The heart of Boston is sandwiched between Boston Common and the harbor. Unlike many US cities, Boston has held tenaciously to its past and there are reminders of nearly four centuries of history embedded in the center of this modern metropolis. The 18th-century grace of historic buildings like the Old State House still shines within a canyon of skyscrapers. Even the heroes of Boston’s early years remain here – city founder John Winthrop, patriot Paul Revere, and revolutionary Samuel Adams are buried just steps from sidewalks abuzz with shoppers. Rolled in to this amorphous area is Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the oldest of Boston’s commercial districts, and the Financial District, which stands as testament to Boston’s continuing worldwide economic clout.

  1. Old State House

    Built in 1713 as the seat of colonial government, the Old State House was designed to look down State Street to the shipping hub of Long Wharf. In 1770, the Boston Massacre occurred outside its doors, and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from its balcony . Today, it’s home to the Bostonian Society & Old State House Museum.

    • Washington & State Sts

    • 617 720 1713

    • Open 9am–5pm daily (Jan: until 4pm; Jul–Aug: until 6pm)

    • Adm

    Central staircase, Old State House
  2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace

    Many a fiery speech urging revolution echoed in Faneuil Hall in the late 18th century; in the 1820s it was the city’s food distribution that was revolutionized in adjacent Quincy Market. Today the buildings and surrounding plazas form a festival marketplace – the successful model for dozens of markets worldwide .

    Interior, Quincy Market
  3. Downtown Crossing

    This pedestrian shopping area is flanked by Filene’s Basement and Macy’s department store (closed until 2010). Pushcart vendors and downtown office workers fill the streets here.

    • Junction of Summer, Winter, & Washington Sts

    Downtown Crossing department store
  4. Ladder District

    The network of short streets connecting Washington and Tremont streets has, in recent years, assumed a new identity as the Ladder District. Once derelict and abandoned after dark, the area now throbs with clubs, bars, and restaurants. Anchoring the new district, the Millennium Tower houses the ultra-chic Ritz-Carlton Boston Common and the top-of-the-line Loews Cineplex (175 Tremont St). A few stalwarts, such as the landmark used-book seller, Brattle Book Shop, are holding out against the moneyed big boys.

  5. Old Granary Burying Ground

    Dating from 1660, the Granary contains the graves of many of Boston’s most illustrious figures, including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere (see Figures in Boston History) who joined his revolutionary comrades here in 1818. Other notables include the hugely influential architect Charles Bulfinch, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, and Crispus Attucks – an escaped slave who was allegedly the first casualty of the so-dubbed Boston Massacre.

    • Tremont St at Park St

    • 617 635 4505

    • Open 9 am–5pm daily

    • Free

  6. Post Office Square

    On a sunny day this green oasis is filled with office workers. Surrounding the park are several of the area’s most architecturally distinctive buildings, including the Art Deco post office building (Congress St), the Renaissance revival former Federal Reserve building (now the Langham Boston hotel), and the Art Moderne Verizon building (185 Franklin St). The lobby of the latter houses a small telephone museum and has labor murals celebrating the telephone industry workers.

    Post Office Square
  7. Old South Meeting House

    Old South’s rafters have rung with many impassioned speeches exhorting the overthrow of the king, the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, an end to apartheid, and many other causes. Nearly abandoned when its congregation moved to Back Bay in 1876, it was saved in one of Boston’s first acts of preservation.

    Old South Meeting House
  8. King’s Chapel

    The first Anglican Church in Puritan Boston was established in 1686 to serve the British Army officers. When the majority of Anglicans fled Boston along with retreating British forces in the evacuation of 1776, the chapel became the first Unitarian Church in the New World. The church is known for its program of classical concerts.

    • 58 Tremont St

    • 617 523 1749

    • Open May–early Sep: 1:30pm–4pm Sun, 10am–4pm Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat, 10am–11:15am & 1:30–4pm Tue–Wed (call for off-season hours). Recitals: 12:15pm Tue


    Interior, King’s Chapel
  9. Old Corner Bookstore

    This enduring spot on the Freedom Trail remains one of the most tangible sites associated with the writers of the New England Renaissance of the last half of the 19th century. Both the Atlantic Monthly magazine and Ticknor & Fields (publishers of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau) made this modest structure its headquarters during the mid- and late 19th century, when Boston was the literary, intellectual, and publishing center of the country. Saving the site from demolition in 1960 led to the formation of Historic Boston Incorporated. The building, however, is no longer connected to publishing.

    • 1 School St

  10. Custom House

    When the Custom House was built in 1840, Boston was one of America’s largest overseas shipping ports, and customs fees were the mainstay of the Federal budget. The Neo-Classical structure once sat on the waterfront, but now stands two blocks inland. The 16-story Custom House tower, added in 1913, was Boston’s first skyscraper. Since the 1990s, peregrine falcons have nested in the clock tower under the watchful eyes of wildlife biologists. The lobby displays a few artifacts from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and tours of the tower give sweeping harbor views.

    • 3 McKinley Sq

    • 617 310 6300

    • Tours 10am & 4pm Mon–Thu, 4pm Fri–Sat

    Custom House Tower
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