The Freedom Trail self-guided Tour – Boston
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) path through the center of Boston, that passes by 16 significant locations in the history of the United States, located in three of the best places to stay in Boston (North End, Downtown, and Beacon Hill).
Marked largely with brick, it winds between Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Stops along the trail include simple explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable churches and buildings, and a historic naval frigate.
While most of the sites are free or suggested donations, the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, and the Paul Revere House charge admission.
Following are some of the must-visit places on the trail. Check out the map at the end of the post for your reference to The Freedom Trail self-guided tour
The Freedom Trail self-guided Tour – Summary table
This sequence starts from the North End and takes you through the most optimized route while visiting all 16 sites on the Freedom Trail.
|Name of the Site
|When was Built
|Area of Boston
|Street Name and Number
|Paul Revere House
|19 North Square
|Paul Revere’s historic home, oldest in downtown
|Old North Church
|193 Salem St
|Oldest church in Boston, lantern signal site
|Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
|Historic cemetery with notable burials
|USS Constitution & Museum
|Charlestown Navy Yard
|Oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world
|Bunker Hill Monument
|Site of Revolutionary War battle, 221-ft obelisk
|Massachusetts State House
|24 Beacon St
|Historic state capitol, iconic golden dome
|139 Tremont St
|Oldest public park in US, green urban space
|Park Street Church
|1 Park St
|Historic church, anti-slavery and social reform
|Granary Burying Ground
|Final resting place for notable historical figures
|King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
|58 Tremont St
|Historical church and oldest cemetery in Boston
|Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
|45 School St
|Site of first public school, Franklin’s statue
|Old Corner Bookstore
|283 Washington St
|Historic literary site, now a restaurant
|Old South Meeting House
|310 Washington St
|Pre-Revolution meeting place, museum today
|Old State House
|206 Washington St
|Historic building, site of Boston Massacre
|Boston Massacre Site
|206 Washington St
|Historic site, tragic Boston Massacre
|1 Faneuil Hall Square
|Historic marketplace, meeting hall
It’s now time to start the Freedom Trail by entering North End, one of the best places to stay in Boston without a car, between lovely buildings full of character.
Paul Revere House
I decided to start the walk from Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood, North End.
There are different ways to do it. This is probably one of the most optimized ways, where you will have less walking and more time at the sites.
The first site on the list is Paul Revere House, built in 1680.
Paul Revere was an American silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, and patriot in the American Revolution.
He is best known for alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride”.
The Paul Revere House is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and a key attraction on the Freedom Trail.
Take a step back in time as you explore the home of the legendary patriot, where he lived with his large family.
As you wander through the quaint, rustic rooms, imagine Revere setting off on his midnight ride to warn the colonists that “the British are coming”!
Dive into the rich history of this iconic figure, learning about his role in the American Revolution and his career as a skilled silversmith.
Fun fact: Revere had 16 children, so you can imagine how lively and bustling this house must have been!
Old North Church
Built in 1723, the Old North Church is famous for its role in the American Revolution.
It was here that lanterns were hung to signal Paul Revere on that fateful night in 1775.
The highlight of this historic site is its stunning Georgian architecture.
The church’s steeple is the tallest in Boston, standing at an impressive 191 feet.
Keep an eye out for the legendary weathervane, shaped like an angel, perched on top!
Interesting fact: The church is still an active Episcopal congregation, hosting services and events throughout the year.
Near the Old North Church, there is a small memorial with tags representing the fallen soldiers in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
The Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is one of the oldest cemeteries in Boston (1659).
As you meander through the serene and picturesque grounds, take a moment to reflect on the lives of those buried here, including famous names like Cotton Mather, Robert Newman, and Prince Hall.
The cemetery’s location on a hill offers stunning views of the surrounding area, making it a peaceful and memorable stop on your Freedom Trail self-guided walk.
From this spot, British soldiers bombarded Breed’s Hill with cannon fire on June 17, 1775.
Fun fact: Check out carefully the tombstones and you will notice marks from a few bullets. Well, the British soldiers used the cemetery for target practice during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Charlestown Navy Yard/USS Constitution
After the revolution, citizens proved their willingness to defend their newfound freedom and economic independence by developing and supporting a navy.
From 1800 to 1974, Charlestown Navy Yard built, repaired, and outfitted US Naval vessels.
Today the yard is home to the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
The “Old Ironsides” (this is its common nickname) is a majestic and invincible ship that played a crucial role in the War of 1812.
While at the Charlestown Navy Yard, you can also plan to visit the local museum where you will get to learn more about how people were living on board in the 18th century.
Interactive exhibits, artifacts, and stories bring history to life, making it an engaging experience for all ages.
Interesting fact: “Old Ironsides” earned its nickname because cannonballs appeared to bounce right off her thick wooden hull during battles!
Bunker Hill Monument
The Bunker Hill Monument is an impressive 221-foot granite obelisk remembering the famous Battle of Bunker Hill, the Revolution’s first major battle and turning point in the American Revolution.
Completed in 1843, the monument offers a stunning view of Boston for those willing to climb the 294 steps to the top.
You can do that by visiting the museum that is across the street (free admission) and asking for a pass for the long climb.
The museum has exhibits about the community, monuments, and battles.
Funny fact: Despite its name, the monument is actually located on Breed’s Hill, not Bunker Hill – a classic case of mistaken identity that persists to this day!
Massachusetts State House
Completed in 1798, the iconic Massachusetts State House is a symbol of Boston’s rich history and vibrant present.
Designed by famed architect Charles Bulfinch, the State House’s golden dome has become an unmistakable landmark in the city.
The State House has a few architectural features that make this building unique.
