A CITY MARKED BY ITS HISTORY
WHICH PLACES TO VISIT IN BOSTON FOR FREE?
To begin your visit in Boston, I recommend starting with the famous Freedom Trail. What’s that ? A 5 km red thread marked on the ground which takes you to the different districts of the city, while discovering a bit more its history.
To start your visit, go to the visitor center located in Boston Common, crossing through the city’s Public Garden. A super cute park in the city center with a small lake. If you’re there in the early morning, you can meet very curious little squirrels. I don’t necessarily advise you to touch them, because these animals may have been in trash cans. This park’s really pleasant for a morning walk or an outdoor lunch.
But back to our subject, the Freedom Trail. As I said, you pass by many places to visit in Boston for free! I’ll tell you here what I really liked. First of all, there’s the Granary burial ground. Explanatory panels in the cemetery allow you to learn more about the different styles of the stones, but also about the history of certain personalities buried there. Next, you pass the Boston Irish Famine Memorial statue. Between the years 1845 and 1850, many Irish people came to live in Boston to escape the horrible famine that their country was experiencing. This statue recalls this dark period. Continue your way until you arrive in front of the oldest tavern still operating today in Boston, the Bell in Hand Tavern. The tavern’s located in a super cute neighborhood! A few meters further, there’s the famous local market, Quincy Market. Even if the Freedom Trail doesn’t go in there, go take a look inside. A large alley filled with food stalls. This market’s ideal for a lunch break. Head back to a different district, the North End Italian Quarter. Very original architecture, I really didn’t expect to see that in Boston! The facades are super pretty and there are of course many Italian stores. Another neighborhood you pass by, Charlestown. What a magnificent district! A mix between colorful wooden and red brick houses. The streets are very quiet and charming! I loved Pleasant Street. Then, do a short museum break in front of the Bunker Hill monument, dedicated to the 1775 war between the Americans and the English. A very interesting exhibition on the history that took place on this small hill in Boston. Allow around 1 hour to visit the Bunker Hill Museum.
Finish the Freedom Trail at the former Boston Marine Base. It’s entirely possible to go to the Charlestown Navy Yard visitor center. Discover the history and role of this marine base. There you’ll find explanations on the evolution of the different techniques used for rope, boat chain, etc. Continue the visit by boarding the USS Constitution, a warship with more than 200 years of history. Impressive, isn’t it? Inside, there are some reconstructions which allow you to see the daily life of these sailors. I found the visit to the boat very interesting. To tour the visitor center and the boat, allow around an hour.
And here you go, you’ve finished the Freedom Trail! You’ll have passed through such different neighborhoods and monuments. It’s definitely worth doing! On the Internet they say that if you only walk the path, it will take you 1.5 hours. Personally, it took me about 4 hours to do everything, including the museums. Guided tours are organized throughout the day. Click here to have more information. It’s possible to do the Freedom Trail without a guide as there are many explanatory signs along the way. Click here to download the route.
Price of entry to the Bunker Hill Museum: free
Price of entry to the Charlestown Navy Yard visitor center and the USS Constitution: free, although it’s strongly recommended to give a donation, but it isn’t required
THE BEACON HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT
One of the most famous places to visit in Boston for free, Beacon Hill. And after passing there, I understand its success… This neighborhood’s so beautiful! The houses are covered in red bricks and are lined up one after the other. It’s just wonderful! If you go there in spring, you’ll see flowering trees which greatly contribute to the charm of the neighborhood. I know what you’re going to ask me… What are the must-see streets of Beacon Hill? Here are my 3 favorite streets in this district: Acorn Street, Cedar Lane Way and Pinckney Street. Get lost in the streets of the neighborhood to discover some hidden gems. An hour’s enough to get lost in the streets and enjoy the neighborhood. A little more if you want to stop in a shop or restaurant.
THE FAMOUS BOSTON CAMPUS: HARVARD AND MIT
What are the other places to visit in Boston for free? One of the most famous campuses in the United States! The university’s about an hour’s walk from the city center. It’s also possible to get there by public transport. To visit the heart of the Harvard campus, go to Harvard Yard, a huge park where there are some of the campus’ historic buildings. Is it possible to get into Harvard without being a student? Yes, certain access points such as the park are accessible to everyone. However, you may not enter into some buildings. There are student-led tours of Harvard. Why not do a guided tour with them? Don’t forget to tip at the end of the visit. The atmosphere’s very pleasant in this park. To be honest, I didn’t imagine the campus like that at all. You have nice little streets all around. I haven’t visited all of them, but you’ve a few museums on campus. If you have time, it might be worth a look.
Once you’ve visited the Harvard campus, you can also go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly known as MIT. You can walk there via Massachusetts Street filled with restaurants and stores. The campus is nothing like Harvard. Modern buildings with contemporary arts outside. The atmosphere’s very different. If you’ve time, it’s nice to see what this campus looks like, but it isn’t an unmissable visit in my opinion. Allow a good 3 hours to visit the two campuses.
Price of a guided tour of the Harvard campus: the amount you want
OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS TO DISCOVER IN BOSTON
If you still have the time and energy, here are some ideas of other places to visit in Boston for free:
- South End: a fairly quiet neighborhood with very cute little shops. What makes this neighborhood charming are these red brick houses with their staircases. It’s so beautiful !Here are my favorite places in the area: the little square of Concord Square and the flowery Worcester Street. The unmissable places in the South End district of Boston!
