What is it? The Libert, once an historic jail, has just opened as a swank, US$150 million inn with stellar views of the Boston skyline. The hotel is within walking distance of Beacon Hill, a fascinating enclave of 19th-century Federalist and Victorian buildings, antique shops and small restaurants. A five-minute jog away is the Charles River. Stylish Newbury Street is just a short walk across historic Boston Common. Luxurious or basic? Lock us in and throw away the key. The elegantly restored property is expensive without being pretentious. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer jaw-dropping views of the Charles River, and the presidential suite, with its own library and balcony, is sleek and stylish while honouring New England simplicity. Who should visit? The combination of historic and happening creates a broad appeal. Opening week visitors included actress Meg Ryan and one of the candidates in the United States presidential primaries. The bar, appropriately called Alibi, is already attracting Boston style-setters. What's on the menu? Executive chef Michael Goodman brings his years of Pacific Rim cooking to buttoned-up Boston. The Liberty's restaurant, Clink, bright and airy despite its granite tiles and original cell bars, preserves the ambience of the hotel's penal past. As Karen Pena, Clink's hostess puts it: 'The restaurant is just creepy enough to be exciting.' And exciting is an apt description of the food too, which includes modern takes on traditional Boston seafood such as smoked lobster bisque. What else is there to do? The best way to explore Boston is to follow the nearby Freedom Trail ( www.thefreedomtrail.org ), a 4km walking route. Tired of walking? Sailing through the city is another option. Visitors with some sailing expertise can rent small boats to take out on the Charles River. A favourite stop for culture lovers is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Housed in a replica of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, the museum holds the private collection of one of Boston's most eccentric socialites. What's the bottom line? Room rates start at US$319 a night. Big spenders can book the presidential suite for a mere US$5,500. The Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles Street, Boston, Massachusetts, the US, tel: 1 617 224 4000. See www.libertyhotel.com .