Want to soak up the rich history of Massachusetts? You’ll find it all in Downtown Boston. One of the USA’s oldest cities, Boston and is brimming with cultural delights. Step back in time with the city’s Freedom Trail sites, brutalist architecture, and classic pubs.
Relive significant events from Boston’s past at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and the Old State House. A great marketplace scene takes place in significant buildings like Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, and the Boston Public Market. Throughout Downtown, you’ll also get to delve into fantastic street food and shop for artisan goods.
Even the nightlife scene is dripping with antiquity. Sample fresh seafood alongside stunning period architecture and visit trendy bars with a nod to the prohibition.
Ready for the ultimate New England adventure? Craft the perfect stay with this handy Downtown Boston guide. Discover the top things to see and do, where to eat & drink, and the best hotels to stay in!
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What to see & do in Downtown Boston
New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium attracts 1.3 million visitors a year and is the biggest aquarium on the East Coast, home to over 22,000 inhabitants. They’re a fountain of knowledge, and their passion for marine exploration and conservation shines through, making the aquarium the perfect addition to your Downtown Boston itinerary.
Start your New England Aquarium visit off at the Edge of the Sea tide pool to touch sea stars and different types of crabs. This may not be such a good idea when you slink over to the tropical gallery; it’s home to several species of venomous fish like lionfish and scorpionfish!
If fish aren’t your thing, check out the fur seals and sea lions, or meet African and southern rockhopper penguins at the aquarium’s penguin colony.
You could spend hours watching marine life swirl around the Giant Ocean Tank. The 200,000-gallon exhibit stretches across four stories of the New England Aquarium. The stunning coral reef is alive with over 1,000 different animals.
Need a break from Downtown Boston sightseeing? Grab a snack and relax in Boston Common. This green city oasis is the oldest park in the USA and one of the best places to visit in Boston. Enter the massive park via the funky Charles Street and enjoy 50 acres of peaceful greenery.
Built in 1634, Boston Common has played host to some serious historical events. It holds memories of civil rights protests led by Martin Luther King, Jr and a mass presented by Pope John Paul II.
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Nowadays, Boston Common is the perfect place to relax and commemorate the events that have passed. Laze in shady green spaces. Wander around and spot the different monuments like the Boston Massacre Memorial. On a sunny day, you can take a dip in the Frog Pond.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Immerse yourself in a famous historical event at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Located on the edge of the Seaport District, this interactive floating museum is one of the most unusual things to do in Downtown Boston. Hop on to the barge and explore virtual exhibits and restored tea ships bringing to life events that took place over 200 years ago.
You’ll leave Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum with a thorough understanding of the events leading up to the American Revolution. Get your colonial host and take part in a re-enactment of the tea’s destruction. Examine full-scale replicas and fascinating artifacts as you explore the restored Elenor and Beaver ships.
Faneuil Hall is a significant point of interest in Downtown Boston. Also known as the cradle of liberty, it’s been a place for protests and debate for 275 years. Today it’s a buzzing marketplace brimming with food stands, antique stalls, and street performers.
Explore the distinctive red brick building or step out into the surrounding plazas. Catch a walking tour to discover more about this fascinating place. Or just soak up the ambiance of the marketplace and acknowledge the legacy of the abolitionists and the women’s suffragists.
Faneuil Hall is also a foodie paradise. Sample delicious New England delicacies like Boston baked beans, lobster rolls, and clam chowder.
The acrobatics and juggling acts outside are not to be missed, either; some of the most renowned street performers in the world come for the Faneuil Hall crowds!
If Faneuil Hall didn’t give you your market fix, Quincy Market is right next door. In fact, they’re so interconnected most people assume that they’re the same place. The building has been serving people delicious food since 1826. Designed by architect Alexander Parris, it’s a stunning place to grab a bite.
The grand granite exterior of Quincy Market conjures up images of Ancient Rome, with stately pillars guarding the entrance. Browse over 100 different artisan stores and food vendors serving New England specialties and flavors from around the world.
Why not try a Boston cream pie, the official dessert of Massachusetts? When you have your food, sit inside the huge dome and look over the balcony at the people passing below.
Shop for big brands and handmade pieces by local artists. Alongside the market, there are adorable pushcarts run by local entrepreneurs. Quincy Market is the perfect place to buy a unique New England souvenir.
Old State House
Surviving mass hardship and suffering, Old State House is the longest-standing public building in Boston. The museum documents Boston’s role in the American Revolution. Built in 1713, it was once a hub of political and economic activity for the city.
The beautiful structure sports an impressive white balcony on the second floor. Transport yourself back to 1775 and imagine the Royal Governor addressing the people below. The red brick building is contrasted by intricate white spirals surrounding a traditional clock.
Make friends with guides dressed as revolutionary characters. They’ll lead you through period rooms and immersive exhibits.
Discover the significant events that unfolded in Old State House. This place has overseen fires, the American Revolution, and the Boston Massacre. Make sure you sit in the Royal Governor’s chair, once the most powerful person in Europe!
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
Want a break from your walking tour? Spend an afternoon at Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. This 17-acre park is the green core of the city center, wedged between Downtown and the North End. Wide promenades and pretty fountains surround tranquil places for you to relax and unwind.
