Top 12 Attractions in Boston

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

From Revolutionary history to world-famous universities, Boston entices visitors with its storied past and energetic contemporary culture. Cobblestone streets weave past historic landmarks and polished skyscrapers while locals and tourists on foot enjoy the attractions around every bend.

AttractionDescription
Freedom TrailA 2.5-mile trail linking 16 historical landmarks with guided and self-guided tour options.
Faneuil Hall & Quincy MarketHistoric meeting hall and adjacent marketplace with food stalls, shops, and street performers.
Museum of Fine ArtsComprehensive art museum with diverse collections spanning continents and eras.
Fenway Park & the “Green Monster”Historic MLB ballpark offering tours and views from the iconic Green Monster wall.
Harvard Campus & Harvard SquareIvy League campus and surrounding area with shops, restaurants, and historic sites.
New England AquariumAquarium featuring thousands of marine animals and interactive exhibits.
Beacon Hill & the State HouseHistoric neighborhood and government building with free tours of its halls.
Boston Public GardenManicured public park with swan boat rides and seasonal floral displays.
North End Feasts & Italian CuisineNeighborhood known for its Italian cuisine and summer religious feasts.
Boston Duck ToursAmphibious vehicle tours offering a unique perspective on the city’s sites.
Samuel Adams BreweryBrewery tours and tastings highlighting Boston’s craft beer scene.

Faneuil Hall bustles with performers and food stalls just as it did in 1742 while trendy neighborhoods invite boutique browsing between cafe stops. When planning your New England getaway, Boston’s long list of sights to see and experiences to be had is sure to inspire. These top must-sees will help you hit the highlights and find the hidden gems that make Beantown unforgettable.

Freedom Trail

Name and Location: The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walking trail through downtown Boston that connects 16 historically significant sites. The trail starts at Boston Common and winds through the downtown area.

History and Significance: The Freedom Trail was created in 1951 to link important revolutionary war sites in Boston. It connects sites like the Old State House, Paul Revere House, Old North Church and Bunker Hill. The trail allows visitors to walk in the footsteps of revolutionary figures and learn about key events that led to American independence.

What to Expect: The Freedom Trail takes visitors past churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, and urban neighborhood sites. Sites along the way feature self-guided tours, period actors, interpretive displays, and museum exhibits that highlight Boston’s role in the revolution.

Visitor Information: Maps are available at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center. Guided tours led by period reenactors in costume are also available. Wear comfortable shoes for the 2.5 mile walk.

No first-time visit to Boston is complete without walking some or all of the iconic 2.5 mile Freedom Trail linking 16 landmarks tied to America’s earliest history. Follow the red-painted line on sidewalks through the city center guiding you to sites from the gold-domed State House to burying grounds to famed meeting halls where revolutions brewed.

Costumed guides lead tours enriching the stroll past sights like Paul Revere’s former home. DIY adventurers can access free app-based audio guides instead to envision life centuries ago when these streets shook the world with revolutionary ideas and actions that still echo today. However you choose to explore it, the iconic Freedom Trail promises a thorough introduction to the old souls and enduring spirit that define Boston.

Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market

Name and Location: Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are located adjacent to each other in downtown Boston near the waterfront.

History and Significance: Faneuil Hall has been a marketplace and public meeting hall since 1742. Today there are shops, restaurants, and street performers. Quincy Market was constructed in 1826 and today features food, crafts, and street entertainment at one of Boston’s most-visited landmarks.

What to Expect: At Faneuil Hall visitors will find historic meeting spaces, restaurants, and small shops. Quincy Market features over 40 food vendors, 30 pushcarts, and 40 shops under one roof. There are always lots of street performers to watch.

Visitor Information: Both sites are open daily with no admission fee. Faneuil Hall has a visitor center with brochures and maps. Quincy Market offers free tours on certain days.

At downtown Boston’s liveliest nexus buzzing since 1742 sits historic Faneuil Hall, now flanked by the bustling shops and eateries filling Quincy Market’s columns. Street performers dazzle crowds on pedestrian walkways outside while tours lead you through ornate halls that once gathered American revolutionaries, abolitionists, and politicians firing change across centuries.

Next door, the long halls of Quincy Market tempt hungry shoppers with everything from lobster rolls and chowder bread bowls to cannolis and craft cocktails. It’s the perfect place to sample quintessential New England flavors while honoring the merchants, debates, and protests that once filled these walls bordering Government Center park’s relaxing green space.

