12 Hours in Boston – 1 Day Itinerary and Walking Tour Map
Boston was one of the first cities in the United States that I visited, and the skyscrapers, fascinating history and atmosphere made a huge impression. How was it to return 30 years later? Well, the city that was founded in 1630 has changed a lot for sure in the last few decades. The Uber driver shared that a major change was building the Boston Tunnel that opened about a decade ago and moved key highways underground. Thanks to this huge investment the city seems to have less noise from traffic, cleaner air and welcoming feeling for pedestrians and bicyclers. The city center felt perfect size for getting around on foot and sidewalks were everywhere making it safe to stroll around. I enjoyed the atmosphere in the city that hosts some of the world’s top universities, research institutions and a wide range of companies from startups to multinationals.
I was in the city for a business trip but on the last day had 12 hours before hopping on the plane to my next destination. Here’s an itinerary for one day in Boston with a self-guided walking tour map of the key sites. The walking tour is in total 13 kilometers / 8 miles – the first part is about 5 km / 3 mi, followed with a ferry connection from Charlestown to Long Wharf and then around 8 km / 5mi for the second part. Without any breaks this tour could be completed in a much shorter time, but my itinerary takes a calm pace and includes breaks for breakfast, lunch, coffee and dinner as well as plenty of time to admire the views. Feel free to go at a slower or faster pace based on what fits your interests!
Morning jog at the Public garden
The Public garden is a charming park with lots of beautifully maintained colorful flowers. In the middle of the park there’s a pond and Swan boats for rent. What a wonderful place for a quick morning run or a starting point of a longer jog around Boston – it’s easy to move around even across the bridges to Harvard side of the river and do a circular route back.
Common Garden, the Freedom trail and the Harbor walk
The Freedom trail starts from the Common Garden and there’s lots of historical buildings like Faneuil Hall on the way. From the Freedom Trail you can continue to the Boston Harbor Walk for a longer outing along the Historic North End and across the Charlestown Bridge.
The Charlestown Navy Yard is a historic site where you can learn fascinating history of how the yard built, repaired, and maintained ships for almost two centuries. It’s open year-round and there are two historic warships for visitors: sailing frigate USS Constitution and destroyer USS Cassin Young.
After the heavy dive into U.S. marine history, I was feeling ready for some brunch. Style Café was recommended by a local as best coffee and reasonably priced sandwiches. I ordered an omelet for breakfast with almond latte for around 12 dollars it was a great deal with the free WiFi. There’s only a few tables inside and outside so it can get crowded.
Boston Harbor Cruise
Boston Harbor Cruise ferry from Charlestown to Long Wharf and the best deal with just 3,50 dollars for a one-way ticket. The views to the city from the sea are amazing!
Rose F. Kennedy Greenway
Rose F. Kennedy Greenway park has public lounge chairs and free wifi that make it a perfect spot for a relaxing break outdoors. There’s pieces of art to admire and an impressive mural painting.
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum Shop
The Boston Tea Party was a special event in the American history – taking place in 1773, the protest escalated in the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party Museum hosts two replica ships and actors playing out scenes. A wonderful interactive learning opportunity for both kids and adults!
Lunch at Abigail’s Tea Room
The Boston Tea Party Museum’s café is called Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace. Make sure to get here early enough to not miss lunch that’s served until 4pm. The tea room is famous for scones and I took the blueberry scone and wasn’t disappointed. Hot tea tasting is available with five flavors as well as iced tea (I recommend the apple and strawberry flavored. I got a table on the deck where I could see the ships and hear pieces of the tour. The staff is dressed in traditional costumes and I met Ruby who was surprised to hear that I had come all the way from Finland – after all, it must have taken 2 or 3 months by ship to cross the Atlantic!
Fan Pier Park
A short walk from the Boston Tea Party museum is Fan Pier Park that’s a nice modern boardwalk close to the marina with grassy seating areas. Grab a coffee and relax for a moment watching the views or read a book with the Boston skyline in the background.
The Boston China town is a unique, colorful and lively area to walk through. Although maybe not the cleanest and most organized part of the town, it’s a fun area to walk through and maybe grab a bite to eat.
Collonnade hotel rooftop pool
The rooftop pool bar is open to public only on weekdays evenings after 5pm with a 10-dollar entrance fee. If you want to catch the sun it’s best to arrive right at 5pm as later the sun goes behind neighboring buildings and it can get chilly unless it’s a very warm day. Enjoy the small pool, the loungers and the rooftop bar for a relaxing break with views.
Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory
The next stop is the Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory where you can enjoy an audio tour and see the full 360-degree views over Boston. The Prudential Center is also a shopping center so if the day is too cool for the rooftop pool visit you could also easily spend an hour going around the stores before or after taking the elevator to the Skywalk Observatory.
Dinner at Top of the Hub
Located on the just upstairs from the Skywalk, on the 52nd floor at the Prudential Center Boston, Top of the Hub restaurant has amazing views across Boston. The best time to arrive is at dusk to see the sun set and the city lights. There was pleasant live music and I got lucky to even see fireworks – what a fantastic way to end the day in Boston!
The public transportation system including metro is a great way to move around in the city. I found Uber most practical form of transportation from the airport to the city and the outdoor pick-up point was easy to access from the terminal.
Good to know
Tap water is good for drinking, so there’s no need to buy lots of bottled water. The weather can be windy, so a windproof jacket could be a good idea to bring along. The city isn’t the cheapest for hotels and restaurants so it makes sense to plan ahead if you’re on a budget. Like in many big cities, there were some homeless people on the streets that I always find sad but it does remind to be thankful to have a home and opportunities to travel. Overall, Boston is one of my favorite cities due to it’s seaside location, pedestrian-friendly streets and fascinating insights to U.S. history!
Have you been to Boston and what are your favorite experiences in the city?
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