Whether you love American history, fine dining, or historic architecture, you'll find it all in the Back Bay. Home to some of Boston's richest history — and residents — visitors can spend a day, an evening, or a whole weekend exploring the Back Bay neighborhood.

Quick Answer Guide: 12 Best Things to Do in Back Bay

‌Top Things to Do in Back Bay‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in Back Bay‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in Back Bay‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Back Bay‌

‌Free Things to Do in Back Bay‌

Top Things to Do in Back Bay

These are the most popular attractions in the Back Bay. Most tourists have one, or all, of these sites on their “to-do” list when they arrive in town. Luckily, they won’t disappoint. These are three of the best things to do in Back Bay.

1. Explore Beacon Hill

  • Perfect For:‌ Back Bay neighborhood history & brownstones
  • Website:Beacon Hill‌‌ | Boston.gov
  • If You Go:‌ During the summer plan to walk around the neighborhood in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

This historic neighborhood is brimming with New England charm. Cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, brownstones, and quaint boot scrapers from when residents used to arrive on their horses all speak to a time gone by. Duck into boutiques that feature local artisans and made-in-New England goods, such as Flat of the Hill or Crush Boutique. Grab a coffee and a French pastry at the Charles Street location of Tatte Bakery and walk all the way down to the Charles River. Many of the great places to visit in Back Bay are found in Beacon Hill.

2. Walk the Freedom Trail

All Getaways
Anna Gorin/Moment/GettyImages

You’ll stumble across American history on every street corner in Boston’s Back Bay. To learn about that history, sign up for a guided walking tour on the Freedom Trail. The guided tour is a family friendly and fun way to spend a few hours.

In the summer costumed guides lead you around the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, past churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, and other important historic sites in the country’s right for independence. It's one of the best activities in Back Bay.

3. Visit Two Top-Tier Museums

All Getaways
Spencer Grant/Archive Photos/GettyImages
  • Perfect For:‌ Art lovers
  • Website:www.mfa.org, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • If You Go:‌ Trying to save some money? The basement cafeteria at the MFA has reasonably priced food and snacks that you can eat outside in the Calderwood Courtyard on nice days.

The Museum of Fine Arts, backing up on the Back Bay Fens, is a short walk from Newbury Street or just off the MBTA green line. Its amazing collection includes mummies to delight ghoulish little kids, original rooms from 17th to 19th century American homes, and rotating exhibits. On rainy days if you're searching for what to do in Back Bay it’s a great way to learn about America’s art and history.

Close by is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an architectural and historical gem. Mention that you’re headed that way and any Bostonian will happily regale you with the tale of its famous art theft. It’s smaller than the MFA and easier to enjoy in a half day.

Best Things to Do During the Day in Back Bay

The Back Bay is one of the busiest areas in Boston. You can walk most of this neighborhood in a day and refuel at one of its many coffee shops and restaurants.

4. Newbury Street

All Getaways
Maremagnum/Corbis Documentary/GettyImages

The place to see and be seen — Newbury Street is a smorgasbord of high-end, designer boutiques, great restaurants, and historical churches and buildings. On a summer day the sidewalks throng with tourists and locals and if you can grab an outdoor table at a coffee shop the people watching is unmatched.

5. The Mapparium

All Getaways
Grant Faint/Moment/GettyImages

Located on Massachusetts Ave, the Mapparium is a three-story globe that gives you a glimpse into the world in 1935. From the globe, visitors move to exhibits about making progress and moving history forward. Learn about the history of Christian Science, founded in Massachusetts by Mary Baker Eddy, and the religion’s impact on the state.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in Back Bay

Searching for what to do outside in Back Bay? On a gorgeous late summer or early fall day, or in spring when you're tired of spending the winter cooped up inside, these activities will get you inside and moving.

6. Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons

All Getaways
S. Greg Panosian/E+/GettyImages

Separated by Charles Street, the Boston Public Garden and Boston Commons are the heart of the Back Bay. There’s plenty to do in all seasons - from admiring the Make Way for Ducklings Statues in their Easter bonnets, riding the Swan Boats in the summer, or ice skating on the Frog Pond in the winter. The meandering paths take you by statues of important figures in New England history, beautifully landscaped flower beds, and gazebos.