Museum of Fine Arts

Name and Location: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) is located along Huntington Avenue in Fenway-Kenmore near Back Bay.

History and Significance: Founded in 1870, the MFA houses an encyclopedic collection with over 450,000 works of art spanning all time periods and cultures. It is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world and welcomes over 1 million visitors per year.

What to Expect: The MFA has 5 wings showcasing Art of the Americas, Art of Europe, Contemporary Art, Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa as well as special exhibitions. There is also a restaurant, gift shop, lectures, classes, and family programs.

Visitor Information: Open daily with an admission fee. Discounted tickets can be purchased online in advance. Audio guides are available and free guided tours run frequently.

For art lovers, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts ranks among the most comprehensive museums in the country with its ever-evolving collections spanning continents and creativity across eras. Egyptian sarcophagi rub ancient shoulders with contemporary installations, dazzling glassworks, and galleries highlighting everything from quilts to musical instruments too.

Beyond marquee collections focusing on major movements and Boston notables like John Singleton Copley, keep an eye out for rotating small exhibits pulling lesser-seen pieces from their vaults of masterworks. Of course you can’t miss classics like the towering Native American totem poles rising through multiple floors or the MFA’s impressive stashes of Renoir, Rembrandt, and Monet immortalizing muses on canvas either.

Fenway Park & the “Green Monster”

Name and Location: Fenway Park is a baseball park located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston. Its most iconic feature is the 37-foot high Green Monster wall in left field.

History and Significance: Opened in 1912, Fenway Park is the oldest operating MLB ballpark. It is home to the Boston Red Sox and famed for unique features like the hand-operated scoreboard and the Green Monster wall which gives Fenway its signature look.

What to Expect: Fenway hosts baseball games April through October. Fans can tour the park year-round to explore the press box, luxury suites, warning track, dugouts and more. The Green Monster seats are especially popular.

Visitor Information: Tours run daily, last about an hour and cost around $20. Tickets for games can range from $20 – $300 depending on seat location. It’s best to take public transportation since parking is limited.

Even if you can’t score tickets to a Red Sox home game, baseball fans find visiting Fenway Park’s historic stadium makes for an essential Boston experience. Ballpark tours let you glimpse artefacts chronicling Fenway’s past before hitting famous spots like stepping atop the Green Monster wall for views down on emerald grass below just as left fielders do game after game.

Peek inside Fenway’s iconic hand-operated scoreboard which has loomed over the park since the 1930s while your guide narrates tales from sluggers like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski across the decades. Baseball history buffs relish soaking in the atmosphere of America’s oldest MLB ballpark while superfans surely pine to return again soon cheering Boston on to victory live one day soon in these hallowed stands.

Harvard Campus & Harvard Square

Name and Location: Harvard University’s main campus is located along the Charles River in Cambridge, just across from downtown Boston. The heart of Harvard Square surrounds the campus.

History and Significance: Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the US. Harvard Square abuts campus making it a popular spot for students and tourists to congregate.

What to Expect: Harvard offers free student-led tours showcasing history, architecture, and student life. Harvard Square features all kinds of dining, shopping, street performers and a relaxed vibe.

Visitor Information: Free tours run frequently M-Sat. Harvard Square stores are open daily. Take the metro Red Line to the Harvard or Central stations for easy access.

Venturing just minutes from downtown into Ivy league territory, the prestigious Harvard University campus beckons visitors to explore centuries of scholarship and architecture. Strolling through Harvard Yard’s gated archway means gazing at stately buildings with history seeped into brickwork across lawn quads and compartments once pacing great academic minds of eras past.

Just outside campus confines, Harvard Square brims with bustling restaurants, street musicians, and bookstores also inviting you to stay a while people watching in central Cambridge. Locavore eats, indie boutiques, and overlooking ivory spires evoking prestigious dreams make crossing the river from Boston equally irresistible.

New England Aquarium

Name and Location: The New England Aquarium is located along Boston’s waterfront right next to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

History and Significance: Open since 1969, the New England Aquarium features one of the largest tank environments in the country and fosters research, education and conservation of aquatic life.

What to Expect: Multi-story giant ocean tanks housing sharks, sea turtles and thousands of fish are the main attraction. There are also touch tanks, a penguin habitat, IMAX movies and whale watching trips available.

