Historical Churches Walking Tour, Boston

Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Boston

Boston's great churches are among the most precious of the city's numerous architectural jewels. What makes them special are their unique styles, elegant facades and long history.

Starting with the Old North Church, which towers in the city’s North End, this journey surely feels like taking a step back in time. Legend was made there, in the very place that Paul Revere waited for the famous signal; "One if by land, and two if by sea." Located in a setting filled with magnificent trees and plants, the building has been very well preserved over the years.

Next up, the King’s Chapel was the first Anglican Church in America (1686), and the construction alone – replacing the original wooden building – is worth a visit. Inside, there are plenty of design features, art, and specific adornments that make it unique.

The Tiffany art glass windows in the Church of the Covenant are another special find. For a nominal fee, you’ll receive an excellent tour of the building's numerous Tiffany stained-glass windows, and will be allowed to linger to your heart's content in the light of their majesty.

It’s really worth walking until the very end, to Copley Square, where the iconic Trinity Church immediately catches the eye. Its 19-century exterior in Romanesque style sure looks like a fairy-tale castle in the forest of high-rise modern buildings!

Take this self-guided walking tour to witness 7 wonders of Boston’s religious life. You you'll come away much richer from the experience – richer in many ways!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store 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

Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Boston (See other walking tours in Boston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: anna
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Old North Church
  • King's Chapel
  • Park Street Church
  • Church of the Covenant
  • First Baptist Church
  • Old South Church
  • Trinity Church
Old North Church

1) Old North Church (must see)

"One if by land, two if by sea" is said to have been the light signal sent by Paul Revere, a patriot, and leader of the American Revolution, from the belfry of Old North Church. The British forces were on the move that night in April 1775, and Revere was alerting the resistance. The signal and Revere's "midnight ride" were followed by the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The Old North Church is officially Christ Church in the City of Boston. It is located at 193 Salem Street in the city's fabled North End. It was built in 1723 by architect William Price. It is modeled on the St. Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe Church of Blackfriars in England. Similar designs were used by the English architect Christopher Wren to rebuild London after the Great Fire.

In the colonial era, the church was Anglican and Loyalist. King George II had donated a Bible and silver service to be used in worship. The church's 175-foot high, the three-tiered steeple was the tallest in town until the 217-foot steeple of the Park Street Church surpassed it in 1809. The current spire is a replica of the original.

The bell tower carillon consists of eight change-ringing bells, cast in England in 1744. One of the bells has an inscription declaring the bells to be the first cast for the American colonies. Paul Revere, although a congregationalist, served as a bell ringer at Old North as a child. This is according to a contract signed by him in 1750.

The inside of the church features high white box pews and the window used by Revere to escape capture. The cherubim on the organ and two brass chandeliers were captured from a French ship in 1726. The crypt holds the bones of 1,000 parishioners and those of Major John Pitcairn of the Royal Marines, killed at Bunker Hill.

The church is open for public tours from 9 am to 5 pm June through October. In all the other months the hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
King's Chapel

2) King's Chapel

The congregation of the original King's Chapel in Boston was founded in 1686 by Royal Governor Sir Edmund Andros. It was the first Anglican church in New England. It was wooden, built on the corner of Tremont and School Streets. In 1754, the original chapel was replaced with the stone structure, designed by a colonial American architect Peter Harrison, that stands today.

The stone church was built around the wooden one. The wooden chapel was disassembled and passed through the windows of the new church. The wood removed was sent to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where it was used to build St John's Anglican Church. There was a steeple planned for the stone church, but King's Chapel still awaits, topless.

The congregation of the church were Loyalists. During the Revolution, most of their families left for Nova Scotia or England. The few that remained behind reopened the church in 1782. The church became Unitarian in persuasion. Today it is a church of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The church's exterior has a flat-roofed portico with twelve Doric columns and rooftop balustrades. The large square tower of the church has four round arch window openings. The style is Georgian.

