10 things to do for free in Boston

In the walking capital of the USA, Charlotte Gray finds streets lined with New England’s colonial charm, revolutionary passion and world-class colleges

5 mins

1. Bid for freedom

Walk the 4km-long Freedom Trail, the best introduction to the city’s revolutionary heritage. Follow the red-brick path from Boston Common – a popular spot for hanging religious heretics – past 16 historic sights, to Bunker Hill, site of the 1775 battle.

2. Relive student days

Harvard University is the centrepiece of Cambridge, just across the Charles River.  The impressive red-brick buildings in ‘The Yard’ are as legendary as the academics who have graduated from this Ivy League school. Students give hour-long tours of the campus Mon-Sat.

3. Go to church

The 54m steeple of Old North Church boasts the oldest bells still rung in North America. Two lanterns strung up here in April 1775 sparked the Revolution. Peek inside, then spend the morning people-watching as Italians crowd the salumerias (delis) in North End.

4. Perform to the crowd

Or simply watch, as street entertainers try to impress you at historic Quincy Market. Once the centre of Boston’s meat and produce industry, today it’s a tourist hub on a par with London’s Covent Garden. Then pose for pictures outside the replica bar from the hit TV show Cheers.

5. Lend an ear

Download a free audio tour on your iPod and follow the Boston Harborwalk. You may not want to do it all – it spans 64km in total – but parts of the broadway lining the Charles River are peppered with cafes and artwork.

6. The State House

The 23-carat-gold dome of Massachusetts State House shines atop the Common. Take a guided tour (book in advance) of the House and Senate chambers or watch proceedings when they’re in session.

7. Take a dip

Boston Common is America’s oldest public park and a hub for dog walkers, skaters and office workers escaping for lunch. Join the locals on the 50-acre green, follow the sculpture trail or splash about in the pond.

8. Step back in time

Beacon Hill is the city’s most prestigious neighbourhood. Window shop for antiques along Charles Street and duck up the steep cobble alleys to ogle at the centuries-old mansions. Don’t miss Louisberg Square – No 10 was once home to author Louisa May Alcott.

9. Taste the grain

It is not often you’ll be offered a drink on the house, so savour it! Samuel Adams Brewery offers beer guzzlers the chance to watch the brewing process, smell the Hallertau hops – and then try to walk in a straight line home...

10. Walk the plank

The oldest commissioned US Navy ship, nicknamed ‘Old Ironsides’, sits serenely in Charlestown Navy Yard. Come aboard me hearties for a tour by naval officers of the USS Constitution, then finish off in the museum. www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org

And one to break the bank

Towering 228m above the main shopping area, the Prudential Building boasts New England’s highest observation deck, the Skywalk. It’s also home to the award-winning Top of the Hub restaurant; the chef’s tasting menu – accompanied by 360° views – costs $140 (£90).

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