Nicholas DeRenzo

Baltimore is a city that, despite ranking only 30th in population, has a reputation that looms surprisingly large in the American imagination. Hear the word “Baltimore”—or “Bawlmer,” as some natives pronounce it—and, even if you’ve never visited, you might immediately think of heaps of Old Bay–spiked blue crabs, the grimy-wonderful world of John Waters movies, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe or the mean streets of The Wire. Befitting its position as a major port since the early 18th-century, Baltimore has always been a hub for the exchange of new ideas and quirky experimentation. Today, it’s a bastion for Black-owned businesses and a magnet for creatives priced out of other East Coast towns. It only takes a few minutes strolling through the cobblestone alleys of Fells Point or the retro thrift shops of Hampden to see how Baltimore earned its Charm City nickname.