During our short visit to Boston, we went on a freedom trail self-guided tour to see the sights significant to the history of the United States.
We want to show you why we think a self-guided freedom trail tour is the best way to experience this number one Boston attraction, and how to make the most of the 2.5 mile-long path through the city.
A tour of just some or all of the Freedom Trail route can be done in a number of different ways and what we love about a self-guided tour of the freedom trail is that you can do the route the way you want to, whether that means only doing a small section of the freedom trail or whether that means going backwards compared to the traditional starting point of the Boston freedom trail.
We found ourselves opting for a self guided freedom trail tour after a couple of issues (more on that later), getting onto a paid tour. However, it actually turned out to be the very best way for us to see Boston freedom trail. Which led us to encourage others to do the same in this very article.
- The Start Of The Boston Freedom Trail
- When Was The Boston Freedom Trail Established?
- Is The Boston Freedom Trail Free?
- Can I Enter Sites On The Boston Freedom Trail?
- What Are The Sites Of The Boston Freedom Trail?
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel
- King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
- Corner Book Store
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Site Of The Boston Massacre
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- USS Constitution
- Bunker Hill Monument
- Freedom Trail Map
- Parking Near The Boston Freedom Trail
- Where To Eat On The Freedom Trail
- Where To Stay Near The Freedom Trail
- Our Self Guided Freedom Trail Tour
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The Start Of The Boston Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail starts at Boston Common this was a 10-minute walk from where we were staying. However, there are a number of hotels in the area to choose from that are all local to the start of the Boston freedom trail if where we stayed isn’t right for you and your family.
If you are staying further away from Boston Common then you may need to use public transport to get to the start of the Freedom Trail. In this case, the green or red line will take you to Park Street Station. This is the closest station to the start of the Freedom Trail. (around a one minute walk depending on the exit you take from the station)
Alternatively, the blue and orange lines come into State Street Station. This station is quite literally on the Freedom Trail and is approximately a 5-minute walk to Boston Common.
When Was The Boston Freedom Trail Established?
The Boston Freedom Trail was established in 1951 by William Schofield a local journalist who suggested building a pedestrian trail to link important local landmarks. Mayor at the time John Hynes decided to implement the journalist’s ideas.
As a result in the space of just two years what is now known as the Boston Freedom Trail was being walked by more than 40,000 people annually. Today, of course, the number is much higher.
Is The Boston Freedom Trail Free?
It’s completely free to walk the Boston Freedom Trail.
However, a number of guides are available who you can pay for a tour. They cover some and/or all of the entire trail. These tours are done privately or as part of a group. One advantage to the guides is the undisputed knowledge they have of the area.
In addition to these tours, you could also pay for a ticket on hop-on, hop-off bus service. Not only do these services cover a large majority of the sights on the Freedom trail (ideal for those a little further spread near the end of the trail) they also cover other major tourist signs and attractions in Boston too.
Don’t forget, if you do get a ticket for one of these services you might be able to use it to get to Boston Common for the start of the freedom trail instead of paying extra and using the public transport service.
Can I Enter Sites On The Boston Freedom Trail?
The following locations charge an entrance fee to enter;
Old South Meeting House
The following locations suggest a donation, however, it’s not required for entrance;
What Are The Sites Of The Boston Freedom Trail?
As we mentioned in the introduction Boston Common marks the start of the Boston Freedom Trail. It’s the oldest public park in the United States, established back in 1634. Just next to it you’ll find Park St Subway Station, this is also the first subway station to open in the United States back in 1897.
Between its opening in 1634 and 1830 Boston Common was used as a space for the grazing of cattle. Now, it’s a hive of activity with a mix of locals and tourists using the park as a location to meet, relax and enjoy.
If you do decide to take on a tour of Boston Freedom Trail or would like additional information, we suggest dropping into the Boston Common Visitor Center which is open from 8.30am (9am on weekends) until 5pm. Here you’ll be able to book tours, get souvenirs from the trail, maps etc.
