As America’s Walking City, Boston makes it easy to pack a lot into a visit in a short time, from checking out historic attractions to dining on all the seafood you can eat.
Here are some of our favorite spots in the Hub of the Universe.
Walk Through History
Follow the 2.5-mile line, alternately painted red or paved in red brick, to some of the city’s most important historic sights. The Freedom Trail officially includes 16 different spots, including Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, King’s Chapel and the Bunker Hill Monument.
Sign up for one of many guided tours or set off on your own to explore. A good place to start is from the Boston Common Visitor Information Center.
For another perspective, venture to Beacon Hill to find the Black Heritage Trail. This 1.6-mile route includes 14 stops that spotlight the largely overlooked history of Boston’s African American community. Explore independently or take advantage of one of the National Park Service’s free daily tours.
Go Green on the Emerald Necklace
Another way to trek about town is through its green spaces. Running seven miles from one end of the city to the other, the Emerald Necklace is a historic, 1,000-plus acre chain of parks worth seeing — it was imagined in the late 19th century by landscape architect and Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted.
Any one of the parks along the route — Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park — provides a peaceful respite from the bustle of Boston.
Eat Your Way Through the North End
Commonly referred to as Boston’s “Little Italy,” the North End is a wonderland of tempting spots to eat and drink, from coffee shops, cafés and gelaterias to restaurants, bars and bakeries.
Cannoli (rolled, fried pastry shells filled with sweet ricotta cheese) are a must-have local treat. To sample some of these classic Italian desserts, go to Hanover Street, the main drag through the neighborhood where Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry battle it out to be the city’s favorite.
Head to Historic Fenway Park
Boston’s loyal sports fans are legendary, but whether or not you care about trophies and titles, Fenway Park is worth seeing. As the nation’s oldest Major League Baseball park (home to the Boston Red Sox since 1912), it is a revered landmark.
You don’t have to know who Mookie Betts or Rafael Devers are to enjoy the charms of the stadium. Tours run year-round and guides offer fun trivia as they lead you all over the park, even to the coveted seats above the 37-foot left field wall affectionately known as the Green Monster.
Enjoy a Day of Culture
It’s impossible to exaggerate the immensity of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boasting one of the most extensive art collections in the world, the gallery houses more than half a million objects spanning from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern-day installations.
In the Art of the Americas Wing alone, there are 49 galleries showcasing iconic pieces, from pre-Columbian times to the 20th century. John Singer Sargent’s 19th-century portraits are a highlight, along with works from colonial-era painter John Singleton Copley and early-20th-century artist Edward Hopper, to name just a few.
For an excellent introduction to the collection, take the museum’s guided tour — it’s included with admission.
Discover Some Special Art
In 1860, Isabella Stewart came to the city from New York to marry John Lowell Gardner, one of Boston’s leading citizens. “Mrs. Jack,” as she became known, quickly set about disregarding societal norms of the day, building a gorgeous Venetian palazzo, complete with a beautiful interior courtyard, to hold her ever-growing collection of art. She entertained leading luminaries such as Henry James and Edith Wharton here.
Today, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is exactly as she left it, as she stipulated in her will. Go there to see masterpieces like Titian’s Rape of Europa, Giotto’s Presentation of Christ in the Temple and John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo.
See the Swans in the Public Garden
Established in 1837, this verdant space was America’s first public botanical garden, and it remains a beautifully serene place in the middle of the city. Spring and summer are especially scenic times, when the four-acre park’s colorful flowers and exotic trees are in full bloom.
One of Boston’s most iconic attractions is the Public Garden’s Victorian-era Swan Boats, which float around the picturesque lagoon and take passengers on a charming 15-minute ride during warmer months.
The park is also home to the famous Make Way for Ducklings statue. This bronze sculpture of a duck and her eight ducklings is a hit with families.
Take a Ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands
To experience one of the city’s hidden-in-plain-sight gems, hop on a ferry bound for the Boston Harbor Islands. This spacious state park is made up of 34 islands and peninsulas, each with its own charms.
History buffs should head for Georges Island (home to the Civil War-era Fort Warren), while outdoor enthusiasts should make their way to Spectacle Island for its popular beach and 155-foot lookout over the harbor. The latter also plays host to a regular roster of events during summer, including jazz concerts, clambakes and alfresco yoga sessions.
Try the Seafood
New England is synonymous with seafood, and Boston is teeming with spots to savor the ocean’s bounty.
For a classic lobster roll, swing by the Seaport District’s James Hook & Co., a historic shanty that has been selling crustaceans since 1925. When you search for more upscale environs, visit Legal Harborside, the flagship restaurant of one of the area’s most famous exports, Legal Sea Foods.
Renowned local chefs like Barbara Lynch and Lydia Shire serve plenty of fresh fish at their restaurants, too, including respective establishments Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Menton and Scampo.
Stroll through Beacon Hill
Beyond quaint, historic Beacon Hill is a photographer’s dream with cobblestone streets, 19th-century rowhouses and gas lamps galore.
Make sure to wander down scenic Acorn Street (one of the city’s most photographed avenues) before browsing the boutiques, antique shops and cafés lining Charles Street. Mt. Vernon Street is also worth a peek for its former famous residents, including the aforementioned Henry James (No. 131), “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” writer Julia Ward Howe (No. 32) and New England poet Robert Frost (No. 88).
Some of the neighborhood’s more renowned landmarks include Boston Common, the Public Garden and the gold-domed State House.