Salem Introduction Walking Tour, Salem

Salem Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Salem

While first-time visitors to Salem won't want to miss the city's plethora of witch-themed attractions – the Witch House and Salem Witch Trials Memorial are two of the most popular – there is more to this mysterious city than just witchcraft. Salem boasts everything from spectacular 17th-century architecture to tranquil beaches and world-class art museums. Check out Salem's extensive collection of Asian art on exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum, or head to The House of the Seven Gables for a dose of local history. Meanwhile, families should hit up Salem Willows Park for a picnic and some classic arcade games. And if retail therapy is on the agenda, Essex Street Pedestrian Mall offers an array of unique shops and eateries worth exploring. ***PH***
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Salem Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Salem Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Salem (See other walking tours in Salem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Salem Common (Washington Square)
  • Peabody Essex Museum
  • Essex Street Pedestrian Mall
  • Witch History Museum
  • Derby Square and Old Town Hall
  • Bewitched Statue
  • Salem City Hall
  • Federal Street District and Essex County Court Buildings
  • Witch Dungeon Museum
  • Chestnut Street District
  • Salem Witch Trials Memorial
  • Old Burying Point Cemetery
  • Pickering Wharf
Salem Common (Washington Square)

1) Salem Common (Washington Square)

Salem Common, or Washington Square as it is also known, has played an integral role in the life of the city since its formal designation as a training field in 1714.

It wasn't until 1802 that the Common underwent significant enhancements. This open expanse was thoughtfully leveled, and soon after, a wood fence and gates were erected, marking the beginning of its transformation into a desirable residential neighborhood. Over the next two decades, Salem's leading merchants seized the opportunity to build grand Neo-Classical mansions facing the Common, creating an awe-inspiring architectural ensemble. Among these elegant structures stands the Andrew-Safford House, a masterpiece of Neo-Classical design dating back to 1818, gracing 13 Washington Square West. As the neighborhood continued to evolve, various revival-style houses sprang up on the remaining lots, forming a captivating concentration of early to mid-19th-century dwellings.

In 1850, the iconic wood fence that encircled the Common was replaced with an ornate cast iron fence adorned with distinctive pineapple finials and stately granite entry posts, adding a touch of elegance to this historic space. Salem Common's transformation continued in 1926 when a new Colonial Revival-style bandstand, designed by architect Philip Horton Smith, was erected in the center of the Common, commemorating Salem's Tercentennial. This bandstand has since been a focal point for community gatherings and events.

Throughout its storied history, Salem Common has been a hub for public gatherings and a place of refuge. In 1914, when the Great Salem Fire devastated the city, the Common served as a temporary home for many residents who had lost their houses.

The Washington Square District, encompassing Salem Common, is not only home to this historic green space but also hosts several other notable landmarks. The Hawthorne Inn (Hotel), constructed in 1925, adds a touch of modernity to the district. The Essex Institute complex, now part of the Peabody Essex Museum, stands as a testament to Salem's rich cultural heritage. A statue of Salem's founder, Roger Conant, sculpted by H.H. Kitson in 1913, provides a link to the city's earliest days. The Civil War Memorial at the head of Winter Street reminds visitors of the sacrifices made during this pivotal period in American history. Additionally, the Phillips School, dating back to 1883, is an important part of the district's educational legacy.

Salem Common, or Washington Square as it is also known, continues to be a vibrant gathering place for the community, where the echoes of history meet the aspirations of the present. It embodies the enduring spirit of Salem, where elegance and civic pride coexist in harmony with the city's storied past and its ever-evolving future.
Peabody Essex Museum

2) Peabody Essex Museum (must see)

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), dating back to the late 18th century, PEM is a captivating institution that seamlessly blends art, heritage, and a fascination with the wider world.