Massachusetts State House
The first stop on your Freedom Trail journey is Massachusetts State House is the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of the state of Massachusettes. Located in the Beacon Hill area of Boston it’s the oldest continually running state capital building in America.
Inside the State House, you’ll find a large dome ceiling, origionally made of wood the dome was covered in copper by Paul Revere in 1802 and was gilded in 23k gold on the 100th birthday of the United States of America in 1876.
Monday through to Friday you can take part in a free guided tour of the inside of the State House. Tours run on the half-hour from 10.30am through until 3.30pm and last between 30 and 45 minutes.
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
Just across the street from the State House, you’ll find your second stop on the Boston Freedom Trail, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.
The memorial depicts Robert Gould Shaw alongside his men of the 54th Regiment in the first volunteer African American unit within the US Army as they marched down Beacon Street on the 28th May 1863 during the American Civil War.
To learn more about Robert Gould Shaw and his sacrifises we recommend watching the 1989 film Glory.
Park Street Church
Built-in 1809, Park Street Church is the third stop on this self-guided tour of the Boston Freedom Trail. This Conservative Congregational church still averages around 2,000 in Sunday attendance and has around 1,000 members in total.
The church was home to the first Sunday School in the United States, established in 1818. However, as with any church of this age, it also has a number of other important moments in history including it being the location of William Lloyd Garrisons first antislavery speech and where a church choir first sang in public during the 4th July celebrations in 1831.
Granary Burying Ground
The next stop on the Boston Freedom trail is The Granary Burying Ground. Founded in 1660, it’s the cities third-oldest cemetery. You’ll also be visiting Kings Chapel Burying Ground later in the Freedom Trail which is the oldest graveyard in the city.
Granary Buying Ground is home to 2,345 graves, including that of three signers of the Declaration of Independence rest; Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Treat Paine. As well as Paul Revere, Mary Goose and the parents and siblings of Benjamin Franklin.
King’s Chapel was origionally built-in 1688 from wood. However, today the church is made from stone as the original church was built around before the original wooden structure was dismantled inside back in 1754. The dismantled wooden church and it’s stained glass windows were shipped to Luneburg, Nova Scotia where they were reconstructed to create St John’s Anglican Church.
Sadly back in 2001, the St John’s Anglican Church suffered a fire and substantial damage. It took four years for the church to be restored.
King’s Chapel is one of the locations on the Boston Freedom Trail that’s open to the public for self-guided tours. Donations are appreciated at the donation box at the entrance to the church. If you have the time during your visit to the Boston Freedom Trail then we’d certainly recommend heading inside. Here you’ll find additional information about the church to help inform and guide you.
King’s Chapel Burying Ground
King’s Chapel is as we mentioned earlier the oldest burial place in Boston. It’s believed that the first burial at King’s Chapel Burying Ground is Isaac Johnson an English clergyman, who was one of the Puritan founders of Massachusetts and the former landowner of where the burial ground now stands.
Other notable people buried in King’s Chapel Burying Ground include; Massachusetts’ first governor, John Winthrop. William Dawes, Paul Revere’s compatriot on his ride to Lexington in 1775.
Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
Our next stop on the Boston Freedom Trail is both the Boston Latin School and the Benjamin Franklin Statue. The Boston Latin School was founded back in April 1635 and is the oldest public school in America. The school offered free education to boys regardless of their financial background and is still in operation today albeit over by Fenwick Park.
A large mosaic and statue of former student Benjamin Franklin marks the location of the original schoolhouse which was built in 1645. Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended Boston Latin School.
These include Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper. Although only four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated. Despite being one of America’s greatest minds to have ever have lived Benjamin Franklin was, in fact, a school dropout.
Corner Book Store
Built-in 1718 The Old Corner Bookstore located at 283 Washington Street was origionally an apothecary shop, which went onto become a book store over 100 years later in 1828.
