Boston Famous Historical Sites Tour, Boston (Self Guided)

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the USA. Its beginnings date back to September 1630 as the "City on a Hill". Through the centuries, the city has witnessed many historical turns of events such as the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. All left marks not only in Boston's history but also on the architectural structure of the city itself. The following tour will help you discover this rich history with your own eyes.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Boston Famous Historical Sites Tour Map

Guide Name: Boston Famous Historical Sites Tour
Guide Location: USA » Boston (See other walking tours in Boston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
Author: anna
New Massachusetts State House

1) New Massachusetts State House (must see)

Standing atop Beacon Hill in Boston is the New Massachusetts State House, seat of the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts General Court and the offices of the State Governor. A wooden cod hanging on the wall inside the House of Republican chambers is called the “Sacred Cod” and represents the importance of fishing industry for Massachusetts.

The State House was built in 1798 to the design by Charles Bulfinch inspired by two buildings in London: Somerset House and the Pantheon. The magnificent dome was once covered in wood shingles, but it leaked, so it was given a copper sheath and then covered with 23k gold-leaf. During WWII the dome was painted black to prevent it showing up in case of air-raids, and it cost the state a fortune to restore the original gold-leaf at the end of the war. On top of the dome is a wooden pinecone to represent the importance of the logging industry. Found outside are several statues, including an equestrian statue of General Joseph Hooker; the statesman Daniel Webster; Horace Mann, considered the father of the “normal school” movement; J.F. Kennedy; Anne Hutchinson, a staunch advocate of religious freedom and rights for women; and Mary Dyer, one of the Boston Martyrs who was hanged because she was a Quaker in spite of a Puritan law forbidding Quakers in the city.

Why You Should Visit:
The building is free and open to the public – though you'll need to pass through security.
You can appreciate the (many) grand halls and the chambers where legislators convene to debate & pass laws.
The architecture and artwork here are magnificent; from large rotundas and grand staircases to marble sculptures and massive paintings.

If you come at the right time, you can have a tour guide walk you through the building and explain everything.
A self-guided tour is fine too, as there are pamphlets which explain the significance of the various rooms and monuments.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Park Street Church

2) Park Street Church (must see)

The Park Street Church (built 1810) in Boston, Massachusetts is an active Conservative Congregational Church at the corner of Tremont Street and Park Street. Park Street church's steeple rises to 217 feet and remains a landmark visible from several Boston neighborhoods. The steeple is seen as the terminus of both Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street, two of Boston's radial avenues. The church is adjacent to the historic Granary Burying Ground. The cornerstone of the church was laid on May 1 and construction was completed by the end of the year, under the guidance of Peter Banner (architect), Benajah Young (chief mason) and Solomon Willard (woodcarver). Banner took inspiration from several early pattern books, and his design is reminiscent of a London church by Christopher Wren. The church became known as "Brimstone Corner", in part because of the missionary character of its preaching, and in part because of the storage of gunpowder during the War of 1812.

Why You Should Visit:
Considering the size of so many skyscrapers and tall buildings across the U.S. today, it's interesting to think that this was the tallest building in the country during its early years.
Worth walking by to admire the architecture.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Granary Burying Ground

3) Granary Burying Ground (must see)

Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the city of Boston's third-oldest cemetery. Located on Tremont Street, it is the final resting place for many notable Revolutionary War-era patriots, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere and the five victims of the Boston Massacre. The cemetery's Egyptian revival gate and fence were designed by Boston architect Isaiah Rogers (1810-1849), who designed an identical gate for Newport's Touro Cemetery. Prominently displayed in the Burying Ground is an obelisk erected in 1827 to the parents and relatives of Benjamin Franklin who was born in Boston and is buried in Philadelphia. The oldest memorial in the yard lies near the Franklin monument memorializing John Wakefield, aged 52, who died 18 June 1667. Why there is a seven-year gap between the establishment of the burying ground and the oldest memorial is unknown.

Why You Should Visit:
This is, of course, unique to Boston. As you may recall, Boston was one of the earliest settlements in the "New World", and you won't see headstones and burial rows like the ones here anywhere else.

A tour guide would be worth it here to bring you straight to the more notable graves.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
King's Chapel

4) King's Chapel (must see)

King's Chapel is an independent Christian unitarian congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association that is "unitarian Christian in theology, Anglican in worship, and congregational in governance." It is housed in what was formerly called "Stone Chapel", an 18th-century structure at the corner of Tremont Street and School Street in Boston. The chapel building, completed in 1754, is one of the finest designs of the noted colonial architect Peter Harrison and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 for its architectural significance.

Inside, the church is characterized by wooden columns with Corinthian capitals that were hand-carved by William Burbeck and his apprentices in 1758. The current uniform appearance of the pews dates from the 1920s. Music has long been an important part of King's Chapel, which acquired its first organ in 1723. The present organ, the sixth installed in King's Chapel, was built by C. B. Fisk in 1964. The burying ground at King's Chapel is the site of the graves of many historic figures.

