The historic cities in Maryland are delightful to explore. The state on the shores of Chesapeake Bay was one of the earliest settled by European immigrants, with cities such as St. Mary’s City and Cambridge being some of the oldest in the nation.
Maryland welcomes millions of visitors every year because of the state’s central location near DC, New York and Philadelphia, even though you’ll find Maryland cities such as Baltimore and Frederick that are excellent metros to explore without leaving the state. From large and storied suburbs in southern Maryland that make up the DC metro to the idyllic coastal vacation destinations packed along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, it’s easy to see why so many travellers love visiting the Old Line State repeatedly.
- Cities in Maryland
- 20 Maryland Cities To Explore
Cities in Maryland
Visiting Baltimore? Take the Signature Spirit of Baltimore Dinner Cruise and enjoy the city skyline from the water while you tuck into a delicious buffet.
20 Maryland Cities To Explore
As the state’s largest and most populated city, Baltimore is an obvious contender when deciding which city to visit first in Maryland.
Baltimore’s entertainment options, shopping districts and restaurants serve a population of more than 580,000 people and are excellent.
The city was officially founded in 1729 and named after noble Englishman Cecil Calvert, the 2nd Baron Baltimore.
Known as “Charm City”, Baltimore’s gentrified inner neighbourhoods and scenic waterfront district have made this East Coast city once again a sought-after destination that can accommodate visitors of all ages and interests.
Check out Baltimore’s National Aquarium, Camden Yards ballpark and Walters Art Museum for that authentic Baltimore experience to maximise your trip to Maryland’s largest city.
The official capital of Maryland, Annapolis is an incredibly historic coastal city that’s always had a very special bond with maritime trade and the United States Navy.
Annapolis is called the “Sailing Capital of the U.S.” and has been home to the United States Naval Academy since 1845.
It’s roughly 32 miles (51 km) from downtown Baltimore, so you can easily visit both cities in a day.
Originally titled ‘Providence’ when Puritans first settled the area in 1649, Annapolis is among the most storied destinations along the East Coast and a real treasure trove of information if you’re a history or military buff.
The Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park, William Paca House & Garden, United States Naval Academy and Ego Alley are all must-see attractions and landmarks in Annapolis, so be sure to pencil the city in on your Maryland travel itinerary.
Recommended tour: Phantoms of Annapolis Ghost Tour By US Ghost Adventures.
With a population of more than 68,000 people, posh Bethesda is among the wealthiest cities in Maryland and home to many of the state’s top designer boutique stores and upmarket restaurants.
The city lies just outside the DC area and about seven miles (11 km) from downtown Washington DC, making it a popular choice to visit for travellers hoping to experience the nation’s capital without dealing with DC’s drawbacks.
Bethesda is also an enviable tourist trap in its own right, as evidenced by attractions such as the Round House Theatre, the Cabin John Regional Park and Clara Barton National Historic Site, all great destinations to visit in Maryland.
Recommended tour: Bethesda Scavenger Hunt: The Fine (Art) Life in Bethesda
4- Ocean City
In Maryland’s popular Worcester County, Ocean City is the state’s go-to vacation destination, offering miles of golden beaches to hang about all day long lazily.
The city’s picture-perfect beaches are overshadowed by Ocean City’s three-mile (4.8 km) boardwalk, straddled with the city’s best shops, seafood restaurants and hotels to entertain you after sundown.
However, there’s more to Ocean City than just the ocean, with world-class attractions such as Ripley’s Ocean City, Trimper Rides of Ocean City and the Assateague Island National Seashore on offer if you’re all beached out.
Rich in Civil War history and surrounded by a series of incredible hiking trails, the city of Frederick in western Maryland is a great destination to visit if you want to explore a range of indoor and outdoor attractions.
Frederick was founded in 1745 by land speculator Daniel Dulany and has roughly 78,000 people, enough to make Frederick the second-largest city in Maryland behind Baltimore.
The city doesn’t disappoint when it comes to attractions, with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the Weinberg Center for the Arts and Gambrill State Park all top-notch venues to visit in Frederick.
