Planning to spend one day in Boston? With its rich history & modern edge, Boston is one of the most popular destinations in the United States. If you’re planning the ultimate New England road trip, the Massachusetts capital is a must-see.
Even with just 24 hours in Boston, you’ll experience many of the city’s highlights. You’ll roam through the dawn of US history along The Freedom Trail. You’ll explore historic neighborhoods and the city’s more modern quarters. To top it off, you’ll enjoy food & drink to relaxing views over Boston’s lovely harborfront.
Can’t decide where to go in Boston in one day? Plan the ultimate city getaway with this complete 1-day Boston itinerary.
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Where to go in Boston in one day: A complete 1-day itinerary
Relive American history on the Freedom Trail
Boston’s contribution to American history can’t be understated. Kick-start your one day in Boston by reliving it on the city’s Freedom Trail.
Along its route, The Freedom Trail jams in many of the top tourist attractions in Boston. The 2.5-mile walk winds between 16 must-see historic sites. Just follow the metal seals and red bricks; they’ll guide you around the historic city.
The Freedom Trail “officially” starts at Boston Common in the south. For this Boston travel itinerary, you’ll begin your tour at Bunker Hill instead. On a time crunch, it’s a more sensible starting point. A higher concentration of sightseeing opportunities awaits on the trail’s southern sections.
Doing the route in reverse also ends the day in Downtown Boston. Here, you’ll be close to the city’s top restaurants & bars to top off the night in style.
See the city from above at the Bunker Hill Monument
Located in historic Charlestown, the Bunker Hill Monument forms the northern terminus of the Freedom Trail. The monument commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major skirmish in the American Revolutionary War.
Depending on what time you arrive at Bunker Hill, you may be able to climb up the 294 steps of its centerpiece obelisk. From the top, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the skyline and Boston Harbor.
Unleash your inner sailor at the USS Constitution
From Bunker Hill, it’s a 15-minute walk to the Charleston Navy Yard on the waterfront. The former naval shipyard is home to the USS Constitution. Also known as “Old Ironsides,” the 1797 ship was one of the US Navy’s original warships. Today, it’s the oldest, still afloat frigate in the world.
Visitors are welcome to board the USS Constitution for a tour. Learn from the servicemen about the weaponry, valiant crews, and the ship’s past naval adventures.
Tours of the vessel embark every 30 minutes from 10am to 5pm daily, except Mondays. Interestingly, the servicemen perform in period dress during the “expedition.” You can also visit the nearby USS Constitution Museum from Thursday to Sunday.
If you want to slow down, you can explore the neighboring Boston Historical Park and Charlestown Naval Shipyard Park. Otherwise, after you’ve got your fill of the ship and museum, continue to Boston’s North End. The neighborhood offers plenty more Freedom Trail adventures.
Explore Boston’s North End neighborhood
From the shipyard, walk south across the harbor via the N Washington St bridge. Within 20 minutes, you’ll land in Boston’s historic North End.
Also known as Little Italy, the North End is one of the city’s most interesting central neighborhoods. It’s jam-packed with great restaurants, pastry shops, cafes, and delis. (And, of course, several important historic sites!)
Copp’s Hill Burial Ground
Once you’ve crossed over the harbor, move a block north and walk southeast along Hull Street. Two blocks up, you’ll spot Copp’s Hill Burial Ground.
The historic cemetery, dating back to 1659, was an important vantage point in the American Revolutionary War. Take a quick look to soak in its history and views over the water.
Old North Church
Just east of the cemetery, you’ll stumble upon the Old North Church. Built in 1723, the church was the starting point of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride to warn patriots of the British advance.
While the church’s interior isn’t overly striking, it’s well worth a visit for its history. Be sure to check out the bell-ringing chamber. The chamber features the oldest church bells in North America.
On the way up, you’ll also spot a few lanterns. The lanterns are replicas of those used to send out the first warning signals during the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The Old North Church is currently open on a limited schedule. You can check the schedule online and book a tour.
Paul Revere House
Five minutes southeast of the church by foot, Paul Revere House is one of Boston’s must-see historical sites. The Colonial-era home served as Paul Revere’s main residence from 1770 to 1800.
History buffs should drop in for a quick tour of the house. The guided tours enlighten of 18th-century life in New England and Revere’s renowned ride. You’ll also spot several interesting artifacts leftover from Revere’s business ventures.