Why You Should Visit:
Another example of a historically relevant edifice in the heart of Boston.
Architecturally speaking, it is simple, yet the craft of the details is exceptional.

Entry into the church is free; however, donations are accepted at the front entrance.
They offer a couple tours (Bells & Bones + Art & Architecture) for a fee – take them!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm (Apr-Oct); Fri, Sat, Mon: 10am-4pm; Sun: 1:30-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Old South Meeting House

5) Old South Meeting House (must see)

The Old South Meeting House (built 1729) in the Downtown Crossing area of Boston gained fame as the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. 5,000 colonists gathered at the Meeting House, the largest building in Boston at the time. Old South Meeting House has been an important gathering place for nearly three centuries. Renowned for the protest meetings held here before the American Revolution when the building was termed a mouth-house, this National Historic Landmark has long served as a platform for the free expression of ideas. Today, the Old South Meeting House is open daily as a museum and continues to provide a place for people to meet, discuss and act on important issues of the day. The Old South Meeting House is claimed to be the second oldest establishment existent in the United States.

Why You Should Visit:
An inherent part of revolutionary history which adds to the many facets thereof in the city of Boston and is all the more interesting for it.

Plan some time to really take advantage of the museum – there are a lot of reading plaques.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm (Apr-Oct); 10am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Dec 24 & 25, Jan 1
Sight description based on wikipedia
Old State House

6) Old State House (must see)

The Old State House is a historic building, renowned for hosting the first elected legislature in the New World. Standing at the intersection of Washington and State Streets, it dates to 1713, which makes it the oldest public edifice in the city. Today it houses a history museum run by the Bostonian Society. Here, visitors can learn about the people and the events that have shaped the history of Boston, colony, state, and the whole of the U.S.

The Museum's exhibits occupy two floors and explain the role of the building, and that of the city of Boston, in the American Revolution. Also on display are collections of The Bostonian Society. Among the most notable exhibits is tea from the Boston Tea Party and John Hancock's coat. Visitors can hear testimony from the Boston Massacre trial; see Boston harbor paintings and other memorable items. Families with kids will enjoy hands-on history galleries with interactive exhibits on the 2nd floor.

Why You Should Visit:
An integral part of the Freedom Trail, it really is worth your while reading all that pervades this building even if you decide not to enter.
They have an extensive gift shop, however, and you can pay for a 30 to 40-minute tour/talk outside about the Boston massacre.

To save money, there is a combo ticket that includes this, the Old South Meeting House and Paul Revere's House.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (Memorial Day - Labor Day closes at 6pm)
Closed at 3pm on Christmas Eve Day
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas & New Year's Days
Faneuil Hall Marketplace

7) Faneuil Hall Marketplace (must see)

Not far from the waterfront and the Government Centre is a large marketplace comprising Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, North Market and South Market, set around a cobblestone promenade.

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 and given to the city as a gift from Peter Fan, a rich Bostonian merchant. On the cupola of the hall, you can see a grasshopper weathervane which was placed there in 1745. The open ground floor of the hall was an indoor market place, frequented by merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce sellers.

It quickly became a favorite place for famous orators. It was in this hall that colonists first protested against the “Sugar Act” in 1764 and established the “No taxation without representation” slogan, which was the basis of the War for Independence. The hall is called the “Cradle of Liberty”.

Today the market is full of shops and restaurants and it is a great place to stop and have lunch or just for a drink, as it is very popular with street players, jugglers, magicians and musicians, so you will be entertained while having your meal. The first floor of the hall is a meeting hall for debating societies and the second floor is occupied by the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company.

Why You Should Visit:
Delightful and archetypally Bostonian area – in that it's smart, classy, relaxed, friendly, clean and inviting.
You can't go wrong here and the best thing about it is the co-location with so much else that's impressive.

Be sure to check out the grasshopper weather vane on top of the building, once used to spot spies during the War of 1812!
Also, check out the inlay showing the original shoreline and long dock in the front plaza – very cool.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Paul Revere House

8) Paul Revere House (must see)

The Paul Revere House (1680) is the colonial home of American patriot Paul Revere during the time of the American Revolution. It is located at 19 North Square, in Boston's North End, and is now operated as a nonprofit museum by the Paul Revere Memorial Association. In April 1908, the Paul Revere House opened its doors to the public as one of the earliest historic house museums in the United States. Despite the substantial renovation process which returned the house to its conjectured appearance around 1700, ninety percent of the structure (including two doors, three window frames, and portions of the flooring, foundation, inner wall material and raftering) is original to 1680, though none of the window glass is original. Its heavy beams, large fireplaces, and absence of interior hallways are typical of colonial living arrangements. The two chambers upstairs contain several pieces of furniture believed to have belonged to the Revere family.

