Quintessential Boston Sights and Attractions
Boston is a historical city with many iconic sites and attractions. There are also a number of universities in the city, which means there are world class museums and learning opportunities that visitors can enjoy. From iconic neighborhoods to historic landmarks, these are some of the best things to do during your visit to Boston.
Boston Common is a famous central park in downtown Boston. It's also the oldest city park in the country, dating back to 1634. The park spans 50 acres and has a botanical garden and a pond where you can enjoy the iconic experience of taking a Swan paddleboat. Visitors can also find a playground and other fun activities for kids. During the winter months, an ice skating rink is set up, and a huge Christmas tree and other decorations adorn the park.
167 Tremont Street, Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, 02108
This famous ship, referred to as Old Ironsides, was named by George Washington. It's a wooden-hulled, three masted, heavy frigate that was launched in 1797. It's also the oldest commissioned naval vessel that's still afloat. The ship is docked at Charlestown's Navy Yard and is part of the famous Freedom Trail. The ship's museum is located across the pier and is privately owned (with a suggested admission donation).
24 Third Street, Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts, 02128
Museum of Fine Arts
The MFA houses an impressive collection that includes more than 450,000 pieces of art and artifacts. It has one of the best collections of Korean art outside of the Korean peninsula. It also has an impressive Egyptian collection as well as a European wing that includes the Claude Monet gallery.
465 Huntington Avenue, Fenway-Kenmore, Boston, Massachusetts, 02115
The historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill is famous for its Federal-style brick rowhouses and narrow gaslit streets. The brick sidewalks and historical character give the area a lot of charm and the residents maintain beautiful gardens and beautiful home fronts. There are often seasonal holiday decorations throughout, so it's worth wandering through during the holiday season. This one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and it has a number of historic landmarks including the Massachusetts State House and the Boston African American National Historic Site.
Boston, Massachusetts, 02114-3203
New England Aquarium
Rated one of the best aquariums in the world, the memories of the immersive aquatic experience that you will have here will last a lifetime. Visitors will find huge tanks filled with various marine species and ecosystems such as coral reefs, sharks, the north Atlantic, the northern Pacific, and more. Penguins, harbor seals, a touch tank, sea lions, and other exhibitions are also housed here, providing a day-long adventure through the seas. It's terrific for all ages, especially kids and kids-at-heart, or anyone who wants to learn more about the oceans and seas.
1 Central Wharf, Waterfront, Boston, Massachusetts, 02110
The North End neighborhood is a popular destination for tourists. The neighborhood's Italian-American population are at the heart of the culture and restaurant scene in the area. There are narrow streets, a lively atmosphere, and many of the city's best restaurants and cafes, offering classic Italian fare. Make sure you grab a meal and follow it up with a pastry from one of the local pastry shops. The neighborhood also has a few chill bars that are great for grabbing a beer and hanging out with friends at night. This neighborhood also has a number of historical sites including Paul Revere's house.
Technically, its own city, Cambridge is an iconic area near Boston that is home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The town has a number of museums, mostly affiliated with either of the universities, as well as a lively music scene, an impressive art culture, and excellent restaurants. The Charles River is a defining feature of Cambridge. There are also a number of notable city squares as well as several distinct neighborhoods within Cambridge. While nightlife might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cambridge, there are actually some great clubs and bars where you can grab a drink and party with the Ivy Leaguers.
Established as a permanent central marketplace in Boston, and gifted by the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil, this marketplace building was constructed in 1742 and then later expanded over the following decades and centuries. The meeting hall on the upper floor of the building became famous as a place of protest against the British during the era of the Revolutionary War. It has since become a place of protest and democracy throughout American history. Today, visitors can tour the historic building as well as visit the shops and restaurants of the marketplace buildings. Grab a souvenir and a bite to eat in the food court, or join one of the many walking tours of Boston that begin in this part of town.
4 South Market Street, North End, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden, dating back to 1837, was the first botanical garden in the country. It is heavily influenced by the Victorian era with seasonally flowers that change regularly. The Boston Public Garden is an iconic park in the city with its famous Swan Boats that you can use to paddle around the pond. There are flower beds that line the paths and many places to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Boston Public Garden is a relaxed and romantic setting and you'll often see weddings or wedding pictures being taken in the park.