Visitor Information: Open daily with an admission fee. Whale watches and IMAX cost extra. Advanced tickets can be purchased online for discount. This is one of Boston’s most popular attractions so go early or late to avoid crowds.

Get eye-to-eye with thousands of aquatic creatures without leaving downtown at the New England Aquarium. Four stories of exhibits depict rich marine ecosystems found off Boston Harbor as well as across the world’s oceans too. See Myrtle the Turtle glide past viewing windows, gaze up through the three-story Giant Ocean Tank at sharks circling above, and get hands-on touching rays and starfish inside the supervised Touch Tank zone.

Time your visit to catch a glimpse of penguins waddling across rocky shores recreated right inside the aquarium or save time for an IMAX film illuminating ocean conservation efforts worldwide after getting your fill of these up-close marine life encounters inland. There’s always something incredible happening under the sea just steps away at Boston’s family-friendly New England Aquarium.

Beacon Hill & the State House

Name and Location: Beacon Hill is an historic neighborhood in Boston marked by gas-lit streets and brick sidewalks. The Massachusetts State House sits atop Beacon Hill.

History and Significance: Settled in the 1620s, Beacon Hill gained prominence in the 19th century when it became home to Boston’s elite. It remains one of the city’s most desirable addresses. The golden dome of the Massachusetts State House is one of Boston’s iconic sights.

What to Expect: Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the State House or simply admire the architecture and tranquil vibe of Beacon Hill with its gas-lit lamps, flowering window boxes, and original brick houses.

Visitor Information: Guided tours of the State House run frequently M-F. Beacon Hill surrounding the Common and Public Garden is pedestrian friendly to stroll anytime.

Rising just across Boston Common lies historic Beacon Hill, where gas-lit brick townhouses line quaint streets with blooming window boxes and iron railings leading up to stately former mansions. Find acquainted corners perfect for stealing a smooch then wind upwards past boutiques and cafes towards the golden dome topping Boston’s seat of government upon Beacon Hill as well.

Free tours lead visitors through the Massachusetts State House hallways still tread by senators and representatives who argue, compose, and sign legislation just as they did starting in 1798. Gaze up at intricate stained glass domes from inside then admire intricate details on the state house exterior – including the gilded copper atop its dome visible for miles symbolizing the lingering enlightenment urge that transformed this hill centuries before.

Boston Public Garden

Name and Location: The Boston Public Garden is a 24-acre botanical park and the first public botanical garden in America. It sits adjacent to Boston Common in downtown.

History and Significance: Established in 1837, the Public Garden was designed to offer a more formal landscape than the Common. Its iconic Swan Boats have run since 1877, making it the longest running attraction in the country.

What to Expect: Visitors can ride Swan Boats from April – September, stop and smell roses at the Ether Monument, see weeping willows reflected in the tranquil lagoon, and admire sculpture and fountains around every corner.

Visitor Information: The Public Garden is open year round from dawn to dusk with no admission fee. Swan Boat rides cost $4 per person. All MBTA lines connect to the Park Street and Boylston stations right next to the Common and Garden.

Adjacent to Common green space, the immaculately manicured grounds of Public Garden distinguish this oasis’ Beauty by preserving an enclave where romance and wonder await rediscovery. Share a smooch beneath willows surrounding the iconic Swan Boat Lagoon before stopping to smell brilliant beds of tulips and daffodils punctuating walking paths.

Visit between spring and fall and you might just spy Make Way for Ducklings bronze statues capturing hearts young and old nearby too. Whenever the seasons allow, the living romance found flitting through flower arbors, gliding across gentle canals, and generally ignoring bustling downtown surrounds make Boston Public Garden a premier place for underscoring affection on getaways.

North End Feasts & Italian Cuisine

Name and Location: The North End is Boston’s Little Italy, located just across the Greenway from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It’s known for its Italian restaurants and saints festivals.

History and Significance: Italians started settling the North End in the 1860s. Today the North End retains its culture seen through cuisine, festivals, and Old World ambience along narrow streets.

What to Expect: The North End has over 100 Italian restaurants to choose from, though some are tourist traps. Neighborhood feasts occur nearly every weekend in summer, turning streets into outdoor block parties with music, food vendors and entertainment.

Visitor Information: Restaurant reservations are strongly recommended. Feast schedules are posted online. Limited parking so walk, take the T, or consider the hop-on hop-off trolley to access the North End.

