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!

Walk the Freedom Trail that starts 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.

Walk the Freedom Trail and visit important sites of the American History

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.

Visit Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market along the Freedom Trail.

Faneuil Hall 

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.

Visit Paul Revere's House along the Freedom Trail.

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.

One of the best things to do in Boston is to walk along the Harbor Walk.

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!

Safe travels,

Céline

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  1. I went to university in Boston, and walked the Freedom Trail many times during my 4 years there. This brings back so many memories. I love Park Street Church and I love looking through its graveyard (where you can see the final resting place of John Hancock and Mother Goose among others). Too bad you did not get to go beyond Paul Revere’s home. Old North Church and Old Ironsides are two of my favorite stops on the Freedom Trail.

    • I unfortunately didn’t make it to the Old North Church or the USS Constitution but… It’s a good reason to go back, right?! Thank you for sharing your favorite spots. I absolutely loved Boston! Must have been great to study there 😊

  2. I loved the Freedom Trail as I’m a history buff. But also loved that you could always easily find your way around the city with the helpful red line. Great Post 🙂

    • You’re welcome! I hope you will get to go. It’s something else to learn about the history of a place where it happened!

  3. I have never been there but this is for sure descriptive enough for anyone to take a self guided tour around the freedom trails. It is a great post and i’ve learnt something about the history in boston.

  4. Great information, this is definitely something Mark, my husband would love to do! The map is a great idea too, it makes it so much more easy to find the places. Great post!

    • Thank you! 😊 It’s not only the best way way to learn more about American history but also a great way to explore the city as it takes you through different neighborhoods! If you ever go to Boston, let me know what you thought about it!

  5. I’ve always wanted to do this but your article just made me push this trek up on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. Walking tours are my favourite. You can actually absorb the nature of the city when you walk around. I haven’t been to Boston but I would want to do this when I’m there next.

    • I think I would do it again if I ever get to go back too! Especially to visit the sites I didn’t get a chance to see. What were your favorites?

  7. There is something about architecture an history that goes together hand in hand and your pictures captured that sense effortlessly. I always love such walking tours that helps me to know a place better by letting me a part of its history too 🙂