7. Commonwealth Avenue Mall

All Getaways

Designed in the 1850s, the 32 acres of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall are a sight to behold in autumn. Fall leaves decorate the swooping branches that arch over its paths and crunch beneath your feet. The avenue is home to many historic buildings; the Baylies Mansion, built in 1903 in the Renaissance Revival style, the Hooper Mansion from 1860, and King House built in 1880 are three must-see buildings for sightseers.

Best Things to Do at Night in Back Bay

There’s something about the city all lit up at night. Whether it’s white lights twining through the branches of trees that line the streets or the noise that spills from restaurants whenever the doors open and close, Boston’s Back Bay has its own charm after sunset.

8. Eataly at the Prudential Center

All Getaways
Jaymel Gonzalez/iStock/GettyImages

After spending the day on the Boston Duck Tours, hop off near the Prudential Center on Boylston Street and grab a bite to eat. An amazing experience, the three stories of Eataly feature an Italian market, four full-service restaurants, coffee bars, and more. Bring an empty stomach because you’ll find a lot to love at its eateries.

9. Berklee College Red Room

All Getaways
Paul Marotta/Getty Images Entertainment/GettyImages

One of the premier music colleges in the nation, Berklee has launched the careers of Quincy Jones, Steven Tyler, John Mayer, and Melissa Etheridge. If you love being the first in your friend’s group to discover new artists, check out the shows at Berklee’s Red Room at Cafe 939. Tickets to the all-ages venue are cheap, rarely above $25, and it’s a great way to spend an evening in the Back Bay.

Free Things to Do in Back Bay

Many Boston visitors experience sticker shock the first time they have to pay to park their car or sit down at a restaurant. But there are plenty of free things to do in the Back Bay.

10. Walk Around the Charles River Esplanade

All Getaways
  • Perfect For:‌ Architecture, people watching, nature
  • Website:https://esplanade.org
  • If You Go:‌ It’ll be crowded and hot in the summer, bring water and take breaks.

This iconic riverside park winds through the city’s heart and is home to arching bridges, playgrounds, outdoor music venues, and more. Cross a pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive and wander down its walking paths. Admire the architecture of Cambridge and MIT on the opposite bank or cheer on competing rowing teams. Play a pick-up basketball game, hang out on one of its five docks, or rent a kayak and head out on the river.

11. Visit the Boston Public Library

All Getaways
Alan Schein Photography/The Image Bank/GettyImages
  • Perfect For:‌ Bibliophiles
  • Website:www.bpl.org
  • If You Go:‌ It’s hard to find public restrooms in and around the Back Bay but the BPL has two free options. Trust me, knowing about them can save your life in this part of the city.

The central library of the Boston Public Library system, sitting proudly on Copley Square, is a true “must-see.” Sweeping staircases, murals, high shelves with rolling ladders…it’s a bibliophile’s dream. Sit outside in the open courtyard and rest from a busy day while reading a book. The library hosts free Art and Architecture tours which fill up quickly, so sign up in advance. It's a popular spot, and a must do in Back Bay.

12. Copley Square and Trinity Church

All Getaways
  • Perfect For:‌ An outdoor break and some history after touring the BPL
  • Website:https://www.trinitychurchboston.org
  • If You Go:‌ Plan your visit to enjoy an outdoor craft and farmers market or live music.

Walk out the large front doors of the historical wing of the Boston Public Library and you’ll be facing Copley Square. In summer, Copley Square fills with arts and farmers markets and live music.

The end point of the Boston Marathon, Copley Square is home to Trinity Church, designated “one of the ten most important buildings in America” by the American Institute of Architects and a National Historic Landmark Building. Its interior murals, external stairs, and stained glass collection are truly awe-inspiring, no matter your faith. Tours aren’t free, however, but you can sit by a fountain and admire its exterior.

Just off Copley Square you can duck into air conditioned splendor at the Copley Place mall, as well as find great shopping and cheaper restaurants than are on Newbury Street.

Many tourists don’t make their way out of the Back Bay, particularly if they’re only in town for a weekend trip. At most, they might wander a few blocks to the North End for great Italian food. And it’s easy to see why — Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is a delight of history, architecture, and things to do.