Boston’s unmissable landmarks and historical sights

From the US’s first public botanical garden to ships sitting in the harbour, Boston is packed with unmissable historical and natural landmarks

Still not finished planning your trip to Boston? These iconic landmarks are essential stops for anyone visiting the city for the first time. Whether you're searching for memorials to the Founding Fathers or still-standing architecture from Boston's Colonial past, you're bound to find it here. Once you've soaked up some culture and history, it's time to head off and seek the many hidden gems scattered throughout Boston.

Need some assistance finding your way around? There are plenty of tours available to you to navigate this sprawling city.

Historic and architectural landmarks in Boston

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1. Museum of Fine Arts

This museum stands as one of the finest architectural landmarks in Boston. The museum exterior is a showcase of the Gothic Revival movement, with most of the materials used in its construction brought in from England during the 1800s.

Highlights:

Once you've admired the exterior of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, venture inside to marvel at Dutch Golden Age artworks, an expansive collection of Native American pieces, and more.

Address and opening hours:

465 Huntington Ave, Boston. Open Wednesday-Monday, opening hours vary. Closed Tuesdays.

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2. Paul Revere House

This colonial-era home might look humble, but it's one of the most important dwellings in America. Built around 1680, it was once where Paul Revere hung his hat. In the years that followed, the house was redesigned. However, in 1902, work began on restoring the property to its former glory.

Highlights:

The Paul Revere House is one of the most important historic landmarks in Boston. In 2016, an expansive museum and education center was connected to the property, offering further insights into one of America's most celebrated Founding Fathers.

Address and opening hours:

19 N Square, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:15 PM.

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3. The Old State House

Few Boston landmarks are as important as this Georgian property. It's the oldest public building in the entire city and, for a time, was one of Boston's most imposing landmarks. Today, it's nestled among skyscrapers in Downtown Boston, but it still holds a special place in the hearts of locals.

Highlights:

The Old State House is one of the most iconic landmarks on Boston's Freedom Trail. This was the site of the bloody Boston Massacre, which is often considered one of the driving factors behind the American Revolution.

Address and opening hours:

206 Washington St, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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4. Massachusetts State House

No visit to Boston is complete with a trip to the state capital. Completed in 1798, the current home of the Massachusetts General Court is a standout example of Federal architecture. It's still considered something of a masterpiece, with its gold dome being its crowning glory.

Highlights:

The Massachusetts State House might be a working landmark, but there's plenty for visitors to discover here. Free tours are held regularly, giving visitors the chance to walk the halls and discover the historical treasures stored inside.

Address and opening hours:

24 Beacon St, Boston. Open Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-6:00 PM. Closed weekends.

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5. Old Ironsides

You don't have to be a maritime enthusiast to enjoy the splendor of the USS Constitution. First launched back in 1794, Old Ironsides is the oldest vessel in the world still afloat. If you're taking a stroll along the Freedom Trail, you'll find her berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard, still keeping vigil over the city.

Highlights:

The USS Constitution might be the oldest ship in the world, but she's still seaworthy. What's more, she still has a full complement of crew, with navy officers dressed in period-appropriate attire welcoming visitors throughout the year.

Address and opening hours:

93 Chelsea St, Charlestown. Open Wednesday-Monday, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. Closed Tuesdays.

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6. The Bunker Hill Monument

If you're a history lover, a visit to this monument is a must. Work on this imposing obelisk was completed in 1843 to honor those who died fighting at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Unlike similar monuments, you can actually climb the one at Bunker Hill. However, with 294 steps to climb, you'll want to brace yourself.

Highlights:

The Bunker Hill Monument has a neighboring museum that opened in 2007. With free admission, it's an essential stop if you're looking to brush up on local history.

Address and opening hours:

Monument Sq, Charlestown. Open Wednesday-Monday, 1:00 PM-4:30 PM. Closed Tuesdays.

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7. The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

The Boston Tea Party and the Sons of Liberty are synonymous with this city. This living museum recreates the drama of those formative days of American Independence. Here, you'll be able to watch history in action as reenactors transport you back hundreds of years.

Highlights:

The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum boasts two impressive ship replicas, which now sit proudly in the waters of Boston Harbor. What's more, the museum itself hosts tea chests and other artifacts from the protests in its collection.

Address and opening hours:

306 Congress St, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

Scenic and natural landmarks in Boston

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8. Boston Public Garden

Part of Boston's Emerald Necklace, it's easy to forget you're still within the city limits when strolling through this park. As well as offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, you'll find one of the earliest botanical collections in the United States.

