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How to see Boston for free

Given its status as the ‘Cradle of America’, many of the free things to do in Boston relate to the city’s history as the birthplace of a nation. Those with even a passing interest in historical, political, philosophical and intellectual pursuits will find plenty to love in this city — as, of course, will those who love great shopping, seafood, sport and beer. We take a look at five of the best free sights and sounds that Boston has to offer…


Walk the Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a redbrick, 2.5 mile walking trail that takes in 16 different historic sites of national significance, all of which had a part to play in the events of the American Revolution and the break from the British. There are plenty of guided walks available, including those led by costumed re-enactors, but the trail is easily navigable on your own, at your own pace.

Starting in Boston Common, some of the highlights include the Massachusetts State House (also open for free tours) and Faneuil Hall, famous marketplace, original ‘Cradle of Liberty’, and site of many famous speeches – from Samuel Adams denouncing the British, to Senator Edward Kennedy announcing his candidacy for president, to John Kerry’s concession speech in 2004.

The trail begins in Boston Common, but you can walk as long or short a section as you like. The City of Boston website provides a self-guided tour and maps.


Tour the Samuel Adams Brewery

For those who wish to breathe in the special Hallertau hops, taste the signature malts, and witness the entire brewing process of Boston’s favourite beer, a visit to American craft beer makers Samuel Adams Brewery is definitely worth the subway ride. And after you’re done with the history and the technical stuff, you get to knock back a few different varieties — not bad for a free day out. Tours depart every 45 minutes and last about an hour.

Samuel Adams Brewery, 30 Germania Street, Boston. Take the Orange line subway to Stony Brook, from where it’s a clearly signposted five minute walk. International visitors require passport ID to take part in the free samples. Tours are free with a $2.00 suggested donation.


Climb the Bunker Hill Monument

The 221-foot tall Bunker Hill Monument, a giant granite obelisk, was built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775; a major battle of the American Revolution where Colonel William Prescott famously issued the order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”, in response to the army’s lack of ammunition. A stop along the Freedom Trail, the monument is free to enter, and those climbing the 294 stone steps to the top will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Boston skyline, Cambridge and out across Logan airport to Massachusetts Bay. You’ll need to keep moving once you’ve started – it’s a tight squeeze up there!

Bunker Hill Monument, Monument Square, Charlestown, Boston. Open daily, hours vary, check website for details.


Watch the street performers in Havard Square

Nip across the Charles River to Cambridge and soak up the intellectual spirit of Harvard Square, home to the students and academics of distinguished Harvard University and also to more than 300 registered street performers, artists, musicians, poets, dancers and other creative souls. Browsers and bookworms in particular will love the window shopping, and may even be tempted to part with some cash – the independent Harvard Book Store has an extraordinary selection of new, used and bargain books, and hosts some first-class author events; Al Gore, Salman Rushdie, John Updike and Stephen King have all appeared in recent years.

From central Boston, take the Red Line subway to the Harvard stop, or take any number of buses that come to Harvard Square.


Visit the USS Constitution and Museum

The oldest still-sailing commissioned naval vessel in the world, the USS Constitution sits in the former Charlestown Navy Yard in the city where she was built, at the end of the Freedom Trail. Best known for her role during the War of 1812 with Great Britain, she’s now a museum ship and invites visitors to come onboard and learn about her sailors, who ate a diet of grog and hardtack (a non-perishable biscuit made from flour and water) and climbed the perilous 200 foot tall masts. Discover how she acquired the nickname “Old Ironsides” on a year-round, free public tour led by her crew of 60 active-duty US Navy officers and sailors.

USS Constitution Museum, Charlestown Navy Yard – check the website for full public transport directions.

Image credit:

Bunker Hill Monument © iStock: jorgeantonio