The bookstore was made famous for its second-floor meetings between novelists including Harriet Beecher?Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickerson and Nathanael Hawthorn. Unfortunately, the bookstore fell into disrepair in the 1950s and went onto become completely vacant. In the 1960’s it was repaired and converted into a jewellery store, the Old Corner Bookstore became many different retailers during this period, now, however, it’s a Chipotle.
Being that this monument on the Boston Freedom Trail is now home to fast-food chain does anger many, however, without it sadly, it may have just fallen back into disrepair. As a result, you’re still able to step inside and see some of the traditional exposed brickwork and marvel at the architectural structure.
Old South Meeting House
The Old South Meeting House is one of my favourite spots on the Boston Freedom Trail. The Congregational church was built in 1729 and is the location in which the Boston Tea Party was both organised and started in 1773 in which the Sons of Liberty dumped 242 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor.
The Old South Meeting House is one of the stops on the Boston Freedom Trail in which you can enter for a small fee ($6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and $1 for students between 5 – 17, children under 5 are free). The house is open daily, with slightly reduced hours on a weekend (visit the dedicated site using the link below for the most up to date opening hours)
If you’re visiting Boston during December then be sure to try and head down to The Old South Meeting House where on December 16th you can see the annual reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. You can also learn more about the Old South Meeting House online – such as how it was almost destroyed in the Great Fire of Boston back in 1872.
Old State House
Built in 1713, The Old State House is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States and was the seat of the Massachusettes General Court until 1798. During the 1700’s you’d find some of the founding fathers of the country such as Sam Adams and James Otis here arguing against the policies of the British Crown.
The balcony situated on the front of the Old State House building is where the Declaration of Independence was first read in 1776. As a result, a small riot broke out, in which the Lion and Unicorn which sits on top of the Old State House were ripped down and burnt in a fire – it was put back in position over 100 years later during a refurbishment.
The Old State House is now a fantastic museum which includes interactive displays and rare artefacts relating back to the sights on the Freedom Trail and the history of the building from when it was the seat of the Massachusettes General Court. The museum is open daily from 9am until 5pm. Admission at the time of writing is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and free for children and military veterans.
Pro Tip: If you happen to be visiting Boston during the 4th July, then we recommend heading down to the Old State House and listening to the Declaration of Independence being read at 10am as it first was in 1776.
Site Of The Boston Massacre
Just outside of the Old State House you’ll find the Boston Massacre site marker, although this is not exactly where the Boston Massacre took place (the exact marker has been moved on two occasions for the intersection). This marker is the monument for the five victims who were killed during the Boston Massacre which took place on the 5th March 1770.
In the centre of the monument, you’ll see a five-pointed star which signifies the five deaths. This is enclosed by six cobblestones which signifies the six injured, and finally, the 13 cobblestone stopes which stretch from the centre to represent the original 13 colonies; Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Faneuil Hall was built using the funds of the rich slave merchant, Peter Faneuil in 1740. The hall was designed in the style of an English Country Market by architect John Smibert, with an open ground floor serving as the market hall and the second tier serving as the assembly room. This is the format in which Faneuil Hall remains today.
Outside the market hall, you’ll find a number of acts including comedians, dancers and jugglers performing to the large crowds that visit this attraction every day. Inside you’ll find a range of delicious food options and souvenir locations making this the perfect stop for a traditional meal on your journey along Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Paul Revere House
The next stage of the Boston Freedom Trail takes you over to the Northend / Little Italy region. Here you’ll find the oldest structure in Boston; Paul Revere House. Built in 1680, Paul Revere lived here from 1770 until 1800.
The Paul Revere House is now a museum which you can visit. Sadly, it wasn’t somewhere we could visit during our trip to Boston as they were doing some archaeological digging on the site – which was very impressive to watch.
Admission into the museum is $3.50 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and students, $1.00 for children between the ages of 5 and 17 and free for those under 5. The museum is open daily (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) from 9.30 am. To learn more about the museum we recommend visiting the Paul Revere House website.
Between Paul Revere House and Old North Church, you’ll also find the Paul Revere Statue which took 16 years to create and is now one of the most photographed statues in all of Boston. Here you’ll find Paul Revere portrayed as he was during his historic Midnight Ride.
