Freedom Trail: Walk your Way to 16 Historic Sites

The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond

The Freedom Trail is a red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston that leads to 16 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to USS Constitution in Charlestown. Simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches, and other buildings and a historic naval frigate are stops along the way.

Most sites are free; Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and Paul Revere House have small admission fees; still others suggest donations. The Freedom Trail is a unit of Boston National Historical Park and is overseen by The Freedom Trail Foundation and the City of Boston’s Freedom Trail Commission.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The trail was originally conceived by local journalist William Schofield who since 1951 had promoted the idea of a pedestrian trail to link together important local landmarks. Mayor John Hynes put Schofield’s idea into action. By 1953, 40,000 people annually were enjoying the sites and history on the Freedom Trail.

In 1974, Boston National Historical Park was established. The National Park Service opened a Visitor Center on State Street where they give free maps of the Freedom Trail and other historic sites as well as sell books about Boston and US history. Today, people walk on the red path of the Freedom Trail to learn about important events that led to independence from Great Britain.

History nerd that I am, I can’t get over how much has happened in such a small area. I love that you can take your time walking it. 

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling on the Freedom Trail shows you how small historical Boston really was. The trail is free, clearly marked and you can walk at your own pace. Be sure to wear your comfy shoes as you’re in for an awesome hike.

There are countless ways to explore the Freedom Trail and its official historic sites. From year-round immersive programs and activities at the 16 historic sites to public and private walking tours led by 18th-century costumed guides, National Park Service’s Park Rangers, and more, to self-guided tours by foot with a map, guide book, or audio guide, there are exciting and comfortable methods for everyone to enjoy the authentic history and sites where fights for American’s freedoms were ignited.

Boston Common

Established in 1634, Boston Common is America’s oldest public park. Puritan colonists purchased the land rights to the Common’s 44 acres from the first European settler of the area, Anglican minister William Blackstone. 

Massachusetts State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts State House

Designed by Charles Bulfinch, the ‘new’ and current State House has served as the seat of Massachusetts government since its opening in 1798. Holding the legislative and executive branches, it sits adjacent to the former site of the historic Hancock mansion. 

Park Street Church

The church was founded in 1809 at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets atop the site of Boston’s town grain storage building or granary. Designed by Peter Banner, the 217 feet steeple of Park Street Church was once the first landmark travelers saw when approaching Boston.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Granary Burying Ground

Established in 1660, some of America’s most notable citizens rest here. Named for the 12,000-bushel grain storage building that was once next door, the historic burying ground has approximately 2,300 markers. 

King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground

Founded in 1686 as Boston’s first Anglican Church, King’s Chapel is home to over 330 years of history. The 1754 granite building still stands on the church’s original site: the corner of Boston’s oldest English burying ground. 

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue

Boston Latin School, founded on April 23, 1635 is the oldest public school in America. It offered free education to boys—rich or poor—while girls attended private schools at home. Until the completion of the schoolhouse in 1645, classes were held in the home of the first headmaster, Philemon Pormont. A mosaic and a statue of former student Benjamin Franklin currently mark the location of the original schoolhouse.

Ye Olde Union Oyster House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Corner Bookstore

Constructed in 1718, the Old Corner Bookstore is downtown Boston’s oldest commercial building and was home to the 19th-century publishing giant Ticknor and Fields, producer of many venerable American titles including Thoreau’s Walden, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Longfellow’s Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and the Atlantic Monthly including Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic. Saved from demolition in 1960, the building’s leases help subsidize important historic preservation projects in Boston’s neighborhoods.

Old South Meeting House

Experience history where the Boston Tea Party began. This hall rang with words from Puritan sermons, public meetings, and the tea tax debates.

Old State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old State House

Through Massacre, Revolution, and fire, the Old State House stands as the oldest surviving public building in Boston. Built in 1713, the building served as the center of civic, political, and business life.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston Massacre Site

On March 5, 1770, after months of tensions due to occupation and taxation, Bostonians and Redcoats clashed in the streets of Boston. What ended with five civilians killed by gunfire, Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr, led to the rallying of Bostonians against the Crown and the evacuation of troops from Boston. They would not return until 1774. 

Faneuil Hall

Often referred to as “the home of free speech” and the “Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall hosted America’s first Town Meeting. The Hall’s vital role in revolutionary politics had not been part of its original plans but it became home to an intricate collection of events that shaped the nation’s history. 

Paul Revere statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paul Revere House

Built around 1680, the Paul Revere House, owned by the legendary patriot from 1770-1800, is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and also the only official Freedom Trail historic site that is a home.

Paul Revere House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old North Church

Visit the site that launched the American Revolution! Built in 1723, Boston’s oldest church is best known for the midnight ride of Paul Revere and “One if by land, two if by sea.” 

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Located on a hill on which a windmill once stood, the land was given to the town. Copp’s Hill was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground dating from 1659. Named after shoemaker William Copp, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is the final resting place and burying ground of merchants, artisans, and craftspeople who lived in the North End.

USS Constitution © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

USS Constitution 

Launched in Boston in 1797, USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat and earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she fought the British frigate HMS Guerriere. 

Bunker Hill Monument

The Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War and predicted the character and outcome of the rest of the war. Located across from the Monument is the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum. Along with dioramas and murals, artifacts from the battle itself on display include a cannonball; a snare drum; a sword; a masonic apron belonging to revolutionary leader Dr. Joseph Warren who perished in the fight; and a trowel used by the Marquis de Lafayette in the groundbreaking.

Worth Pondering…

If you love this country and study history, then you will love Boston.

— Marcus Luttrell