The origins of PEM trace back to the East India Marine Society, established in 1799 by a group of intrepid Salem-based captains and supercargoes. These visionary individuals were driven by a charter that required them to collect "natural and artificial curiosities" from distant lands beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Equally remarkable was their mandate to personally circumnavigate the globe, sharing their navigational discoveries with fellow society members to enhance their chances of safe return. This extraordinary commitment to exploration and knowledge gathering laid the foundation for what would become the Peabody Essex Museum.

A pivotal moment in PEM's history occurred in the 1820s when the East India Marine Society erected the magnificent East India Marine Hall, which stands today as a National Historic Landmark embedded within the museum's expansive facilities. This historic hall served as a showcase for the society's eclectic collection, reflecting the members' insatiable curiosity and their deep connections to the wider world.

In 1867, the Peabody Academy of Science (later renamed the Peabody Museum of Salem) acquired both the collection and the East India Marine Hall building, thus continuing the legacy of exploration and cultural preservation. The merger of these institutions in 1992 marked the birth of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Today, the Peabody Essex Museum houses an astonishingly diverse array of artifacts and artworks, with a total collection numbering around 1.3 million pieces. One of its most celebrated treasures is its significant collection of Asian art, making it a pivotal hub for the appreciation of Eastern aesthetics in the United States.

Beyond its extensive collections, PEM also boasts a collection of twenty-two historic buildings, each with its own unique story to tell. These structures add depth and dimension to the visitor experience, providing insights into the history and culture of the region.
Essex Street Pedestrian Mall

3) Essex Street Pedestrian Mall

Nestled in the heart of downtown Salem, the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall beckons visitors and residents alike to immerse themselves in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. This historic cobblestone-and-brick street, now closed off to vehicle traffic, serves as a captivating hub of attractions, museums, shops, restaurants, cafes, and more. It's a place where the past and present converge, offering an experience that captures the essence of Salem's charm.

For those with a penchant for retail therapy, Essex Street does not disappoint. Regularly lined with an array of stores and merchants, it offers a delightful shopping experience. From unique boutiques and art galleries to quaint shops brimming with curiosities, there's something to pique everyone's interest.

As you explore the pedestrian mall, your senses will be tantalized by the aromas wafting from the many restaurants and cafes that line the street. From savory seafood to international cuisine and delectable desserts, the dining options are as diverse as they are delicious.

One of the most anticipated events on Essex Street is the annual Street Fair, a lively celebration sponsored by the Salem Chamber of Commerce. This weekend extravaganza transforms the mall into a vibrant and bustling hub of activity. The street comes alive with music, colorful decorations, and the cheerful chatter of visitors and residents alike. It's an opportunity to experience Salem's sense of community, creativity, and fun.
Witch History Museum

4) Witch History Museum (must see)

The Witch History Museum is a captivating institution that offers a unique and immersive journey into the enigmatic events that unfolded during the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

The Witch History Museum takes visitors on a riveting exploration of the Salem witch trials, shedding light on the little-known stories of nineteen accused "witches" who tragically lost their lives during this tumultuous period. Through meticulously crafted dioramas and engaging first-person narratives, the museum delves into the hysteria that gripped Salem and the surrounding region. It presents a balanced and thorough examination of the events leading up to and following the trials, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the social, cultural, and psychological factors at play during this tumultuous time.

Founded in 1972, the Salem Witch Museum has since become a regional expert on the Salem Witch Trials. Its inception coincided with a surge in public interest in this historical chapter, fueled in part by literary works like Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." Today, it continues to attract visitors from across the globe, serving as a hub for education and exploration of this intriguing and often perplexing piece of history.

The museum's narrative unfolds in two distinct parts. The initial portion of the tour focuses on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, using trial documents and meticulously designed, illuminated setpieces to vividly recount the harrowing events. It transports visitors to the heart of the trials, offering a visceral and empathetic understanding of the fear, accusations, and consequences that defined this period. Importantly, the museum's content is presented in a manner that is suitable for a wide range of audiences, including children.

