The Boston Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is at least partly responsible for Boston’s reputation as “America’s Walking City”. In a relatively short 2.5 mile walk around downtown Boston, it takes you through an enormously significant part of American history.
The walk consists of 16 historical landmarks centered around the American Revolution. Starting at the Boston Common, you follow a red brick (sometimes red painted) walking trail with signs marking each of the 16 sites.
Dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1958, the Freedom Trail takes you through museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, and even a ship.
Download this free map from the Freedom Trail Foundation
So, What are the 16 Sites?
Here’s the concise list for those of you who just want the bottom line. For those who like more detail and want to know what to expect, see the descriptions below.
- The Boston Common
- The State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Benjamin Franklin Statue/Boston Latin School
- Old Corner Book Store
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Site of the Boston Massacre
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- The Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- Bunker Hill Monument
- USS Constitution
Freedom Trail Tours
There are at least six guided tour options for your Freedom Trail walk. Each has a slightly different angle, but they all last about 90-minutes (if you are interested in Freedom Trail Boston hours) and cover the majority of the the historic Freedom Trail sites.
Walking the Freedom Trail on Your Own
Taking a Boston Freedom Trail self guided tour is a great way to explore the trail and learn about the rich history of the city. If you prefer to experience the Boston’s Freedom Trail at your own pace you have a few options of self guided tour:
- Do it the really casual way… Start at the top of the Boston Common and literally follow the red brick line through the city. This self guided Freedom Trail way you can take in what grabs your attention and leave the rest (and if you’re like my husband, you can entertain yourself by making up your own commentary as you go :).
- Follow the Map… If you like to know where you are, what you’re looking at, and where you’re going, grab a map and follow along. There are loads of places to pick up or download a Boston Freedom Trail map self guided. Here are a few options:
- Download a PDF version directly from the Freedom Trail Foundation website by clicking here.
- Drop by the Freedom Trail Information Booth, which is located on Boston Common at Tremont Street.
- If you decide to drop by Cheers for lunch before heading off, their paper menus have a (not-to-scale) Freedom Trail map self guided that shows highlights of the tour.
- Bring the Tour With You… The Freedom Trail Foundation now has an audio version of the Freedom Trail Tour ready for rent or download. You can pick up an audio guide at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center or you can download the entire tour onto your MP3 player.
Hotels Near the Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail spans so much of Boston’s significant sites and attractions that it’s kind of hard not to stay somewhere close by!
So, the bigger question is, “On which part of the trail do I want to park myself (or my family)?
Here are my three top picks:
- At The Start: The trail begins at the Boston Common and you won’t have any trouble finding hotels in the area at a variety of price-points.
- Go Italian: The North End is Boston’s Italian neighborhood and home to several excellent Boston hotels. Note: This link takes you to a different site that offers some great discounts on 3 to 5 star hotels.
- The Shopping Option: Stay near Faneuil Hall if you want to get amazing history, shopping and food all in one!
The Low-Down on the 16 Freedom Trail Sites
Below you’ll find a Freedom Trail facts guide with all the information you need to know about the Freedom Trail sites.
1. Boston Common
Often referred to as the oldest public park in America, the Common dates back to 1634. A long list of history-making events have taken place here since that time, including the departure point for the Redcoats on their way to the Battle of Lexington & Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In addition to being of historical significance, the park is home to a carousel, the child-friendly water haven of the Frog Pond, and a number of food vendors. The Boston Common is still a popular destination and hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
To learn more, check out our Boston Common page.
2. The State House
Beacon Street at Park Street
Completed in 1798, the Massachusetts State House, or “New State House,” is one of the oldest buildings on Beacon Hill. It’s easily recognizable and, with its huge gold dome, it serves as a very helpful visual reference point.
3. Park Street Church
Park & Tremont Streets
The Park Street Church was the scene of a number of historic “firsts” including William Lloyd Garrison’s first anti-slavery address on July 4, 1829. Marking 200 years in 2009, the Park Street Church is still active today.
4. Granary Burying Ground
Park & Tremont Streets
This graveyard lays claim to the remains of three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Hancock, Sam Adams & Robert Treat Paine. Do enough detective work and you’ll also find out where in the Granary the Boston Massacre victims were laid to rest.
5. King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground
Corner of Tremont and School Streets
The current King’s Chapel was designed in 1749 (opened in 1754) by America’s first Architect, Peter Harrison. The church bell that rings every Sunday before service was recast in 1816 by Paul Revere himself in order to repair a crack in it. King’s Chapel is still an active church that is also used as a venue for various concerts and recitals.
