If you’re planning your first-ever trip to Boston, make sure you factor in a little time to walk the amazing Freedom Trail. In my opinion, this is one of the city’s greatest attractions, plunging you into its history and culture and ushering you to its most important sights, all in a 2.5-mile walk.
There are plenty of hostels in central Boston too, which are a reliable choice for keeping the cost of your trip down – though there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels too if you fancy a little extra comfort
The Freedom Trail – background and overview
First of all, let’s take a quick look at what the Freedom Trail is – and exactly why you should make the effort to visit it. A walking route with a difference, the Freedom Trail leads its followers to 16 of the city’s most historically important sites.
It was created back in the 1950s, when Bostonians decided that something needed to be done to safeguard the story of the American Revolution – after all, it did begin in Boston. As a result, the Freedom Trail was born, and today you can clearly see it marked out on the ground with either a painted red line or in brick.
Since it’s so clearly laid out, it’s really easy to follow it independently – and doing so means you can always stop to look at anything that interests you that little bit more closely. Alternatively, go on a 90-minute tour by the Freedom Trail Foundation; this is an absolutely brilliant way of learning more about the sights you’ll pass. And speaking of sights, here are a few of the highlights to whet your appetite…
First on my list is Boston Common, which is the oldest public park in America. It was founded back in 1643 and was used as a place to graze livestock until 1830; since this time, it has also acted as a camp for troops during the British occupation, as well as a site for puritanical punishments. Happily, today it’s used for public events and entertainment – much more appealing!
Massachusetts State House
With its spectacular golden dome, Massachusetts State House is pretty hard to miss. As well as being one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill, it is considered by many to be one of the most impressive state buildings in the country.
Old Corner Bookstore
This is one of my favourite spots on the Freedom Trail. Having begun its life as an apothecary shop, the Old Corner Bookstore opened in 1828 and thrived until 1903, seeing particular success when it was under the management of Ticknor and Fields, which was one of the nation’s favourite publishers in the mid-19th century. It is one of the most historical buildings in Boston.
Bunker Hill Monument
The first thing to remember about Bunker Hill Monument is that despite its name, it is actually on Breed’s Hill. This 221 ft high granite obelisk marks the site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, which took place on June 17th 1775. As a quick tip, you can find out more about the skirmish itself at the nearby Battle of Bunker Hill Museum.
Last on my list is the USS Constitution, which is the oldest commercial warship still afloat today – not only in the US, but in the entire world. Usually she’s berthed at Charlestown Navy Yard, but around six times a year she’ll sail into Boston Harbor. To learn more about her, board the ship for a look around and check out the USS Constitution Museum.