What are the best things to see and do in Boston? What should you do with a few days to spend in Bean Town? You’re in for a treat if you’ll be arriving in Boston for business, pleasure or academic pursuits!
The city that famously houses the lush grounds of Boston Common is uncommonly fun! Historic sites, world-class learning institutions, a harbor that sparked the American Revolution, steaming cider donuts and sports fans that never back down all give Boston its unforgettable personality.
What to do in Boston? The 25 Best Things to See and Do in Boston
This is a rugged city with a very cultured backbone. Let’s spill the tea when it comes to revealing the 25 best things to see and do in Boston!
1. Walk the Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is truly one of the treasures of New England! It should come as no surprise that this historic path is one of the most popular things to see in Boston. The Freedom Trail glides through 2.5 miles full of historic spots that helped to shape America as we know it today.
The trail is marked with brick most of the way. You will spot plaques and ground markers along the way whenever you are passing by a church, building, residence or graveyard that is significant. Don’t skip an opportunity to cover as much of the trail as possible.
One bonus of walking the trail is that you’ll just happen to weave through some of the best landmarks and things to do in Boston. In fact, many people structure their guided or self-guided tours around the Freedom Trail when visiting Boston.
Here are the 16 sites that are included on the official path of the Freedom Trail:
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
- Benjamin Franklin statue
- Old Corner Bookstore
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Site of the Boston Massacre
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- USS Constitution
- Bunker Hill Monument
The big thing you’ll learn as you explore all of the things there are to do in Boston is that every historic landmark seems to bump up against another historic landmark. The Freedom Trail is a prime example of this phenomenon!
You can intersect with the Black Heritage Trail between the Massachusetts State House and Park Street Church if you’re looking for an additional historic trail to see in Boston. This interesting trail covers points that were integral to the lives of people in the African American community of Boston during the 19th century.
Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument
2. Visit Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market Colonnade
What could be better than a sprawling space that is free for visitors right in the heart of Boston? Classic, stately Faneuil Hall is located just a short walk from the harbor. Guests can explore an indoor stall area that’s paired with a cobblestone pedestrian walkway lined with vendors.
Get your Boston keepsakes while you’re here! Trinkets, jewelry, hats, sweatshirts and more can be purchased from friendly vendors. Faneuil Hall Marketplace can be especially fun during the holiday season because vendors often show up with holiday-themed crafts and goodies!
More than 70 vendors are located inside the 200,000 square feet that make up the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
4 South Market Street
3. Take in the Sights and Sounds at Beautiful Boston Common
Do you want to stretch out and enjoy some green space while visiting Boston? Boston Common is the place for that! Of course, Boston Common is more than just a pretty stretch of grass. This former cow pasture is the oldest park in the United States.
This 50-acre sliver of history has been the site of everything from rock concerts to protests. In fact, both Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King Jr. have delivered memorable speeches inside Boston Common.
Visitors today often see full-uniform reenactments from the Revolutionary War. Of course, the Frog Pond skating rink becomes one of the most enchanted spots in the city during the winter months.
139 Tremont Street
4. Take a Whale-Watching Cruise Out of Boston
It is very easy to be dazzled by the manicured streets and beautiful lights of Boston. However, one shouldn’t forget that Boston is perched on one of the most important maritime zones in the world.
Boston’s harbor is actually situated within the Gulf of Maine inside the Atlantic Ocean. That means that a world of extraordinary sea life is waiting just beyond the twinkling lights of Bean Town!
A whale tour is one of the best things to do in Boston if you want to enjoy a touch of the Atlantic! Long Wharf offers whale-spotting tours from several companies. The New England Aquarium also offers a whale-watching experience. In fact, the aquarium operates a high-speed catamaran that was built specifically for whale watching!
5. Do the Boston Harborwalk
Don’t miss your opportunity to follow the water’s edge to discover some of the most magnificent sights in Boston. The Boston Harborwalk is a 43-mile linear park peppered with jutting piers and wharf areas that follow the shoreline surrounding Boston Harbor.
Views of both the harbor and the Boston skyline can be enjoyed from various spots along the walkway. In addition, you can hop off the trail to pop into spots like the New England Aquarium and the Institute of Contemporary Art.
You can walk, bike or skate along the trail. Many visitors actually prefer to cover the length of the Boston Harborwalk by kayak instead of by foot!
Neponset River to Constitution Beach
6. Check Out Some Historic Cemeteries
Old New England still lives in Boston. One of the best ways to tap into Boston’s deep history is to visit some of its historic cemeteries.
In fact, an old cemetery is one of the best things to see in Boston because the bustling, polished streets of Boston’s upper-crust neighborhoods can sometimes make it easy to forget just how old New England really is!
Both the Old Granary Burial Ground and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground are situated along the Freedom Trail.
Old Granary is actually the final resting spot for Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and victims of the notorious Boston Massacre. Copp’s Hill is famed for being the burial spot for some of the prominent ministers during the time of the Salem witch trials.
Read also: Where to stay in Boston
7. Tour the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)
The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is one of the nation’s most impressive institutions. The museum is home to more than 500,000 works of art from around the world. Collections range from contemporary to ancient!
The MFA has been a jewel of Boston since its founding in 1870. Visitors can enjoy and study masterpieces at a rate of about 12 per hour.
Of course, the MFA is probably most famous for housing one of the largest Monet collections outside of France. Many people come here exclusively to gaze at Monet’s famed water-lily pieces in person.
465 Huntington Avenue
8. Enjoy the Boston Public Garden
What’s the best thing to see in Boston when the last thing you want to see is the busyness of modern life? Unmatched serenity waits hidden beyond Boston’s buildings and bustling streets in the city’s main garden.
The Boston Public Garden has the distinction of being the first public botanical garden ever created in the United States. The garden is magical and romantic! You will notice that the space has a Victorian vibe that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to experience Boston when it was still new.
Let winding pathways lined with lush, ornate plants lead the way as you make your way to the park’s lagoon or spot views of the famous swan boats that float by with grace. The Boston Public Garden is also filled with lovely statues.
4 Charles Street
9. Pose for a Photo With the Famous Bronze Ducklings of Boston
Don’t leave the Boston Public Garden without stopping to visit the famous bronze ducklings of Boston! The ducks can be found near the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street inside the park.
The whimsical and iconic duck statues were made in honor of a classic children’s book by Robert McCloskey called “Make Way for Ducklings.” The book tells the tale of a family of ducks that makes a home inside the Boston Public Garden!
10. Pay Homage to Boston’s Brooding Literary Son at Edgar Allan Poe Square
The best thing to see in Boston is sometimes a person who has helped to form the landscape of your imagination through his haunting, sharp words. Edgar Allen Poe was born across the street from Boston Common’s southwest corner.
A life-sized statue of the tortured poet stands in the spot of his birth today. Take a moment to contemplate the brilliant darkness of the poet as you stand in front of his statue reciting some of his best works!
176 Boylston Street
11. Feast on Cannoli in Little Italy in the North End
Boston’s Little Italy is home to some of the best pastry shops in the country! The nice thing about Boston’s Italian North End is that it is relatively small. That means that you can cover the entire neighborhood in about an hour. The shops here sell fresh pasta, fresh breads and amazing olive oil.
Don’t forget to grab a cannoli from world-famous Mike’s Pastry before you go! Visitors who arrive in August during the celebration of the feast of Saint Anthony are treated to a parade, live music and rows of food stalls!
12. Visit All Saints Way in the North End
Are you in the mood to see something a little bit divine while visiting the North End? An alley off of Battery Street has been renamed All Saints Way due to a very interesting collection of Catholic icons that can be see from the street.
In fact, the collection includes thousands of portraits, saint cards, statues and pieces of art. The collection was created by a man named Peter Baldassari. Many visitors have actually been invited inside the gates of All Saints Way by Baldassari for personal tours!
13. Tour Fenway Park
Can you really visit Boston without checking out the home of the Boston Red Socks? This venue isn’t just impressive because it’s home to the team that Bostonians are crazy about. Fenway Park also happens to be the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball!
You don’t necessarily need to have tickets to a game to tour the Green Monster. One-hour tours are conducted between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on non-game days. Tours are conducted three hours before a game during a game day.
4 Jersey Street
14. Visit the Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library earns its spot among the nation’s great libraries. It is also one of the best things to see in Boston if you love books and history. This grand institution was founded in 1848. It stands today as a vision comprised of stone lions, a grand staircase and Renaissance-style architecture.
Of course, this library isn’t just an impressive piece of architecture. The Boston Public Library is very much a working library! The library’s 23 million items make it home to one of the largest lending collections in the United States.
700 Boylston Street
15. Enjoy a Hip Time in Boston’s Back Bay Neighborhood
The Back Bay neighborhood really defines what’s happening in Boston right now. This lovely neighborhood is characterized by its rows of Victorian homes, upscale boutiques, designer shops and in-demand restaurants.
You really can get caught up all afternoon while shopping at the storefronts that line Newbury Street and Boylston Street. Back Bay also contains landmarks like the Boston Public Library and the John Hancock Tower.
16. Cobble Together a Brewery Tour on the Cobbled Streets of the Seaport District
The truth is that you’re going to find some pretty amazing breweries and pubs all over Boston. However, the Seaport District is your best bet if you’re looking for a nice concentration of breweries. Both Harpoon and Samuel Adams offer brewery tours to guests!
17. Look Smart in Cambridge
Is there any neighborhood in the world that is so closely associated with geniuses and academics? Cambridge is famously home to both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The fact that this area has such a huge university-age demographic makes it a very fun and active place to see in Boston!
There are tons of coffee houses and bars located in Cambridge’s Central Square. In addition, you can find some really nice vintage shops and quiet book stores tucked away in the shadow of Harvard.
