Prudential Skywalk Observatory

View Boston sites and attractions from high in the sky

Boston city scape photo (copyright 2007 F3Rn4nd0) showing John Hancock Tower on right side
View from top of the Pru on a clear winter day - John Hancock Tower on the right

From the Prudential Skywalk Observatory, you'll see all the famous Boston sites in a 360 degree panorama view almost 750 feet above the city.

The Prudential Observatory occupies the 50th floor of Prudential Center. 

Without a doubt, seeing and photographing the city from the Skywalk is one of the most popular of all Boston tourism activities.  You'll usually find plenty of Boston locals there as well.

But did you know, even though the Prudential Skywalk is the only true public observatory in New England, it is not the only observation deck where you can view Boston attractions?

Here's a quick overview of three popular up-in-the-sky Boston observation venues.

 

Prudential Skywalk - Tour Boston from 50 floors up

Prudential Center is the tall building to the right in this photo of Back Bay, Boston, taken from the Cambridge side of the Charles River
Photo of Prudential Center taken from across the Charles River, with Back Bay townhouses bordering the water

The Prudential Center Skywalk is Boston's best known observatory.  Soaring 749 feet high, Pru Center is the 2nd tallest skyscraper in the city.  Although the 790 foot high John Hancock Tower is taller, its observation deck has been closed since September 11, 2001.

Located in Boston's fashionable Back Bay neighborhood, Prudential Center features a popular high-end shopping mall on its "ground" floor - actually 1 floor up from street level.

You can purchase Skywalk Observatory tickets there every day between 10am - 6pm.  At other hours, tickets are available at the Skywalk's entrance.

If you want to save money, another option is to visit the Skywalk Observatory for free by purchasing a Boston CityPASS card or a GoBoston card.  Both give you free admission to lots of other top Boston attractions as well.

Photo of Skywalk Observatory kiosk in Prudential Center
Photo of Skywalk Observatory kiosk in Prudential Center
Before you come, be sure to call - 617-859-0648 - to confirm that Prudential Skywalk is open.  At times, it is closed to the public due to private events.

From the Arcade area, take the "Skywalk" elevator up to the 50th floor.  If there is a line and if you're using a Go Boston or Boston CityPASS discount card, just give your ticket booklet to the Skywalk employee handing out audio tours at the front desk to skip the line. 

The panoramic views are spectacular! 

From this photo taken from Prudential Skywalk (copyright 2006 Jared C. Benedict), you can see Beacon Hill and the Charles River, Boston Common, the spire of Park Street Church, and the Downtown Financial District
Panoramic view from Pru Skywalk of Back Bay, Boston Common, Beacon Hill, and Downtown

Don't worry about not knowing where all the different Boston sites and attractions are located.  You can use headphones to listen to a free audio tour about sights as well as Boston history and culture as you walk around.  In addition, you'll see signs, displays, and telescopes to enhance your Boston sightseeing experience.

Naturally, a visit to the Prudential Skywalk is best on a clear day.  It's also the perfect way to begin your visit to Boston . . . or if you already live here, to this gorgeous city from a new perspective.

 

Top of the Hub Photo Tips

Especially if you're visiting Boston during the summer months - especially July and August - keep in mind that the city can be steamy.  The sky gets hazy . . . especially in the afternoon.  Although the close views from the Observatory are still wonderful (you can look almost straight down at Boylston street, or a bit to the west toward Fenway, or other directions to see Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End), distant views won't be as crisp. 

To avoid the haze effect, try to arrive in late afternoon and catch the sunset views.  Or opt instead for jazz in Top of the Hub's lounge on the 52nd floor, and enjoy the city's night lights.  

During other times of the year, seasonal effects - thunder and lightening storms in the spring, occasional fog in the fall, snow in the winter - may give you the best photo opportunities of all.

 

Details and Directions to the Prudential Skywalk Observatory

Location:  800 Boylston Street (but you can also enter from Huntington Avenue), Back Bay, Boston
Hours:   Open 7 days/week; 10am - 10pm between March 1 and October 31; 10am - 8pm between November 1 and February 28;  Be sure to call first to confirm that the Skywalk is open to the public on the day/time that you plan to come
Cost:  Adults - $14, Children under 12 - $9, Seniors - $12, Students with College ID - $12
Discounts: Get a Boston discount pass to get in free (and skip the line)
Nearest T station:  Green Line - E/Prudential Center, Orange Line/Back Bay
More information: 617-859-0648; website 
Parking:  Fee-based underground parking garage (city's largest) beneath Pru Center

 

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Top of the Hub tops "best Boston things to do" lists

Let's say you just want to enjoy spectacular views but you don't want to listen to an audiotape pointing out various Boston sights nor do you want to peer through telescopes. 

Let's also say that the idea of a specialty cocktail, or even a glass of nice wine or a beer sounds really, really appealing.  Or maybe even an elegant lunch or dinner.

Go up 2 more floors to the Prudential Center's famed Top of the Hub Restaurant and Lounge, and this is exactly what you'll find - with no entrance fee.  That's right . . . for roughly the same cost as the Prudential Skywalk admission fee (well, perhaps more if you order a pricier martini or single malt Scotch), you can enjoy a drink along with one of the best views in Boston.

If you opt for a meal in the acclaimed restaurant, reservations are almost always necessary, especially if you want a window table with unobstructed Boston skyline views.  Although Top of the Hub is one of Boston's pricier restaurants at dinner, the prix-fixe lunch at around $20 is a relative bargain.

If you prefer to just have a drink and perhaps a bite in the Lounge, you can sit either at the bar or at a table in the lounge area.  Jazz ensembles perform in the Lounge every evening, starting around 8pm - 9pm. 

Details and directions to Top of the Hub

Location, T station, parking:   Same as Prudential Skywalk, above
Hours:   Open 7 days/week from 11:30am until midnight - 1am (depending on the day); reservations strongly advised for restaurant
Cost:  No entrance fee; just the cost of whatever you eat or drink (plus tax and tip.  After 8pm (or 8:30 - 9pm on some nights), jazz ensembles perform in the Lounge and a minimum charge (currently $24) applies if you sit at the lounge tables rather than at the bar. 
More about Top of the Hub

 

Boston discount cards - compare Prudential Skywalk savings

GoBoston Card
51 ways to save up to 55%
On attractions, tours, cruises
CityPASS
5 top attractions in 9 days
47% savings
GoBoston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com CityPASS Boston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com


 

Independence Wharf Observation Deck -
History plus spectacular Boston sights

Boston Tea Party site - plaqueYou can find a much less-well-known free observation deck at 470 Atlantic Avenue, the parking garage next to the InterContinental Hotel Boston on the waterfront across from the Financial District and Rose Kennedy Greenway

In addition, you can soak up some history - this site, now part of the coastal Harborwalk, is next to Griffin's Wharf where many historians believe the Boston Tea Party occurred.

Go into the lobby (where you'll also find public restrooms in case you need them).  You can watch a quite good video presentation about the site's history.

After you sign in with the security guard, take the elevator to the 14th floor, where you'll find an outdoor observation deck with binoculars as well as an inside viewing area.  I've never encountered any other visitors here - this observation deck must be one of Boston's best kept secrets!

True, being 14 floors high does not give quite the same effect as the 50th or 52nd floor at Pru Center, but you'll still have fairly sweeping views of Boston Harbor, Logan Airport, the surrounding city and coastline, the Harbor Islands, and even the Blue Hills Reservation to the south. 

Perhaps most interesting, you can also see the Port of Boston, including the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal where cruises from Boston to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Europe, and Canada depart. 

Because you're outside (unlike Prudential Skywalk, where you're inside), this is an especially good spot for taking photos. 

Details and directions to the Independence Wharf Observation Deck

Address:  470 Atlantic Ave, Downtown Boston Waterfront (next to InterContinental Hotel Boston - which also has wonderful views!)
Cost:  Free
Nearest T station:  Red Line - South Station

 

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