Following the immersive historical segment, the tour pivots to explore modern witchcraft practices, the Wiccan religion, and the broader context of witch hunts that occurred after the Salem Witch Trials.

It's important to note that the museum's popularity often results in large crowds, so visitors typically receive timed-entry stickers for later in the day.
Derby Square and Old Town Hall

5) Derby Square and Old Town Hall

Derby Square, a quaint plaza in the center of Salem, derives its name from the prominent Derby family. Elias Hasket Derby, often referred to as "King Derby" and one of the wealthiest individuals in New England, once owned the land. His legacy looms large in the annals of Salem's history. As you stroll through Derby Square, you're retracing the footsteps of a merchant dynasty that played a pivotal role in shaping the city.

Adjacent to Derby Square, Old Town Hall stands as a testament to Federal architecture and the enduring spirit of Salem. Dating back to 1816-17, it is the oldest surviving municipal structure in the city. The building's design showcases the work of both Charles Bulfinch, a renowned Boston architect of the Federal period, and Samuel McIntire, Salem's celebrated architect and woodcarver.

The second floor of Old Town Hall, known as the Great Hall, has always been a cherished space for public gatherings. In its storied past, it also housed town offices until 1837. Today, this space continues to serve as a vital hub for community events and activities, reflecting Salem's commitment to maintaining its historical connections.

The steps between Old Town Hall and Front Street are more than just a passageway; they serve as a vibrant stage for community life. Here, you'll find the Salem Farmers' Market, where fresh produce and local goods abound. The Salem Jazz & Soul Summer Series infuses the air with musical harmony, while the Derby Square Flea and Salvage Market invites treasure hunters to explore eclectic finds.
Bewitched Statue

6) Bewitched Statue

Nestled in the heart of centrally-located Lappin Park in Salem, there stands a delightful and enchanting tribute to a beloved television classic - the Bewitched Statue. This commemorative statue pays homage to Samantha Stephens, the iconic witch from the popular 1960s/1970s TV Land sitcom "Bewitched," and serves as a charming reminder of the show's special connection to Salem.

While "Bewitched" was primarily set in the fictional town of Westport, Connecticut, several later episodes, including the entirety of season 7, were filmed right here in Salem. This picturesque New England town, with its historic streets and charming architecture, provided the perfect backdrop for Samantha Stephens' magical escapades. The show's deep-rooted ties to Salem are celebrated through the presence of this statue.

In honor of the show's 40th anniversary, TV Land unveiled the Bewitched Statue as a fitting tribute to this timeless classic. This life-sized bronze statue captures Samantha Stephens in her signature pose, with a graceful twinkle of the nose, ready to work her enchanting magic. Visitors to the statue often find themselves in line to capture a memorable photo beside this beloved character.

The Bewitched Statue is not just a testament to the enduring popularity of the show but also a testament to the enduring charm of Salem itself. As you stand before the statue, you can't help but be transported back to the whimsical world of Samantha, Darrin, and the rest of the "Bewitched" cast.
Salem City Hall

7) Salem City Hall

The Salem City Hall has been a focal point for civic affairs since its construction in 1838. Designed by the esteemed architect Richard Bond, Salem City Hall holds not only the legacy of its architectural excellence but also the weight of over a century of decision-making and governance.

Salem City Hall is a resplendent example of Greek Revival architecture, a style that was in vogue during the 19th century. Constructed with precision in 1837-38 under the watchful eye of Mayor Leverett Saltonstall and a dedicated committee, the building showcases the hallmark features of Greek Revival design. The exterior is a harmonious blend of materials, with unadorned brick defining the side and rear elevations and dressed granite gracing the main facade.

As you approach Salem City Hall, you are greeted by a facade that exudes grandeur and timeless elegance. Its main facade, framed by four imposing pilasters, stands three bays wide. Each bay houses tall windows, six-over-six in configuration, allowing an abundance of natural light to grace the interior. At the heart of this architectural masterpiece, a central entrance beckons visitors with a short flight of granite steps. Above the entrance, a cast-iron lamp on a bracket extends a warm welcome. The tall front double doors, a testament to craftsmanship, are crafted from mahogany and adorned with brass studs outlining the center panels.