Grab a taco from one of the food stands, laze on the grass, or take a selfie on the Greenway Carousel. Regular events happen throughout the year, including a seasonal farmers market. In the summer, you can spend the evening watching classic movies al fresco. Bring a blanket and curl up under the stars.
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has a lovely selection of gardens. Discover urban wildflowers at Greenway Meadow, marvel at the bright colors of the Carolyn Lynch Garden, or meet the Italian honeybees at the Greenway Beehive.
Boston Public Market
Boston Public Market is an indoor marketplace selling local, sustainable goods. Anything you buy is produced or originates from New England. Everything stocked here is seasonal and relies on local farmers and fishermen; no two visits to the market will be the same!
Pick up the freshest seasonal produce and handcrafted gifts from 30 different vendors. Sink your teeth into warm bread fresh from the bakery, treat yourself to rich, organic ice cream, or feast on handmade pasta. Shop a variety of specialty items, such as kitchenware upcycled from discarded wood or dishes made from New England stone.
When you’re done shopping, have a drink at Pine Bar. This funky cocktail stand uses ingredients from the vendors at Boston Public Market. Just follow the neon sign.
Massachusetts State House
Haven’t got your history fix yet? Take a detour to Beacon Hill to see the Massachusetts State House. The state capitol of Massachusetts was built in the 1790s, topped by an unusual copper dome. This impressive building has been the seat of the Massachusetts government since 1798.
You can hop on a free tour of the Massachusetts State House every day between 10 am to 3:30 pm. Even if you aren’t interested in the history, the building is an architectural treat. Browse marble halls, imposing staircases, and grand chambers. Charles Bulfinch built the Massachusetts State House in his twenties and went on to become one of the most celebrated architects in the US. Colorful Palladian windows and stately columns adorn every room.
If you want to take a great photo of Massachusetts State House, head to Beacon Street on Boston Common for the best views.
Where to eat & drink
As Downtown Boston is the beating heart of the city, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s home to some of the best restaurants in Boston.
Need to comingle your appetite with history? Eat at the oldest restaurant in Boston: the Union Oyster House. A former favorite of the Kennedys, the Union Oyster House serves exquisite seafood dishes. Sample fresh shellfish served alongside their world-famous cocktail sauce.
Bostonia Public House is in the historic Public Trade Building with an interior that celebrates classic Bostonian style. Choose something from the American-style menu or grab a drink from the lively bar.
For classic American food, the retro Silvertone Bar & Grill blends a sports bar feel with upscale dining. They have a great choice of home favorites and mouth-watering burgers. Check it out on a Saturday for live stand-up comedy.
A meal at Yvonne’s will be one to remember. Head through a hair salon to the speakeasy-style entrance and emerge into an extravagant hideaway. The playful supper club serves up global twists alongside elaborate décor, including an ornate lounge and stunning library.
It would be rude not to have a drink in one of the oldest bars in America. The Bell In Hand Tavern has been a popular meeting place since 1795. Tuck into pub grub washed down with a broad selection of beers and ciders.
SideBar is a small and welcoming sports bar popular for its cold beers, burgers, and pizza. Watch the game on flatscreen TVs, put a song on the jukebox, or play the latest arcade games.
The historic 21st Amendment is a cozy place to grab a drink and bar snacks. It was built in 1899 as a super-exclusive hotel. Visitors have included important state figures like John F. Kennedy.
Travel back to the 1920s at Carrie Nation Cocktail Club. The upmarket venue has a large food menu, elegant cocktails, and a speakeasy hiding behind a red velvet curtain. Sink into lavish leather sofas or get competitive on the billiards tables.
Where to stay
With its central location and superb selection of hotels, Downtown is one of the top choices for where to stay in Boston. As you’re close to all the action, expect to pay higher prices in this city center neighborhood.
In a prime location at the heart of downtown, Hyatt Centric Faneuil Hall Boston is mere steps from Faneuil Hall and Old State House. Large windows place you right among Boston’s beautiful architecture. Don’t want to leave your pooch at home? The hotel welcomes pets and has separate dog-friendly rooms.
Nestled between Downtown and the North End, Canopy By Hilton Boston Downtown is within walking distance of Boston’s top attractions. If you want to explore further afield, you’ll have access to a complimentary bike. Stylish rooms and a bustling on-site kitchen make this hotel a great base at the center of Boston’s historic sites.
The outstanding views from Boston Marriott Long Wharf are unmissable. This stunning waterfront hotel has everything you desire. Its central location is close to the historical sites and waterfront taxis. Swim alongside Boston skylines in the heated pool and dine in the beautiful harbourside restaurant.
Get an extra slice of Boston history by staying at The Langham, Boston. Housed in the former Federal Reserve Bank, this luxury hotel is packed with elegant architecture and charming interiors. Unwind after a day of sightseeing in the 40-foot pool, sun-soaked pavilion, whirlpool, and saunas. The glitzy grand hall restaurant serves hearty and authentic Italian dishes.
The glorious Boston Harbor Hotel is a waterfront paradise. Step through an iconic 60-foot archway into pure luxury. The lavish rooms offer floor-to-ceiling views of the city, and the spa houses a eucalyptus-infused steam room. Sit by the waterfront and dine on fresh seafood or sip a drink from the award-winning cocktail bar.