Footsteps to Independence: A Guide to Walking the Freedom Trail
I don’t necessarily consider myself a history nerd but a place like Boston will make the history enthusiast in you jump in excitement as Boston played a central role in American history. Walking down the streets along the Freedom Trail, you can’t help but imagine what it must have been like to be a Bostonian during the revolution… and picture being in the crowd when the declaration of independence was read for the first time from the Old State House’s balcony. So let’s put on the revolutionists’ shoes and jump back in time as I guide you through some of the most significant sites!
The Freedom Trail starts in Boston Common and ends at the USS Constitution. From Downtown to Charlestown, the 4 km walk will take you through Boston’s different neighborhoods and through some of the most significant places in American History. Marked by red bricks, it is very easy to follow and is undeniably one of the must do activities in the city (Read more: Visiting Boston: Best Things to Do).
Unfortunately due to lack of time, I only followed the route from the park to Paul Revere’s house but with that being said, most of the buildings in the center are pretty close to each other and if you can, I would highly recommend walking the whole trail. I mean… Who doesn’t want to see the oldest ship in the Navy?!
Insider tip: before heading off, make sure to pick up one of the free explanatory maps at the visitor center in Boston Common!
Boston Common & State House
Located right next to Park Street Train station, Boston Common is easily accessible from wherever you stay at in the city and is where you will start walking the trail. Established in 1634, Boston Common is actually the oldest public park in the United States and was once used for cattle grazing and as a camp base by British soldiers. If you look on the left, you will see the Massachusetts State House and its impressive dome gilded in 23k gold.
Completed at the end of the 18th century, the new State House designed by Charles Bulfinch replaced the Old State House. In its original design, the dome was nothing more than wood before being covered with copper by Paul Revere in 1802 to prevent leaking. Long story short, it was then gilded with gold leaf, painted in gray during World War II and finally gilded again but this time in 23k gold. If you want to visit the inside of the building, you can take one of the free guided tours that are given Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.
Park Street Church
Built in 1809, Park Street Church is a Conservative Congregational church standing on the corner at the intersection between Tremont Street and Park Street. It is where abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gave his first major antislavery speech in 1829. The building’s architecture was inspired by a church in London designed by Christopher Wren. Standing proud at 66 meters, its steeple made it the tallest building in the United States for a little over a decade after its construction.
Old South Meeting House
Back in the days, houses were much smaller than they are today (as you will get a sense of when you go visit Paul Revere’s house), and the Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston. Steeped with history, it is as its name suggests, where citizens used to come together to protest against the Boston massacre, the tea tax and overall against the British rule. It is also where Samuel Adams launched the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. Today, the building hosts the exhibit “Voices of Protest” and kept in a way its revolutionary soul.
Old State House
The Old State House was built in 1713 and used to be the seat of colonial and state governments as well as a merchant’s exchange. It is the site I was most looking forward to visiting because of its symbolic importance. It is indeed not only where the Boston Massacre happened but also where the declaration of independence was read for the first time in 1776.
Pay attention to the lion and unicorn statues on both sides of the front of the building. The two creatures are symbols of the British monarchy and are replicas as the original ones were burnt in 1776. If you turn around, you will see a circle on the floor indicating where the Boston Massacre took place.
Today facing Quincy Market (built about a century later), Faneuil Hall was a market place and meeting hall where town meetings were held for a decade. The building also saw the rise of the revolution with political personalities such as Samuel Adams and James Otis giving speeches against the British Crown. Feel free to walk inside the building, there’s another visitor center as well as stands with local goods, or stand on the square with the crowd and watch street performer lift people’s spirits.
Paul Revere’s House
Oldest residence in Boston’s oldest residential neighborhood (today North End), Paul Revere’s house is worth a visit to get a feel for what houses used to look like and how people used to live in the 19th century. Paul Revere’s family occupied the house for 30 years from 1770 to 1800. The house was turned into a museum that you can now visit every day from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm. In the winter the museum closes an hour earlier and is closed on Mondays in January, February and March. The entrance costs $5.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of some of the Freedom Trail’s most significant sites. As I mentioned, I turned around at Paul Revere’s house so I would love to hear from you guys if you’ve visited the other places and let me know which one was your favorite in the comments!