10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Boston and Cambridge

1 Freedom Trail

Perhaps no other city in America holds as much history of the colonial and Revolutionary War era as Boston. It's not surprising then that its main sites have become a pilgrimage trail for Americans and for others who hope to get a sense of that history. But more than that, the Freedom Trail is a good introduction to today's city, connecting or passing close to some of its best loved tourist attractions. Boston is easy to navigate on foot, as its major sights are relatively close, and America's first subway system, the T, connects its important neighborhoods.

The three-mile Freedom Trail leads you past - and into - 16 of the city's principal historic monuments and sites. It's easy to follow, by the line of red bricks in the sidewalk and by footprints at street crossings. Begin by picking up brochures on the attractions at the Visitor Center in the Boston Common before heading to the State House. The trail will take you to Old Granary Burying Ground (where Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock are buried), King's Chapel Burying Ground (Boston's oldest cemetery with the graves of Governor John Winthrop and two Mayflower passengers), Old South Meeting House (where the ringing speeches of patriots spawned the Boston Tea Party), and the Old State House. This is Boston's oldest public building and the site of the Boston Massacre.

 

2 Faneuil Hall

Known as the "cradle of liberty," Faneuil Hall was built in 1740-42 by Huguenot merchant Peter Faneuil as a market hall and presented to the city on condition that it should always be open to the public. The ground floor is still occupied by market stalls; on the upper floor is a council chamber, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was the meeting place of revolutionaries and later, of abolitionists. On its fourth floor is the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Museum, with weaponry, uniforms, and paintings of significant battles.

Address: Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA

3 Boston Common and Public Garden Swan Boats

In the heart of the city is Boston Common, America's oldest park and the start of the Freedom Trail. In this large green space, which is much used by locals year-round, are various monuments and the Central Burying Ground of 1756. You can rent skates to use on the Frog Pond from November through mid-March, enjoy the spring blossoms and fall foliage colors reflecting in its surface, and in summer, watch youngsters splash about in the wading pool.

Address: Public Garden, Boston, MA

Official site: http://swanboats.com

4 Beacon Hill

One of Boston's most beautiful neighborhoods and right in the center of the city, the south side of Beacon Hill has traditionally been the home of Boston's "old money" families, known locally as "Brahmins." Well-kept brick homes in Federal and Greek Revival styles line its tree-shaded streets, and at its heart is Louisburg Square, where homes face onto a leafy private park. Author Louisa May Alcott lived here from 1880 to 1888. The Nichols House Museum, a Federal-style home by Boston architect Charles Bulfinch, shows how Beacon Hill's upper class residents lived and is filled with collections of 16th- to 19th-century furnishings and decorative arts. At the western foot of Beacon Hill, Charles Street is lined with boutiques and shops that have traditionally catered to the neighborhood and are popular with visitors as well. Beyond Charles Street, facing the Public Garden, The Bull and Finch, established in 1969, inspired the popular television program, Cheers.

5 Harvard Square and Harvard Art Museums

Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and is widely considered one of the world's leading academic centers. Go to the Harvard Information Center to take a spirited and entertaining free walking tour of the campus guided by a student who will share history, Harvard lore, and personal perspective. Or you can download a tour from their website. Harvard Yard sits right in Harvard Square, a lively hub for students, "townies," and visitors, filled with shops, bookstores, and allegedly more places to buy ice cream than any other U.S. city.

Address: 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

6 Harvard Museums and the Glass Flowers

Although the four museums that make up this complex contain treasures such as the artifacts brought back by Lewis and Clark, for most people, the highlight is the more than 3,000 models of 830 species of flowers and plants, some with insects, and all so realistic that you will have trouble believing they are made of glass. Created between 1887 and 1936 by artisans Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the flowers are unique in the world, and their secret process has never been replicated. These are part of Harvard's massive research collections, shown under one roof in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, the Mineralogical Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Botanical Museum.

Address: 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA

 

7 Copley Square

The main square of the Back Bay area is surrounded by both old and ultra-modern buildings. Its architectural highlight is Trinity Church, a red sandstone building designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson in his distinctive style, known as Richardson Romanesque. Trinity is widely considered to be his finest work. The murals, frescoes, and painted decorations inside are by John La Farge and much of the fine stained glass is by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Facing it, across a grassy lawn where you can enjoy a picnic lunch with neighborhood office workers, is the Boston Public Library founded in 1848 as the first publicly funded lending library in the country. Architect Charles Follen McKim designed the present building in 1895. Go inside to see the library's Renaissance Revival architecture and murals by John Singer Sargent and Edwin Abbey.

8 Fenway Park

Known as "America's Most Beloved Ballpark", Fenway Park is one of the most fabled sports complexes in the country, and even if you're not a sports fan, a tour of it is both fun and interesting. The home of the Boston Red Sox looks much the same as it did when it opened on April 20, 1912. One of its most recognizable features is the Green Monster, the 37-foot green wall in left field, and the park still maintains some of the remnants of "old time" baseball such as the hand-operated scoreboard. It also has the lowest seating capacity in the Major Leagues holding only 33,871 spectators (a fact that makes tickets exceedingly scarce).

Address: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA

9 Museum of Fine Arts Boston

One of the leading art museums in the country, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts excels in its collections of Impressionist paintings, ancient Egyptian treasures, Asian and Persian fine arts, and works from ancient Greece and the Middle East. But its newest and crowning achievement is the construction of an entire American Wing to house, integrated in chronological order, outstanding collections of American paintings, furniture, decorative arts, folk art, silver, glassware, and design dating from pre-Columbian arts to the Art Deco and Modernist eras. Highlights elsewhere include a 12th-century lacquered-wood sculpture of a Buddhist Bodhisattva and Korean painted screens, the ivory and gold statue of the Minoan Snake Goddess from 1500 BC, and a statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Mycerinus and his queen from 2548-2530 BC.

Address: 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

Official site: www.mfa.org
 

10 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Set in a building its eccentric creator modeled after a 15th-century Venetian palace, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum displays its collections in rooms surrounding a four-story central courtyard filled with flowering plants and fountains. The priceless 2500-piece collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, decorative arts, books, and manuscripts reflect the personal tastes and considerable expertise of Mrs. Gardner herself, whose own flamboyance further adds to the charm of the museum.

Address: 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA


 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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