Full Guide to the Freedom Trail in Boston (History, Facts, and More!)

Last Updated on December 26, 2022 by admin

Boston is filled with historic landmarks. The best way to see those landmarks is by walking the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a marked pedestrian trail that connects some of the city’s most important historical sites. A red brick line along the sidewalk will take you to the each historically-significant landmark. If you’re interested in the Revolutionary War, you absolutely must walk the Freedom Trail. We’ve walked the Freedom Trail lots of times, and we think it’s the best thing to do while in Boston! My husband used to live in Boston, and we both spent several years living in Connecticut. We’d make frequent trips to Boston because it is such a fun city. In this post, we’re sharing everything you need to know to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston.

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Travel Tip: If you’re planning a trip to Boston, consider buying a Boston CityPASS. You’ll be able to save money if you plan on visiting multiple attractions. For instance, if you plan on visiting the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Boston Harbor City Cruises, Franklin Park Zoo, or the Harvard Museum of Nature, we highly recommend that you look into purchasing the CityPASS. For more information about CityPASS, click here.

 

About the Freedom Trail

The city of Boston is a juxtaposition between the modern and the historic. For example, in the middle of a bustling city street, you’ll be able to see Paul Revere’s house. Or at the crossroads of a busy intersection, you’ll see the Old State House. It’s such a strange feeling to see buildings from the 1600 and 1700s adjacent to modern skyscrapers!

The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long (4 kilometers) one-way. To follow the trail, you just need to follow a red brick line that is embedded into the sidewalk. The trail contains 16 official historic sites. In front of each site, there is a special bronze marker. The Freedom Trail was established in 1951.

You can walk the trail yourself, or you can book a guided walking tour! We’ve walked the Freedom Trail ourselves without a tour, but I definitely think it would be a good idea to book a tour. Unless you’re an expert on the Revolutionary War and colonial times, I think you’d get so much more from the experience with a tour!

41 Things to Do in Boston

 

Freedom Trail in Boston
Following “the red brick road”!

Where to Stay in Boston (Best Hotels!)

Booking.com  

As you plan your trip to Boston, you’ll want to make sure you have good accommodations. Here’s a few places to consider:

Luxury | Omni Parker House

The Omni Parker House is a 4-star hotel located directly adjacent to Boston Common. The rooms feature historical decor alongside modern amenities. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be pleased to know that the Boston Cream Pie was invented at Parker’s Restaurant within the hotel. Be sure to stop by their restaurant for a slice!

Moderate | Royal Sonesta Boston

The Royal Sonesta Boston is located in Cambridge. The hotel is located right next to the Charles River and has excellent views of the city.

Budget | HI Boston Hostel

The HI Boston Hostel is located just a few minutes’ walk away from Boston Common. The hostel has dorm bedrooms as well as private rooms. 

For a full list of accommodations in Boston, click here.

 

 


How to Get to the Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail officially starts at Boston Common park and it ends at the Bunker Hill Monument. However, you can start at either location (if it’s more convenient to work backwards).

If you’re flying into Massachusetts, you’ll probably book flights to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

See our list of the best hotels near Boston’s airport here!

If you’re taking the train to Boston, there are three Amtrak stations in the city: North Station, South Station, and Back Bay.

If you’re driving to Boston, you’ll want to research rental cars and parking garages in advance. The Boston Common Garage is the most convenient place to park. It’s actually located underground beneath the park!


Map of the Freedom Trail

 

We created this map of the Freedom Trail so you can easily see the 16 historic sites. We hope this map is helpful as you plan your walk along the Freedom Trail!

Tip: Having the map on your phone is helpful so you can see your location in real-time. We also recommend stopping by the Boston Common Visitor Center as you start the trail. You’ll be able to grab a visitor guide, brochures, and get answers to any questions you have prior to starting your walk.


Tours of the Freedom Trail

Before we share our tips for walking the Freedom Trail, we highly recommend that you consider booking a tour. Having a knowledgeable guide will provide you all the relevant history about each site you visit. Boston is steeped with history, so it’s super helpful to have an expert that knows the most interesting things to share!

Here are a few tours to consider:


Tips for Walking the Freedom Trail

  • Wear comfortable shoes while on the trail. You’ll be on your feet for a long time, so definitely wear shoes that have been worn in. (This is not the day for new shoes!)
  • Bring a water bottle. You’ll want to stay hydrated as you walk.
  • Plan your budget. Although walking the Freedom Trail is free, many of the points of interest along the way charge admission for entry.
  • Make a plan for food. You don’t want to find yourself hangry on the trail. Later in this post we’ll share some great restaurants along the trail!
  • Research some of the sites in advance. You’ll have a deeper appreciation once you know the history surrounding each site. We’ll share more below!
  • If you have time in your itinerary, consider breaking up the trail over two days. The Freedom Trail contains many historical sites that double as museums. If you’d like to have lots of time to explore the museums and not feel rushed, consider walking the trail over two days. (Although this isn’t totally necessary. It just depends on how much time you want to spend at each site!)
Looking for a hotel near Boston Harbor with waterfront views? See our full guide here!

What to See on the Freedom Trail: All 16 Historic Sites!

The Freedom Trail will take you through Boston’s most famous historic sights. Here’s the full list:

1. Boston Common

George Washington Statue at Boston Common

The oldest public park in the United States is Boston Common. It was established in 1634, making it nearly 400 years old! Puritans purchased the land and it was used for their sheep to graze. It was called “The Common Land”, and as you can see, the name stuck!

In 1775, the land was used by the British army as a training ground during the Revolutionary War.

Before you even begin walking the Freedom Trail, there’s tons to see at this vibrant park. Be sure to check out the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial. The memorial honors the first all-Black volunteer regiment in the Civil War. 

Adjacent to the Boston Common is The Public Garden. Between the two, there are over 70 acres of urban green space.

Some things to check out in this area include:

  • Boston Frog Pond: During the summer, this is a free splash park. During the winter, there is ice skating.
  • Boston Common Carousel: Take your kiddos for a ride on the carousel for a small fee.
  • Make Way for Ducklings: A bronze statue of a mama duck with her ducklings.
  • Soldiers and Sailors Monument: This memorial honors those who died in the Civil War. It was dedicated in 1877.
  • Swan Boat Lagoon: This lagoon is located in The Public Garden. At the lagoon, you can ride in giant swan boats (open seasonally). The last day of the season for 2022 is September 5th. 
  • George Washington Statue: This large statue features President George Washington riding a horse.
  • Central Burying Ground: Some of the oldest gravestones here are from 1756.
  • Statue of Edgar Allen Poe: Technically right across the street from Boston Common, you can see this bronze statue of the famous poet and a raven.

You could easily spend several hours at the Boston Common and Public Garden. We wrote a full post about 25 things to see at Boston Common and the Public Garden here. Make sure to save some energy for the rest of the Freedom Trail! 

If you’re feeling hungry after visiting Boston Common, see our list of the best restaurants near Boston Common!

 

Swan Boats at the Public Garden Boston Common

2. Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House Freedom Trail

The Massachusetts State House is located across the street on the northern side of Boston Common. It opened in 1798 and houses the legislative and executive branches. John Hancock’s mansion used to be adjacent to the state house, but it was demolished to expand the state house many years ago. Although it was built in 1798, it’s known as the “new state house”. (You’ll find the older state house later on the Freedom Trail!)

You’ll be able to recognize the Massachusetts State House based on its giant golden dome. At the top of the dome is a gilt pinecone, which was used to honor the forests that allowed the earliest settlers to survive.

3. Park Street Church

Park Street Church in Boston (Freedom Trail Site)

The Park Street Church was built in 1809. The steeple is 217 feet tall, and for many years it was the tallest building in Boston. 

The church has played a crucial role in many social justice movements. William Lloyd Garrison delivered his “Address to the Colonization Society” at Park Street Church, which was the first major public statement in opposition to slavery.

The church is open to the public to tour only during the summer. Be sure to check in advance of your trip.

4. Granary Burying Ground

Granary Burying Ground (Freedom Trail Site) in Boston

This burying ground was named for the granary which used to next door to it during colonial times. The Granary Burying Ground was established in 1660. No one has been buried there since 1880. It’s estimated that there are over 2,300 gravestones at this cemetery, with over 5,000 people believed to have been buried there. 

Granary Burying Ground (Freedom Trail) in Boston

There are many notable Bostonians that have been buried at this cemetery. This includes:

  • 3 signers of the Declaration of Independence (Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, and John Hancock)
  • Paul Revere (buried near the back)
  • 5 victims of the Boston Massacre
  • The large obelisk at the cemetery marks the tomb of Benjamin Franklin’s parents

Many of the slate gravestones contain depictions of the “Soul Effigy” (a skull with wings on both sides), the Grim Reaper, and Father Time.

5. King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground

King's Chapel (Freedom Trail) in Boston

King’s Chapel, Boston” by mkfeeney is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

Boston’s first Anglican church was built here in 1686, and the present-day building was constructed in 1754. King’s Chapel has the oldest American pulpit that is still in continuous use. The interior of the church contains Georgian architecture.

The church also contains a bell that was forged in 1772. When it cracked in 1814, it was recast by Paul Revere himself. 

When I walked through this church, I was first struck by the boxes of pews. I learned that each wealthy family paid rent to the church to have their own private box pew. The pews were surrounded by walls to help protect from winter drafts. The pews you see today are the original pews. (Although they have been upholstered over the years.)

If you take the Bells & Bones tour at the church, you’ll get to see the crypt as well as the bell tower.

6. Boston Latin School Site & Benjamin Franklin Statue

Benjamin Franklin Statue Freedom Trail

The Boston Latin School is the oldest public school in the United States. It was founded all the way back in 1635. One of its former students was Benjamin Franklin, hence the statue out front. (Although interestingly he was a drop-out!) The church was torn down in 1745 in order to expand King’s Chapel, but you can see the statue and mosaic representing its original location. (The school, however, continues at a different location!)

7. Old Corner Bookstore

Old corner Bookstore (Freedom Trail) in Boston

Former Site of the Old Corner Bookstore” by Eric Lumsden is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 .

The Old Corner Bookstore, built in 1718, is Boston’s oldest commercial building. It was originally built as an apothecary, and later a publishing house. Some of the best writers in the United States published here, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1960, the Old Corner Bookstore was going to be demolished in order to build a parking garage of all things. Thankfully, Bostonians were able to raise money to protect the property.

8. Old South Meeting House

Old South Meeting House (Freedom Trail) in Boston

Old South Meeting House, Boston” by mattk1979 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

This is where the Boston Tea Party began! The tea tax debates were held at the Old South Meeting House. Over 5,000 people crowded into the building to debate the taxes on imported tea. When no resolution was achieved, the colonists went to the harbor and threw all the tea into the water. This was one of the major events that ignited the Revolutionary War.

This building was also going to be demolished in 1872, but it was saved by 20 women and turned into a museum instead.

The Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston, so it makes sense that the majority of public discourses, speeches, and debates were held here.

For admission, please click here for more information. (Please note that you can purchase a combined admission ticket to both the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House.)

9. Old State House

Old State House (Freedom Trail) in Boston

The oldest surviving public building in Boston is the Old State House. It was built in 1713. When I visited this portion of the Freedom Trail, I was truly amazed to see this historic brick building surrounded by skyscrapers. 

Prior to the Revolutionary War, the royal governor (an office appointed by the King), would give speeches from the balcony.

For admission, please click here for more information. (Please note that you can purchase a combined admission ticket to both the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House.)

10. Boston Massacre Site

Boston Massacre Site (Freedom Trail) in Boston

Directly in front of the Old State House is the site of the Boston Massacre. On March 5th, 1770, after escalating tensions, 5 Bostonians were killed by British Redcoats. 

The site is located at the intersection of State Street and Congress Street. Interestingly, the commemorative plaque has been moved twice to allow for changing traffic patterns.

If you are in Boston on May 5th, there’s an annual re-enactment hosted by the Bostonian Society.

11. Faneuil Hall

faneuil hall (Freedom Trail) in Boston

Faneuil Hall is where the the first Town Meeting in America was held. It’s been named “the home of free speech” and the “cradle of liberty.”

The building was a center for commercial activities in Boston. In 1741, the Sons of Liberty officially announced their dissent against the Royal Crown here.

Atop the hall is a weather vane depicting a golden grasshopper.

TRAVEL TIP: Feeling hungry? Right across from Faneuil Hall is Quincy Market. The market contains lots of different food vendors, so it’s the perfect spot for your party to take a break and grab a meal. The last time I was at Quincy Market, I especially enjoyed a cup of clam chowder and a lobster roll!

Quincy Market in Boston

12. Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House (Freedom Trail) in Boston

The oldest structure in all of downtown Boston is the Paul Revere House. It was built around 1680, and patriot Paul Revere purchased the home in 1770.

Over the years, this house has also been a candy shop, cigar factory, and Italian bank.

The home now contains and visitor center and lots of educational programming around his famous midnight ride. You can enter the home for a small fee. (At the time of this writing, an adult ticket costs $6.)

13. Old North Church

Old North Church in Boston (Freedom Trail)

The Old North Church, built in 1723, is especially known for its role in the Revolutionary War. It was here that Paul Revere’s message “One if by land, two if by sea” was carried out via lanterns. After that evening, the Revolutionary War began.

14. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Copp's Hill Burying Ground

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground – Skull & Bones” by David Paul Ohmer is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

The Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was named after a shoemaker. This was Boston’s largest burying ground. Gravestones from this cemetery date back to 1659.

15. USS Constitution 

USS Constitution (Freedom Trail) in Boston

The USS Constitution is a warship that was built in 1797. It was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812, and it continues to float today! The ship will occasionally sail through Boston Harbor for special occasions.

At the site of the USS Constitution is also a museum

16. Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument (Freedom Trail) in Boston

The last stop on the Freedom Trail is the Bunker Hill Monument. The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17th, 1775, and was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.

It was here that the statement, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was first proclaimed.

At this battle, there were over 3,000 Redcoats. Although the colonists technically lost this battle, it took the British three separate assaults to achieve victory. This battle really demonstrated that the colonists could put up a fight.

Across from the monument is the Bunker Hill Museum. At the museum, you can learn all about the Battle of Bunker Hill, the construction of the monument, and more generally about the Charlestown neighborhood.

If you made it this far, you’ve officially completed the Freedom Trail! Your feet are probably pretty tired, so it’s time to sit down for a good meal and rest!


 

Other Historic Sites in Boston

Although the Freedom Trail captures 16 sites, there’s plenty more places in Boston that are steeped with history!

Here’s a few other places you might want to visit:

Irish Famine Memorial in Boston


Where to Eat Along the Freedom Trail

restaurant in Boston

If you’re looking for a bite to eat as you wander the Freedom Trail, here’s a few places within walking distance to consider:

  • Cheers Bar: The original Cheers bar is located across from the Public Garden on Beacon Street. This is the bar that inspired the show Cheers.
  • Parker’s Restaurant: Located near Boston Common, you can go to the restaurant where the Boston Cream Pie was invented.
  • Modern Pastry: Located near the Paul Revere house, Modern Pastry specializes in Italian and American pastries. You can build your own cannoli for the ultimate fresh cannoli!
  • Union Oyster House: This is the country’s oldest restaurant. It was established in 1826. It’s about a 3-minute walk from Faneuil Hall. We recommend reserving a table.
  • Quincy Market: Located across from Faneuil Hall, get Boston Baked Beans with brown bread, clam chowder, lobster rolls, and more. There are over 100 stores at Quincy Market, so you are sure to find something. (This also marks a fairly convenient half-way point along the trail, so it’s a great place to stop for a rest.)
  • Mike’s Pastry: About a 4-minute walk from the Old North Church is Mike’s Pastry. The pastry shop is famous for their cannolis, so you definitely have to stop by and get a box!
Quincy Market chowder and lobster roll
Chowder and a lobster roll at Quincy Market

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Freedom Trail

Where does the Freedom Trail start?

The Freedom Trail officially starts at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the country. The first stop is the Boston Common Visitor Information Center (139 Tremont St). You can view the official visitors guide and plan your day. From there, you’ll head north to see the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Street.

TIP: The Freedom Trail officially ends at Bunker Hill. However, you can walk the trail in reverse if that’s more convenient. This might also help you escape some of the crowds on a busy day.

What is the Freedom Trail?

The Freedom Trail contains 16 historic sites in Boston that are connected by a red brick line in the sidewalk. It allows visitors to easily find some of the most important historical sites in the city. Many of the sites were notable for their role in the Revolutionary War.

How long does it take to walk the Freedom Trail?

If you simply walk along the trail to see each of the 16 sites from the outside, you can complete the trail in about 2 hours. However, we recommend dedicating a full day in your itinerary to the Freedom Trail. Many of the sites have museums, so if you’re interested in looking inside and learning more historical information, you could easily spend more time along the trail. When we last walked the Freedom Trail, it took us about 5 or so hours. We visited several of the museums, and we stopped for lunch along the way.

What Boston hotels are near the Freedom Trail?

If you’re looking for a hotel near the Freedom Trail, we recommend staying at the Omni Parker Hotel, which is close to Boston Common. If you stay at the Omni, you’ll be able to easily walk over to the start of the Freedom Trail first thing in the morning. If you want to book a hotel near the end of the Freedom Trail, we recommend the Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf. The hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the Bunker Hill Monument. 

Does the Boston Latin School still exist?

The Boston Latin School continues to exist, but it’s in a different location. The first schoolhouse built in the mid 17th century was torn down in order to expand King’s Chapel. The Boston Latin School, however, continues to operate at a different location. It’s the oldest public school in the United States.

Freedom Trail


What to Pack with You for a Trip to Boston

Here’s a few things we recommend that you bring with you:

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking around town, so make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes. I’ve been wearing Brooks brand shoes for years and have loved them. I’ve linked them here for women, and here for men.
  • Power Bank: We always keep a fully-charged power bank with us while we’re out exploring. That way, if our phone battery is running low, we can easily plug it in and re-charge on the go. We rely on our phones heavily for navigation and photography, so this product is a must for us.
  • Water Bottle: We prefer to bring an insulated re-usable water bottle when we are out exploring. 
  • Travel Guides: When I moved to Connecticut, I brought a travel guide and it gave me so many ideas for weekend adventures. It also provided good historical background to the places I visited. I’ve linked a couple below.

 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information!)


Summary: Our Adventure on the Freedom Trail

I’ve walked the Freedom Trail several times over the years. I’ve walked it with my parents, my husband, my aunts, and my friends. I’ve enjoyed walking it every time, and I always learn something new! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of history packed into the 2.5-mile trail. I recommend that you pace yourself, take frequent breaks, and enjoy everything the trail has to offer!

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