we found Acorn Tattoo on our last visit, they made it happen! We loved them so much we actually went back the next day for a second one! Patrick is SO good and his line work is unreal. Be sure to reach out to them on Instagram or email them if you are thinking of getting one! They do accept walk-ins but better to make an appointment so you can let them know what you’re thinking in advance!

The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem Massachusetts

The Salem Waterfront Hotel in Salem Massachusetts

The Hotel Salem in Salem Massachusetts

Hotels: Since I’ve been quite a few times, I’ve stayed in a lot of different hotels when visiting! Here are some of my favorites:

The Hotel Salem: this hotel is located right in the middle of Essex Street and is the absolute best location in my opinion! The vibe is new and modern, the rooms are huge, there’s a restaurant in the lobby and a rooftop restaurant and bar seasonly!

Salem Waterfront Hotel: this hotel is located in Pickering Wharf and is also in an amazing location. It’s right across the street from Destination Salem (be sure to stop in here on your first trip-they are SO helpful!) and only a few blocks from Essex Street. The Waterfront recently renovated some of the rooms and will be renovating more over the next couple of months! They also have a pool, a restaurant with a patio, parking, and a seasonal shuttle!

Hawthorne Hotel: The Hawthorne is probably the most historic and memorable hotel when talking about Salem. Partly because it’s very old and partly because it’s “haunted”. It’s also in a great location at the end of Essex Street and adjacent to The Common, which means a view of the Witch Museum! The Tavern at the Hawthorne is one of my favorite restaurants as well (See above).

The Hampton Inn: this is the newest hotel out of all of the ones above and in a great location! They also have parking and continental breakfast!

Tarot card reading in Salem Massachusetts

Aura photography at Ascend in Salem Massachusetts


Readings: I’ve had a few readings when visiting Salem and some were definitely better than others. I won’t put anyone on blast and this is a subjective post (MY favorites, not the end all be all!) so here are the spots I would recommend:

Ascend: Aura Photography is a MUST. It’s such an amazing thing to see your Aura in color and the interpretations are dead on! And leaving with your polaroid is such a special souvenir! I’ve also had a reading done by Lynn here and she was great!

Pentagram: Hands down, the best reading I have ever had was with Leanne at Pentagram. She literally knew things that no one else would have known and I was in tears the entire time. If you’re a little skeptical, see Leanne and tell me what you think afterwards! She is the real deal.

Witch Trials Memorial in Salem Massachusetts

The Daniel's House in Salem Massachusetts

Ghost tour in Salem Massachusetts


Witch City Walking Tours: They offer a variety of tours depending on what you’re interested in; we did the History and Hauntings of Salem tour but they offer a ton of other ones! They are a local tour company (always best to tour locally) and are very knowledgable!

Crow Haven Witch Walk: This tour is unique because it combines modern day witchcraft as well as the witchcraft history of 1692. You will start the tour with a traditional witches circle dance in their infamous garden alley (more like a ceremony for explaining purposes!) and then tour the town with your tour guide.

The Daniel’s House: The tours at The Daniel’s House are BY FAR one of my absolute favorite things to do in Salem. Vijay has been my guide each time and he is the most amazing guide! He’s knowledgable, passionate, animated, and just the kindest human. They offer a variety of different tours depending on the time of year but you can’t go wrong with any of them- I’ve done a Fireside chat and Inside the Daniel’s House tour but there are so many others! Highly recommend: 1010!

Salem Trolley Tour: This is a great way to get a lay of the land and give your feet a rest! I LOVE that Salem is walkable but the trolley is a great alternative and you can cover more ground! Enjoy a one hour narrated tour and cover Salem’s rich history as you enjoy a 8 mile loop around town!

Pioneer Village in Salem Massachusetts

International Monster Museum in Salem Massachusetts

Witch Dungeon Museum in Salem Massachusetts

The Witch House in Salem Massachusetts


The Witch House: This is the only building still standing that has ties to the Witch Trials of 1692. It belonged to judge Jonathan Corwin and would have been considered a mansion back then. Browse through the rooms and look at artifacts as well as items from the time period to show you what it would have looked like when he lived there. The floorboards upstairs are also original which is so cool! This is a self-guided tour so you can go at your pace.

The Witch Dungeon Museum: I love this museum because it begins with a quick reenactment of an actual trial from 1692. From there, you will travel downstairs to a replica of the Salem jail. They even have an original beam on display! This is, in my opinion, a must see/do to get a feel of what it would have been like at that time.

Halloween Museum: Ready for waves of nostalgia?! The Halloween Museum is everything Halloween- and in 3D! They will give you 3D glasses at the door (I usually skip them because they make me dizzy) but there is so much to see. Memorabilia from movies, Disney, childhood toys (hello McDonald’s Halloween nuggets!), and more!

Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery: Horror movie fans, this is a MUST visit! They don’t allow photos (gotta keep the surprise) so take my word when I say it’s absolutely amazing! Walk through the history of horror movies with artifacts, memorabilia, wax figures and more. And while the wax figures won’t come alive, they look like they will because that’s how REAL they look! You can also take a private “Lifting the Coffin Lid: The Owner’s Tour” and see even more characters, oddities, toast with a glass of champagne or sparkling juice, and experience a whole new side of the gallery!

Witch Mansion Haunted House: If you are looking for a little spooky action while you’re there, take a walk through Witch Mansion! It’s located right on Essex Street and features animatronics (no live actors). The exit is in the mall, right across from one of my favorite attractions, The International Monster Museum!

International Monster Museum: I love this attraction because it’s a mix between a haunted house (a few jump scares and animatronics) but also features creatures from all over the world and their history. They also give you a lantern to walk through and reach each placard and I just think it’s such a vibe!

Pioneer Village: Take a trip here if you want to see what it was like to live in Salem in 1630. This is also a filming location for Hocus Pocus (Thackery Binx’s house!) so you can kill two birds with one stone if you want to see those locations as well!

The Real Pirates Museum: If you are interested in the maritime history of Salem, make sure you stop by the Real Pirates Museum. This museum takes you through the shipwreck of the Black Sam Bellamy and Whydah. Each room features immersive experiences and you can even touch REAL pirate treasure! Great for all ages!

Professor Spindlewink’s World of Wizardry: If you’re interested in wizards and magic, make sure to visit this spot! You’ll travel through different realms, experience mythical creatures, and explore magical chambers!

One of my favorite things to do is just walk around. There are so many nooks and crannies that make Salem magical. I love to go sit in the garden of Ropes Mansion and drink my morning coffee. I love to walk down Chestnut Street and take in all of the stunning homes and architecture. I love to collect sea glass at The Willows. There is seriously SO much to take in and enjoy!

Essex Street, Salem Massachusetts

Kid-friendly activities: One of the questions I get asked most often is “Should I bring my kids to Salem?” We took the kids last year and will be taking them again in a couple of months and they LOVE IT! There is plenty to do with kids, so much in fact that I wrote an entire blog post HERE!

Are you still here?! If you’ve read this entire post, congratulations! There is so much more to see and experience than what I shared in this post but these are some of my favorite places to visit in Salem, MA. And why I always recommend multiple days/trips to make sure you see and do it all! I always recommend visiting Destination Salem (you can even request a free guide!) for updates on events and things to do! Happy visiting!

Be sure to check out my other posts about Salem below! Xo

Why you should visit Salem, MA in November

Winter weekend getaway to Salem, MA

Visiting Salem, MA during the holidays

A guide to visiting Salem, MA in the fall




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