Hike Through History in Boston

by Audrey on June 18, 2013

If there’s one city in the US that’s famous for its history, it’s Boston. For me, this is easily one of the most exciting places to visit in the entire country, thanks to its incredible mix of historical sites. Come here and you can not only learn the story of Boston, but the story of America.

Freedom trail in Boston - Flickr CC jorgecancela

What I really love about discovering history here, though, is the fact that it’s easy to do so by taking some of the city’s famous walks. I’ll go through these in more detail below, but of course some of the key advantages to exploring on foot include the fact that you generally get a much more in-depth picture of the place you’re visiting, and you’re likely to spot things you’d otherwise miss.

An added bonus of checking out the local attractions in this way is that it doesn’t cost much, so it’s particularly handy if you need to stick to a budget. There’s also a good selection of hostels in Boston if you’re on the lookout for cheap accommodation.

The Freedom Trail

One of the reasons that Boston’s heritage is so perfect for exploring on foot is that there’s actually an official route dedicated to just that – the Freedom Trail. Spanning 2.5 miles, it’s relatively short yet takes in 16 historically significant attractions. So, there’s scope for quickly taking a peek at the main sights, as well as spending several hours discovering those that most interest you in a little more detail.

One of the most interesting sites on the trail is the Boston Latin School, which educated the likes of Benjamin Franklin – whose statue you can see outside – as well as Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine and John Hanock, all of whom signed the Declaration of Independence. As well as simply having impressive alumni, this is the oldest public school in the US.

As you follow the route you will also come across Faneuil Hall, which acted as a place of political debate in the fascinating time of the American Revolution, as well as Old North Church, which is Boston’s oldest standing church building.

There are several options for following the trail. It’s easily done independently, so you can just take a walk along it whenever you please. However, if you want to know more about the places you come across the along the way, it’s worth considering downloading the two-hour audio guide – which is readily available on the trail’s official website – or booking yourself a place on an official tour.

The Black Heritage Trail

A lesser known but no less fascinating walking route in Boston is the Black Heritage Trail, which is usually followed from the Museum of African American History. This trail leads you around the North Slope of Beacon Hill which, back in the 19th century, was where the free black community set about addressing issues such as decent housing and good children’s education.

You see, between 1800 and 1900, the bulk of Boston’s African American population lived in this area, which makes it a particularly rich historical source of a people newly freed from slavery. In fact, the 1790 census revealed that Massachusetts was the only state to be free of slaves – something that makes this part of the city all the more fascinating.

Follow the route and you can see a host of historically important sites, including the Abiel Smith School. Perhaps one of the most exciting, though, is the African Meeting House. Visiting here particularly appeals to me for two reasons; firstly, it is where Frederick Douglass delivered his 1860 anti-slavery speech, and secondly it is the oldest black church edifice remaining in the country today.

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