Cost: £££ – not as expensive as some other American cities but not inexpensive either
Rating: 7/10 – very cool city but not my favourite
Flight prices from London vary depending on the time of year you go. I just looked on SkyScanner for July 2020 and you can book direct flights for £550 with Norwegian Air, but £700+ with other airlines! We flew from Toronto to Boston for £100 with PorterAir!
If you’re travelling from the UK you will need an ESTA to enter the US. Approval doesn’t take long but I’d suggest you apply well in advance of your trip just incase. It costs $14 (£12) and lasts for 2 years.
US immigration usually takes a while to get through but Boston seemed pretty chilled. Remember to look nice for your photographs… LOL!
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Bunker Hill (Somerville) which is about 2 miles from central Boston. A basic room costs £205 per night. It’s a standard Holiday Inn – nothing special but perfectly adequate. Boston accommodation is generally expensive – check AirBnb / booking.com to find a place suitable to your budget.
Currency is the US dollar… as I type, £1 = $1.21! Check conversion rates before you go.
When we weren’t walking we mainly used Uber to get around. Lyft is a new app which works like Uber and is apparently even cheaper. We didn’t check it out but all our Ubers had Lyft stickers in them too. Boston has a subway (tube), a bus, train and ferry, but I’d definitely suggest exploring on foot as much as possible. It’s a relatively small city and easy to navigate.
*TOP TIP* – go to the app store and download MapsMe!
You can download a map of the area, plug in all the sights and restaurants you want to visit and then you can use it to map your journeys without using any data! It even has opening times and a paragraph of information about some places.
What we did…
Whilst we travelled to Boston for a wedding, we did manage to fit in some touristy bits in too…
– Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail begins at Boston Common (oldest public park in the US). It starts at the visitors centre and ends at the Bunker Hill Monument. You can buy tickets for a guided tour online or simply follow the brick road around the city and you’ll easily find all the landmarks.
The first stop is the Massachusetts State House. It’s dome was originally made of wood (1798) then covered in copper by Paul Revere (1802), before being guided in gold on the the nations 100th birthday in 1876. There are free guided tours if you have the time. Opposite the state house you’ll find the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial which commemorates the 54th regiment of the Union army, the first all volunteer African-American unit which was formed in 1863 during the civil war.
The next stop along the trail is Park St. Church – nothing special to look at but it was the site of the first US Sunday school in 1818 & William Lloyd Garrison made his first anti-slavery speech here in 1829.
Close by is the Granary Burial Ground where Paul Revere, John Hancock and Sam Adams lie, as well as Mary Goose (credited with being Mother Goose).
Next up is King’s Chapel (above) which you can go in for free. Nothing massively special but quite interesting as the stone church was built around an original wooden one.
The Old City Hall and a statue of Benjamin Franklin are next on the tour…
Follow the path around and you’ll find the Old South Meeting House which is significant because of the Boston Tea Party (opposing the British taxes on tea) – in Dec 1773, the Sons of Liberty left here and dumped 242 chests of tea in the Boston harbour. This escalated into the American Revolution.
Stop J is the Old Corner Bookstore which we missed.
Next on the route is the Old State House which is where Sam Adams and James Otis would argue against British policy. The balcony picture below is where, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time which broke out into a riot where the Lion & Unicorn was ripped down and burnt. In 1883 when the building was restored the Lion and Unicorn were replaced and remain there today. The declaration is read from the balcony every July 4th.
Outside the front of the building is the monument for the 5 victims killed in the Boston Massacre (1770) – British soldiers shot and killed these people whilst being harassed by a mob and this was heavily publicised by patriots Sam Adams and Paul Revere.
Faneuil Hall (above) unfortunately was being renovated during our stay. It’s famous for meetings and protests which led to the American Revolution.
