Walk through 400 Years of History along the Freedom Trail
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 founding of Boston and the birth of American liberty.
Walk along the Trail, and you'll see and visit historic buildings (some are now museums) and sites, famous churches, meeting houses, a centuries-old market place that's still a lively shopping and entertainment center, burying grounds, a battle ship, and a park once used by British troops and Colonial militias.
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.
As you walk along the Trail, you'll travel through a variety of neighborhoods: Historic Downtown Boston, the North End, and Charlestown, from Boston Common to the Charlestown waterfront.
All Freedom Trail sites are authentic - not re-creations or reproductions - so you'll see Colonial and Federal architecture, plenty of old tombstones, and a medieval-style house dating back to the 1600s.
Near the Trail, you can find additional historic sites such as the Green Dragon Tavern where Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and other Sons of Liberty spied on the Redcoats and planned their Tea Party.
And as you pass through Boston's lively downtown neighborhoods and waterfront, of course you'll also see glittering new buildings, popular restaurants, and perhaps even a beer garden or two - in other words, all the fun things that make Boston a top 21st century travel and vacation destination.
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, several interesting 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Tours
Freedom Trail Tours give you a fun and informative way to see the city's top historic sites. You can choose from lots of different options: guided walking tours, "drive by" tours on the hop-on hop-off trolleys and duck tours, Boston Harbor cruises past the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") and Bunker Hill Monument, and self-guided adventures.
Hours: Outdoor Freedom Trail sites such as Boston Common and monuments all day, every day.
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 and Old North Church charges a small fee to offset the extra maintenance and repairs related to so many tourist visits. 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:
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: