16 Best Things to Do in Downtown Boston to Make the Most of Your Trip

When thinking of Boston and its pivotal role in the founding of the United States, it’s impossible to ignore the beating heart of the original city: Downtown. This vibrant district witnessed the birth of a nation, and its hallowed streets were graced with the footsteps of revolutionaries and visionaries alike. But Downtown Boston is not a relic frozen in time; it's a thriving urban hub that effortlessly blends the old and the new. Here, you’ll discover high-end boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and bustling markets lining the streets, offering a tantalizing taste of contemporary city living. Yet, walking through Downtown Boston is like strolling through a living museum, where history comes alive with each step.

Quick Answers: 16 Best Things to Do in Downtown Boston

‌Top Things to Do in Downtown Boston‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Boston‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Boston‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Boston‌

‌Free Things to Do in Downtown Boston‌

Top Things to Do in Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston stands out among major cities in the country for its remarkable walkability — my favorite thing about the city. Within the dynamic Downton Boston district alone, you’ll find a rich tapestry of top-notch attractions awaiting your exploration. From embarking on a historical passage along the revered Freedom Trail, where the city’s founding story comes to life at every turn, to immersing yourself in the lively ambiance of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, where shopping, dining, and entertainment converge in a thriving marketplace, you’ll never wonder what to do in Downtown Boston. The beauty of Downtown Boston lies in its compact and pedestrian-friendly layout, making it effortless to explore its diverse and enchanting attractions.

1. Freedom Trail

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  • Perfect For:‌ History buffs
  • Website:https://www.thefreedomtrail.org
  • If You Go:‌ Tours begin at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center on Tremont Street.

Step onto the red-brick path of the Freedom Trail and follow in the footsteps of the patriots and revolutionaries who forged the destiny of a nation in the ultimate sightseeing tour of historic Boston. This 2.5-mile-long trail winds through the heart of Downtown Boston and beyond, leading you to 16 preserved historic sites. From the majestic halls of the Massachusetts State House to significant landmarks like Park Street Church, the Old State House, and the Old South Meeting House, each stop on the trail breathes life into the pages of USA annals, extending into the North End for a visit to the Paul Revere House and Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution in Charlestown. The Freedom Trail is more than a walk through the past; it’s a living testament to the spirit of liberty and democracy that define the American experience.

2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market

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As an enduring symbol of Boston’s past, Faneuil Hall Marketplace intertwines legacy, culture, and commerce. Often referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty,” visitors are greeted by the emblematic Quincy Market building, a bustling indoor marketplace since its establishment in the early 19th century. Here, you’ll find an array of treats, handcrafted goods, and lively street performances that infuse the atmosphere with energy. Faneuil Hall holds a special place in American tradition, as it was the stage where impassioned speeches and fiery debates ignited the flames of revolution during the 18th century. Today, it remains a hub of activity, drawing both locals and tourists who gather to savor delicious New England lobster rolls, purchase one-of-a-kind souvenirs, and soak in the spirited atmosphere. For a more modern take, check out the indoor Boston Public Market, just down the street.

3. Boston Common and Boston Public Garden

Bordering Downtown Boston, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay are the cherished twin gems of Boston: the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden. The Common holds the distinction of being America’s oldest public park and sprawls as an oasis where visitors can relax on its vast lawns and partake in recreational activities. The Frog Pond, for example, offers year-round fun with a summer spray pool, ice skating in the winter, and a host of other seasonal activities. Adjacent to the Common, the Public Garden enchants with its maintained flowerbeds, meandering pathways, and the symbolic Swan Boats gliding gently across the pond during warm-weather months. Adding a touch of whimsy to this idyllic landscape are bronze statues, including the beloved “Make Way for Ducklings,” enchanting the hearts of visitors, young and old.

Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston comes alive during the day, especially during the week, as home to the Financial District. But there are a wealth of captivating places to visit in Downtown Boston outside of the fast-paced Financial District, from the aforementioned Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Common and Public Garden, to the underwater adventures found at the New England Aquarium and the venerated halls of the Massachusetts State House, which stands as a shining symbol of government and past beneath its golden dome.

4. Walk Into History Tour

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While you can explore the Freedom Trail independently using a downloadable app, I highly recommend considering the Walk Into History Tour for an immersive and enriching experience. Led by knowledgeable guides dressed in period attire, this guided journey along the Freedom Trail adds a layer of depth to your exploration with the riveting narrative of the events and figures that played pivotal roles in shaping the nation. It is a compelling and educational experience that transports you back to the American Revolution, making the Walk Into History Tour a must do in Downtown Boston for curious travelers.

5. New England Aquarium

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  • Perfect For:‌ Filling a day with wonder
  • Website:https://www.neaq.org
  • If You Go:‌ Book timed tickets in advance online to ensure you get in when you want to visit.

Situated on the waterfront of Boston, the New England Aquarium beckons visitors to embark on an unforgettable expedition beneath the waves. This renowned institution is a true aquatic wonderland, offering a hypnotic adventure through the ocean's depths. Inside, you’ll encounter diverse marine life, from playful penguins and majestic sea turtles to vibrant tropical fish. One of the highlights is the colossal Giant Ocean Tank, where you can witness graceful sea creatures and even sharks gliding by as you ascend multiple stories. Beyond its awe-inspiring exhibits, the New England Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Downtown Boston for nature enthusiasts and families seeking a marine adventure.

6. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

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  • Perfect For:‌ Proud Americans
  • Website:https://www.bostonteapartyship.com
  • If You Go:‌ Sample flavors of teas thrown into the Boston Harbor at Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace.

Nestled in the waterways between Downtown Boston and the Seaport District, you’ll also find the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where more Revolutionary history can be experienced in an immersive and interactive museum. Climb aboard restored Boston Tea Party ships and join in the “destruction of the tea,” just as the colonists did in 1773 in protest of British taxation.

7. Massachusetts State House

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With its famous golden dome, it’s hard to miss the Massachusetts State House. The architectural masterpiece, completed in 1798 with cornerstones laid by Samuel Adams, is one of the oldest continuously functioning capitols in the U.S. Its striking dome, originally made of wood and covered in copper by Paul Revere, is a prominent feature of the Boston skyline. Visitors can explore its halls, adorned with grand murals and historical artifacts, to gain insights into the state’s heritage and the workings of its government.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston presents a delightful array of outdoor activities, inviting you to embrace the city’s natural beauty. Begin your journey by exploring the lush green spaces of Boston, meander along the Freedom Trail to discover Boston’s back story beneath the open sky, and when it’s time to unwind, find a charming bench amidst these historic surroundings or opt for a leisurely al fresco meal at one of the many seasonal outdoor cafes, savoring both the cuisine and the ambiance that Downtown Boston offers.

8. Rose Kennedy Greenway

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  • Perfect For:‌ A walk in the park
  • Website:https://www.rosekennedygreenway.org
  • If You Go:‌ Sample the bevvies found at the beer and wine garden, open during warmer months.

A vibrant urban park spanning Downtown Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway is a testament to the city’s commitment to green spaces and public art. Once marred by a towering overhead highway known as the Central Artery, this area transformed into an inviting greenway after the highway was relocated underground. The greenway, named in honor of Kennedy family matriarch Rose Kennedy, has blossomed into a beautiful oasis amid the city’s hustle and bustle. Take a spin on the 36-seat, one-of-a-kind Greenway Carousel and enjoy an array of free events, from art exhibits to artisan markets.

9. Boston Harborwalk

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The Boston Harborwalk, an idyllic pathway extending its embrace along the city’s storied shoreline, winds along the picturesque waterfront of Downtown. This enchanting trail offers a distinctive perspective on Boston’s heritage and gives visitors stunning views of the historic harbor. Stretching for miles through the diverse neighborhoods of the North End, Seaport District, South Boston, East Boston, and Downtown Boston, the Harborwalk beckons exploration, be it walking, biking, or rolling to encounter waterfront parks, sun-kissed beaches, bustling marinas, and intriguing historical sites.

10. Granary Burying Ground

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Founded in 1660, the Granary Burying Ground is the final resting place for notable figures from the American Revolution, including Boston’s who’s-who like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. As you wander through the labyrinthine rows of weathered tombstones, you’ll encounter not just gravestones but stories of courage, sacrifice, and the indomitable spirit of a nation etched in stone.

Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston undergoes a fascinating transformation as the sun sets, evolving into a dynamic playground of nightlife and entertainment that promises a memorable night out. Kick off your evening with a visit to one of Boston’s renowned theaters in the Theatre District, immerse yourself in the animated Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and savor a delicious dinner at one of the many upscale restaurants in the area. As the night progresses, venture to Downtown Crossing, where you can dance the night away to the beats of live music or DJs in Boston’s trendiest bars and nightclubs—one of the best things to do in Downtown Boston.

11. Theatre District

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  • Perfect For:‌ Culture enthusiasts
  • Website:https://www.boston-theater.com
  • If You Go:‌ Grab pre-show dinner at Legal Sea Foods, the city’s esteemed seafood restaurant chain. There are locations within walking distance of the shows in Downtown Crossing and Park Square.