4 Charles St., Beacon Hill, Boston, MA, 02116
The historic and central area of Harvard University, the oldest in the nation, this large green space is intermixed with University buildings, trees, and the occasional statue. The area is generally open to the public and for tours, although at times the gates may close, so plan ahead.
Harvard Yard, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Old North Church
This historic church is one of the main landmarks in the historic area of Boston's North End. Surrounded by houses and buildings that are hundreds of years old, the church itself dates back to 1723. Not only is it well preserved, but it has a special place in American history as the beginning of Paul Revere's famous ride to let everyone know that the British were indeed coming. Self-guided tours of the church are available, and additionally visitors can go down into the crypt underneath the church as well. Furthermore, the church is open for services on Sundays if you make a reservation.
193 Salem Street, North End, Boston, Massachusetts, 02113
This historic baseball stadium is home to the Boston Red Sox. Catch a game in the summer, or come check out the Fenway Park Living Museum. The stadium is famous for the "Green Monster", the huge wall of greenery in the outfield. First opened in 1912, this is the oldest Major League ballpark in the country, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
4 Jersey Street, Fenway-Kenmore, Boston, Massachusetts
The Boston Harbor & Whale Watching
Head to the Boston Harbor to enjoy a number of iconic experiences in the city. The views from the harbor are impressive. This is also where you catch most of the boats for whale watching. Whale Watching is a popular activity in Boston. For the best experience, visit during the summer months from May through October. This is when you're most likely to see whales migrating through the area. There are a number of different tours that leave from the Boston Harbor. They average between two and four hours in length and the boats vary in size, speed, and quality.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
This unique art museum features the collection once owned by Isabella Stewart Gardner, an eccentric collector who enjoyed travel and ancient cultures. The building this museum is housed in is impressive as well. It's a Venetian style palazzo that has a beautiful courtyard and elegant architecture. Within the museum, the collection has grown to include more than 7,500 art pieces, 2,700 books and manuscripts, and more than 8,000 historical objects.
25 Evans Way, Fenway-Kenmore, Boston, MA, 02115
Back Bay is a scenic neighborhood in Boston that is famous for its charming apartments and classic Boston style. Wander down Commonwealth Avenue to take in these picturesque scenes, or you can enjoy high end shopping along Newbury Street. The area is popular with the wealthy, who live in Victorian style homes in this quintessential Boston setting.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
You'll feel like you stepped back in time as this museum brings history to life. There are real life actors who portray this notable time in history through reenactments of a series of iconic events that led to the Revolutionary War. Beginning with the Sons of Liberty Meeting that was led by Samuel Adams, following through to the Boston Tea Party and finally Paul Revere's ride, you will experience it all at this historical museum. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this interactive experience.
306 Congress St, Seaport District, South Boston, Boston, MA, 02210
Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library is housed in a 1895 Renaissance Revival-style building that has museum quality sculptures and paintings. There's a gallery on the second floor that features murals by the French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and on the third floor there are murals by John Singer Sargent. The library has a number of family friendly programs available.
700 Boylston Street, Back Bay, Boston, MA, 02116
Black Heritage Trail
The Black Heritage Trail is a 1.6 mile walking trail through Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood that showcases a variety of historical sites focused on the lives of Black Americans from the time periods around the American Civil War. During this time in history, Black Americans in this area of Boston fought to abolish slavery and gain the same freedoms and rights as other Americans. Part of the trail centers on the Museum of African American History while other locations are historic residences, schools, and meeting houses.
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston's famous Freedom Trail is a three mile long route that goes by 16 of the city's most notable historic sites. The trail is marked by red bricks in the sidewalk and there are footprints through the street crossings. There are a number of brochures available in different places, including the city's visitor center (found in Boston Common), that will tell you about the history along the trail. Notable sites along the route include the Old Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel Burying Ground, Old South Meeting House, and the Old State House. The route begins in Boston Common and ends across the bridge in Charlestown at the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument.
How much does it cost?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $4 to $659. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $116. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in Boston