This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Several must-see sights in Boston showcase the city’s nearly four centuries of history. You can begin your tour on the Freedom Trail, which includes landmarks like the Paul Revere House and Boston Common. Explore Beantown’s artsy side at the Museum of Fine Arts and its fashion sense on Newbury Street. Fenway Park, the home of the famous Red Sox, is a baseball fan’s dream. It’s easy to blow through your travel budget in Boston, but there are also plenty of things you can do without spending a dime, like the beautiful Boston Public Garden and the lively Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Top 15 Things Do in Boston
The Freedom Trail covers 212 miles and passes 16 of Boston’s most historic sites, including the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Paul Revere House, and Old North Church. Seeing all the trail’s attractions takes at least half a day (and some comfortable shoes), but you can plan your route before you set out.
Most recent visitors agreed the trail is easy to navigate on your own, but some recommend taking a guided tour or at least downloading an app to get information about the sites. If you have a Go Boston Card, standard guided tours given by the Freedom Trail Foundation are included with your pass.
Start your trail tour at the Boston Common Visitor Center by taking the Red or Green Lines to Park Street Station. Parking is limited in the area, so leave early if you plan to drive. Freedom Trail Foundation tours are usually available daily from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tickets generally cost $16 per person (discounts are available for seniors, students, and children). For $15, the Freedom Trail’s Foundation offers an MP3 audio guide (on its device) for those interested in doing a self-guided tour. The guide can be purchased online. Although some attractions along with the trail charge admission, walking the trail is free.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace comprises four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market, and South Market, with Faneuil Hall being the oldest. In addition to being a stop on the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall has a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Abolitionists and suffragists have also advocated here, including Samuel Adams. This is where colonists famously challenged the Sugar Act of 1764 by declaring, “no taxation without representation.” Since then, the marketplace has grown to include more than 100 shops and restaurants.
Former visitors warn that the items sold at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace are a bit tourist-oriented. If you’d like to kill some time or take some great photos, take a stroll through the market’s halls. If you need a quick snack, Quincy Market also serves a variety of cuisines. You’ll find that this market gets crowded quickly (especially on weekends and in the summer), so it’s best to visit on a weekday if you don’t want to encounter crowds.
Monday through Thursday, the market is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, it stays open an hour later. Visitors are welcome from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. On Sunday. Store and restaurant hours may vary, so it’s best to check Faneuil Hall Marketplace’s website before you go.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner’s husband died in 1898, so the art enthusiast went ahead with their plan to buy land in Boston’s Fenway area to build a museum to display her impressive collection of Italian Art. In 1901, Gardner moved into the museum’s fourth floor, which was modeled after the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice. You can visit this Boston museum to see the Italian masters, such as Raphael and Titian. Additionally, the building showcases beautiful furniture, photographs, sculptures, and rare books straight from Europe. The museum unveiled a new wing designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano in 2012. The most recent additions are a glass atrium, greenhouses, and landscaped gardens.
Visitors recently said that the collection captures Gardner’s love of Art, architecture, and horticulture through its diverse displays. The museum may have lacked a cohesive layout for some previous visitors, but many praised the property’s vast collection of artifacts and intimate atmosphere. Remember to turn off your camera flash before entering since flash photography is not permitted inside.
In the mid-1600s, Boston Common was a cow pasture. In addition to whipping, the Puritans used it for hangings as well. The area became a British camp in 1775. After the Revolutionary War, the park became a popular location for public speeches and rallies. Currently, the Common is best known for its status as the oldest public park in the country. You’ll also find a range of activities and events throughout the year, including theater and musical performances. Starting at Boston Common, you can walk the Freedom Trail.
Although some visitors said there isn’t much to do here, Boston Common is an excellent place to picnic or stroll. In addition, travelers noted that this is a perfect place to take young children. Aside from the park’s green space, kids can play at the Tadpole Playground or Frog Pond. During the warmer months, Frog Pond offers a spray pool and, in the winter, an ice skating rink. Visitors note that the park draws Boston’s homeless population, particularly at night.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
This excellent library and museum detailing President John F. Kennedy’s life and times is a must for any history buffs or fans of our nation’s 35th president. Among the exhibits are his presidential papers, as well as Kennedy memorabilia, including re-creations of his desk in the Oval Office and of the TV studio where he debated Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election, as well as artifacts from the U.S. space program. Additionally, there is a permanent exhibit on the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a replica of the attorney general’s office Robert Kennedy occupied from 1961 to 1964, and exhibits detailing Kennedy’s life as a boy, gifts from heads of state, and more. Architect I. M. Pei designed it.
According to recent visitors, the museum sits about 5 miles south of downtown on Columbia Point, but it is well worth the trek, thanks to the exhibits and staff. Visitors also noted that the views were breathtaking.
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It costs $18 for adults and $10 for children 13-17; entry is free for children 12 and younger. JFK/UMass is the closest “T” stop on the Red Line. The Paul Revere Route 1 free shuttle bus departs from the station’s ground floor bus shelter. To learn more, visit the museum’s website.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, one of the country’s oldest art institutions, deserves a good chunk of your day. One of the best art collections in the world can be found at the museum, including the celebrated Art of the Americas wing. The expansive collection, debuted in 2010, features works from indigenous cultures in North, South, and Central America to contemporary artists such as Edward Hopper. In addition, there is an exhibit dedicated to women artists, including Joan Mitchell and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Also on display are works by Monet, Renoir, Manet, and Rembrandt. You can also see masterpieces by artists such as J.M.W. Turner and Picasso in temporary exhibits.
According to recent museum-goers, if you’re an art lover, you should spend plenty of time exploring. You can save some money by visiting Boston after 3 p.m. on Wednesdays when admission is reduced.
In Fenway-Kenmore, you can find the Museum of Fine Arts just a few blocks away from the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum. Numerous bus routes stop nearby, and three T stations – Museum of Fine Arts, Ruggles, and Northeastern – are walking distance. Wednesday through Sunday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. If you don’t have a CityPASS or Go, Boston Card, you’ll have to pay $25. Kids ages six and younger get in for free; kids ages 7 to 17 pay $10. You will have access to most of the museum’s exhibits, restrooms, restaurants, and gift shops once you enter. Some exhibits require separate tickets. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts’ website for more information.
Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden is next to Boston Common, but they are pretty different. It is America’s first public botanical garden (established in 1837). The trees and flowers are beautifully arranged and kept in excellent condition. As you glide along the water in a Swan Boat, you can see the colorful arrangements and exotic trees. Additionally, the park features two of Boston’s most iconic statues: “Make Way for Ducklings” (a bronze sculpture of a duck and her eight babies) and a statue of George Washington (which depicts the first president of the United States riding a horse).
Boston Public Garden is a great place to relax after sightseeing. There is plenty of shade beneath the park’s trees, which is excellent on hot summer days. In addition, you may see ducks and geese swimming in the lagoon of the Public Garden. Past visitors recommended taking a 15-minute ride on the Swan Boat if you have a few dollars to spare. A large paddleboat costs $4.50 (or $3 for kids ages 2 to 15); travelers with Go Boston Cards ride for free. The Swan Boats are usually available from mid-April through Labor Day.
Boston Public Garden is surrounded by the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown-Leather District, and downtown neighborhoods. A park is next to the restaurant that inspired the TV show “Cheers.” Visitors can take the Green Line to Arlington “T” station to access the Public Garden. Several bus stops are also nearby. Parking is available on-site (fees start at $12 for up to an hour of parking), as well as metered street parking. You can visit the Public Garden for free, and it’s open 24 hours a day, but you’ll need cash to ride on a Swan Boat. Additional facilities, such as restrooms and cafes, are not available in the park, but you can find them at Boston Common. Visit the City of Boston’s website for more information about the Boston Public Garden.
You’re likely to see the North End if you’re visiting Boston at least once. As Boston’s oldest neighborhood, it houses three attractions on the Freedom Trail. The North End is known as Boston’s Little Italy because of its Italian culture.
Although Italians were not the first to settle in the North End (English settlers arrived first, followed by Jewish Germans and Irish), their cultural influence endured. Today, you can find all kinds of Italian food in the area, from classic pizza served at the popular Regina Pizzeria to Sicilian-style seafood, such as black linguine (made with squid ink) and calamari meatballs at The Daily Catch. Dinner options include Mamma Maria for fine dining, Giacomo’s for affordable, made-in-house pasta, or Bricco, which sources its meats and bread from the nearby meat and bread shop. Try out Galleria Umberto for delectable solo slices or Antico Forno for its full-size, wood-fired pies. There are hundreds of wine labels to choose from on the Prezza wine list. You can pick up a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry or tiramisu at Bova’s Bakery, which is open 24-hours.
The neighborhood is also known for throwing some pretty memorable parties. Each summer, the North End hosts Italian feasts and traditional processions to honor a handful of saints. Saint Anthony’s Feast is the biggest and most popular summer event. It takes place in late August. The largest Italian religious festival in New England features live entertainment, parades, and more than 100 pushcarts filled with delicious Italian food.
Travelers recommend eating in the North End (multiple times) and taking the time to walk around the neighborhood. Boston’s North End is a beautiful place to explore, known for its narrow, compact streets, centuries-old architecture, and cobblestone-lined squares. It is recommended to arrive early for dinner here (some places have long lines, including Giacomo’s), and some don’t take reservations. Visit the North End’s website for more information.
Massachusetts State House
One of the stops on the Freedom Trail is the golden-domed Massachusetts State House, an essential building for many reasons. John Hancock originally used the land as a cow pasture. The building was designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798, and Samuel Adams laid the cornerstone in 1795. Paul Revere installed a copper dome in 1802 (later covered in gold). Currently, senators, state representatives, and the governor conduct Commonwealth business here.
Docents offer free 45-minute tours of the building and explain its history and essential Art and architecture. Look for the Sacred Cod in the House of Representatives Chamber. This almost five-foot-long wooden cod represents the importance of the salt cod industry in the area.
Past visitors have praised the architecture inside and outside and found seeing lawmakers in action fascinating.
Boston Common is adjacent to the State House in the city’s center. There are two closest T stations – Park Street and Government Center – or you can walk from downtown. You can also park in the underground garage or on the nearby streets for a fee.
Boston Public Library
A library isn’t just about books. Recently, visitors praised the architecture of the Copley Square branch of the Boston Public Library, which opened in 1895. Walking into the Renaissance Revival building is like visiting a museum. Two stone lions sculpted by Louis Saint-Gaudens guard the main entrance on Dartmouth Street. Bates Hall, the library’s main reference reading room, is a 218-foot-long space with a barrel-arch ceiling that stretches 50 feet high.
You can take a free tour of the library and learn all about the murals, including John Singer Sargent’s Triumph of religion series, which has been cleaned and restored to its original brilliance. Several other murals are available, including works by French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who portrayed eight library-centric disciplines in “The Muses of Inspiration,” and Edwin Austin Abbey’s “The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail.”
On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Boston Public Library is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free. You can find out the tour schedule by calling ahead. A self-guided tour can also be done using a free online booklet or in the library. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and afternoon tea are available at three on-site eateries. In the Back Bay neighborhood, there is a library across the street from the Copley T station. For more information, visit its website.
About three miles northwest of Boston, Cambridge is home to both Harvard University and MIT, but there’s more to see in Cambridge than just the schools. The city is home to many cultural institutions, from fine art to technological innovations.
The Harvard Art Museums, including the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, exhibit a wide range of periods, styles, and media. There is a mix of modern photography, sculptures from the 13th century BCE, paintings by legends like Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology has exhibits exploring everything from ancient Latin American cultures to American eating habits and tableware to the lives of colonial Harvard students. View dinosaur fossils, rare minerals, and animal specimens from New England to Asia at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Get swept up in the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square, which is considered the city center of Cambridge, after you have taken advantage of both universities’ educational offerings. There are many shops, restaurants, bars, and independent bookstores in the square, including the longest-running poetry bookstore in the country. The Charles River, which becomes particularly scenic in the spring and summer months, is just a few blocks away. If you happen to be visiting during that time, pack a picnic or rent a bike or kayak to explore the river.
Boston’s subway makes it easy to get to Cambridge for a day trip. Visit East Cambridge by taking the Green Line, which drops you off at Harvard Square, or the Red Line, which drops you off at Harvard Square.
Samuel Adams Brewery
The Samuel Adams Brewery is a popular stop for beer lovers despite being outside the city center. Samuel Adams uses this brewery location to test new and specialty brews, which patrons can taste. To learn more about the brewing process, you can also take a guided tour of the facility.
There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy checking out the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, whether you’re a local or a tourist. Visitors recently said the staff is knowledgeable, but there can be long lines.
Visit the brewery Monday through Friday from 2 to 8 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., or on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Check the website for tour times and availability; expect to pay about $10 per person. There is limited free parking at the brewery, but people who plan to drink should take public transportation or hail a taxi. Restrooms and a gift shop are also available.
Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park
You can hop a ferry (which operates from mid-May through mid-October) to the Boston Harbor Islands if you want to get outdoors in the greater Boston area. With 34 islands located in Massachusetts Bay, there are many things to do and see, including historic sites, hiking trails, beaches, wildlife, and more. Spectacle, Georges, and Peddocks are famous islands, but ferries also go to Lovells, Grape, Bumpkin, and Thompson.
Hikers can explore the 114-acre Spectacle Island. Five miles of trails lead to the harbor’s highest hill, which offers incredible views of Boston’s skyline. Lovells Island is the perfect place to sink your toes in the sand. There are secluded shorelines and tidepools (when it’s low tide, the island’s landmass increases by 71 acres). History buffs will also enjoy a visit to Georges Island. During the Civil War, the U.S. government used Fort Warren to patrol the island and train Union troops and Confederate house prisoners. The largest of the Boston Harbor Islands, Peddocks Island, offers everything. There are scenic hiking trails that pass through coastal forests, headlands connected by tombolos, and the most extensive beach on an island. Additionally, you’ll find a restored chapel from World War II and Fort Andrews.
From downtown Boston, the Boston Harbor Islands are easily accessible. Past visitors have enjoyed the boat ride back and forth to the islands and exploring the islands, especially the fort on George’s Island. All islands are free to visit, but the only way to reach them is by ferry. Tickets cost $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children. The departure time varies according to year, the day of the week, and the destination. Direct ferries are available to Georges Island and Spectacle Island. Interisland ferries also go to multiple destinations, including a line for Georges, Spectacle, Peddocks, and Lovells. For more information, visit the Boston Harbor Islands website.
Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood is one of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods. It is a quaint neighborhood just north of Boston Common, surrounded by cobblestone alleyways, gas street lamps, and stately townhouses with bay windows and flower-filled window boxes. Beacon Hill’s incredible style, a mix of Federal and Greek revival architecture, alone makes it an appealing neighborhood. Recent visitors agree.
Visitors who ventured to Beacon Hill were captivated by its beauty and say it is a great place to wander around and take a long stroll. Make sure to visit notable spots like Louisburg Square and Acorn Street, which is one of Boston’s most photographed spots. You can find restaurants, shops, and bars on Charles Street afterward. Fans of the TV show “Cheers” will want to visit the bar that inspired the show on Beacon Street.
Also nearby are the Massachusetts State House and Boston Public Garden. Visit the Nichols House Museum or take a complimentary walking tour (provided by the National Park Service) down The Black Heritage Trail, which chronicles the lives of African Americans who lived in Beacon Hill during the 19th century.
The neighborhood of Beacon Hill is free to visit and has no set operating hours, although some businesses within the neighborhood do. Visit the Boston tourism board’s website for more information.
Old North Church
Anyone with even a passing interest in American history is familiar with Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, in which he rode through town to alert people to the arrival of British troops. Revere gave orders at Old North Church before departing for Lexington. Sexton Robert Newman and vestryman John Pulling Jr. climbed the steeple and held lanterns as a signal that the British were indeed coming, but by sea.
The church itself, which is officially named Christ Church, is filled with beautiful artifacts from the past, including North America’s oldest set of change ringing bells and chandeliers imported from England in the early 1700s. Pew No. 54 was reserved for the Revere family for many years.
Best Hotels in Boston