Boston is one of the oldest cities in America, it’s where the Revolution began and the country started, and it’s therefore chock full of historical sites. These sites have been well preserved and by touring around to see them, you can get quite a nice feel for the city, seeing it’s different neighborhoods and districts as you go! Read on for the 17 best historical sites in Boston and why I think you should go see all of them:
- Massachusetts State House. Designed by the architect who put his stamp on countless buildings around the city, Charles Bulfinch, the State House is a beautiful center for all state politics, topped with a stunning gold dome. And as the joke goes, only in Boston could the “New” State House have been built in 1798.
- Boston Public Garden. The first public botanical garden in the country, the Public Garden was created to be a lush green space in the bustling city that was developing here. It’s now a favorite spot for Bostonians to enjoy a stroll, for visitors to take a swan boat ride inspired by the opera Lohengrin, and for kids to play leapfrog on the brass ducks from Make Way for Ducklings.
- Union Oyster House. The oldest restaurant in Boston, and perhaps the oldest in America, this restaurant undeniably serves up the best seafood in the city. In all its years, it has seen a lot of notable customers, including JFK while he lived on Beacon Hill, Daniel Webster who would have six plates of oysters and two pints of beer for breakfast, and Louis Philippe when he lived in the floor above the restaurant teaching French before he had to go back to France to be King after Napoleon was exiled!
- USS Constitution. Over in the Charlestown Navy Yard you’ll find the USS Constitution, a beautifully maintained US Navy ship that’s open for the public to tour. It’s the oldest commissioned navy ship afloat in the whole world! This and the other Navy Yard attractions are free to the public.
- Old State House. This site of the Boston Massacre and the first reading of the Declaration of Independence here in Boston, the Old State House was the center of action back in the day. It’s now preserved as a museum, and every 4th of July they read the Declaration of Independence again from the balcony!
- South Station. Since 1899 this has been the transportation hub of the city, and in the early 1900s it was the busiest terminal in the country. At one point there was serious discussion about demolishing this building and replacing it with a more modern one, but Jackie Onassis Kennedy convinced the forces that be to keep it (just like she did with Grand Central Station in NYC!).
- Old North Church. One if by land, two if by sea. The famous warning that the British were coming was sent from atop this church steeple over to Charlestown, where Paul Revere and his compatriots began their Midnight Ride to warn the troops in Lexington and Concord. This church played a vital role in the start of the American Revolution!
- Fenway Park. The Green Monster is the oldest baseball park in America, and it’s arguably the most beloved. Despite nearly a century of no World Series wins, Boston still has the most die-hard fan base and the action all goes down here at Fenway Park!
- Boston Common. It’s the oldest public park in the country and in its early days, the park served as a grazing field for cattle. In fact it was so popular that they had to set a limit of 50 cows at a time! Now, it’s the perfect place for a picnic, a walk, or a game of frisbee! During the summer you’ll find Shakespeare on the Common performances and in the winter you’ll see kids sledding down the hill through the snow here.
- Paul Revere House. This tiny home is where the famed Revolutionary hero lived with his wife and 16 children. I don’t know how he did it! His home is in the North End and it’s where much of the Revolution was planned and schemed.
- Omni Parker House. Most importantly, this is where Boston Creme Pie was invented! It’s also where Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh spent time working in the kitchen, and where JFK proposed to Jackie O and then had his bachelor party. There is no finer accommodation for a stay or a dinner, than the Omni Parker House.
- King’s Chapel. Originally built as the first Anglican church in the colonies, King’s Chapel now serves as a Unitarian Universalist church. Somewhere along the line it was also converted from a wooden structure to a stone one, which was accomplished by building the stone structure around the existing wooden church and then disassembling the wood! The adjacent burying ground was the first in the city and houses such notable figures as John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts.
- Custom House Tower. Boston’s area is 2/3 landfill, so before the land was filled in it was marshes and ocean. The Custom House Tower was originally at the edge of the city, it was where ships would come to pay their customs when they came to port. Consequently it was also the tallest building in the city during the years when Boston was the busiest shipping port in the country, because that way the tax collectors could monitor all the ships coming in to ensure they paid their dues.
- Quincy Market. Right next to the Custom House Tower is Quincy Market, where the ships would go to sell the goods they had just brought to port. It continues to serve as a market of sorts, where you can find great shopping and eating, with an abundance of street performers!
- Granary Burying Ground. It only dates back to 1660, making it the city’s 3rd oldest, but this burial ground houses some of Boston’s most notable and famous figures. John Hancock, Paul Revere, the Boston Massacre victims, and Samuel Adams are here. And across the street at Beantown Pub you can have a cold Sam Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams; it doesn’t get any more historic than that, folks.
- Bell in Hand Tavern. It’s the oldest continuously operating bar in the country, since it’s first pint served in 1795. The Bell in Hand Tavern isn’t known for much more than that, but it’s one of the only historic sites in the city where you can enjoy a cold brew, as they say.
- Park Street Church. Sitting next to the Boston Common and down the hill from the State House, the Park Street Church holds a claim to fame as the birthplace of the famous patriotic song My country ’tis of thee.
I’m excited just telling you about all the historic splendor that Boston has to offer, and it’s the opportunity to share this with you that makes me so grateful for the training I had as a duck boat tour guide. There are many ways to see and experience Boston but you would be remiss to not visit these 17 excellent historic sites!