Since its inauguration in 1838, Salem City Hall has been the epicenter of civic life in the city. This two-story building, an architectural marvel, stands as a symbol of governance and the decision-making process. Over the years, it has provided a space for city council meetings and other board and commission gatherings, shaping the trajectory of Salem's development.

In 1878, an extension was added to Salem City Hall, doubling its size and bringing all existing city offices under one roof. Importantly, this extension did not compromise the building's original appearance from the street. It seamlessly expanded the capacity to serve the growing needs of the city while preserving the architectural integrity that makes Salem City Hall an enduring landmark.
Federal Street District and Essex County Court Buildings

8) Federal Street District and Essex County Court Buildings

In the heart of Salem, the Federal Street District stands as a captivating testament to the city's rich history, blending residential charm with the echoes of civic life. This historic district is an expansion of the earlier listing of the Essex County Court Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, further enriching Salem's tapestry of heritage.

At the heart of this district are the stately Essex County Court Buildings, a collection of structures that have borne witness to countless legal proceedings and significant moments in Salem's past. The original court, dating back to 1785, serves as a reminder of the city's early legal infrastructure. Nearby, the Old Granite Courthouse, also known as the County Commissioner's Building, was erected in 1841, showcasing the elegant lines of the Greek Revival architectural style. Adjacent to it stands the Superior Court, an Italianate masterpiece constructed in 1862. This building underwent a transformation into the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style, adding to its grandeur. Although a new court has since been built nearby, these historic structures continue to stand proudly, reminding us of the city's legal legacy.

The Federal Street District expands upon the legal history of the area, encompassing the entire block of Federal Street between Washington and North Streets. This district embraces a range of architectural styles and periods, offering a captivating snapshot of Salem's residential development. Most of the residential properties along this block of Federal Street were constructed between 1810 and 1900, reflecting the evolving tastes and trends of their eras. Notable among these is #47, a Georgian gambrel-roofed house from the latter half of the 18th century, a rare gem that harks back to a bygone era. Italianate and Second Empire stylings dominate the streetscape, with a charming exception in the form of #62, a Colonial Revival house built in 1900.

Standing sentinel at the edge of the district, the Tabernacle Church, while facing Washington Street, abuts Federal Street. This Georgian Revival structure, constructed in 1923, adds a unique architectural touch to the district, offering a glimpse of the city's evolving architectural landscape.
Witch Dungeon Museum

9) Witch Dungeon Museum

The Witch Dungeon Museum offers visitors a chilling and immersive experience that transports them back in time to one of the most infamous chapters in American history - the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. With a unique blend of live re-enactments and a haunting descent into the gaol (dungeon), this museum provides a window into the harrowing events that unfolded during this tumultuous period.

The highlight of the Witch Dungeon Museum experience is undoubtedly the 15-minute live re-enactment of a witch trial. Utilizing historical transcripts for dialogue, the re-enactment offers a fascinating but sobering glimpse into the legal proceedings of the time. Visitors witness the drama and tension of a witch trial as it unfolds before their eyes, immersing them in the fear, accusations, and consequences that gripped Salem in 1692. However, it's worth noting that the use of historical language and transcripts may make it challenging for younger audiences to fully comprehend the proceedings.

Following the live re-enactment, visitors are invited to descend into the gaol, which adds an eerie and somewhat hokey dimension to the experience. Inside the dungeon, mannequins are strategically placed in cells, conveying the grim atmosphere of confinement and fear that accused witches endured. While the setting may have an element of the theatrical, it serves to evoke the somber reality of those who were imprisoned during the trials.

