Know before you go: Want to visit the places recommended in this article? With local regulations changing frequently, it’s a good idea to check the web site of any attraction or business to make sure it’s open before you go.
A one-of-a-kind city where history meets modernity, Boston is a must on any trip to America’s East Coast. So, how long do you need to experience the best of Boston on your visit? It all depends on what you want to see and do! We recommend staying at least three days and three nights at HI Boston hostel to get the most out of your visit, but if you’ve got a little more time, there’s always more to explore. Here’s how long you’ll need to check Boston’s best experiences off your list.
Back Bay Neighborhood: Full Day
If it’s a nice day out, you can easily spend a full day exploring some of the Back Bay area’s most famous sites on foot. From HI Boston, walk a few blocks over to Boston Common and spend a sunny morning in the country’s oldest public park. From there, wander across Charles Street into the Public Garden, a serene and picturesque park full of historic statues, elegant trees, and colorful flowers. Hop on one of the iconic Swan Boats for a ride across the lagoon, and take your photo with the Make Way for Ducklings statue, which commemorates a famous children’s book set in the Public Garden.
From the public garden, just cross Beacon Street and you’ll find yourself in Beacon Hill, one of the city’s most-photographed neighborhoods. Acorn Street is particularly charming and loved by photographers; get just a few blocks away and you’ll find cute little cafes, shops, and pubs lining posh Charles Street.
If you’re in the mood to shop – or just to soak up some history – walk northeast to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. This place dates back to 1742, when it was a public marketplace, but it became most famous as a stage for some of early America’s best-known orators and founding fathers. Today, it’s returned to its origins as a marketplace where you can enjoy a cup of Boston clam chowder or a pint of local beer along with a big slice of history.
While you’re in the area, add a quick stop by the Mapparium, a quirky spot where you can get inside a huge globe illuminated in rainbow colors for the kind of shot that should be on every traveler’s Instagram. Nearby, the main branch of the Boston Public Library is a stunning example of 19th-century architecture boasting historic murals, vaulted ceilings, a pair of marble lions, a tranquil courtyard, and a huge collection of historic and contemporary books.
The North End: One Night
Boston’s historic Italian neighborhood, the North End is home to seemingly endless Italian restaurants serving up the best pasta and pizza you’ll taste this side of the Atlantic. For dessert, stop by Mike’s Pastry, a line-out-the-door-famous bakery that has been slinging cannoli and other confections here since the 1940s. The neighborhood’s quaint streets and classic New England brick buildings give the area a very Europe-meets-America vibe, and it’s a fantastic place to end a long walk along the city’s new Rose Kennedy Greenway with a scoop of gelato.
Red Sox Game/Fenway Park: Half Day or Full Evening
If you’re the type of traveler who likes to visit storied sports venues, you can’t miss Fenway Park. And if you’re not that type of traveler? You still can’t miss it. Built in 1912, Fenway’s the oldest Major League Baseball park in the country, and is home to the Boston Red Sox, one of America’s most beloved (or reviled, depending on whom you ask) sports teams. Bleacher seats will set you back about $30, but it’s worth it to spend an afternoon or evening surrounded by an enthusiastic hometown crowd in one of the world’s most iconic stadiums.
Freedom Trail: Half Day
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long walking route that will take you to over a dozen historic sites that played a significant role in the USA’s early history. You can walk the route on your own for free, or buy tickets for a guided tour run by a local non-profit.
Newbury Street: Half Day
Boston’s most famous shopping street offers a mix of high-end designer labels, quaint local shops, and cute bars and restaurants, all set in beautiful brownstone buildings. Obligatory stops include Trident Booksellers, where you can browse shelves of novels and magazines alongside local university students before tucking into a stack of blueberry pancakes at the attached café; Newbury Comics, a neighborhood staple that has been selling records and comic books on this street since the ‘70s; and J.P. Licks, a local ice cream chain with homemade flavors galore.
Harvard Tour: Half Day
Harvard is one of the oldest universities in the country and one of the most prestigious in the world, and it’s also got one of the East Coast’s prettiest campuses. Just across the river from Boston in the city of Cambridge, you can wander among the historic brick buildings on your own, or join fellow travelers on HI Boston’s free weekly Unofficial Harvard Tour. Whatever you do, be sure to leave extra time to hang out in Harvard Square. The neighborhood surrounding the university is full of cute cafés and bookshops, and is a great place for people-watching.
Brewery Tour: Half Day
Boston’s home to several craft breweries that offer a fun way to pass an afternoon. Take a tour of Sam Adams or Harpoon for a behind-the-scenes look at how their beers are made. Both tours include a couple of free tastings with your admission fee, which will run you just a few bucks. HI Boston also offers weekly group outings to Harpoon so you can meet fellow travelers while enjoying your craft beer.
Museums: Half Day Each
Boston may not be known for its museums, but the city’s got some world-class collections housed in historic digs, and they’re well worth your time when visiting. The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is a local favorite with an outstanding collection of art displayed in the elaborate home of the museum’s namesake. The more traditional Museum of Fine Arts is housed in an elegant 1909 building containing half a million pieces including works from Africa, Europe, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas spanning thousands of years.