Boston, which was founded by Puritans in the 1600s, has been defined and affected by its history for over 400 years. The city gave birth to the spirit of American freedom, and the landmarks that remember the essential role that the Sons of Liberty played in the Revolutionary War draw people from all over the globe.
While many of Boston’s tourist attractions center on its historical history, the city is also known for its excellent colleges of higher education, as well as its ardent sports fans and professional teams. With its bustling arts and cultural sectors, superb local seafood, and picturesque harbourfront location, it is no wonder that the ‘Athens of America’ draws so many people each year.
1. Freedom Trail
Embark on an unforgettable journey along the Freedom Trail, a renowned pathway that unveils the rich history of Boston’s Revolutionary War era. This captivating walking tour encompasses 16 significant sites, allowing you to immerse yourself in America’s past. Winding through picturesque landscapes, the 2.5-mile (4 km) trail embarks from the historic Boston Common, a cherished landmark and the oldest park in the United States.
The travel itinerary takes visitors on a journey that includes a visit to the Old State House, a significant landmark in Boston’s history. This is the site where the infamous Boston Massacre occurred, where British troops opened fire on a crowd of citizens who were peacefully protesting. While traveling, you will come across Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung on the steeple to alert of the British approaching by sea. At the conclusion of your journey, the pathway seamlessly merges with the picturesque Harbor walk, guiding travelers toward the magnificent USS.
2. Boston Common
Established in 1634 and acquired by the city’s Puritan founders, Boston Common holds the distinction of being America’s oldest public park. Initially serving as a cow pasture, this park also witnessed numerous historic events, notably as a British campsite at the onset of the Revolutionary War.
A commemorative plaque within the park designates the site where public executions took place. Additionally, visitors can access information about the park’s monuments through a kiosk hosted by Boston’s Freedom Trail Foundation. With its landscape adorned by cooling shade from trees, fountains, and a serene pond, Boston Common offers a delightful respite for those seeking a break from their sightseeing endeavors.
3. Back Bay
Situated alongside the Charles River, the Back Bay neighborhood acquired its name due to its development on former stagnant water pools. Today, the travel destination boasts a late-19th-century neighborhood that has transformed into an upscale and fashionable district. Visitors can explore the picturesque streets adorned with charming Victorian homes, indulge in delectable cuisine at trendy restaurants, and shop at chic boutiques.
Located in the heart of the city, the neighborhood is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and rich history. One of its notable attractions is the Boston Public Garden, a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. As the oldest and largest botanical garden in the nation, it offers a captivating experience for visitors of all ages. The Old South Church in Copley is a must-see attraction for travelers. Located in a picturesque destination, the church was constructed in 1874, showcasing the captivating Gothic Revival architecture. Inside, visitors are treated to a stunning interior that was beautifully redesigned by the renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1905.
4. USS Constitution
Moored at Pier 1 along the scenic Harbor walk, the USS Constitution stands proudly as the oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat in the world. It continues to embark on voyages every Fourth of July, symbolizing the celebration of America’s independence. Embarking on its maiden voyage in 1797, the majestic three-masted Constitution was christened by President George Washington, paying homage to the revered Constitution of the United States.
During its voyages in the 19th century, the wooden frigate with its sturdy hull became renowned as “Old Ironsides.” This nickname was bestowed upon the ship during the War of 1812, where it achieved great acclaim by triumphing over five British warships. The destination is accessible to travelers throughout the year, offering complimentary tours led by US Navy personnel.
5. Boston Harbor Islands
The 34 islands that lie off the coast of Boston provide travelers with a multitude of exciting experiences amidst the sun and sea. Thirteen islands are part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, offering a unique travel experience. When you’re traveling, make sure to visit the iconic Civil War Fort Warren on Georges Island. It’s a historical site that shouldn’t be missed. Another must-visit spot is the public beach on Spectacle Island, which is conveniently accessible with just a short 15-minute ferry ride from the bustling Long Wharf in the city.
Georges Island boasts the nation’s oldest lighthouse, adding to its allure as a travel destination. Nestled amidst picturesque landscapes of dunes and lush forests, Lovells Island beckons travelers with its enchanting trails and a serene swimming beach. It has become a beloved destination for camping enthusiasts seeking a memorable outdoor experience.
6. Faneuil Hall
Located in Boston’s downtown district, Faneuil Hall is renowned for its significant involvement in the American Revolution. Located in the heart of the city, the Faneuil Marketplace was established in 1742 through the generous contributions of Peter Faneuil, who acquired funds from his travels. While initially serving as a marketplace, the second-story assembly rooms soon transformed into a popular meeting place for passionate individuals seeking liberation and independence.
During his travels, the lawyer James Otis, who affectionately referred to the building as the “Cradle of Liberty,” also came up with the famous slogan “no taxation without representation.” The building remains a bustling marketplace and a venue for lively political discussions, making it one of the top tourist attractions in Boston.
7. North End
One of top tourist attractions in Boston is the North End, a historic neighborhood that has been inhabited by Europeans since the city’s establishment in 1630. Renowned for its vibrant travel destination, the district boasts picturesque, age-old streets adorned with numerous historical landmarks, captivating attractions, and delightful dining establishments.
In addition to exploring iconic landmarks like the Old North Church and Paul Revere House, travelers have the opportunity to indulge in delectable cuisine at charming cafes or delightful Italian eateries and pizzerias. In addition to its captivating architecture and public artworks, the neighborhood is also renowned for its multitude of community events and festivals throughout the year that honor the vibrant Italian culture.