The Witch Dungeon Museum is distinct in that it doesn't rely on a collection of artifacts; rather, its historical value lies in its immersive storytelling. The only tangible relic within the museum is a significant one - a beam from the actual gaol that once stood nearby, serving as a tangible link to the past.

Visitors should be prepared for a chilling conclusion to their journey through the dungeon. The final scene depicts a hanging on Gallows Hill, a stark reminder of the tragic fate that befell some of those accused during the witch trials. This somber depiction serves as a poignant and thought-provoking finale to the museum experience.

While the Witch Dungeon Museum may not appeal to everyone, its immersive approach provides a unique opportunity to engage with the history of the Salem Witch Trials.
Chestnut Street District

10) Chestnut Street District

In the heart of Salem lies Chestnut Street, a captivating thoroughfare steeped in history and resplendent architectural treasures. This distinguished street forms an integral part of the renowned McIntire Historic District, inviting visitors to embark on a captivating journey through time. A stroll along Chestnut Street is a must for anyone with an appreciation for New England's unique and historic homes, boasting an array of Federal-style mansions and antique residences that have earned it the distinction of a Registered National Historic Landmark.

Among its most distinguished landmarks is Hamilton Hall, an elegant edifice constructed in 1805 by Samuel McIntire himself. Named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, one of America's founding fathers, Hamilton Hall has secured its own place on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970.

The Stephen Phillips House, located at 34 Chestnut Street, has been meticulously preserved and now operates as a historic house museum under the aegis of Historic New England. Meanwhile, the Ropes Mansion, a Georgian Colonial marvel from the late 1720s, stands as a testament to the grandeur of that era and is open for public visitation, courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.

The Pickering House, believed to be one of the oldest continuously occupied family homes in the United States, is a colonial masterpiece dating back to c. 1651. It boasts a rich history, having been owned and inhabited by ten successive generations of the Pickering family, including Colonel Timothy Pickering.

The Salem Athenaeum, founded in 1810, stands as one of the oldest private library organizations in the United States. Its presence at 337 Essex Street adds an intellectual dimension to Chestnut Street's historical charm. Nearby, the John Bertram Mansion, an opulent High Style Italianate brick and brownstone residence constructed in 1855, has a story that extends beyond its architectural beauty. Upon Captain John Bertram's passing, his widow transformed the mansion into the Salem Public Library, ensuring its continued relevance to the community.
Salem Witch Trials Memorial

11) Salem Witch Trials Memorial (must see)

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial stands as a solemn tribute to a dark chapter in American history. This poignant memorial, characterized by its striking simplicity, serves as a poignant reminder of the tragic events that unfolded during the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692.

The Memorial's design is both evocative and thought-provoking. It is enclosed on three sides by a meticulously handcrafted granite wall, representing a boundary between the present and the past. As visitors step across the stone threshold to enter this sacred space, they encounter inscriptions etched into the stone, bearing the poignant words of the victims' protests of innocence. These utterances are intentionally interrupted mid-sentence by the unforgiving wall, symbolizing society's chilling indifference to the oppression that transpired during those turbulent times.

Six locust trees, carefully selected for their unique seasonal characteristics, grace the Memorial. These trees, which are the last to flower and the first to shed their leaves, serve as poignant symbols of the injustice that marred the Salem witch trials. They stand as living witnesses to the suffering endured by those who were unjustly accused and persecuted.

Within the Memorial's perimeter, thoughtful benches provide a place for reflection and contemplation. Each bench bears the names and execution dates of the 20 victims of the witch trials. This powerful inclusion personalizes the tragedy, ensuring that the victims are remembered not as mere statistics but as individuals who paid the ultimate price for their unwavering commitment to their personal truths.

Open from dawn till dusk, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial is a place that welcomes all, regardless of age or background.
Old Burying Point Cemetery

12) Old Burying Point Cemetery

Nestled in the heart of Salem, the Old Burying Point Cemetery, also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, stands as a poignant and timeless testament to the rich tapestry of Salem's past. Established in 1637, it is the oldest cemetery in Salem and a revered stop on the Salem Heritage Trail, offering visitors a serene and historic retreat.