The interior has wooden Corinthian columns hand-carved by the sculptor William Burbeck. Pews are mostly once privately owned box pews. The pew, formerly owned by the Royal Governor, was later used by George Washington.
Park Street Church

3) Park Street Church

The Park Street Church is a station on the Freedom Trail of Boston. The idea for the church was a dream of the Religious Improvement Society in 1804. The project was started by the Society in 1809 at the Old South Meeting House, the indoor venue of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. The Society wanted to create a church with orthodox Trinitarian doctrine.

Construction began in May 1809 under the guidance of architect Peter Banner, the chief mason Benajah Young, and Solomon Willard, a wood carver. Peter Banner's design seemed to have been influenced by the tall iconic church towers of Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. The tower of Park Street Church reaches 217 feet above the ground. It was the tallest building in the United States until 1828.

The first worship service was held on January 10, 1810. Services have continued at the Park Street Church uninterrupted to this day. The Church has been called "Brimstone Corner," partly because of fiery preaching but also for storing gunpowder there during the War of 1812. It has maintained a tradition of Evangelism in religion and social causes.

The Church was a center of abolitionist activity. On July 4, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer, delivered his first anti-slavery speech at Park Street Church. The hymn and patriotic song "America," written by Samuel Francis Smith, American journalist, and author, was first performed on July 4, 1831, at the Church. The Handel and Hayden Society, known as H+H, is an American chorus and period instrument orchestra based there in 1815. The Park Street Church Day was announced on February 27, 2009, to honor its bicentennial.
Church of the Covenant

4) Church of the Covenant

The Church of the Covenant (a merger of Central Congregational Church and First Presbyterian Church) is a Boston landmark, built in 1865-1867 by the Central Congregational Church and now affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ.

Built of Roxbury puddingstone in Gothic Revival style, it was one of the first churches to relocate in the new Back Bay and was built largely with funds donated by Benjamin E. Bates, an industrialist who founded Bates College. Designed by Richard M. Upjohn, the son & partner of Richard Upjohn, who insisted on "a high Gothic edifice ... which no ordinary dwelling house would overtop." It has a 240-foot high steeple, that overtops the Bunker Hill Monument. In the 1890s the sanctuary was redecorated by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co. with stained-glass windows and mosaics and an electric-light chandelier designed by Tiffany's Jacob Adolphus Holzer for the World's Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893.

Why You Should Visit:
While there are several famous churches in the neighborhood, this one is distinguished by its 42 Tiffany stain-glass windows, the largest collection anywhere.
It is said that these paintings include at least 9 types of specialty glass and up to 5 layers that allow for creative, painterly effects. Beautiful is an understatement.

Tours are given daily in season; donations accepted. Be sure to get a free brochure that will bring the Tiffany glass to life. Or if you are lucky, you may have a docent to show you the highlights.
If you arrive in time for the 10:30 service on Sunday and are so inclined, you can feel welcomed by the very friendly congregation and the restored Welte organ, a must for organ fans.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
First Baptist Church

5) First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church (or "Brattle Square Church") is a historic Baptist church established in 1665. It first met secretly on Noddle's Island and then in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1882 it has been located at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Clarendon Street in the Back Bay.

Featuring ivy-covered walls and a prominent tower with distinctive carvings by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (sculptor of the Statue of Liberty), representing four sacraments with faces of famous Bostonians (including Longfellow and Hawthorne), Abraham Lincoln, and Bartholdi's friends of that era (including Garibaldi), this building highlights many of the Richardsonian Romanesque qualities that would later be shown in the nearby Trinity Church, one of Richardson's masterpieces. The Baptist Church's tower can clearly be seen as part of Boston's skyline when viewed from the Cambridge side of the Charles river.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old South Church

