When you think of famous US landmarks, the city of Boston might not be the first place that comes to mind. It has no Empire State Building like NYC, White House like Washington DC, or Cloud Gate sculpture like Chicago. However, Boston still has its fair share of famous landmarks! As the site of many important events in the American Revolution, Boston is a place of historical significance. In the present day, Boston is rich in history, with many museums and performance venues to take in art, music, and theater. It is also one of the top cities for education in the United States, with tons of colleges and universities as well as attractions where visitors can learn too. The city is also brimming with plenty of accommodation options, including the best affordable Airbnbs and Vrbo rentals, so you should find a place to stay in no time. After a visit to Boston, you’ll see why it’s just as great a city as any other in the US. Here are some of the top things Boston is famous for.
1. City of firsts
Boston has rightfully earned its moniker as a “City of Firsts” due to its remarkable history of pioneering achievements and groundbreaking innovations. From the nation’s first public school, Boston Latin School, established in 1635, to being the site of the first public park, Boston Common, the city has a legacy steeped in historic precedence.
It was in Boston that the first American lighthouse was built on Little Brewster Island, and the first public library, the Boston Public Library, was founded in 1848. The city also boasts several other notable “firsts,” including the first telephone call made by Alexander Graham Bell and the first successful public demonstration of ether anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital.
These milestones reflect Boston’s enduring commitment to intellectual progress, social reform, and innovative thinking, solidifying its reputation as a city that has paved the way for transformative change in the realms of education, culture, and technology.
2. Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill’s history is steeped in Boston’s colonial past, and its significance as a historic neighborhood has made it a distinctive and cherished part of the city. Established in the early 19th century, Beacon Hill’s cobblestone streets, elegant townhouses, and gas lanterns harken back to an era of Boston’s transformation into a thriving metropolis.
Its Federal-style architecture, adorned with wrought iron fences and brick sidewalks, provides a living tableau of Boston’s rich heritage. Notably, the Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, graces Beacon Hill with its iconic golden dome, symbolizing the neighborhood’s pivotal role in the state’s political history.
Beyond its architectural allure, Beacon Hill encapsulates the city’s revolutionary spirit, with its past residents including prominent thinkers, writers, and activists. The neighborhood’s enduring historical value, coupled with its preserved charm, has elevated Beacon Hill to a status of international recognition.
3. Fenway Park
One of the most notable things that put Boston on the map of sports is Fenway Park. This baseball park near Kenmore Square is home to the Boston Red Sox, the famous professional baseball team that competes in Major League Baseball. The park was built in 1912 and is the oldest active ballpark in the league. It has since met major renovations and expansions, with the additions of Green Monster, The Triangle, and Pesky’s Pole. On its centennial year, Fenway Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 4 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215, United States
Website: Fenway Park
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4. Baked beans
Boston baked beans are a top-tier variety of famous baked beans. What makes this Boston variant extra special is that it is sweetened with molasses and flavored with cured pork or bacon. This famous thing in Boston is to blame for the city’s renowned nickname, Beantown.
This dish’s history dates back to the Pilgrims of Plymouth in the 1620s. Boston was a known exporter of rum, which comes from fermented molasses when distilled. This use of molasses also translated into making baked bean recipes. Brown bread, baked beans, and frankfurter sausage continue to be a staple food in the city.
5. Boston Harborwalk
Boston is known for its iconic harbor. It is a city built around water, from the Charles River running through it to the Atlantic Ocean to the east. One of the best ways to experience Boston’s waterfront is on the Boston Harborwalk. This nearly 40-miles (64 km) long path winds along Boston’s harbor, starting in Chelsea Creek and going all the way to the Neponset River. The walk goes through iconic neighborhoods like the North End, Charlestown, and East Boston. Along the paths are parks, places to sit, art installations, and informative exhibits.
Address: Boston, MA 02128, USA
Website: Boston Harborwalk
6. Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is famous for being part of the Big Five, a group of top five American symphony orchestras. It was founded in 1891 and has played continuously since. The home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is the Boston Symphony Hall, a National Historic Landmark which has among the best acoustics of any concert hall in the world. During the summer, the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays at Tanglewood, an outdoor music venue in western Massachusetts. Head to a concert at the Boston Symphony Orchestra to see the musical talent of the city!
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Address: 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115
Website: Boston Symphony Orchestra
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 10am - 5pm; Sat: 12:30pm - 4:30pm (closed on Sun)
Price: 50 USD onwards
7. Quincy Market
Quincy Market is arguably one of the most historic things associated with Boston. This large market complex was completed in 1826 and for a long time was a place to purchase grocery items like produce, eggs, meat, and bread. Today, you can buy food of a different sort there: prepared items are available from different food stall vendors inside the market. There are sit-down restaurants too. This landmark sits in the middle of a large shopping complex with a variety of stores selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, and more! This is a great spot to people-watch too, and street performers often attract a large crowd.
