North End Walking Tour, Boston

North End Walking Tour (Self Guided), Boston

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 addition to being a foodie paradise, the North End is also home to some of most important historical landmarks in the city.

Make sure to stop by Paul Revere’s historic home – the oldest still standing building in Boston, where you may learn more about its famous owner than you ever knew. It certainly is interesting to see how people lived back in the 1700s, while also learning about the Revolutionary War and birth of the Nation.

Other places of interest are represented by the city’s oldest active church (Old North Church) and the nearby Copp's Hill Burying Ground with its remarkably beautiful headstones – very Victorian Gothic in style. You can even see the tomb of Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister that was a central figure of the Salem witch trials.

The route ends at the Charleston Bridge which, besides being a sight to behold, allows a terrific view of The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge at the same time.

The North End neighborhood is one of those where it's easy to get lost, so take our self-guided walking tour to appreciate its main historical landmarks and thoroughfares – a nice way to “lose yourself” while staying on the right course.
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North End Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: North End Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Boston (See other walking tours in Boston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: anna
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hanover Street
  • Paul Revere House
  • St. Leonard's Church and Peace Garden
  • Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate
  • Old North Church
  • Copp's Hill Burying Ground
  • Charlestown Bridge
Hanover Street

1) Hanover Street

Hanover Street is located in the North End of Boston. The North End has been a community since 1646. Within three years, it had its church and the North Meeting House. One of the oldest streets in Boston is Hanover Street. As a native American pathway, Hanover Street long preceded the Pilgrims. It was called Orange Tree Lane at first. In 1708 it was named Hanover for the Royal line of Hanover.

Hanover Street is presently the home of many small businesses, cafes, and restaurants, mostly Italian. The part of the street between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Union Street is closed Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate the Haymarket, Boston's centuries-old outdoor market.

Since Orange Tree Lane became Hanover Street, the street and its neighborhood have morphed several times. In 1824 North Street and old Middle Street were made a part of Hanover. In the 1950s, the section of Hanover Street, cut by Cross Street and Blackstone Street, was demolished to make way for the all-defacing Central Artery.

The unsightly Central Artery was eventually excised as a part of the Big Dig and replaced by the serenely attractive Rose Kennedy Greenway. More demolishing came along in the 1960s to establish the new Government Center.

The North End and Hanover Street have two irresistible attractions for visitors: great food and rich history. Start a walking tour in the North End of the historic Italian neighborhood. Snack, sample, and dine; fresh bread, salumeria (Italian deli), fruit, and cheeses. Spend half a day strolling this lively neighborhood.
Paul Revere House

2) Paul Revere House (must see)

The Paul Revere House is the colonial home of American patriot Paul Revere during the time of the American Revolution. A prominent Boston industrialist, Revere is best known for his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia in April 1775 to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord. He also helped organize an intelligence and alarm system to keep watch on the British military.

His house 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 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, 90 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 with only four rooms to see, providing a good sense of the style and scale of homes back in the 1700s. It's a short house tour but the knowledgeable staff 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 this 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
St. Leonard's Church and Peace Garden

3) St. Leonard's Church and Peace Garden

Take the time to visit this unique church, run by Franciscan friars and with quite a bit of historic relevance! Lying at the heart of the North End since the 1870s, St. Leonard's is the first Roman Catholic establishment in New England and is known for housing St. Anthony's shrine, the oldest of its kind in Boston.

From the street, the lovely Peace Garden will draw you in. After looking around there, step into the upper church to see all of the colorful statues of saints that line the sides, the beautiful stations of the cross, as well as the frescos and stained glass. From an artistic perspective, regardless of faith (or lack thereof), St. Leonard's is definitely worth your time.

There is no entry fee, but the gift shop has plenty of ways to spend a few dollars.
Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate

4) Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate

Tucked away next to the Old North Church on the Freedom Trail, this cute little colonial-style shop is a great place to stop into while if you are a chocoholic AND a history buff. The animated staff at Captain Jackson's will explain how chocolate was consumed and prepared back in the day during Revolutionary times (from the cacao bean to the finished beverage), and you will learn all sorts of tidbits about how the colonists liked their chocolate and about British taxation ramifications affecting how they prepared it. On most days you will get to sample it (in drinking form) based on the historic recipe, which is absolutely delicious and rich.

Be forewarned: All employees are dressed in full colonial garb (long skirts, buckled shoes, aprons..) and speak as if they are living in the time period they represent. But though they may not know what a candy bar is, they are all quite knowledgable about the products in the shop. Apart from chocolate gifts, the shelves are full with unique things to buy, from Old North Church/Boston memorabilia to antique cooking knick-knacks.

Be sure to check out the historic printing press (with a live demo) right next door, which is also a fun and informative stop.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
Old North Church

5) 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.
Copp's Hill Burying Ground

6) 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.
Charlestown Bridge

7) Charlestown Bridge

The Charlestown Bridge (also called the North Washington Street Bridge) is located in Boston and spans the Charles River. As the river's easternmost crossing, the bridge connects the neighborhoods of Charlestown and the North End. Completed in 1900, the bridge carries a portion of the Freedom Trail linking to the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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