Here you will also learn more about Massachusetts’ political past and present.
Interesting fact: The dome was originally made of wood and was later covered with copper by none other than Paul Revere!
Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park and a perfect spot to take a break from your Freedom Trail self-guided walk.
With its lush greenery, tranquil atmosphere, and historical significance, the Common has something for everyone.
Over the years, it has served various purposes, from a cow pasture to a site for public hangings, making it a fascinating window into Boston’s past.
Interesting fact: Did you know that the Common was even used as a British encampment during the Revolutionary War?
Park Street Church
Park Street Church was built in 1809.
This church played a pivotal role in the abolitionist movement, with famous orators like William Lloyd Garrison delivering powerful speeches.
As you visit this important site, you’ll learn about the many causes championed by the church’s congregation and the impact they had on American society.
Interesting fact: Park Street Church is also where the song “America” (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) was first sung in public in 1831!
Granary Burying Ground
I know, a tour of a cemetery is not on everyone’s must-do list.
For this reason, I suggest a walk in the Granary Burying Ground only if you are really interested to see the tombs of a few famous figures in American history. People like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.
These are all people that shaped the course of American history, with incredible stories and contributions.
Interesting fact: The cemetery gets its name from a warehouse used to store grain that once stood nearby, and it was later moved to make way for the Park Street Church.
King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
Established in 1686, King’s Chapel is an architectural gem with a fascinating history.
Originally King’s Chapel was an Anglican church, however, in the 18th century it became a Unitarian congregation.
As you admire the church’s beautiful interior, be sure to visit the adjacent King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston.
I know, yet another cemetery. Here you will find the tombs of the first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, and the first woman to step off the Mayflower, Mary Chilton.
Funny fact: The church’s bell, which still rings today, was cast by Paul Revere and weighs over a ton!
Benjamin Franklin Statue & Boston Latin School
As you embark on your Freedom Trail self-guided walk, be sure to visit the historical sites of Boston Latin School and the Benjamin Franklin Statue.
Both landmarks offer fascinating insights into the city’s past and the incredible individuals who made their mark on American history.
First up, the Boston Latin School – America’s oldest public school, was founded in 1635.
This prestigious institution boasts an impressive alumni list, including five signers of the Declaration of Independence and countless influential figures throughout history.
Interesting fact: Did you know that Ben Franklin, though a famous alumnus, actually dropped out of Boston Latin School? He later went on to establish the rival institution, Philadelphia’s Academy, which eventually became the University of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of Benjamin Franklin, just a short walk from the Boston Latin School, you’ll find the striking Benjamin Franklin Statue.
This bronze masterpiece, created by artist Richard Saltonstall Greenough in 1856, captures the essence of the great statesman, inventor, and polymath.
As you admire the statue, envision Franklin’s humble beginnings in Boston, where he laid the foundation for his future accomplishments.
Interesting fact: The statue stands on the site of the original Boston Latin School, symbolically connecting Franklin’s academic roots with his legendary achievements.
Old Corner Bookstore
Right at the end of the street from the Boston Latin School, you will find on the corner the building of the Old Corner Bookstore, erected in 1718.
This was the meeting point of famous writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
As you take in the quaint brick building, imagine the stimulating conversations and creative sparks that flew within its walls.
Though the Old Corner Bookstore now houses a retail business, its literary spirit endures.
Interesting fact: Originally an apothecary, the building’s unique gambrel roof is said to resemble a mortar and pestle!
Old South Meeting House
Erected in 1729, the Old South Meeting House was colonial Boston’s largest structure and the epicenter of significant events leading up to the American Revolution.
Here, colonists gathered to challenge British tax policies, eventually sparking the Boston Tea Party.
As you uncover this historic site, learn about the impassioned debates and key figures that shaped American history.
Interesting fact: The Old South Meeting House’s preservation in the 1870s marked one of the earliest successful U.S. historic preservation efforts!
Old State House
Erected in 1713, the Old State House was the seat of the Massachusetts General Court until 1798 and is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States.
One of the landmarks on Boston’s Freedom Trail, it is the oldest surviving public building in Boston, and now serves as a history museum operated by the Bostonian Society.
This Georgian-style edifice has witnessed numerous crucial events in the American Revolution, including the notorious Boston Massacre.
As you delve into the building’s intriguing exhibits, you’ll develop a deeper appreciation for the challenges and victories that built a nation.
Interesting fact: In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was first read to Boston’s residents from the Old State House’s balcony!
Boston Massacre Site
While strolling through downtown Boston, pause at the cobblestone circle outside the Old State House.
This spot marks the tragic Boston Massacre, which took place on March 5, 1770.
This dramatic event became a catalyst for the Revolutionary War, forever altering the relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain.
As you stand here, reflect on the five colonists who lost their lives and how their sacrifice changed history.
Intriguing fact: Crispus Attucks, the first man killed in the massacre, is considered the first casualty of the American Revolution.
As you explore the bustling marketplace of Faneuil Hall, built in 1742, you’ll be stepping into the “Cradle of Liberty.”
This iconic meeting hall hosted impassioned speeches and debates, where colonists expressed their resistance to British rule.
Nowadays, Faneuil Hall is alive with shops, eateries, and street performers.
Don’t forget to check out the legendary grasshopper weathervane atop the building, a fixture since the 18th century!
Fun fact: The correct pronunciation of Faneuil Hall often trips people up – it’s actually “FAN-yool.”
Travel & Photography Tips
- Visit the museum at Bunker Hill so you can get free passes to climb the 294 steps inside the monument.
- The USS Constitution Museum has a lot of interactive activities that you will enjoy.
This post was written in collaboration with Victor Rodriguez, our US expert