- A Walking Tour of Frederick, Maryland – The Crossroads of Maryland
- Frederick: Wine, Beer, and Spirits Tour
First settled by Europeans in 1717 and with a population of more than 67,000 people, Rockville is Maryland’s fourth-largest city and is less than 17 miles (27 km) from downtown Washington D.C.
Rockville borders Bethesda to the southeast and forms part of the Technology Corridor along Interstate 270, with several tech companies and federal government institutions calling Rockville home.
The city is a decent tourist destination, with the Glenview Mansion, the Rock Creek Regional Park and the Rockville Town Square just some of the many great attractions to experience in Rockville.
Once little more than a small farming community, Gaithersburg has grown into a flourishing urbanised city home to several major tech companies such as IBM and Lockheed Martin.
Gaithersburg borders the city of Rockville to the southeast and forms part of the Technology Corridor along Interstate 270, making it a significant economic hub in Maryland within 22 miles (25 km) from downtown Washington D.C.
Gaithersburg was officially settled in 1765 and was initially titled ‘Log Town’ before being renamed during the 1850s after Benjamin Gaither.
Some of Gaithersburg’s most visited attractions include the BlackRock Center for the Arts, the Gaithersburg Community Museum and the Great Seneca Stream Valley Park.
Recommended if you’re visiting with kids: iFLY Montgomery-Gaithersburg First Time Flyer Experience
Greenbelt is a mid-sized city and suburb of Washington D.C. in southern Maryland, roughly 12 miles (19 km) northeast of the nation’s capital.
The city’s population is about 25,000 people, and it was a purpose-built city erected by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the United States government in 1937.
Greenbelt’s entire downtown core, known as the Greenbelt Historic District, was federally designed and on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s also a National Historic Landmark District.
This unique Maryland city has a collection of places to explore, such as the Old Greenbelt Theatre, the NASA Goddard Visitor Center and the Greenbelt Museum.
On the scenic banks of the Choptank River along Maryland’s eastern shore, Cambridge is an old colonial city that was settled by Europeans in 1684.
Cambridge has a population of around 13,000 people and combines America’s earliest history with the great outdoors.
The city is the fourth-largest in terms of population on Maryland’s Easter Seaboard after Salisbury, Elkton and Easton and was initially a farming community used by English settlers for tobacco farming.
Cambridge’s rich history and unique culture shine through for all to experience through a series of destinations throughout the city, such as the Richardson Maritime Museum, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
With a population of more than 43,000 people, Hagerstown is the sixth-largest incorporated city in Maryland and the largest city in the entire Maryland Panhandle region.
Hagerstown was first established in 1762 by German immigrant Jonathan Hager, who initially named his newly found city ‘Elizabethtown’ in honour of his wife, Elizabeth Kershner.
This Maryland city was officially renamed in 1814 and has fine historical attractions such as the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Maryland Theatre and the Jonathan Hager House Museum.
11- Havre de Grace
Sitting along the Susquehanna River banks in northern Maryland, Havre de Grace overlooks the scenic Chesapeake Bay to the southeast and is renowned for its excellent seafood restaurants and charming downtown area.
Havre de Grace has a population of around 15,000 and was first incorporated in 1785.
General Lafayette named it after the region that reminded him of the French city of Le Havre.
Smithsonian Magazine listed it as one of the 20 best small towns in the US, and rightly so, as the city is home to some interesting places, such as the Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse and Millard Tydings Memorial Park.
Treat your party to a: Private Luxury Picnic in Havre De Grace
12- Silver Spring
Although not technically a city since it remains unincorporated, Silver Spring is Maryland’s fifth-largest ‘city’ by population.
It forms part of the Washington D.C. metro area in southern Maryland.
Silver Spring was founded in 1840 by influential American journalist Francis Preston Blair, who decided upon the name Silver Spring after discovering a mica-flecked spring nearby.
The city lies roughly six miles north of downtown Washington DC and is an excellent alternative for tourists planning to spend time in the nation’s capital.