Why You Should Visit:
Seemingly in excellent condition and although there are only 4 rooms to see you get a good sense of the style and scale of homes back in the 1700s.
It's a short self-guided tour but there are people working that are very knowledgeable and will answer questions you may have regarding Paul Revere and/or his house.

Entrance is $5 per person and they only accept cash, so make sure to have some on hand if you're interested in seeing the historic house.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-4:15pm (Nov 1 - Apr 14); 9:30am-5:15pm (Apr 15 - Oct 31)
Closed on Mondays in January, February, and March
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Sight description based on wikipedia
Old North Church

9) Old North Church (must see)

Old North Church (officially, Christ Church in the City of Boston), at 193 Salem Street, in the North End of Boston, is the location from which the famous "One if by land, and two if by sea" signal is said to have been sent. This phrase is related to Paul Revere's midnight ride, of April 18, 1775, which preceded the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the American Revolution. It is the oldest active church building in Boston and is a National Historic Landmark.

Inside the church is a bust of George Washington, which the Marquis de Lafayette reportedly remarked as the best likeness of him he had ever seen. Old North Church was built in 1723 and was inspired by the works of Christopher Wren, the British architect who was responsible for rebuilding London after the Great Fire. Eight change ringing bells at Old North Church were cast in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1744 and hung in 1745.

Why You Should Visit:
Knowledgeable guide inside the church! There is a charge for entry, but you can always have a good look around the grounds adjacent, where there's plenty to see and read about.

The full tour here (for only $2 more than general admission) takes about a half hour and you get to go partially up the bell tower and down into the crypt, among other things.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sat: 9am-6pm (Apr-Oct); Mon, Wed-Sat: 10am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Tour times are listed on the website. The church is closed to visitors on Tuesday.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Copp's Hill Burying Ground

10) Copp's Hill Burying Ground

When you follow the Freedom Trail you will see many interesting historical sites and one of them is the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which came into use in 1659, making it the second oldest burial ground in Boston. In 1974 it became part of the National Historic Register.

At first it was called Windmill Hill, but was later renamed Copp’s Hill after William Copp who once owned the land. Copp was a shoemaker and the burial ground became the final resting place of craftsmen, artisans and merchants. On the Snowhill Street side of the graveyard are many unmarked graves of African Americans.

It is also the burial site of the famous (or infamous) Salem witch-hunters Cotton and Increase Mather; Edmund Hart, a rich shipyard owner; Prince Hall, ardent abolitionist and founder of the Black Masonic Order; Robert Newman, who placed the signal lanterns on the Old North Church steeple for Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride to Lexington and Concord during the War for Independence. Another tombstone marks the place where George Worthylake, the first keeper of the Boston Lighthouse, is buried.
Sight description based on wikipedia
USS Constitution

11) USS Constitution (must see)

USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America, she is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel. Launched in 1797, Constitution was one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794.

Constitution's mission is to promote understanding of the Navy’s role in war and peace through active participation in public events and education through outreach programs, public access, and historic demonstration. The Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston is responsible for planning and performing her maintenance, repair and restoration, keeping her as close to her 1812 configuration as possible. She is berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard, at one end of Boston's Freedom Trail. The privately run USS Constitution Museum is nearby, located in a restored shipyard building at the foot of Pier 2.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience all the world's oldest commissioned warship has to offer.
You can't explore quite every nook and cranny, but you can explore most of them with a free guided tour.
The adjacent museum (admission with donation & valid ID) has great exhibits and a gift shop for souvenirs & snacks.

While you are there, visit the Navy Yard Visitor Center and the USS Cassin Young, a WW2 Fletcher-class destroyer.
If you have kids, make sure to go to the museum's second floor for interactive learning experiences.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 10am-4pm (USS Constitution); Daily: 9am-6pm (USS Constitution Museum)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bunker Hill Monument

12) Bunker Hill Monument (must see)

The Bunker Hill Monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. The 221-foot granite obelisk was erected between 1827 and 1843 in Charlestown, Massachusetts with granite from Quincy, Massachusetts, conveyed to the site via the Granite Railway, built specially for that purpose, followed by a trip by barge. There are 294 steps to the top.

The Bunker Hill Monument is not on Bunker Hill but instead on Breed's Hill, where most of the fighting in the misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place. The Monument Association, which had purchased the battlefield site, was forced to sell off all but the hill's summit in order to complete the monument. An exhibit lodge built adjacent to the monument in the late 19th century houses a statue of Warren and a diorama of the battle. Bunker Hill is one of the sites along the Freedom Trail and is part of Boston National Historical Park.

Why You Should Visit:
The views from the top are worth it and so is the whole exploration effort.
If you're doing the Freedom Trail, you owe it to yourself to keep dragging along to this.