For almost 30 years King’s Chapel Burying Ground was the only option for burial locations in Boston Proper. Notable permanent residents include William Dawes, Joseph Tapping, John Winthrop and Mary Chilton.
6. Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
45 School Street
A sidewalk mosaic marks the original site of the oldest public school in America. One of the school’s most notable attendees, Benjamin Franklin, is honored by a portrait statue just over the fence.
7. Old Corner Book Store
Washington Street at School Street
While the building you see is the ‘restored’ version, the original construction was built in 1711, and was the first brick building in Boston. Today it houses a jewellery store, but it was the bookstore and printing company that opened in 1828 that made this site famous. It published works of authors such as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.
8. Old South Meeting House
310 Washington Street
Sometimes referred to as ‘The Sanctuary of Freedom’, the Old South Meeting House played host to pivotal events in the birth of the United States. In fact, the meeting held on December 16, 1773 is assumed to have been the trigger for the famous Boston Tea Party which took place later that night.
9. Old State House
Intersection of Devonshire & State Streets
The British Government ruled the colony from here until they were driven out by the Continental Army. The balcony on the east side of the building is where the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston.
10. Site of the Boston Massacre
Intersection of Devonshire & State Streets
In front of the Old State House you’ll find a circle of cobblestones marking the site of the Boston Massacre. Five Bostonians were killed here by British soldiers on March 5th, 1770. As a result, what had started as a small fight became a significant step towards the American Revolution.
11. Faneuil Hall & Sam Adams Statue
North Market Street
Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a center of commerce. The first floor market stalls are still a great shopping experience today and the third floor is the HQ for the third oldest chartered military organization in the world, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.
The reason it is sometimes referred to as the Cradle of Liberty is because of the meeting hall on the second floor. What about it? Starting in 1764, Faneuil Hall was the site of public protests against various taxes and the Redcoat occupation. In addition, the first meeting (of many) that led to the Boston Tea Party was held here.
The Samuel Adams statue is in front of Faneuil Hall. Adams’ speeches in and around this building, strongly encouraged independence from Great Britain. He also staged a funeral here for the Boston Massacre victims.
12. Paul Revere House
19 North Square
A house with serious history… The Paul Revere House is the oldest building still standing in downtown Boston. Revere set out from here on his famous Midnight Ride to Lexington.
13. The Old North Church
193 Salem Street
Ever heard Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which gave rise to the phrase “One if by land, two if by sea”? Well, this is the source of it. On April 18, 1775, two lanterns were hung in the 191-foot steeple of the Old North Church to alert the surrounding areas that the Redcoats were coming.
Old North Church is officially known as Christ Church in the City of Boston. It’s the oldest standing church building in Boston and is today an active Episcopal church.
14. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
William Copp was a shoemaker who once owned this land. It was founded as a burying ground in 1659 by the town of Boston and is the city’s second oldest graveyard.
Among those buried here are William Copp and his children, Robert Newman (sexton of Old North Church, and believed to be the person who hung the two lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s midnight ride), Increase Mather and Cotton Mather (of the Salem Witch trials), Prince Hall (the father of Black Freemasonry) and Edmund Hartt, builder of the USS Constitution. In addition, up to 1,000 free African-Americans are buried here in unmarked graves.
Copp’s Hill was the obvious place for the British to position their cannons during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Due to it being the third highest hill in Boston, it gave an easy aim to many surrounding areas, including Charlestown.
15. Bunker Hill Monument
Monument Square, Charlestown
Technically the British forces won the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, the Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the incredible determination of the colonial forces during this, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.
On June 17, 1775, on this site, a relatively small and newly-formed patriot army held off 2,200 British troops until a third wave attack finally forced surrender of the hill. With ammunition supplies dwindling, the famous order was given by a colonial Commander… “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The end result was over 1,000 British casualties, compared to 400-600 colonial casualties. This proved the effective fighting capabilities and resolve of the colonial forces.
16. USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and Museum
Charlestown Navy Yard
“Old Ironsides” is the famous nickname given to the naval vessel USS Constitution. The name was earned during the Second War of Independence when cannonballs fired by the British simply bounced off her sides. Old Ironsides is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat anywhere in the world.
Free guided tours of the ship are given by active-duty Navy sailors. The tours include three decks of the ship and reveal USS Constitution’s history to the current day. One tip: Security screening is required for all visitors, so take that into account when planning your visit.
Looking for the best and closest hotel to Fenway Park? This page will answer all your questions and help to choose the best option for you!