The capital city of Connecticut, Hartford is home to 124,512 people in the city area itself, making it the 2nd largest in the state. Its 469-square-mile metro area, though, is the largest in the state and 45th largest in the country with over 1.1 million residents. Poised on the west side of the Connecticut River, Hartford is nestled among the rolling hills of the fertile Connecticut River Valley, creating the lush setting for which New England is so well known.
With its location at the forefront of the navigable portion of the Connecticut River, Hartford was a prime landing site for early explorers and settlers. Settled as Dutch trading post Good Hope in 1623, the area was later re-colonized by English settlers and prospered as a center for trade of goods such as molasses, spices, coffee and rum. To protect the valuable trade, the insurance industry developed. The Hartford Insurance Company, the nation's oldest such organization, opened at that time and still operates in the city today.
As its economy grew and expanded, so did Hartford. Waves of immigrants flooded the city, giving rise to its present-day diverse and historic neighborhoods. Visitors can soak up the global flavors of cultures from all over the world in this small New England town. Stop by an authentic Italian bakery or restaurant in South End, home to Hartford's Little Italy. Near downtown, Park Street in Frog Hollow and Parkville comes alive with the sights and sounds of Latin America. Enjoy authentic Portuguese cuisine such as the house Paelha, a traditional rice and seafood dish, at O'Porto, or stop by El Mercado, a busy hub where visitors can pick up traditional cooking ingredients including nine varieties of yams.
Though its multicultural citizens are certainly adding new life and vibrancy to Hartford, its rich and storied history has not been forgotten. Connect with New England's maritime history at Mystic Seaport, the country's leading maritime museum and home to more than one million maritime photographs. Explore the regal Connecticut State Capitol to see the government at work or to peruse the impressive display of flags carried into battle by Connecticut soldiers. See a concert or Broadway show at the elegant Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, dedicated to bringing world-class entertainment to Hartford.
Hartford's famed writers left their mark on the cultural and arts scene in the city as well. Just 30 minutes from the city, the fanciful Dr. Seuss National Memorial invites visitors to stroll among life-size bronze sculptures of the author's most famous characters, including the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the Cat in the Hat. In the city itself, guests can pay a visit to the stately Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to catch a glimpse of the life and works of the accomplished author.
At the whimsical Mark Twain House and Museum, guests can step into the room in which Twain penned his popular novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Perhaps Twain described it best when, asked why he chose Hartford as a residence, he said, "of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief." After exploring Hartford, visitors will undoubtedly agree.