Visit early in the day when you are not tired or after a meal, and/or visit after you have gone everywhere on the Freedom Trail so that you can name the places and buildings seen from the top.
If you go down the hill to the Bunker Hill Museum, they have a bathroom you can use. A good place to learn about the history of the city and the Battle for Bunker Hill.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Boston, Massachusetts

Create Your Own Walk in Boston

Create Your Own Walk in Boston

Creating your own self-guided walk in Boston is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Boston Places of Worship Tour

Boston Places of Worship Tour

Boston's many great churches are among the most precious of the city's numerous architectural jewels. What makes these artworks special are their unique styles, elegant facades and centuries of history. Take our tour and experience these must-see wonders of Boston.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

With its many historical landmarks and modern artworks, Boston is a city with a unique image. Mementos of Boston's heroes and memorials to world-changing events are found here, as well as some fine examples of art in the open. Take this orientation walk to see the biggest and best sights of Boston.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
Boston Shopping Areas Tour

Boston Shopping Areas Tour

Boston is one of the top shopping destinations in the US northeast, with plenty of interesting stores to visit. You'll even find high class shops, stores inside historical buildings and places where bargaining is still in practice. Take our tour to experience the best shopping the city has to offer.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Boston Museums Walking Tour

Boston Museums Walking Tour

Boston's rich historical past is carefully nourished by the city's many museums. Inside these museums you'll find unique works of art, scientific wonders and many other objects that illuminate the past. Take our walking tour to discover the best museums in the city.

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.0 km
Historical Cambridge Walking Tour

Historical Cambridge Walking Tour

If you're a history buff, the Cambridge district of Boston has a number of great historical architectural artworks to visit. Inside the walls of these places you can see history in action and find some great stuff that's not in the history books. Take our tour to discover the amazing facts and sights of Cambridge.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 km
Boston Nightlife Tour

Boston Nightlife Tour

Boston is one of the most sparkling and vibrant cities for nightlife in the US. Bostonians, tourists and Hollywood stars alike flock to the dance clubs here. Become one of the in-crowd by taking our tour of the best nightlife spots in the city of Boston.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Boston's Marblehead Eateries

Boston's Marblehead Eateries

With such a diverse variety of dining cuisines and styles, the little town of Marblehead has something to satisfy every budget and culinary palate. You won't find any neon here, none is allowed in town and there are no fast food or drive-thrus establishments either. Most are quaint and...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Boston for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Boston has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Boston's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Boston CityPASS or GO Boston Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple Boston's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving your precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Boston hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Boston Omni Parker House Hotel, The Bostonian Boston, Ames Boston Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Boston, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Boston typically costs somewhere between US$35 and US$80 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off trolley to enjoy sightseeing of Boston in comfort listening to a live on-board commentary from a local expert, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the route as often as you like. The tickets are valid for one or two days.

- Pack your “very best of Boston” experience in just one day with the help of a fully narrated sightseeing tour covering all of the city's key historic attractions, including those in the neighboring Massachusetts cities of Cambridge, Lexington and Concord, dating back to the times of the American Revolutionary War.

- Feel the spirit of Boston on a guided, 2-hour walk through the Downtown area on the popular Freedom Trail visiting the locations of great historical importance for the United States. If you're a history buff, this tour is definitely for you!

- Summon your guts and sense of adventure to dig deep into the ghastly side of Boston on a scary, yet fun and informative frightseeing tour set to bring light to some of the darkest corners of the city and relay the stories of the unfortunate souls and sinister characters that once walked the streets of Boston.

- Pedal your way around Boston on a 3-hour educational and fun bike tour to appreciate the city's most spectacular sights while stopping at some of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning interesting facts about the attractions en route from a knowledgeable group leader.

- Spend another three hours in a most tasteful way on a walk led by an expert guide to explore the culinary scene of Boston. Along with the freshest seafood food and other delights, you will acquaint yourself with Boston's Little Italy, learn the history of this neighborhood and some fascinating facts about its most favorite dishes.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Boston, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Cambridge, Lexington and Concord, New England coast, Salem, Martha's Vineyard, or Plimoth. For as little as circa US$50+ to US$105 per person you will get a chance to discover several nearby Massachusetts cities that left mark in the American history, stand on the legendary battlefield and visit other locations that played a prominent role in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, capture the beautiful scenery of the New England coast replete with postcard-worthy beaches, harbors, wetlands, rugged cliffs and lighthouses, travel along the rocky coast of Maine to one of the most iconic lighthouses in the U.S., learn the fascinating history of the Salem Witch Trials, see the birthplace of the American Navy, explore Boston's original Martha's Vineyard, or step back in time for a glimpse of life of the Pilgrims back in the 1600s with a chance to interact with the costumed actors reenacting the Pilgrims' daily chores in the English colony. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Boston and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach to the destination of your choice and back again.