Pro Tip: In times where Boston sports teams are in a championship game, you’ll often find the Paul Revere Statue sporting a team jersey.
Old North Church
The next stop on your self-guided tour of the Boston Freedom Trail is Old North Church, the oldest church building in Boston. Built in 1723, the church was made famous in 1775 as the departing location for Paul Reverse Midnight ride which resulted in the battle that started the American Revolution.
The Old North Church is free to enter and is open from 9am until 6pm daily (except for Sundays when it opens at 12.30 after the Sunday service)
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
Copp’s Hill Buring Ground is Boston city’s second cemetery, origionally named North Burying Ground it was established in 1659.
Those buried at Copp’s Hill Buring Ground include; Robert Newman who hung the lanterns the in the steeple of the Old North the night of Paul Revere?s American Revolution ride, and Prince Hall, the first African American Mason and found of the Prince Hall Masons.
Our next stop on the Freedom Trail is the USS Constitution, built-in 1797 it’s the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy. The vessel was origionally built to protect American Merchant Ships from pirates near North Africa, however, it was only made famous during the almost 3-year long war of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The ship is currently open to the public for free guided tours, alongside this you’ll also find the USS Constitution Museum. Admission to the museum is a suggested donation amount ($5 – $10 for adults and $3 – $5 for children). Inside the museum, you’ll be given the chance to learn more about what life was like aboard the ship and more about the ships impressive history. For the latest museum opening times, we suggest visiting the USS Constitution Museum website.
Bunker Hill Monument
Bunker Hill Monument is the final stop on the Boston Freedom Trail. Opened in 1843, the monument was dedicated to the Battle of Bunker Hill which was fought on the 17th June 1775 during the early stages of the American Revolutionary War.
The monument is 221 feet tall and took 16 years to complete, with 294 steps to the top in which you can climb for free from the beginning of April through to the end of June (you’ll just need to get a climbing pass from the Bunker Hill Museum)
The Bunker Hill Museum is located at the foot of the hill and is free to enter. It contains a number of informative and interactive exhibits that reference the battle. For the latest opening times visit the Bunker Hill Museum website.
Freedom Trail Map
The following map highlights all of the sights on the Freedom Trail. Click on any of the numbers to learn more about that particular location. Those points highlighted in orange are coffee shops and restaurants (something for all budgets) that I’ve gone into slightly more detail below.
Parking Near The Boston Freedom Trail
If you’re looking for parking near the Boston Freedom Trail then we suggest one of the following locations;
Boston Common Parking Garage
Address: Zero Charles Street Boston, MA 02116
This parking location is actually under Boston Common (which as a side note, is pretty fascinating in itself) the parking rates along with discounts and online bookings can be made online. The rates are affordable, inline with Boston pricing $28 for 10 hours at the time of writing and with 1,350 parking spaces, you’re likely to find somewhere to park here and with its location being at the very start of the Boston Freedom Trail it’s our number one recommendation.
City Place Garage
Address: 8 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 021
Just off Charles Street, footsteps from Boston Common you’ll find CityPlace Garage. The carpark is available 24/7 and rates are once again reasonable with up to 12 hours costing $23 Monday to Friday.
One Beacon Garage
Address: 1 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108
Halfway between Boston Common and Faneuil Hall, there’s One Beacon Garage. While anyone staying over 80 minutes will hit the daily max rate of $42 I mention One Beacon Garage due to the generous discount on mid-week evenings ($14 from 4pm through until 6am) and weekends ($12 for up to 24 hours)
Where To Eat On The Freedom Trail
All of the following locations mentioned in this section have been added to the map of the Freedom Trail above.
Coffee & Snacks
The thinking cup is a great place to pick up a coffee, snacks or even a sandwich. The menu features a wide range of gluten free options too.
There’s a number of Starbucks in and around the Freedom Trail in Boston. You’re likely to have had a Starbucks previously regardless of where in the world you come from, so a safe and solid choice if you’re in need of refreshments.