6) Old South Church

Old South Church is a church of the United Church of Christ in Boston, Massachusetts. The church building was designed between 1870 and 1872 by the Boston architectural firm of Cummings and Sears in the Venetian Gothic style. The style follows the precepts of the British cultural theorist and architectural critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) as outlined in his treatise The Stones of Venice. Old South Church in Boston remains one of the most significant examples of Ruskin's influence on American architecture. A tall tower or campanile is the trademark feature of Old South and is visible from several Boston neighborhoods. The tower, on the western end of the church, rises to a height of 246' and houses the church's 2020 pound bell. The interior of Old South is exuberant yet quietly modulates the mix of rich materials: highly carved Italian cherry woodwork, limestone, stenciled plaster, and stained glass.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful example of "Venetian Gothic" church architecture.
The old ornate wood pews, stained glass, and architecture all testify to its mid-19th-century construction.
The vibrancy of the colors is unreal, especially if you're lucky enough to visit when the sun's rays hit the windows.

Try to visit when a concert is scheduled. An organ concert may be the best moment.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm (or later); Sat: 10am-4pm; Sun: 8:30am-7pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Trinity Church

7) Trinity Church

After its former site on Summer Street burned in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, the current church complex was erected under the direction of Rector Phillips Brooks, one of the best-known and most charismatic preachers of his time. The church and parish house were designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and construction took place from 1872 to 1877, when the complex was consecrated. Situated on Copley Square in Back Bay, Trinity Church is the building that established Richardson's reputation. It is the birthplace and archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by a clay roof, polychromy, rough stone, heavy arches, and a massive tower. The building's plan is a modified Greek Cross with four arms extending outwards from the central tower, which stands 211 ft tall. Trinity Church is the only building from the original 1885 list still included in the American Institute of Architects's current top ten list.

Why You Should Visit:
Fantastically impressive church, especially from the outside where it's just profoundly architecturally outstanding – almost ornate in its appearance.
Positioned in Copley Square so plenty of opportunities to sit a while and enjoy it and other impressive, though different, buildings in the vicinity.

Go in and take the self-guided audio tour – you won't be disappointed.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 7:45am-8pm; Tue: 10am-5pm; Wed-Sat: 9am-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.
Beacon Hill Historic Houses Tour

Beacon Hill Historic Houses Tour

Boston’s historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill is quite a charm! One can spend hours here, admiring the elegant uniformity and restraint of the architecture; at times, perhaps, imagining people from the past in their horse-drawn carriages. Federal-style and Victorian row houses, narrow streets lit by antique gas lanterns, brick sidewalks and lavender-hued windows adorn the area, which is...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Boston Introduction Walking Tour

Boston Introduction Walking Tour

The capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States and it had played a key role in the country's struggle for independence. Founded in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England, it witnessed many events of the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston.

...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
North End Walking Tour

North End Walking Tour

The North End was the city's first neighborhood, and one that has been key to its fortunes, having become a hub of commercial, social and intellectual activity by the 1750s. Later known as Boston's Little Italy, it has been home to Italian immigrants through much of the 20th century, and still retains a certain Mediterranean flavor in its many restaurants, cafés, and specialty shops. In...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Harvard University Walking Tour

Harvard University Walking Tour

The United States’ oldest institution of higher education (and, of course, among the most prestigious), Harvard was established in 1636. Reverend John Harvard, who bequeathed his entire library and half of his estate, is the University’s namesake. Presidents, billionaires and Rhodes Scholars are only some of the illustrious graduates; in fact, Harvard has more Nobel Prize-winning alumni,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Boston Shopping Areas

Boston Shopping Areas

One of the top shopping destinations in the US northeast, Boston has a strong network of interesting stores, galleries and boutiques to visit along with its many high-class shops, some of which are nestled inside historical buildings. Shopping here in more than one way mirrors the city itself: an amalgamation of classic and vanguard, the handmade and the high-end, and both local and international...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Historical Cambridge MA Walking Tour

Historical Cambridge MA Walking Tour

Once a quiet New England farming village-turned capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, today's Cambridge, MA is a university town that dazzles visitors as the home of renowned Harvard University – alma mater of many intellectuals, literary geniuses, celebrities, and wealthy and powerful. Many of America’s elite have spent some time at Harvard, and their contributions to Cambridge have...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles

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...