Highlights:

Several smaller landmarks can be found throughout Boston Public Garden, including famous faces from American history. At the Arling Street gate entrance is a statue of George Washington by Thomas Ball, while more recent additions include a statue of Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

Address and opening hours:

4 Charles Street. Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 6:30 AM-11:00 PM.

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9. Boston Common

Opened in 1634, this historic park is also one of Boston's biggest natural landmarks. Originally conceived as a common area for use by everyone, it remains a popular destination for locals and visitors looking to escape to wide open spaces.

Highlights:

Boston Common regularly plays host to outdoor arts events, including Shakespeare on the Common, live music performances, outdoor fireworks festivals, and more.

Address and opening hours:

139 Tremont St, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 6:30 AM-11:00 PM.

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10. Castle Island

This recreation site was once an island in its own right. However, it was joined to the mainland in the 1920s to become the peninsula it is today. Despite being popular with outdoor enthusiasts, the island was once used as a fortification, with Fort Independence still standing proudly there today.

Highlights:

Castle Island welcomes visitors year-round, with many flocking to see the historical attractions. However, with its beautiful beaches and gentle waters, it's particularly popular during the summer months.

Address and opening hours:

2010 William J Day Blvd, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 6:30 AM-7:00 PM.

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11. The Charles River Esplanade

This state-owned park lies in Bostons' Back Bay neighborhood. If you're craving some peace and quiet, this esplanade is a dream destination. The neighboring park is home to several statues and memorial sites, while a performance stage welcomes live events throughout the year.

Highlights:

The Charles River Esplanade is the staging ground for many annual events. If you're visiting Boston in September, think about picking up a ticket for the Moondance Gala to take in the views as the sun sets on this picturesque corner of the city.

Address and opening hours:

Charles River, Esplanade, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 6:00 AM-8:00 PM.

12. The Boston Harbor Islands National Park

There are dozens of islands scattered off the shore of Boston. Many of these are open year-round to the public, allowing nature lovers to take a break from city life. Many of the islands were used for defending the mainland, with dozens of fortifications still standing after hundreds of years.

Highlights:

The Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park boasts several lighthouses, with the best examples being on Little Brewster Island and Long Island.

Address and opening hours:

191w Atlantic Ave, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 8:00 AM-7:00 PM.

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13. The Back Bay Fens

Although Boston isn't short on parkland, not everyone enjoys the manicured gardens and botanical gardens found elsewhere in the city. For those looking to ditch the crowds for an afternoon, the Fens is the place to be.

Highlights:

The Back Bay Fens is just a short stroll from one of Boston's most exclusive districts. Keep your eyes peeled for historic landmarks like the Katherine Lee Bates Monument and the Stony Brook Gatehouse.

Address and opening hours:

100 Park Dr, Boston. Open Monday-Sunday, 6:00 AM-11:00 PM.

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14. The Arnold Arboretum

Part of Harvard University, this arboretum houses one of the oldest collections of trees in the country. The public park itself was designed by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Sprague Sargent. Although many of the trees here are native to the Eastern United States, a significant number of specimens were introduced from East Asia.

Highlights:

Today, Arnold Arboretum has more than 17,000 living specimens, with plants representing more than 115 different families. The botanical team is still actively introducing new specimens to the arboretum every year.

Address and opening hours:

125 Arborway, Boston. Open Thursday-Tuesday, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. Closed Wednesdays.

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15. Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor has been an important part of the city for centuries. Today, it's still a bustling port, but clean waters and picturesque surroundings make it the perfect stop at the end of a long day spent exploring Beantown.

Highlights:

With a Harbor Sunset Yacht Cruise, you can soak in the scenery as Boston takes on a whole new dimension. Sip cocktails as you socialize with fellow passengers or reach for your camera so you can take some treasured snaps of your stay in the city.

Address and opening hours:

Downtown, Boston. Tour times vary.

FAQs

What is the oldest historic landmark in Boston?

The oldest building in Boston is the Paul Revere House. It was built in 1680, and it has undergone many changes over the centuries. Nonetheless, at least 80% of the structure is original, making it a true showcase of colonial-era living.

What are some free landmarks to visit in Boston?

Many outdoor landmarks in Boston are free to visit, including Boston Public Garden and the Granary Burying Ground. Even historical sights like Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument can be enjoyed for free.

Are there any guided tours that focus on the architecture of Boston's landmarks?

If you want to learn the story about Boston's most iconic landmarks, you'll be glad to know that many guided tours cater to history lovers. You can even opt for self-guided audio tours if you want to enjoy a more flexible schedule.

How can I get the best views of scenic landmarks in Boston?

For the best views of Boston, it's best to get to higher ground. The Observation Deck at Independence Wharf offers excellent views of waterfront landmarks, including several of the Inner Harbor Islands.

What are some natural landmarks near Boston worth visiting?

Boston Common and Boston Public Mark are both popular natural attractions, with both housing many monuments and statues. The Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park also offers historic landmarks set amidst some breathtaking natural scenery.