With its reputation focused on the water, Baltimore – the largest city, although not the capital of Maryland – is a microcosm of the history of the USA’s eastern seaboard. Named after the second Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, the city was founded in 1729 and now calls itself ‘Charm City’, referring to its citizens’ concern for and appreciation of the quality of urban life. Its position on the Patapsco River, at the top of the northwestern fork of the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore gives direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. In the early days of European settlement, Baltimore was also the westernmost ocean-going harbour, making it invaluable as a link with the railways that reached into the fast-growing agricultural lands of the interior. Cereal mills prospered on the rivers flowing into the Bay, ensuring that industry and shipping were soon established. The successful Revolutionary War against Britain, which Baltimore survived intact, brought not only increased prosperity but also a song that went onto greater heights as the USA’s national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, referring to the flag that flew over the city’s Fort McHenry. The Inner Harbor area is representative of the city’s forward-looking attitude. Once the place where the Baltimore Clippers – fast two-mast schooners – were built, after the American Revolution, the area now successfully combines business, shopping, hotels, restaurants and sightseeing. The docklands was subject to a hugely successful urban regeneration scheme and the newly developed Inner Harbor was opened in 1980. The efficient water taxi service, which also provides a good way to view the city’s impressive seafront skyline, enhances the success of the regeneration. An ongoing one billion US Dollar redevelopment will further improve the area. The Inner Harbor’s wealth of seafood also reflects the city’s economy, which has gone from complete reliance on its harbour to encompassing more general financial, banking, insurance and tourism-related industries. The nearby Downtown is centred on thriving Lexington Market, established in 1782, which still houses over 140 merchants – originally solely farmers but now vendors of all kinds. The clear identification of neighbourhoods and districts is a feature of Baltimore, giving a sense of local identity in each one. Historic districts that once would have been decaying inner-city areas, such as Fells Point and Federal Hill, now are bustling communities, home to the businesspeople who work in the nearby Downtown areas. Mount Vernon and Little Italy also both retain the atmosphere of a large village. There is a vitality to the city, stretching out from the campuses of Johns Hopkins University to the north and the University of Maryland near the Downtown. Johns Hopkins himself – whose name is attached to many public buildings – rose from a humble greengrocer in 1819, to a wealthy and philanthropic merchant by 1847. He embodies Baltimore’s work ethic and the American dream. Baltimore has an eclectic range of famous names associated with it. The city was the birthplace of legendary baseball player ‘Babe’ Ruth and of revered literary critic H L Mencken. Writer Edgar Allan Poe and singer Billie Holiday have also left their mark, as has British Royalty. ‘Bessie’ Wallis Warfield – known to the British as the double divorcee, Mrs Simpson, who later married King Edward VIII, causing his abdication – lived for many years in the Mount Vernon section of Baltimore. Whether in its hot, muggy summers or mild, damp and snowy winters, Baltimore is lively and a good base from which to explore rural Maryland. It is a city that is not only proud of its heritage but also confident of the future, preferring to shape the inevitable changes rather than be subject to them. Nonetheless, one thing has never changed – it is considered almost a crime for one to leave the city without tasting Baltimore’s speciality, the abundant Maryland crabs.