Ready to take an unforgettable walk through Boston's history?
The red stripe marking the Freedom Trail stretches for 2.5 miles (4 km) through Boston's most historic neighborhoods, and takes you to 16 sites important to the birth of American liberty.
Not surprisingly, the Freedom Trail is Boston's most popular tourist attraction.
Boston has more sites related to the American Revolution and America's fight for independence than any other city.
Best of all, they're within easy walking distance of each other.
As you walk along the Trail, you'll travel through Historic Downtown Boston, the North End, and Charlestown, from Boston Common to the Charlestown waterfront.
All of these sites are the real thing - not re-creations or reproductions.
When you visit Paul Revere's house, for example, you go inside his actual house where he lived with his wife and his 16 children.
Near the Trail, you can find additional historic sites such as the historic Green Dragon Tavern where Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and other Sons of Liberty spied on the Redcoats and planned their Tea Party.
Starting at the first site, here's a quick look at what you'll find along the Freedom Trail, where to get a free Freedom Trail map, some fun guided tours, and nearby hotels.
Boston Common marks the start of the Freedom Trail.
Stroll across the Common's green slopes, and you'll be tracing the footsteps of Boston's first Puritan settlers.
You'll walk past areas where Colonial militias trained, where public hangings took place over the span of 3 centuries, and where British troops camped out before heading to Concord on the first day of the American Revolution.
At the edge of the Common next to Beacon Street, spend a few moments at Augustus Saint-Gaudens' magnificent memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, one of the first official African-American units to fight on the side of the United States during the Civil War.
Boston Insider Tip - Where to Get a Free Freedom Trail Map
Before you leave the Common, walk over the the Visitor Information Center (147 Tremont Street), and pick up a free National Park Service map of the Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail.
To get the free NPS map, you have to go up to the counter at the Visitor Center and ask for the "free Freedom Trail map."
The maps in the display racks are not free.
Despite being completed after the end of the Revolutionary War, the Massachusetts State House embodies the self-governance ideals that the Patriots won.
Revolutionary hero and Massachusetts State Governor Samuel Adams laid the State House's cornerstone, famous architect Charles Bulfinch designed it, and its golden dome gleams high above Boston Common and Beacon Hill.
Impressive collections of art and historic memorabilia give you reason enough to visit (free admission), plus you can also see the government and legislative chambers.
The soaring steeple of Park Street Church is now somewhat dwarfed by taller buildings, but it used to be the first landmark that people saw when coming to Boston.
A number of "firsts" promoting American freedom, human rights, and social justice took place in this historic Downtown Boston landmark, including William Lloyd Garrison's first major speech in Boston against slavery in 1829.
Granary Burying Ground, one of Boston's oldest historic sites, dates from 1660.
Due to all the famous patriots and Revolutionary War heroes buried here, it is sometimes called the "Westminster Abbey" of Boston.
Wander through the shaded slopes and you'll discover the graves of Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and the Boston Massacre victims.
Boston's Puritans fled England to escape religious persecution. Not surprisingly, Church of England religious services were banned in Boston.
So imagine the Puritans' outrage when the English king demanded they build King's Chapel, an Anglican church, on part of a Puritan graveyard (now called King's Chapel Burying Ground).
Like Park Street Church, King's Chapel is still home to an active religious congregation, and is the site of weekly concerts.
King's Chapel Burying Ground is Boston's oldest graveyard.
You'll find intricately carved gravestones for many of the first English settlers in this tranquil spot.
Look for the one showing Father Time wrestling with Death. And if you enjoy ghost stories, this burying ground has a real chiller.
Born poor in Boston in 1706, Benjamin Franklin became a printer, publisher, political thinker, scientist, writer, inventor, and statesman.
He got his start by writing for his brother's newspaper under the name of Mrs. Silence Dogood - until his jabs at witch-hunter Reverend Cotton Mather and other Puritan political powers in Boston landed him in hot water, causing him to flee to Philadelphia.
Built in 1718 and one of Boston's oldest brick buildings, the Old Corner Bookstore has always been a commercial space.
Once occupied by the company that published famous 19th century authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and many others, the mellow red brick building now houses a fast food chain.
On December 16, 1773, Boston's Old South Meeting House, scene of many speeches supporting liberty, a crowd of 5,000 Colonists waited tensely to hear if ships carrying British tea would be allowed to leave Boston Harbor and go back to England.
When the answer came back as "No!" - meaning they'd have to pay tax on it - they decided to have a tea party in Boston Harbor.
The Massachusetts Assembly and the British Royal Governors met and clashed in the Old State House until the Revolutionary War.