Address: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
Website: Quincy Market
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 9pm; Sun: 11am - 7pm
8. New England Aquarium
One of the best places to visit in all of Boston is the New England Aquarium. The aquarium receives 1.3 million visitors per year. Outside of the aquarium is a tank of harbor seals to start your visit. Once you enter, you’ll immediately see a large pool with several species of penguins playing and swimming. The aquarium is centered around the huge cylindrical tank at its center–the tank holds 200,000 gallons (760,000 liters) of water and has animals like sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays swimming around an imitation of a coral reef. The aquarium is one of the most fun and educational places to visit in all of Boston!
New England Aquarium
Address: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
Website: New England Aquarium
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 6pm
Price: 27.95 USD
9. Boston’s Chinatown
Like many other major US cities, Boston has its own Chinatown neighborhood. The major draw is, of course, the delicious foods available here: many varieties of Asian cuisine are available at eateries ranging from casual takeout to fancy restaurants. Aside from the food scene, Chinatown is also a center of Asian culture in Boston. During August, you can attend the August Moon Festival with traditional folk dancing and martial arts demonstrations. Another fun event is the New Year’s Parade, with traditional Lion Dance performers wearing lion and dragon costumes.
Address: Boston, MA, USA
Website: Boston Chinatown
Opening hours: 24/7
10. Boston Marathon
The Boston marathon is famous for being one of the toughest marathons in the United States. Starting 26.2 miles (42.1 km) outside of the city in Hopkinton, runners traverse a course that is full of gentle downward slopes and tough uphill battles. Only the best can qualify to run in the Boston marathon and must run a different marathon in a qualifying time before they can register for it. The more relaxing way to enjoy this iconic Boston thing is from the sidelines: spectators gather along the whole course waving signs, cheering, and giving out high-fives. Find a spot near the finish line to witness the amazing looks on the runners’ faces when they finish the race.
Address: 700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
Website: Boston Marathon
Opening hours: April: 3rd Mon
Boston is rich in history and has so many significant spots it can be hard to catch them all. Luckily, if you follow the Freedom Trail through downtown Boston and the North End neighborhood, you’ll see lots of places of importance! Strolling along this trail, which is marked by a painted red path and red bricks, is truly an iconic thing to do in Boston.
This walking tour starts in the Boston Common and ends all the way in Charlestown, providing a full day of exploration. You’ll pass by spots like the Granary Cemetary, Paul Revere House, and the USS Constitution.
Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
12. Boston as a capital of learning
There are dozens of colleges and universities in the Boston area, and 35 in the city limits alone. The metropolitan area is home to prestigious institutions like Harvard and MIT as well as artsy colleges like MassArt and Berklee College of Music. The learning and research happening at all of these schools give Boston a cerebral air. However, it also gives the ceiling a young feeling because of all of the students, and attracts cool bars, eateries, and stores geared toward college students that appeal to visitors of all ages, too!
Address: Boston, MA 02215, USA
Website: Boston University
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm (closed on Sat & Sun)
Copley Square is the place to mingle and people-watch in Boston. This public square sits in the heart of the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. On one end sits the main branch of the Boston Public Library, at the other is the stunning Trinity Church, and towering above is the John Hancock Tower. Copley Square is surrounded by great shopping spots and restaurant options. It’s a great spot to get some takeout and sit on the benches around the fountain to rest your feet.
Duration: 2 hours
The Charles River is an integral part of Boston and offers the best views of the skyline. See Boston by land and by water on this Viator tour, which will bring you around Boston in 1 hour and 10 minutes on a duck boat! A duck boat is an amphibious vehicle that can travel on land like a bus and then launch into the water. Another great place to take a smaller boat ride is in the Public Garden. In Boston’s beautiful city park, you can take a ride on a swan boat, boats shaped like swans, around the main pond. You’ll see the beautiful plants on the shore and might even catch a glimpse of some of the resident swans in the summer.
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
A city with popular attractions and hidden gems
The multitude of things Boston is known for can capture anyone’s attention. However, what will really win your heart are all the hidden gems in this city. Stroll through the impressive brownstones and leafy streets of Beacon Hill. Grab a pastry or plate of pasta in the North End. Head across the river and check out the trendy neighborhoods in Somerville and Cambridge. Whether you see just well-known sights or travel off the beaten path, you’re sure to love Boston enough to return again!
Frequently asked questions about the top things Boston is famous for
1. What are some of the best places to visit for history lovers in Boston?
To have an enriching and insightful excursion in the wonderful city of Boston, better include these spots in your travel itinerary: i) Beacon Hill, ii) Boston Common, iii) Quincy Market, and iv) Freedom Trail.
2. What are some great spots for foodies in Boston?
A trip to a large city like Boston can really boost hunger, so to help yourself recharge with good food, you can head over to these areas: i) Quincy Market, ii) Boston’s Chinatown, and iii) Copley Square.
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