Silver Spring is also home to its fair share of places to visit, including the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Library and the Wheaton Regional Park.
Recommended show: The Magic Duel at The Silver Spring Black Box Theatre.
13- St. Mary’s City
Recognised as the first European settlement in Maryland, St. Mary’s City was first established by Leonard Calvert in 1634 and has a permanent population of less than 2,000 people.
The city is known as Historic St. Mary’s City and is a living museum, with incredible historic buildings and landmarks left virtually untouched for centuries.
It’s tough to decide what to visit first in historic St. Mary’s City, with the Point Lookout State Park, the Maryland Dove and the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historic Park all fantastic venues worth visiting in the city.
14- Ellicott City
The county seat of Maryland’s Howard County, Ellicott City, unlike what the name may suggest, is another sizeable residential sprawl that’s not officially recognised as an independent and incorporated city.
Ellicott City is in northern Maryland, roughly 13 miles (21 km) west of downtown Baltimore.
It has a population of more than 75,000 people, enough to make it the most populated unincorporated county seat in the entire United States.
It has loads of fun attractions you’d expect to find in a much larger city, such as the B&O Ellicott City Station Museum, the Patapsco Valley State Park and Centennial Park.
At the mouth of the Anacostia River roughly six miles (10 km) northeast of downtown Washington D.C., Hyattsville is a reasonably large independent city that forms part of the large DC metro area.
The city was officially incorporated in 1886 and was home to a large population of Piscataway-speaking Algonquian people before the city’s European settlement.
Apart from being an enticing alternative for tourists wishing to visit the nation’s capital, Hyattsville is home to several of its own attractions, making the city a worthy destination to stop by whenever you’re in southern Maryland.
Established in 1853 as a railroad stop by Colonel William Duckett Bowie and the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Company, Bowie is today the fifth-largest city in Maryland by population, with more than 58,000 people calling Bowie home.
The city is roughly halfway between downtown Washington D.C. and Annapolis, placing Bowie firmly in the middle of some of southern Maryland’s most significant cities and attractions.
While visiting the nation’s capital and its naval training grounds in one day is certainly enticing, Bowie’s attractions, restaurants and colourful downtown area has their charms.
It’s also one of the safest cities in Maryland.
Laurel is a charming and historic mid-sized city with about 30,000 people roughly halfway between Baltimore to the north and Washington D.C. to the south.
Initially a mill town and industrial hub during the 19th century, Laurel quickly developed into a large commuter town for workers travelling to and from the big cities and is today mostly residential with almost no significant industries left.
There’s plenty to see and experience in and around Laurel if you plan on stopping by, such as touring the Laurel Historical Society or visiting the Montpelier House Museum, so be sure to check in when you’re in the region.
Boasting a population of more than 33,000 people, Salisbury is the largest city in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region and a significant economic hub along the shores of the Wicomico River.
Salisbury was initially established by Lord Baltimore in 1732 as a trading post due to its strategic location and was named after Salisbury, England, an old cathedral city in Wiltshire.
The city’s collection of historic landmarks is worth seeing, including the Poplar Hill Mansion, the Pemberton Historical Park and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
Gracing the banks of the Potomac River, Cumberland is one of the larger cities in Maryland’s Panhandle region, with a population of more than 19,000 residents.
It’s an economic and cultural hub for the larger Cumberland Metropolitan Area and was nicknamed the “Queen City” back when Cumberland was still the second-largest city in Maryland.
Modern-day Cumberland treats travellers to some of the best attractions available in the panhandle region, ranging from the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to the Great Allegheny Passage, so be sure to stop by whenever you’re in the area.
The largest city by population in Maryland’s Hartford County, Aberdeen is a timeless coastal city situated on the shores of Chesapeake Bay.
Aberdeen was first established as little more than a farming community in 1720, with the city’s name stemming from the large influx of Scottish immigrants who decided to name the city after Aberdeen, Scotland.
Places to visit in and around Aberdeen include the Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, the Aberdeen Festival Park and the Aberdeen Historical Museum.
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