Patriots made some of their most compelling arguments against British tyranny here, and on July 18, 1776, Colonists gathered around an outside balcony to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud for the first time in Massachusetts.
The British occupied Boston in 1768 and tension filled the tavern-lined streets - an explosive combination. On March 5, 1770, a street brawl left 5 colonists dead, killed by Redcoats in what the local Sons of Liberty quickly called the Boston Massacre.
Did the Colonists provoke them? Probably.
Back in 1742, wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil decided Boston needed a marketplace so he built Faneuil Hall and donated it to Boston.
After Sam Adams and other Sons of Liberty made fiery speeches here, it became known as "The Cradle of Liberty."
Today, Faneuil Hall Marketplace continues to be one of Boston's most popular shopping areas.
Crafted from carved timbers and wooden pegs, Paul Revere's house, a medieval-style structure in Boston's historic North End neighborhood, is the only 17th century wood dwelling still standing in its original Boston site.
Open today as a museum, the house displays examples of Revere's metal work - spoons, bowls, dental wiring, bells, engraving plates - as well as late 17th century maps, furniture, and furnishings.
Not far away from Paul Revere's house stands Old North Church. Built in 1723, it is the oldest place of worship still existing in Boston and has an active Episcopal congregation.
In 1775, sexton Robert Newman, a friend of Paul Revere, hung 2 lanterns from the steeple to warn Charleston Patriots about British plans to go by water to Concord.
The best way to access Old North Church: walk along Hanover street to the Prado where a statue of Paul Revere on horseback frames a view of the church's famous steeple.
You can still see gravestones with pockmarks from musket balls, made when Redcoats used Copp's Hill Burial Ground, dating from 1660 and the 2nd oldest cemetery in Boston, for target practice.
Take a close look at the oldest tombstones, and you'll find memorable representations of Death.
Generals watched from this hill in 1775 as their troops burned Charlestown to the ground - and continued watching in horror as half of their men died during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Nearby is the site of a later horror, the Great Molasses Flood.
Built in 1793 to protect U.S. merchant ships from attacks by the Barbary pirates, the wooden USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
Nicknamed "Old Ironsides" after the War of 1812, the Constitution offers free tours by the Navy crew.
If you're walking the Freedom Trail with kids, this is likely to be their favorite spot.
17. Bunker Hill
The soaring 221 foot Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, and also the deadliest.
Fought on Breed's Hill, half a mile from the real Bunker Hill, the battle lasted only 2 hours. Although the British won the battle, it strengthened the resolve of the Patriots to win the war.
A small history museum (free admission) across from the site on Monument Street displays historic weapons, battle information, and other artifacts - well worth a visit!
Freedom Trail Essentials
Hours: Outdoor Freedom Trail sites such as Boston Common and monuments all day, every day. Graveyards are open only during daylight hours - unless you're on one of the special Ghosts and Gravestones Tours.
Visitor hours for indoor sites vary, so call or check the website for each site that you want to visit.
Churches still in use for worship hold services on Sunday and sometimes at other times which you're welcome to attend; these sites are not open to Trail visitors during these times.
Accessibility: Although many of the sites are wheelchair accessible, some are not due to their age and historical preservation restrictions, so check in advance at each site if applicable.
Cost: Most sites are free. The churches gratefully accept contributions to help with maintenance; King's Chapel charges a small fee (donated to musicians) for concerts. Three sites (Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Paul Revere's House) charge modest fees for adults, with reduced rates for children, seniors, and students.
Parking: Choices near the ends and middle of the Freedom Trail include:
- Boston Common Parking Garage, below Boston Common. Enter on Charles Street
- Parking garages near the North End - these also work well for the Faneuil Hall area
- A limited number of parking spaces as well as commercial parking garages are available in the Charlestown Navy Yard near the USS Constitution site
Planning to stay near the Freedom Trail, but not sure where? The Freedom Trail goes through 3 distinct areas: Beacon Hill/Historic Downtown, the North End, and Charlestown. Each areas offers appealing hotels near the Trail:
Beacon Hill/Historic Downtown:
- Omni Parker House - Where Boston Cream Pie began in 1856 and you can savor it today - Rates and Reservations
- Millennium Bostonian - Next to Faneuil Marketplace - Compare rates & reviews
- More Historic Downtown hotels
- Fairmont Battery Wharf - Gorgeous new luxury waterfront hotel - Rates & reviews
- Marriott Long Wharf - Next to the Aquarium on the Downtown Waterfront - Rates & reviews
- More North End hotels
Boston abounds with historic sites. These are especially close to the Freedom Trail, so don't miss them: