The Freedom Trail is a unique experience in Boston that is a must do! The trail was created 60 years ago and marks the 16 sites that are fundamental to our understanding of the revolutionary war and creation of the Republic. The trail is identified with a red brick path along the road and is easy to follow.
I have done this trail several times in my life. This time around, I took my dog and invited my college friend and his dog to re-explore the trail. We hope to provide insights on which sites to visit and which detours to consider along the trail. The trail is best done early in the morning before the throngs of visitors descend upon the sites.
TIP! There is a free downloadable brochure that you can save on your phone. There is an explanation for each site so no need to actually pay for a “tour”.
1) START at Boston Common (139 Tremont Street)
The Freedom Trail starts at the Guest Information Center in Boston Common. Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. It was built in 1622. There are several coffee shops (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc…) along Tremont Street to enjoy before starting the 2.5 mile walk.
2) Massachusetts State House (Beacon Street, 617-727-3676)
The Massachusetts State House is one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill. Its construction was completed on January 11, 1798.
Free tours of the interior are available during the week but will need to be scheduled in advance.
3) Park Street Church (Corner of Park and Tremont Streets)
The church’s 217-foot steeple was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston. The church and its architecture is better observed from the street.
4) Granary Burying Ground (Tremont Street)
Notable citizens including John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, James Otis and others are buried at this cemetery. Entrance is free to stroll around and to view the headstones of some of the key founders of the United States.
5) King’s Chapel & Burying Ground (Corner of Tremont and School Streets)
King’s Chapel was founded in 1688 and was the first non-Puritan church in the colonies. The architecture inside is similar to other churches so a quick glance inside is all you need.
6) Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue (School Street)
American’s first public school to offer instruction to all boys regardless of stature and wealth. Girls were finally admitted in 1972. The site is best viewed from the outside.
7) Old Corner Bookstore (3 School Street)
The Bookstore was originally built in 1718 as an apothecary shop. It is Boston’s oldest commercial building. This is a site to see from the outside as Chipotle is the current resident.
Route Detour! On your way to the Old South Meeting House, there is a modern Walgreens with a café inside to check out. Sweet Bakery (15 School Street) is a cute bakery to stop by and grab a treat.
8) Old South Meeting House (310 Washington Street)
This is the site when the “No tax on tea!” decision was made on December 16, 1773; thus starting the revolution with the Boston Tea Party. The site is best viewed from the outside.
Route Detour! Make sure to check out the statues of hunger on the other side of the street.
9) Old State House (206 Washington Street)
The Old State House was built in 1713 and is the site for many revolutionary events. It is worth taking a tour inside the building to see the exhibits.
10) Boston Massacre Site (Corner of State and Congress Streets)
This is the site of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770 when a deadly skirmish broke out between nine British redcoats and a large angry crowd. There is a marker in the ground to commemorate the site.
11) Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall was built in 1741 and served as an open forum meeting hall and marketplace for more than 270 years. It is now home to various restaurants, a food court, and shops.
Make sure to check out the Boston City Hall architecture on the other side of the road.
Quincy Market is also located at the Faneuil Hall location. It houses a large selection of food vendors. I highly recommend a stroll around the area. For better food options, I recommend waiting until the next destination in the North End.
Check out the Holocaust Memorial on the way to the Paul Revere House. The memorial is made up of six glass columns, each etched with million numbers to represent six million Jews killed in WWII. It is highly recommended to walk through the site in order to get a better sense of the memorial and what it represents.
The trail goes through the open air market and to Hanover Street (North End) where the Italian District is located. Here are some places worth visiting:
- Grab a slice of a Sicilian-style pizza, calzones and fried rice ball at Galleria Umberto (289 Hanover Street) before they sell out for the day. This is where the locals go for a quick bite at lunch. The price is dirt cheap as well. The pizzeria makes a limited number of pizzas every day and you should get in line by 11:30 at the latest in order to have a chance to buy a slice before they run out.
- Hanover Street houses several Italian bakeries and is notable for the cannolis. The most famous one is Mike’s Pastry and they have the largest selection of cannolis but expect the long line. Also, they only take cash.
- Modern Pastry has a limited selection of cannolis but a much larger selection of pastries (257 Hanover Street).
- I prefer the mini cannoli (best kept secret), various french style desserts and coffee at The Thinking Cup (236 Hanover Street). They also have bathrooms for the general public.
- Venture off of Hanover Street to grab a delicious sandwich like in the old country at Monica’s Mercato (130 Salem Street)
- or thin-crust, brick-oven pizzas at the original Regina Pizzeria (11 ½ Thacher Street).
12) Paul Revere House (19 North Square)
The Paul Revere House was built in 1680. It is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston. It is worth paying the entrance fee to see how people lived during that time.
The trail will take you through the Paul Revere Mall where the statue of the famous man is located.
13) Old North Church (193 Salem Street)
This is the famous church immortalized in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. The church is better viewed from the outside and there is no need to go into the church itself.
Route Detour! The Salem Street Market convenience store located across the street from North Church has free dog treats behind the counter for those who are walking with their dogs.
14) Copp’s Hill Burying Ground (Hull Street)
This cemetery is the final resting place of merchants, artisans and craft people who lived in the North End. If you spent time strolling through the Granary Burying Ground, there is no need to stop at this site.
Route Detour! There is the park (Charter Street) on the other side of the cemetery that provides a panoramic view of Charlestown and the harbor.
From Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the trail will travel across the bridge (North Washington Street) to Charleston’s Navy Yard. An alternative path is to cross the street at Hull Street and take the pedestrian bridge underneath the “Main” Bridge for a more scenic route. This route takes you past the new Converse flagship store, across the canal and to Paul Revere Park where a set of stairs will take you back up to the main bridge to pick up the trail again.
15) USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” at Charlestown’s Navy Yard
“Old Ironsides” was launched in Boston on 1797 to fight in the War of 1812. The ship is currently docked at Charlestown’s Navy Yard for full renovation. It is a great chance to see the historic ship completely out of the water! Don’t miss the USS Constitution Museum to check out the exhibits on life at sea during that time.
16) Bunker Hill Monument
The last site on the trail is Bunker Hill Monument. The monument marks the Battle of Bunker Hill where the colonists held their own against the British army.
Fun Fact: We spotted 4 Starbucks and 3 Dunkin’ Donuts on the trail. Let us know if you spotted more than that!
For related articles, visit the TRAVEL page.
Author: Thai-Anh Hoang
Featured photo: www.princetontourcompany.com
*All historical information comes from the Freedom Trail brochure.