Six Free Historic Sites to Visit in Boston
Boston has a rich history and historic sites can be found in many locations around the city. Some of them charge admission fees and some are not open to the public. However there are many sites to visit, and historic tours you can take, that won’t cost a thing. Plenty of them offer quality exhibits and free talks and lectures that provide insight into their history and the history of Boston in general. Some of them are part of Boston’s Freedom Trail which is a 2.5-mile red-brick or red-painted self-guided trail through downtown Boston which takes you to 16 sites.
Bunker Hill Monument and Museum
The 221-foot-tall Bunker Hill Monument was erected in 1842 and commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolution on June 17, 1775, which happened on Breed’s Hill. You can climb the 294 steps to the top of Bunker Hill Monument for good views across the city. Across the street is the Bunker Hill Museum where you can learn about the battle in 1775 and see exhibits from the Colonial era. Admission is free and both the monument and museum are open from 9am to 5pm. The museum also has interpretive talks several times a day and more information is available at Bunker Hill Monument and Museum.
Photo credit: US Government
The USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. It is known as “Old Ironsides” and was built in 1797. It fought off five British Ships in the 1812 War and tours of the vessel are given throughout the day. The crew are extremely proud of the vessel and it is a great attraction. There is a daily raising and lowering of the flag at 8am and sunset, with cannon fire. There is also a nearby Boston history museum that details the warships history and has exhibits and hands-on activities. Admission is free and more information is available at USS Constitution.
Photo credit: Daniel Means on flickr
Faneuil HallFaneuil Hall was built by Peter Faneuil in 1742 as a public meeting place and marketplace, and was given to Boston as a gift. Many important speeches about freedom occurred here in the Colonial era, including one by John Hancock about the tea tax that led to the Boston Tea Party, and it was nicknamed the “Cradle of Liberty”. Today it is a popular area full of stores, restaurants and food outlets. Talks are held daily and there are guided tours in the warmer months.
Photo credit: robcoyle on flickr
Boston Common is a 50-acre green space which dates back to 1634 and is the country’s oldest park. Originally it was used for livestock and hanging of criminals. It is bordered by Tremont, Charles, Park, Boylston and Beacon streets and admission is free. In winter the Frog Pond is used as an ice-skating rink and occasionally there are outdoor concerts in the park.
Photo credit: Kok Leng Yeo on flickr
Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts State House is located on Beacon Street across from Boston Common. It was built in 1798 and admission is free. It houses the state government and is an imposing building with a gold dome. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday. It is closed on weekends.
Photo credit: Allie_Caulfield on flickr
Ben Franklin Statue and First Public School Site
Boston’s first public statue of a person was the eight-foot-tall statue of Benjamin Franklin erected in 1856. It is older than the City Hall it stands in front of. Nearby is a lovely sidewalk inlay called the “City Carpet” which commemorates the Boston Latin School that was opened in 1635, and was the first public school in the United States.
Photo credit: julz91 on flickr
Although these sites are free, places like the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Museum appreciate any donations.
© Jo Jackson September 2010
Morris, Marie. Frommer's Boston 2010 (Frommer's Complete). Hoboken, NJ: Frommers, 2010.
Frieswick, Kris. The Cheap Bastard's Guide to Boston: Secrets of Living the Good Life--For Free! (2nd) Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot, 2009.