One of my favourite places as an English person when visiting America is Chipotle. We chose to eat here during our walk of the Freedom Trail, and I don’t think this list would be quite complete without giving it a mention.
Elite clientele, food gathered from around the world and a contrast of cultures so bright you have to look twice, Yvonne’s is well and truly an experience not to be forgotten.
Tip Tap Room
The Tip Tap Room is the perfect place to head for a well-deserved meal and a pint. Located opposite Otis House Museum, this restaurant is the furthest away from the Boston Freedom Trail route.
A world famous American Italian, Giacomo’s isn’t a cheap choice but it’s one you won’t regret making. With pasta made in-house, fresh, daily you’ll probably find yourself queuing here at lunch time so get there early.
Where To Stay Near The Freedom Trail
We stayed in HI Boston which is the only hostel in Boston. If a hostel doesn’t sound like it would suit your accommodation needs during your stay in Boston then check out some of the other options below;
Our Self Guided Freedom Trail Tour
You can’t go to Boston without hearing and seeing sights of The Freedom Trail. Our first day in Boston was a Sunday, and we couldn’t think of a better way to discover the city we’d be spending the next few days in.
Staying at the HI Boston we were just around the corner from Boston Common where The Freedom Trail begins. Adjacent to the Tremont Street, midway in the park you’ll find a visitor centre. It’s hard to miss as there’s usually groups congregating outside.
Inside the visitor centre, you found a wealth of Boston and Freedom Trail related products. As well as the option to sign up for a historic tour. The tour was almost $15 for adults and $13 for students, unfortunately, this was our entire daily budget – meaning it simply wasn’t an option in this case.
A budget-friendly alternative is a $3 map. A free map is available (something that’s not made clear inside the visitor centre – I only found out post our trip online). To access it you need to go to the counter and ask for the “Free Freedom Trail Map”.
I simply didn’t want to settle for paying $3 for a map that I was determined would be available online. So I scoured the internet on my iPhone and managed to find the most fantastic, free and mobile-friendly resource. We’ve since gone onto make our own map, with all the features we’d have liked to have had in the other one. Scroll back to the top of this post to view.
The Freedom Trail couldn’t be easier to follow thanks to a two brick-red line that runs along the path from start to finish. Although we noticed some small breaks where works had been constructed and the line not replaced.
During peak hours 10am – 3pm and peak areas of the Freedom Trail I very much doubt you’ll need to use the line. Being such a popular attraction you’ll notice many independent tours and groups following the trail, inevitably you’ll find yourself following them too.
Each of the seventeen stops is marked with a sign interrupting the two brick line on the path. In some cases you’ll also find an additional sign at eye-level.
Again, I very much doubt you’ll need to make use of this in popular times and at popular destinations. You’ll once again notice the influx of cameras taking ‘selfies’ or tours stopping.
By now you’ve probably heard me mention ‘popular’ sites within The Freedom Trail. That’s because we noticed a significant reduction in the people following the trail after stop number 12; Faneuil Hall.
Stop ones to twelve measure a distance of just under one mile and takes approximately one and half-hours (depending on how busy it is, how fast you read, what information you read, if you stop for snacks, toilet break etc. and if you go inside any of the sites)
Stops twelve to seventeen, however, measure a distance of more than one and a half miles over mixed terrain.
In fact, stop seventeen, Bunker Hill Monument isn’t even in Boston. It’s actually in Charlestown.
Including stopping for snacks and not entering any of the paid exhibits the entire walk took us three hours (from 10.30am until 1.30pm). Having arrived at Bunker Hill (and walked more than three miles and not eaten lunch!). We decided to get the bus back to central Boston.
The bus cost us $2 each and took a little under 10 minutes. Of course, it’s your self-guided freedom trail tour – which means it’s completely up to you whether you how you choose to get back to the centre of Boston.
You could even look to do the route almost back to front. Ending up in the centre of Boston.