If you’re heading to Boston on vacation for the first time, chances are that someone has recommended that you check out Faneuil Hall while you’re in town. It’s a great central location within the city, and it's filled with restaurants, bars, and stores.
The Faneuil Hall Marketplace is commonly referred to as Quincy Market, but that is just one location within it. The destination started back in 1742 when a man named Peter Faneuil, a wealthy local merchant, built the early version of the marketplace. It was intended to become a place for merchants, fishermen, and more to sell their products to the local community. Back then, it was called the “The Cradle of Liberty.”
While Faneuil Hall was essentially an early shopping plaza, it was also the home of several moments of Boston history. This included colonists protesting the Sugar Act in 1764 and President George Washington celebrating the nation’s first birthday. Many famous cultural figures have been part of Faneuil Hall’s history, including Oliver Wendall Holmes, Susan B. Anthony, Bill Clinton, and Ted Kennedy.
This was a bustling business hub during the 1800s, but come the mid-1900s, there was a downfall, where a good amount of the space was left vacant, which led to some wanting to demolish it all together.
Thankfully, in the 1970s, a group of Bostonians committed to restoring Faneuil Hall, including Jim Rouse, architect Benjamin Thompson, and Mayor Kevin White. This project was the starting point to other urban renewal projects across the country and even abroad.
Today, the Faneuil Hall Marketplace is one of Boston’s most popular destinations. It’s an urban marketplace with many shops, restaurants, and even entertainment. Just ask the 18 million annual visitors that come by to check it out.
What to See, Do, and Eat There
The number one thing to do in Faneuil Hall is to shop. You'll find popular retail stores, such as Gap, Abercrombie, and Urban Outfitters, all of which get quite a bit of traffic from those visiting the city.
There are also quite a few restaurants and bars in the Faneuil Hall area, including some that have been around for decades and others that are newer to the scene. In addition to Quincy Market with a variety of food stands inside, here you’ll also find Cheers, not the original (head to Beacon Hill for that) but rather the one that the TV show was shot at. Other popular spots include Ned Devine’s, Anthem Kitchen, Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar, Zuma Tex Mex Grill, and The Salty Dog. If you’re looking for a nice steakhouse, try McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks. They oftentimes have a food-only happy hour if you sit at the bar.
There are many events throughout the year at Faneuil Hall, though they vary week-by-week. To check out what’s going on while you’re in town, visit the events page.
Faneuil Hall may not be big in size, but there are more than 70 retailers within this space, along with various street performers and musicians. It’s easily accessible along a trolley or Duck Tour or while you’re walking the Freedom Trail. Or if you’re taking the MBTA train, get off at Government Center, walk down the stairs, and you’ll be right there.
If you’re heading to Boston and wondering when to visit Faneuil Hall, the summer hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. During the winter months, it’s open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
What to Do Nearby
Faneuil Hall is close to the North End neighborhood, known not only for historical landmarks like the Paul Revere house and Old North Church, but also delicious Italian food. Take a walk over and stop at Mike's or Modern Pastry for an authentic cannoli. If you're following the Freedom Trail, keep following along until you reach the North End, as it's next up on the route.
If you're traveling with children, the New England Aquarium is a great activity, especially on days where the weather may not be as nice as you'd hoped for. More than 1.3 million people visit each year and it's also home to exhibits like the Simons IMAX Theatre and the New England Aquarium Whale Watch.
From the Aquarium, you can easily pick up one of the iconic Duck Boat Tours. These 80-minute tours have a variety of routes, taking you through different parts of the city and ending in the Charles River.