- Back Bay: the neighborhood where Boston Public Library’s located. Once inside, look at the beauty of the place! Even the courtyard’s super beautiful! It almost made me want to go back to school, almost haha. The neighborhood’s nice, but it looks more like a big American city center.
- Waterfront: a nice little stroll from the Long Wharf (where you can get a ticket to see the whales if you wish. Look carefully at the months when it’s possible to see whales before booking). Then head towards the harborwalk towards the Boston Harbor Hotel. The walk along the water’s edge is short but pleasant, especially when the weather’s nice.
Each district mentioned can be visited in just an hour.
I was pleasantly surprised by Boston. It’s a big city, but on a human scale. You can walk for hours in different neighborhoods without getting tired of it. It’s full of stories, I wasn’t expecting that at all. I really fell in love with this city during my trip to the United States.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN BOSTON? ACCOMMODATION IN BOSTON
HI BOSTON HOSTEL
19 Stuart St, Boston,
Price: US$91*/night/person in a women’s dormitory. The price varies depending on the period you go.
Click here to book a night in the hostel.
Quite honestly, the price isn’t cheap (probably one of the most expensive accommodations on my road trip in the United States), but it remains the cheapest in town! To visit Boston, it’s ideal. In a secure area and right in the center. It’s good value for money. The dorms are clean and well organized! The individual lockers are large enough to fit a suitcase or large backpack. Perfect !
THE PRACTICAL MAP OF BOSTON
HOW MANY DAYS TO VISIT BOSTON?
I would recommend 3 days, but it’s also possible to visit Boston in 2 days. There are many neighborhoods to visit and everything is easily done on foot.
Here are some itinerary ideas to maximize your trip:
- Visit Boston in 1 day:
- Freedom Trail – Bunker Hill Museum – USS Constitution
- Beacon Hill
- Boston Public Bookstore
- Visit Boston in 2 days:
- The places mentioned above
- A guided tour of the Harvard campus
- South End
- Visit Boston in 3 days:
- In addition to the places mentioned in the 2-day tour
- North End
- MIT Campus
WHEN TO VISIT BOSTON? THE BEST MONTHS TO VISIT BOSTON
The best months to visit Boston are between May and October. I was in Boston towards the end of April, and I had wonderful weather. It all depends on your luck. Weather aside, these months are ideal for visiting Boston as you have a better chance of spotting a whale while taking a boat tour.
|JANUARY||Temperatures can be very cold, but if you're lucky, you might be able to see Boston in the snow.|
|FEBRUARY||Just like January, it can be cold with a little snow.|
|MARCH||It's slowly warming up, but it's still cold and vegetation’s still absent at this time. Not the best month to visit Boston.|
|APRIL||The trees begin to have flowers. There may still be cool days, but with plenty of sunshine.|
|MAY||The heat of summer is arriving slowly such as the start of flowering depending on the year.|
|JUNE||The start of summer with pleasant temperatures.|
|JULY||You may have hot days as well as days with good temperature for walking around in the town.|
|AUGUST||Just like July, the days can be hot depending on the period.|
|SEPTEMBER||The beautiful days of late summer are still here and it can be pleasant.|
|OCTOBER||During the fall season, the orange colors of the trees can give a real charm to the city.|
|NOVEMBER||It can be cold and cloudy, it’s not necessarily a month that I recommend.|
|DECEMBER||An American Christmas atmosphere with a beautifully decorated city.|
HOW TO TRAVEL TO BOSTON?
If you’re arriving from another country, Boston has an easily accessible international airport, Boston Logan International Airport. Click here to discover the different options available to you. It’s located 10 minutes from the city center by car. You can also get to the center by public transport with the SL1 bus. The ticket price is approximately US$2.50*.
If you go to Boston from New York, there are several trains during the day. Allow between 3 and 4.5 hours for the journey. You can check the trains here. But honestly, it’s not the most economical solution.
To go to Boston from New York, you have buses from the city centers. It’s the most practical and economical transport. There are different companies that do it and the journey takes around 4.5 hours. This is the option I chose when coming from New York and it works very well. When you book a bus, look carefully at the location of the stations beforehand. Sometimes buses are cheaper, but the bus station is too far from the city center.
HOW MUCH IS IT TO VISIT BOSTON?
The budget that I’ll describe below corresponds to a budget for backpackers who pay attention to their expenses. Here’s the budget to plan for your visit to Boston:
- Accommodation: it costs around US$90* for a bed in a dormitory in a youth hostel.
- Food: I advise you to cook to save as much as possible on this type of expense. It can be between US$10* and US$20* per day depending on what you usually eat.
- Transportation: It’s really easy to walk around Boston. Everything is pretty much nearby, so you’ll still be walking a lot.
- Activities: Many of the activities mentioned in this article are places to visit in Boston for free. Allow around US$20* to US$30* if you give a donation to the museum or do a guided tour at Harvard.
- Other expenses: always budget for unexpected expenses or for souvenirs.
On average, plan on spending around US$150* per day to visit Boston.
MY TRAVEL TIPS TO VISIT BOSTON
- Get up early to visit neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill or Charlestown. The streets are magnificent, it would be nice to have nobody in your photos.
- Check the museum opening days and times before to go.
- Do the Freedom Trail, with or without a guide. You’ll be able to discover a large part of Boston thanks to this common thread.
*Prices mentioned in this article were updated as of September 2023.