Downtown Boston’s Theatre District is a vibrant epicenter of live performances and cultural experiences. Home to historic theaters like the Boston Opera House, the Wang Theatre (now called the Boch Center at the Wang Theatre, but we still call just call it The Wang), and the Emerson Colonial Theatre, this district pulsates with the energy of artistic expression. Here, you can immerse yourself in Broadway shows, musical concerts, ballet performances, and more activities in Downtown Boston beneath dazzling marquees and within elegant architectural design. It’s a must-see destination for those seeking a taste of Boston’s cultural vibrancy.

12. Sunset Cruise

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As the sun gracefully dips below the horizon, a sunset and nighttime Boston Harbor cruise become a truly magical experience as the city’s endearing skyline takes on a new dimension as it illuminates against the backdrop of the twilight sky. Whether you choose a narrated tour to delve into Boston’s prolific contributions or simply revel in the ambiance, these cruises offer a unique and unforgettable city perspective. It’s a chance to see Boston from a different angle, where the beauty of the harbor and the allure of the night combine to create a truly enchanting maritime adventure.

13. Union Oyster House

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  • Perfect For:‌ A taste of culinary history
  • Website:http://unionoysterhouse.com
  • If You Go:‌ The seafood is always fresh and in season, arriving directly from the ocean from docks in the Boston Harbor.

With a narrative dating back to its establishment in 1826, the Union Oyster House proudly holds the title of America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. Stepping inside, you are instantly transported back in time as the restaurant’s rustic wooden beams, antique furnishings, and cozy nooks exude a timeless charm. The menu pays homage to classic New England cuisine, with a particular focus, as the name suggests, on seafood. Here, you can savor the restaurant’s famous clam chowder, indulge in succulent lobster dishes, and delight in fresh oysters. Dining at the Union Oyster House is a unique experience, as you sit in the same seats where countless luminaries, from Paul Revere to John F. Kennedy, once savored their meals. After dinner, shoot around the corner to the Bell in Hand Tavern, America’s oldest continuously running tavern, and the iconic Irish pub, Durty Nelly’s for more historic cocktails.

Free Things to Do in Downtown Boston

Activities in Downtown Boston extend a warm invitation to explore its wealth of free attractions, many of which have already been highlighted on this list, such as the parks, Faneuil Hall, and the Freedom Trail. There are many ways to take a leisurely walk through Downtown’s distinctive neighborhoods and explore cost-free experiences that allow you to embrace the heart and soul of Boston without reaching into your wallet.

14. Chinatown

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  • Perfect For:‌ An exciting sensory tour
  • Website:https://www.chinatownmainstreet.org
  • If You Go:‌ Request “cold tea” if you’re looking for late-night drinks after hours.

Step into a world of colorful lanterns, lively streets, and the enticing aroma of authentic Asian cuisine in Boston’s Chinatown. Explore the teeming markets, where you can discover unfamiliar ingredients and unique treasures waiting to be found and don’t miss the Chinatown Gate, a symbol of the neighborhood’s cultural heritage. From traditional Chinese tea houses to flavorful dim sum restaurants, this enclave invites you to savor Asia's diverse and delightful flavors.

15. The New England Holocaust Memorial

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  • Perfect For:‌ Honoring those we’ve lost
  • Website:https://www.nehm.org
  • If You Go:‌ Self and guided tours are available.

Standing as a solemn and powerful testament to the enduring memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the New England Holocaust Memorial is an immersive tribute comprising six towering glass columns, each emitting a haunting wisp of smoke to represent the smokestacks of concentration camps. Located in Carmen Park, at the intersection of Congress and Union Streets, the columns are etched with numbers, symbolizing the tattoos forcibly given to prisoners. Illuminated from within, the memorial’s impact is particularly poignant at night, creating a somber atmosphere that is a profound reminder of remembrance.

16. Downtown Crossing

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  • Perfect For:‌ A little of this and a little of that
  • Website:https://www.downtownboston.org
  • If You Go:‌ North America’s first subway system still operates at its birthplace, with the Red, Orange, Green, and Blue lines all meeting beneath Downtown Crossing.

Situated at the heart of Boston’s bustling city center is the iconic Downtown Crossing district, renowned for its diverse offerings and lively atmosphere. Shoppers flock to its streets, lined with shops, boutiques, and department stores, and, as the sun sets, the area transforms into a dynamic nightlife destination, with trendy bars, eateries, food trucks, and live music venues coming to life. Its central location also makes it a convenient transit point, connecting various parts of the city and making it a crossroads for locals and tourists alike.

Downtown Boston is a living testament to the spirit of the nation’s birth and should not be missed when visiting Boston. Its ability to seamlessly blend the past and present is a true marvel, and its walkability, cultural vibrancy, and dedication to its history and green spaces make Downtown a unique jewel. Every step you take here will become a cherished memory of your visit to Boston.