Fuel up at Quincy Market in Faneuil Hall Marketplace
From Paul Revere House, follow North Street southwards, crossing over the Rose Kennedy Greenway. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll unearth the next stop on your 24-hour Boston trip, Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
This 18th-century marketplace & meeting hall is one of Boston’s most important historical spots. Fanueil Hall Marketplace wasn’t just the site of one of Boston’s first public markets. The hall also witnessed several influential speeches encouraging US independence. Among the orators was Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers.
While exploring Faneuil Hall Marketplace, save time to savor a delicious meal at Quincy Market. Sitting behind the meeting hall, Quincy Marketplace features dozens of restaurants & food vendors.
Start your search in the Quincy Market Food Colonnade. The section is home to many of the marketplace’s most popular kiosks. Seek out New England favorites like clam chowder or lobster rolls to get the full Boston experience.
After fuelling up, spend some time exploring the rest of the marketplace. Both the North Market and South Market buildings feature an eclectic assemblage of shops. You can shop for everything from souvenirs & decor to fashion accessories & luggage.
History buffs will also want to carve a few minutes for Faneuil Hall itself. Crawl up to the second floor to check out The Great Hall. The historic meeting hall is full of interesting artifacts dating back to Independence.
Be sure to explore around the marketplace, too. The squares around Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall are hotspots for world-class street performers. You might catch anything from sword jugglers to contortionists to escape artists!
Wander around Boston’s Market District
Once you’ve delved into Faneuil Hall, detour north into Boston’s historic Market District. Dating back to the 19th century, the area is one of the city’s most photogenic spots.
Wander the cobblestone streets to bask in the handsome 18th- and 19th-century architecture. It’s a compelling contrast to the gleaming modern skyscrapers in the Financial District just a few blocks south.
Built up a thirst? Stop in for a pint at The Bell In Hand Tavern on Union Street. Opened in 1795, the pub is dubbed as the oldest public house in the United States.
One of America’s oldest restaurants, Union Oyster House, is also in the area. If you didn’t get your seafood at Quincy Market, stop in for a bowl of divine clam chowder or a lobster roll.
Step into colonial history at Old South Meeting House
From Market District, venture south again along the Freedom Trail. In less than a 10-minute walk, you’ll land at the Old South Meeting House. Built in 1729, this National Historic Landmark was the largest building in Boston in colonial times.
Old South set the stage for many of the protests that led to independence for the colonies. The meeting hall was even the site where the Sons of Liberty organized the infamous Boston Tea Party.
Nowadays, the Old South Meeting House is one of the most important colonial-era museums in the United States. Visit the site and feel the presence of the great people who led America to freedom from British rule.
Chitchat with locals and travelers at Boston Common
The final stretch of the Freedom Trail whisks to its official starting point, Boston Common. This 50-acre park is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Laid out in 1634, it’s the oldest park in Boston and the United States. And it’s got a storied past to match.
Boston Common has been the location of numerous public gatherings. Legendary figures like Pope John II, Gloria Steinem, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have all made their mark here. From the history books, you’ll also recognize the park as the campground for the British troops before the American Revolution.
Even after centuries, Boston Common remains one of the most popular hangouts for visitors and locals alike. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, play sports, or simply walk to explore the beautiful scenery.
On the way to the park, American history fans should slip into the Granary Burying Ground. Dating back to 1660, the cemetery is the final resting place for several important historical figures. You’ll unearth the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere here.
Dating back over two centuries, the Park Street Church next door is also worth a look. The evangelical church has been active since 1804. It still sees a weekly attendance of over 2,000 worshippers!
Take a boat ride in Boston Public Garden
After exploring the city center park, venture west across Charles Street to the adjacent Boston Public Garden. Built in 1837, Boston Public Garden features a lagoon and several monuments.
For an extra dash of relaxation, opt for a boat ride on one of the garden’s famous Swan Boats.
Roam the streets of Beacon Hill
Just north of Boston Common lies the picturesque neighborhood of Beacon Hill. Dating back to the late-18th century, the area brims with historic charms. Beacon Hill is famed for its classy restaurants, beautifully crafted doors, and antique shops.
Even if you only have 24 hours in Boston, give yourself at least 30 minutes to appreciate this prestigious district. Walk around to admire the beautiful architecture of the rowhouses on Beacon Street and Acorn Street.
Tour the Massachusetts State House
Got extra time in the Beacon Hill Historic District? Set aside 45 minutes for a free walking tour of the Massachusetts State House. With its distinctive copper dome, this 1790s-era building is one of the city’s finest architecture examples.
Free guide-led tours of the New State House depart from the Doric Hall daily from 10:00am to 3:30pm.
Soak in the views at Copley Square in Back Bay
From Beacon Hill, it’s a 20- to 25-minute walk to Copley Square in the Back Bay district. Dating to the 19th-century, the handsome city square contrasts Boston’s historic & modern architecture.
On Copley Square itself, you’ll uncover the stunning Trinity Church. Built in 1877, the grand Romanesque Revival-style church is worth a quick gander. Pop into Trinity Church to admire its ornate stained-glass windows and organs.
Copley Square also butts up against the massive Boston Public Library. The late-19th century Italian Renaissance building features striking arched vaults. They’re more reminiscent of a grand basilica than a public library. Step in for some Instagrammable architecture shots.
Shop for the latest fashions on Newbury Street
Two blocks north of Copley Square lies Newbury Street, Downtown Boston’s number-one shopping district. On Newbury Street, you’ll find luxurious boutiques, eateries, salons, and spas. Along with nearby Commonwealth Avenue, it’s considered one of the city’s most prestigious stretches.
Spend some time perusing the elegant shopfronts in the impressive 19th-century brownstones. If you need to refuel, stop in for a coffee or a snack at one of Newbury Street’s many cafes and ice cream shops.
Savor a delicious dinner in the Seaport District
With your tour of Boston in 24 hours winding down, grab a taxi and head to the Seaport District. Located in South Boston, the former industrial district is one of the city’s hottest areas. The Seaport District is chock-loaded with hip restaurants, rooftop bars, and glossy hotels overlooking Boston Harbor.
If you’re looking for a flash of Boston cuisine, check out Legal Sea Foods Harborside. The Seaport District location of the popular local chain is one of the most coveted.
For a casual seafood dinner, seize a table on the first floor. Choose between signature dishes like Portuguese seafood stew, clam chowder, white clam pizza, and the Poor Man’s Surf and Turf. (And Boston Cream Pie for dessert, of course!)
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Once you’ve devoured your meal, retire to Legal’s chilled-out rooftop bar. Enjoy relaxing cocktails to lovely views over Boston Harbor.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Boston
With its size and popularity, choosing where to stay in Boston isn’t always easy. If you’ve got a quick layover in Boston, the best areas to stay are Downtown, Back Bay, the Theater District, and the Waterfront. Here are a few recommendations to start your accommodation search.
Located near TD Garden and the North End, this value-laden hotel is a fantastic choice for sports fans and history buffs. Rooms are cozy and chic.
Sitting in the Theater District, the Godfrey Hotel is perfectly placed to tackling all the best of Boston in one day. Rooms offer a simple & relaxing modern aesthetic. The rich wood finishes and stonework in the common areas pay homage to nearby Chinatown.
One of the city’s finest luxury hotels, W Boston charms with its sleek contemporary designs. Relax with a cocktail in the colorful W Lounge or pamper yourself with a massage at the on-site spa.
More Boston itinerary ideas
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Fitting the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum into a 1-day trip can be tough. If you’ve got extra time between shopping in Back Bay and dinner, squeeze in a quick visit to this unique museum.
The museum features interactive exhibits detailing the infamous historic event. Join live actors as they reenact the fateful events. You can even throw tea overboard on your own aboard the Brig Beaver and Eleanor!
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is located in a floating barge off the Congress Street Bridge between downtown and the seaport.
Museum of Fine Arts
Art lovers should carve out time for the Museum of Fine Arts. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world. It features more than 450,000 pieces of artwork. In 2016, it was listed among the top 50 most-visited museums in the world.
The MFA is the home to several world-class exhibits. Included are Egyptian artifacts, Dutch Golden Age paintings, Post and French Impressionist Art.
With an extra day in Boston on your Northeast USA road trip, venture north across the Charles River to Cambridge. Spend an afternoon browsing the area in & around Harvard University.
America’s oldest university, Harvard University is a wonderful escape from the city streets and one of the top day trips from Boston. Enjoy a leisurely walk around campus. Use your imagination to picture where famous alumni like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg might have hung out.
Art lovers will find a few art museums to peruse on campus. The area around Harvard Square is also a great place to shop for souvenirs and other items. You’ll find a ton of cool & quirky boutiques like Grolier Poetry Bookshop and Blank Ink.