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Among the oldest residential neighborhoods in the city, the North End has been a haven for immigrants since its settling. In the early part of the 19th century, the area was dominated by a large number of Irish residents who built mansions and cottages along the narrow streets and alleys of the neighborhood. Italian immigrants began moving into the North End in the 1890's, and since that time this smaller corner of the city has become known as the Italian section.

Occupying the area along the water's edge westward to where the Central Artery separates it from the Financial District and the West End, the North End is a popular tourist destination. Some visitors are drawn into the neighborhood by the Freedom Trail, which includes several North End sites, but many are content to walk along the narrow streets, enjoying the breeze along the water, or shop for pastries along Hanover Street.

The Waterfront, which includes the residences and businesses along Commercial Street, also encompasses areas south of the traditional boundaries of the North End - Harbor Towers on India Wharf, the Residences at Rowes Wharf, and the New England Aquarium on Central Wharf.

Although parking is very limited in the area, the Waterfront is easily accessible via the MBTA's Blue Line stop at the Aquarium. Close to the North End is the MBTA station at Haymarket Square, providing access to the Green and Orange Lines.