The Museum of Science is considered to be the best museum in Cambridge. Many people come specifically to visit the butterfly house inside the museum.
Cambridge is also a great spot to launch a kayaking tour of the Charles River. Of course, simply hanging out in Harvard Yard to enjoy the oldest portion of Harvard’s campus can be a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon!
18. Chase Down “Cheers” Memorabilia
“Cheers” was a hit television show that put Boston on the map for lovers of popular culture. The interesting thing about the television show’s connection to Boston is that two spots in the city actually claim to be the official bar represented in the show.
The location in Beacon Hill is actually the bar that was used in the exterior shots in the television show’s opening sequence. This alone has caused most people to accept the Beacon Hill location as the original “Cheers” bar.
A second bar is located inside Faneuil Hall Marketplace. This bar is actually a reconstruction of the “Cheers” television set! The good news is that you don’t have to choose between the two. You can simply visit both to decide for yourself which one you think is more authentic!
84 Beacon Street
19. See Where Paul Revere’s Lanterns Were Hung at Old North Church
Walking in the footsteps of history is always a fun thing to do in Boston. Of course, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Paul Revere’s horse when you find yourself at Old North Church. The veil between past and present is a bit thin inside the walls of this beautiful church.
Old North Church is Boston’s oldest church. It also happens to be the place where lanterns were hung based on Paul Revere’s instructions to indicate if the British were coming by land or sea! You can still view the actual tower where the lanterns were hung today!
193 Salem Street
20. Make Waves at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum will allow you to relive that world-changing night back in 1773! In fact, you can actually throw some tea into the harbor and kick off the beginning of the American Revolution just like the rebels who set the stage for America as we know it today did!
This is a floating history museum that features exhibits and a special tearoom. In addition, you’ll see dramatic reenactments of the Boston Tea Party done by professional actors.
306 Congress Street
21. Get Inside the Bones of Boston at the Old State House Museum
The Old State House Museum is an institution that does an excellent job of preserving Boston’s history via records and other materials. Visitors can tour a mix of permanent and revolving exhibits that tell the tale of Boston’s role in the American Revolution. Tours and live reenactments will allow you to gain a new perspective regarding the birth of America!
206 Washington Street
22. Visit the Original Newbury Comics
Newbury Comics is considered by many to be the most high-profile retail spot in Boston. This fun, trendy spot has been around since the 1970s. It is a favorite spot among Boston’s student population these days.
People show up daily to scoop up vinyl records and movie memorabilia. One thing that makes Newbury Comics unique is that the store offers a collection of authentic, autographed products.
348 Newbury Street
23. See the Bunker Hill Monument in Person
The Bunker Hill Monument stands as a reminder of the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. The battle is significant because it was one of the first major battles of the Revolutionary War.
The Bunker Hill monument stands today as a 221-foot obelisk made from exquisite quarried granite. The monument is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The monument can be climbed from opening until 30 minutes before closing.
Monument Square in Charlestown
24. Explore Boston’s Chinatown
Boston’s Chinatown is a lush, bright and modern neighborhood that also happens to be one of the best places to grab a bite in the city! Boston’s Chinatown is outdone in size only by the Chinatown neighborhoods of New York City and San Francisco.
Visions of exotic plants and smells of dim sum in the air will let you know that you’ve arrived in this vibrant portion of downtown. Visitors can delight in gift shops, dumpling restaurants, markets, bakeries and wellness shops when taking in the sights of Chinatown.
Beautiful Chinatown Park welcomes visitors to the neighborhood with a glorious river-themed fountain.
25. Eat Cider Donuts at Boston Public Market
Boston Public Market is a year-round indoor market located inside Haymarket Station. Do yourself a favor by looking for hot cider donuts as soon as you arrive! In addition, you’ll find vendors selling fresh and gourmet products that range from produce and jarred goods to fish and cheeses. You’ll also find crafts.
Boston Public Market is a great place to come for breakfast, lunch or dinner when you don’t want to necessarily break your sightseeing groove by sitting down at a restaurant. Everything that is sold in the market originates in New England!
100 Hanover Street
Plan a Fun Sightseeing Adventure Full of Things to Do in Boston
These 25 attractions provide a nice balance when it comes to picking things to see and do in Boston. You will find that mixing things up between outdoor spaces and the halls of iconic institutions provides a true taste of what Boston is all about.
Don’t forget to pack some warm clothing if you’ll be checking out things to see in Boston during the winter. Snow and chilly temperatures are common once the fall season ends. In fact, the cold season in this rugged slice of New England typically lasts from November through March.
Feeling inspired to put together a full itinerary of things to do in Boston for your upcoming trip? Challenge yourself to see as many of the 25 items on this list as possible.
Of course, the best part about following an itinerary is that you’re sure to encounter at least five more things to see in Boston as you make your way toward any one destination that’s on your list!