One of the most striking features of Old Burying Point Cemetery is the remarkable variety of headstones that dot its landscape. Here, history is etched in stone, quite literally, as most of the headstones are crafted from slate. Some, however, stand as sandstone, schist, or marble testaments to those laid to rest beneath them.

As one traverses the cemetery, they'll find themselves following dirt paths that meander through the meticulously maintained plots, offering a true sense of the cemetery's historical ambiance. Yet, the most poignant and compelling aspect of Old Burying Point Cemetery lies in what no longer exists. Prior to 1673, wooden grave markers, colloquially known as Coffin Posts or Coffin Rails, marked the burials. Regrettably, the ravages of time have erased these markers from the landscape, leaving only echoes of the past.

In 1673, a significant moment in the cemetery's history occurred with the placement of the oldest existing gravestone – the Cromwell stone. This stone marked the resting place of Doraty Cromwell, who passed away on September 27, 1673, at the age of 67. As the years passed, locals began referring to the cemetery as the "common burying place" in 1669 and later as "ye burying point" in 1679. The latter name was likely inspired by the fact that the cemetery was situated like a point of land, surrounded on two sides by the South River.

Despite popular belief, none of the convicted Salem witches were laid to rest here, as they were denied a Christian burial. The fate of their remains remains shrouded in mystery, with family legends suggesting that some were claimed by their kin and buried on private property.
Pickering Wharf

13) Pickering Wharf

Pickering Wharf beckons visitors to embark on a journey through history while indulging in retail therapy and savoring waterfront dining. This charming harbor-side shopping village is a treasure trove of experiences, offering a perfect blend of the old-world charm of Salem and modern-day delights.

As you stroll along its cobblestone streets, you'll be enchanted by the maritime history that permeates the area. The Salem harbor, with its shimmering waters, provides a scenic backdrop to your adventures.

For those with a penchant for shopping, Pickering Wharf is a veritable paradise. Local shops dot the landscape, offering a wide array of handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. Whether you're seeking hand-dyed fabrics, hand-woven textiles, or hand-poured candles, you'll find an assortment of treasures that reflect the artistry and craftsmanship of the region. Waite & Peirce, a beloved fixture at Pickering Wharf, is a captivating curio shop brimming with trinkets, jewelry, home goods, and historical reproductions.

No visit to Pickering Wharf is complete without savoring waterfront dining on the Salem harbor. Sea Level Oyster Bar is a standout choice, offering a delectable seafood experience. For those seeking live music, the Wharf boasts various restaurants and pubs where you can enjoy a meal and entertainment.

The wharf's enchantment extends to the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, established in 1938 as the country's first National Historic Site. Here, nine acres of historic buildings and structures provide ample opportunities for leisurely strolls and captivating history lessons. The site is not only a place for reflection but also a treasure trove for Instagram-worthy moments.

Walking Tours in Salem, Massachusetts

Create Your Own Walk in Salem

Create Your Own Walk in Salem

Creating your own self-guided walk in Salem 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.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site Tour

Salem Maritime National Historic Site Tour

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a National Historic Site consisting of 12 historic structures, one replica tall-ship, and about 9 acres (36,000 m2) of land along the waterfront of Salem Harbor in Salem, Massachusetts, United States. Salem Maritime is the first National Historic Site established in the United States (March 17, 1938).[1] It interprets the Triangle Trade during the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.4 Km or 0.2 Miles
Salem's Historical Homes Walking Tour

Salem's Historical Homes Walking Tour

There’s no shortage of historic homes in Salem, considering that it’s one of the oldest cities in the United States. Even if you’re not really into history, you can appreciate the architectural style of the times. Some of these historic houses are open to the public as museums while others are privately owned. ***PH***

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles