Although not as high on the typical tourist bucket list of the USA as many other cities and attractions, Boston is full of history and beauty, and is, I think, one of the most accessible cities for tourists. Depending on your time constraints, I would say the optimal length of stay would be around four days, however, if you’ve only got one to spare, it’s easy to hit up some of the most important places and experience some of the best of what Boston has to offer.
We’re going to be starting in Charlestown, the oldest town in Boston, and situated across the Charles River. After enjoying a breakfast, it’s time to start on the Boston Freedom Trail. This is the go-to guide if you only have a limited time in the city, as it will take you past all of the historical monuments and must-see sights. A free map is available for download online (included below), or, if you’re like me and prefer the hardcopy, a guide book can be picked up for around $8USD at many of the tourist shops around town. If you’re really game you can just follow the red painted trail on the footpaths of the walk, however as I’m going to be taking you on a few detours, the map is your best bet for finding your way back. However, instead of walking the trail up towards Charlestown, the best way is to start in Charlestown, and work your way back towards the commons. The guide book and website both provide great historical detail about each site.
9:00am: You’ll be starting your day at the Bunker Hill Monument, which marks the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. Here you can take time to visit the museum, which opens daily from 9-5 (or 6 during the summer months) or simply enjoy the area.
10:30am: From Bunker Hill, you’ll make your way towards Downton Boston (skipping the USS Constitution stop, however you can add this in if it tickles your fancy) in order to visit Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and the Old North Church. On the way you’ll cross the Charlestown Bridge, which serves as a great viewpoint for photographers keen on capturing shots of the iconic Zakim Bridge. From there, I recommend you make a slight detour and venture along Commercial St in order to see some of the many warfs. Once at the burying ground and church, take your time to explore the many old tombstones, or wander through the oldest standing church in Boston.
12:30 pm: After following the trail past Paul Revere’s House you’ll find yourself at Faneuil Hall, and amongst some of the best market place food you’ll find. At both the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and adjoining Quincy Market you can try the famous clam chowder, or any variety of sugar-covered candy apples. Here you can stop off for a much needed lunch break. While there are many restaurants within both markets, I recommend a stroll through the market vendors – there is sure to be something that will take your fancy. (and if you’re a fan, be sure to check out the replica Cheer’s bar – I’ll be taking you to the real thing a little later on!)
2:30pm: From here we’re going to take a bit of a detour, following along Court Street and then onto Cambridge Street to make our way to Otis House (direction included below), which is the last surviving mansion in Bowdoin Square. Tours run every half hour, with entry at $10USD. This visit to the family home of Harrison Gray Otis, a prominent figure and once mayor of Boston, is a nice change of pace from the types of monuments and buildings visited along the trail.
4:00pm: Follow Hancock St and then Joy St until you reach Beacon St, where you will turn right and continue on until you reach Cheers Beacon Hill for an afternoon drink stop. Once the Bull and Finch Pub, this establishment is known for its use as the exterior establishing shots for the hit sitcom Cheers.
5:00pm: Cross Beacon St and enter the wonderful Boston Commons. Boston’s answer to Central Park, there is so much to see: including the public gardens and, in winter, the Frog Pond ice-skating rink. You’ve now got free time to relax and take in the splendid gardens.
8:00pm: After dinner at your place of choice, I recommend catching on of the great shows on offer. The Boston Ballet is a particular recommendation, as not only will you be in for a wonderful show, but you’ll also get to experience the grandeur of the Boston Opera House.
Boston Freedom Trail: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/pdfs/boston-nps-map.pdf
Otis House: http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/otis-house
Boston Ballet: http://www.bostonballet.org/