Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, and remnants of its rich history – and role in founding the nation – are still found today by wandering around the city streets. One of the most wonderful things about this city is that it is very walkable, making many of these must-visit attractions best seen on foot. If you’re only visiting for a few days, choose as many of these destinations that interest you, as they have all helped shape Boston into one of the most amazing, and beautiful, cities in America.
The Boston Public Garden is one of the largest green spaces in the city. Located adjacent to the Boston Common, the garden features paved walking paths and statues. Feed the ducks, ride a swan boat, or have a picnic near the hundreds of blooming tulips in the spring.
The North End is the oldest residential community in Boston. Wander the narrow streets and be sure to eat at one of the many Italian restaurants on Hanover St. Finish up with cannolis from Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry – or try both to see which you like better (there’s a rivalry between the two bakeries).
Faneuil Hall has been a marketplace and meeting hall for hundreds of years. Albeit touristy, it’s still a gorgeous attraction in Boston. Have a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, or eat inside the Quincy Market and imagine where the vendors once stood while selling their goods years ago.
The Freedom Trail is a fun and affordable way to learn about Boston history. Follow the red brick path from the Boston Common, through the North End, and to Charlestown to see 16 historical sights that are significant to the founding of the United States.
The Museum of Fine Arts is the fourth largest museum in the United States, filled with over 450,000 works of art from around the world, from ancient Egyptian jewelry to the art of Asia. Be sure to check out the rotating exhibit.
Modeled after a Venetian palace, the stunning Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum should be at the top of everyone’s lists. The courtyard, as pictured below, is truly beautiful, and the art inside features paintings, rare books, drawings, furniture, and more from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, and Asia.
The Old North Church is rumored to be the most visited historic site in Boston. Its claim to fame was in 1775 when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Captain John Pulling, Jr. climbed to the steeple and held up two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were coming by sea across the Charles River. “One by land, two by sea.” This ignited the American Revolution.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the five major American symphony orchestras, referred to as the “Big Five.” The orchestra performs in the stately concert hall during the fall, winter, and spring, and during the summer, it moves to Tanglewood in the Berkshires.
Fenway Park is the oldest ballpark in the MLB. Catch a Red Sox game, eat a Fenway Frank, and party at the many pubs on Landsdowne Street. In the winter, visitors can check out Frozen Fenway. Tours of the park operate year-round.
The New England Aquarium is a top attraction for families and animal lovers. The giant circular tank allows visitors to watch fish and sea animals while walking around the museum. There are over 80 penguins, and visitors can also learn about and touch stingrays at the Touch Tank. The aquarium also operates an IMAX theater and a whale watch.
Boston’s waterfront offers spectacular views of the Boston skyline, for free! The waterfront is protected along the harbor, so take advantage as it is open to the public. The Harborwalk is currently 38 miles (61.1 kilometers), and when complete, it will be 47 miles (75.6 kilometers) from East Boston to the Neponset River. Visitors will see the best views by starting near the New England Aquarium and following the walk to the front of the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse.
Another walk in the city is along the Charles River Esplanade. The approximate three-mile (4.8-kilometer) leafy path offers views of Cambridge from the Boston side of the Charles River. Walk, jog, and bike along the paths with the locals, or rent kayaks and paddle boats to see the river up close. Visitors can also check out the Hatch Memorial Shell for events.
The Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the country. Stop by Bates Hall – a majestic reading room recognized by many to be one of the most important rooms in the world due to its stunning architectural form.
Newbury Street is Boston’s shopping destination. Window shop as you walk the beautiful tree-lined street, and watch it light up at night. Stop in one of the many salons, or purchase from high-end fashion labels. The street was once part of the Boston Harbor and was slowly filled in with dirt and fill from nearby neighborhoods over time.
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway was once a highway that ran through the city. After the Big Dig, the 15-acre area was repurposed to become public space. The area now features greenery, walk paths, public art, and food trucks. Occasionally, there are also concerts or events, so check the calendar.
Visitors that are fans of great beer and pretzels will find Harpoon Brewery at the top of their must-see lists. Grab a beer on draught in the open beer hall, or take a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery to learn more about the making of the local beer.
The state house’s golden dome and brick front are visible from the Boston Common looking up. Visitors can take a guided or self-guided tour of the Massachusetts State House for free on weekdays and walk the marble-floored corridors with murals and portraits of the state’s important leaders lining the walls. Be sure to wander around the outside perimeter of the state house to see the differing architectural details.