John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center

Despite a central location, this hotel feels like an under-the-radar spot—quiet, with graceful public spaces and competent and friendly employees.

By Jon Marcus, Monday, Feb 28, 2011, 1:00 PM

(Courtesy John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center)

John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center

About this Hotel

Price From $99

’Hood Near picture-postcard Copley Square in the heart of the Back Bay, close to plentiful shopping and dining on Newbury and Boylston streets, Copley Place, and the Shops at the Prudential Center. The South End and its trendy restaurants and shops are also within walking distance.

The Vibe A great Boston secret, this ornate structure was opened in 1926 as the University Club and later taken over by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company (whose high-rise headquarters is across the street) to serve as a training center, meeting space, and hotel. It feels like the under-the-radar spot that it is—quiet, with graceful public spaces and competent and friendly employees. The headquarters of the Boston Athletic Association is also in this building, and it runs a little-known museum of artifacts relating to the Boston Marathon (open on weekdays or by request; call 617/236-1652 x2624). Elite runners are put up in the building when they come to town for the famous race.

Rooms Staying here feels like a visit to grandma’s: The 64 guest rooms are comfortable and relatively large, but, like the building itself, are throwbacks that appear dated and worn, with dark wood furniture and creaky knobs and dials. A hip boutique hotel, this isn’t.

Plus The location is unbeatable, and the hotel is surprisingly quiet considering it’s in the middle of a busy locale. The lobby and guest rooms are above street level. A basic continental breakfast is included, and guests get free newspapers on weekdays. Validated parking in an adjacent garage costs $27 a night, slightly less than the typical high rates in this neighborhood.

Minus Free Wi-Fi has been added to the rooms, but the age of the building and the thickness of the walls makes for spotty signals. Though the neighborhood is very safe, the entrance for hotel guests is on a dark side street beside the exit from a parking garage.

Free Wi-Fi? Yes. The most reliable connection is in the public spaces.

Credit Cards Accepted AmEx, Discover, MC, Visa.

Details A room with one single or full bed from $99; a room with a queen from $109; a room with a king or two full beds from $119.