Follow the path through Little Italy and you’ll find the Paul Revere House which is where he lived from 1770-1800. It’s now a museum! Paul’s Midnight Ride on April 18th 1775 resulted in the battle which began the American Revolution. Close by is the Paul Revere statue (Paul charing on his horse) which stands in front of the Old North Church (the oldest church building in Boston).
Next is Copp’s Hill Burial Ground where many more famous historic figures lie.
We missed the stop for the USS Constitution which is the oldest ship in the US navy (1797).
Finally you’ll reach the Bunker Hill Monument commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill. You can climb the 294 steps to the top if you’d like to.
Whilst I found this trail interesting, it’s probably more meaningful to someone who grew up learning US history. I am only aware of bits and bobs because of the musical Hamilton, but it has made me eager to learn more.
– Fenway Park – Red Sox Game
Fenway Park has been home to the Red Sox since 1912 and is the oldest ballpark in major league baseball. If you’re a sports fan it’s a must see! We had great tickets comped to us by a member of the wedding party, but you can get into the grounds to watch a game for as little as $36 (£30).
The game we saw (Red Sox V LA Angels) had a great atmosphere – we drank a lot! The game itself isn’t the most thrilling – there was only 2 runs total and I think about 5 hits with lots of breaks… definitely more of a social event than an exciting sporting one.
The ceremony was at a beautiful Basilica – Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Mission Hill. It really was breathtaking, both inside and out. Oh, and the bride? Unreal!!
The reception was at The State Room, central Boston which had a stunning panoramic view of the city. Luckily the weather was incredible so the views were gorgeous.
After, we went to The Bostonia – a bar down the road from the State Room. Memories are pretty blurry towards the end of the night but I think it was pretty fun 🙂
– Food and Drink
A note on tipping…
Tipping in the US can be pretty annoying especially if the service hasn’t been great / there has been no service at all (+15% for handing me an orange juice? Really?) but it is expected so beware. 15% as standard and up to 20% for fantastic service.
You HAVE to go to The Boston Sail Loft for clam chowder. Everywhere in the US has signs up saying ‘best coffee’ or ‘best pizza’… whilst this place has a sign saying ‘best clam chowder’, apparently they genuinely have won this accolade. It was so good we went twice. Cheap too.
You can go to the original Cheers! bar in Beacon Hill (where they actually shot Cheers!) OR be fooled like we were and go to this replica by Faneuil Hall.
This is a really cool seafood restaurant. I wouldn’t typically eat lobster but was assured it would’ve been caught fresh that morning, not kept for days in a small water tank. Lobster Rolls are a Boston speciality & I must admit, was bloody delicious.
Lovely restaurant in South End where we enjoyed a delicious rehearsal dinner. Serves Italian dishes – although I’m not a meat eater, the spagbol looked and smelt amazing.
We walked through this food hall which had loads of vendors. Lots of yummy food if you need to pick up something on the go – it’s also on the Freedom Trail route incase you get peckish mid-explore.
Irish Pubs / Bars!
The most Irish urban area of the US is Boston. The port of Boston was a major centre of immigration during the Irish famine and by 1850 the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Boston!! Needless to say, you’ll find lots of Irish bars around the city.
We ended up spending a lot of time drinking in sports bars. We were in Kings the most which has a bowling alley as well as other games. The food is actually pretty decent too – truffle Mac and cheese…yum!
Night Shift Brewing
We went to Night Shift Brewing by the converse building a couple of times and really enjoyed the beer there. If you’re into beer and have time, there are lots of breweries to visit in Boston.
We only walked through ChinaTown – not the largest one you’ll find (Toronto Chinatown was massive) but looked like lots of nice places to eat / drink.
Legal Sea Foods
Had to have a second lobster roll before we flew back to the UK. As airport restaurants go, Legal Sea Foods at terminal E was pretty great.
We also got a whole ton of amazing recommendations from the bride & groom (the bride is a Boston local)! I’ve shared the document below…
I really enjoyed our time in Boston. Lots of history, time with friends & a fantastic wedding!