Boston’s famed North End neighborhood wafts with incredible aromas from Italian bakeries, trattorias, and red-sauced mainstays like Pagliuca’s. But the real magic happens during summertime religious feasts when streets fill with music, processions, and food vendors frying up classics like arancini and sfogliatelle redemption by the plate.

Brush elbows with locals celebrating over orecchiette con cime di rapa or linguini with meatballs along Hanover Street then work off pasta belly bliss walking to Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, or Copp’s Hill Burying Ground capturing centuries of history tucked into a few time-traveling North End blocks perfect for postcard walks with your sweetie too. Just arrive hungry – and ready for a big Italian hug from a little Boston ‘hood overflowing with so much affection annually.

Boston Duck Tours

Name and Location: Boston Duck Tours depart from the Prudential Center and the Museum of Science offering combination land-water sightseeing tours around Boston and Cambridge.

History and Significance: Boston Duck Tours began in 1994 and remain one of the city’s most popular attractions. Their WWII amphibious vehicles add novelty allowing guides to showcase Boston by land and water.

What to Expect: Tours last about 80 minutes with about 40 minutes spent driving/cruising past sights like Newbury Street, Quincy Market, Beacon Hill, MIT and Boston Common. Tour guides make it genuinely fun and informative.

Visitor Information: Tours run daily March thru November, only weekends in winter. Reservations are strongly suggested. Tickets can be booked online or bought onsite about 30 minutes prior to tours. Adults $40+, kids $28+.

Quacking, trucking, amphibious Boston Duck Tour vehicles reveal the city from hilarious characters behind the wheel on these 80-minute sightseeing exploits. Like the “Momma Duck” leading her duckling busloads on excitable excursions awash with duck puns and little-known local lore crossing land and sea since 1994.

Splash down the Charles River watching passing sailboats from your breezy Duck Tour vessel or toot across streets making stops to share stories related to historical State House sights seen from unusual amphibious angles. The experience leaves visitors glowing with ducky delight while kids of all ages imprint precious memories waddling between classic Beantown postcard views thanks to Boston Duck Tours.

Samuel Adams Brewery

Name and Location: The Samuel Adams Boston Brewery is located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood along the Orange Line. They offer tours and tastings showcasing the brewing process.

History and Significance: Samuel Adams was founded in Boston in 1984, helping kickstart craft beer popularity. Their Jamaica Plain brewery opened in 1988 and still brews specialty small batches here.

What to Expect: Tours walk visitors through ingredients, brewing process, packaging, and history of the brand and craft beer industry, finishing with a free tasting. There is also a gift shop to purchase merchandise and beer to go.

Visitor Information: Free brewery tours run daily every 45 minutes. Closed major holidays. Take the MBTA Orange Line to Stony Brook station, 10 minute walk. Tours limited to ages 21+; ID required.

Responsible for stirring up Boston’s craft beer revolution since 1984, Samuel Adams Brewery stands as a must-see for beer lovers visiting the city that celebrates brewing. Absorb the intoxicating smells of mash and hops churning out America’s top-selling craft beer family on hour-long tours with tastings or stay for beers and epic onion blossom starters in their Tap Room restaurant.

Learn about Samuel Adams’ humble homebrewing origins and commitment to innovation that now fills glasses from Boston bars to Bangkok. Glimpse copper kettles crafting Boston Lager plus seasonal offerings and barrel rooms nurturing potent limited releases. With the engaging behind-the-scenes encounters plus generous tasters upon exiting, it’s the utmost entertaining insider’s experience for appreciating Sam Adams’ 30-years (and counting) legacy elevating quality brewing across New England and beyond from right here in Bean Town.

Conclusion

Reveling in revolutionary history along the Freedom Trail then raising fine art appreciation touring the MFA before catching America’s favorite pastime at historic Fenway Park, classic Boston experiences anchor any first-timer’s travel checklist. But venture deeper across duck tours and North End feasts to admire Boston’s Equally beloved gardens, off-campus culture hubs, harborside vistas, and the best pizza this side of the Atlantic.

Use this definitive travel guide covering quintessential places to understand Beantown stalwarts and uncover its dynamic contemporary culture. Build lifelong memories strolling and sailing these welcoming walkable streets now – then be lured back soon again by the enduring magic only Bostonians are fortunate enough to call home.

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