Boston Freedom Trail: 5 must-see sights for international travellers

From my discover USA travel series | Read other chapters โ€“ See photo gallery

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Boston’s Freedom Trail is a walking path that links together important landmarks in US’s history. Although the biggest tourist attraction of the city, foreign visitors may not be able to relate to most of the sights.

The Freedom Trail is a 4 km (2.5 mi) pedestrian path marked by red bricks or red paint that travels through downtown Boston, leading the visitor to 16 historical sites that are significant to the American freedom movement. It is a neat concept, sort of like an open air museum that connects old buildings, takes you through the city, thus making it perfect for self guided walking tours. I quite enjoyed this tour – you can jump off the trail, have a meal, see other sites and get back on it – and I spent a whole day traversing it.

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↑ The Freedom trail winds through some pretty neighbourhoods

Visiting local historical places in foreign countries

Walking on the Freedom trail was an excellent outdoor activity to do as a tourist, but I was never able to relate to the buildings, churches and graveyards that the freedom trail takes you to. The buildings are not architectural wonders; what makes them worthwhile is their historic significance and the stories they tell. Good for someone who is well versed or familiar with US history but for the rest of the world, these buildings simply don’t evoke the same (nationalistic) feelings. I hope you understand what I am saying.

While travelling to other countries, one often comes across such national monuments with limited significance for people outside the country. Still, there are places on Boston’s freedom trail that can be interesting for international tourists. If you are visiting USA from a foreign country, check out these places, to make the most of your visit:

1. BOSTON COMMON

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The Boston Common is a central public park in the city of Boston and the oldest public park in USA. For several initial decades, this area was used as a grassland for grazing cows, after which the British used it as an army camp and a site for public executions. The park was (and still is) home to several protests by common citizens, the latest being the Occupy Movement. Boylston Station, the first subway station in USA, lies under the southern corner of the park. The park’s large (50 acre) open space is great for having picnics, exercising or reading a book under a tree.

2. SITE OF THE BOSTON MASSACRE

Called Incident on King Street by the British, this was the site where on March 5, 1770, British Army soldiers killed five civilian men and injured six others. The event is widely viewed as foreshadowing the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later, a war leading to the American independence and changing the fate of the world’s future.

The site of this massacre is marked by a cobblestone ring on the traffic island in front of the Old State House, also also a part of the Freedom Trail.

3. FANEULI HALL – QUINCY MARKET

The Faneuli hall is located near the waterfront and has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. Several speeches encouraging the independence of America from the British were read here. The Hall is now part of a larger festival marketplace, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which includes three long granite buildings called North Market, Quincy Market, and South Market, and which now operates as an indoor/outdoor mall and food eatery.


↑ The busy Quincy market

By the time you walk to this location on the Freedom trail, you’ll be pretty exhausted. The Quincy Market comes to the rescue, with numerous grocery stores, food stalls and restaurants. There is an adequate seating area, large lanes exclusively for shopping (buy your knick-knacks here) and often there are street entertainers in the vicinity.

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4. BUNKER HILL MONUMENT

The Bunker Hill Monument is a 67 m (221 ft) granite obelisk that was erected between 1827 and 1843 was built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill between American and British soldiers.

Bunker Hill is bit of a hike away from other sites on the Freedom Trail and it is quite tempting to settle down on its beautifully landscaped slopes. But resist the temptation! First climb your way to the top of the monument, 294 steps without taking a pause in between. The views from the monument’s little windows on the top floor are grand. I especially liked the steel truss bridge over the Charles river basin and of course the skyline of Boston.

5. USS CONSTITUTION

The USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy and the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. The ship is most famous for her actions during the American war of independence against the British empire.

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Who doesn’t like ships? especially when you can see soldiers in uniforms? This is a real ship, with active-duty officers and a sailor crew. I managed to get here just as the visiting hours ended, so it was nice to watch the closing rituals, such as cleaning the ship, shutting down certain areas and making repeated announcements urging people to get off. I can’t remember if the flag is lowered as well. I especially like a ship’s mast and the intricate systems built to steer it. In addition, warships have weapons on board, such as cannons, which make them more interesting. The last warship I saw was Aurora in St. Petersburg, a Russian war ship that was used in the Russian revolution.

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Of the 16 sites on the Freedom Trail, these were my top 5 and the ones I really enjoyed. For an international traveller, hopefully visiting the sites on this list will give you a brief overview of US history and be entertaining places to visit at the same time. What do you think?

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↑ Boston skyline, seen from USS Constitution

From my discover USA travel series | Read other chapters โ€“ See photo gallery