8. New England Aquarium
Positioned on the Central Wharf, conveniently within walking distance of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the New England Aquarium offers a multitude of captivating sea life exhibits, showcasing everything from exotic jellyfish and stingrays to playful seals and penguins.
Inaugurated in 1969, the aquarium’s standout attraction is the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank, prominently featured in the atrium of the main building, replicating a vibrant coral reef environment. An encompassing spiral walkway provides spectators with an up-close view of sharks, barracuda, sea turtles, and shoals of small fish.
The facility also boasts an IMAX theater that screens films centered around aquatic themes. For those interested in whale-watching, tours are readily available, and visitors have the option to bundle a cruise ticket with the aquarium’s admission fee.
9. JFK Presidential Library & Museum
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum offers breathtaking views of Boston Harbor from its perch on Columbia Point. This travel destination pays homage to the 35th President of the US. It boasts a plethora of captivating artifacts and exhibits that delve into his extraordinary life and enduring legacy. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the immersive experience of three theaters, where educational films are screened, all conveniently situated within the premises.
It was opened to the public in 1979 and is housed in a magnificent contemporary edifice constructed of marble created by famous architect I.M. Pei. Apart from visiting its bright and airy galleries filled with personal mementos, pictures, and newspaper clippings, you can also learn about his tenure in the Oval Office and key subjects and incidents that defined his administration.
10. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The exquisite Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is housed in a magnificent edifice designed after a Venetian palace from the fourteenth century. The striking structure, which includes a lovely courtyard garden, currently houses a remarkable collection of American, Asian, and European artworks.
It was named for Isabella Stewart Gardner, a strong lover of the arts, and was opened to the public in 1903. It has spectacular paintings and prints, as well as ceramics, silverwork, and sculptures. Along with works by Rembrandt, Titian, and Botticelli, among others, visitors may wander its enormous halls filled with furniture and fabrics, as well as a significant antique book collection shown alongside Medieval, Islamic, and Renaissance art.
11. Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, one of Boston’s most popular tourist destinations, has an astonishing collection of artifacts and artworks from all over the globe. It was founded in 1870 and today resides in a majestic neoclassical edifice in the Fenway-Kenmore area, overlooking the magnificent beauty and environment of Back Bay Fens Park.
It is one of the most visited museums in the world, especially for its spectacular Art of the Americas section, which has everything from pre-Columbian and colonial-era art to modern items. Furthermore, its vast galleries include magnificent Asian and Persian fine arts, ancient Egyptian mummies, masterpieces by European painters, and much, much more.
With so many incredible paintings, carvings, and sculptures to view, as well as pieces by Goya, Rembrandt, and Monet, among others, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is not to be missed while in town.
12. Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill, often hailed as Boston’s most picturesque neighborhood, is brimming with charming, cobblestone streets adorned with graceful townhouses. Located in the heart of the city, this captivating destination offers a delightful blend of stunning architecture and a charming atmosphere, making it a perfect place to wander and explore. One of the most remarkable attractions is the Massachusetts State House, with its magnificent gold-domed structure that truly stands out.
Located in one of the most sought-after and luxurious neighborhoods to reside in, this city district was established in 1795. It boasts exquisite rowhouses and magnificent mansions, all designed in the elegant Federal style. These architectural gems are nestled within charming streets illuminated by the warm glow of gas lamps, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere. In addition to capturing picturesque images of its enchanting houses, streets, and gardens, travelers have the opportunity to discover the diverse array of historical landmarks and monuments scattered along the Black Heritage Trail.
13. Bunker Hill Monument
Situated on the opposite bank of the river from the Old North Church, you will discover the grand and monumental Bunker Hill Monument. Situated atop the prominent Breed’s Hill, you will find a magnificent obelisk that serves as a memorial for the Battle of Bunker Hill. This historic battle took place on June 17, 1775, during the American Revolutionary War, and involved British and Patriot forces.
Towering to a huge 220 feet in height, the magnificent granite monument stands proudly in Charlestown, a historic district brimming with charm. Surrounding the monument, lush green landscapes create a serene atmosphere, inviting visitors to explore the area. Upon ascending the 294 steps to its summit, travelers are treated to awe-inspiring vistas of Boston’s majestic skyline and the shimmering Charles River.
14. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
A must-visit for anyone with an interest in American history, the outstanding Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is situated just south of downtown. While its vibrant red buildings, informative exhibits, and interactive activities are located on the Congress Street Bridge, its two replica eighteenth-century vessels are anchored at Griffin’s Wharf.
Through immersive experiences, live re-enactments, and skillful use of multimedia, the museum recounts the story of the 1773 protest—the Boston Tea Party—and the events that precipitated the Revolutionary War. In addition to watching short films, touring its exhibits, and participating in the act of dumping tea into the harbor, visitors can also explore the Eleanor and Beaver to gain insight into life aboard these historic ships.
15. Museum of Science
An enjoyable, captivating, and family-friendly destination, the Museum of Science boasts an impressive array of interactive exhibits. Situated in Science Park, a sprawling area spanning the Charles River, it offers a wide range of attractions, from hands-on activities and live science demonstrations to a small zoo, planetarium, and IMAX theater for the enjoyment of visitors.
Since its establishment in 1830, the museum has undergone significant expansion and now astonishingly features over 700 interactive exhibits for your exploration. While certain sections delve into human biology and the natural world, others transport you to the far reaches of the cosmos, showcasing life-size dinosaur skeletons, mechanical models, and various machines.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Boston: Best Areas & Hotels