How to See Boston in One Day

Aerial view of Boston Harbor and Financial District at sunset in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Prasit photo / Getty Images

It may sound overwhelming to see Boston in one day, but if you stick to the top attractions and have a focused plan, it’s doable and enjoyable. Boston is a walkable city; it’s easy to get around on foot or by taking public transportation or using ride-sharing services. Here’s how we recommend mapping out the day if you have just 24 hours to explore.

Morning

9 a.m. When you land at Logan International Airport, pop by your hotel to see if you can check in, but if not, store your luggage and take what you need to explore the city (prepare for the latter ahead of time with smart packing). To optimize your time, pick a hotel right in the city.

10 a.m. You’ll want to fuel up for the day with breakfast, so either pick a spot near your hotel or try one of the Flour Bakery & Café or Tatte Bakery locations closest to you. If you prefer a sit-down breakfast or brunch, popular spots include the Beehive in Back Bay, North Street Grille in the North End, Bar Mercato in Downtown Crossing or Committee in Fort Point. However, to stick with the day’s itinerary, be mindful of where you are and use that to guide your food choices.

11 a.m. Most tourists visiting Boston for the first time want to check out the Freedom Trail, which happens to be a great way to see many of the city’s sights by foot. To start, head to Boston Common, our country’s oldest park. From there, visit landmarks and destinations including Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, Old North Church, USS Constitution, and Bunker Hill Monument. Choose from a free self-guided tour or a guided tour.

The Freedom Trail can technically be done in just an hour, but that’s if you are moving along at a decent pace and don’t make any stops—likely not what a first-timer wants to do. It’s better to give at least two hours to complete, with even more if you plan to stop and tour each of the stops. All but three of the stops are free and you can find a complete list of highlights here. It’s important to note that this 2.5-mile trail is not a loop, as you will end up in Charlestown, not at the Boston Common, if you choose to go start to finish.

As an alternate to the Freedom Trail, you could hop on a Boston Duck Tour, which lasts an hour and 20 minutes and leaves from three places: the Museum of Science, the Prudential Center, and the New England Aquarium. You’ll see even more of Boston than the Freedom Trail will give you, but it’s of course faster, not at your own pace, and you can't hop off to experience any of the sights.

Afternoon

12 p.m. Partway through your walk on the Freedom Trail, you’re bound to get hungry for lunch. If you prefer to not wait until your trail walk concludes, stop for lunch in either Faneuil Hall, a historic marketplace with lots of shops and restaurants, or the North End, home to many of the city’s best Italian restaurants, such as Bricco, Tony & Elaines, Regina Pizzeria, Giacomos, and then Modern Pastry for dessert.

2 p.m. Assuming you stopped for a sit-down lunch along the way, it will be somewhere around 2 p.m. when you get to Charlestown’s Bunker Hill Monument, the end of the Freedom Trail. Charlestown is a picturesque neighborhood to walk around on a nice day. When you’re done, either walk over the bridge back to the North End, take the MBTA, or hop in an Uber or Lyft to get to your next destination.

3 p.m. By now it’s time to officially check into your hotel if you haven’t done so already, but you can skip this step or do it later (before you head out for dinner) if you don’t need anything. The convenience of your hotel will likely play a big role in your decision here.

4 p.m. Fort Point, located next to the Seaport and walking distance from South Station, is one of Boston’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. There are plenty of things to do in this area before you head to dinner. For rooftop drinks with views overlooking the city, there’s the Envoy Hotel’s Lookout Rooftop and Bar. For those into craft beer, one of Boston’s most popular breweries, Trillium, has a location that also has a roof deck, along with a patio and full restaurant. Fort Point is also home to two of Boston’s best museums: the Children’s Museum, which is just down the pier from a beautiful new playground, and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

For those that prefer not to bounce around much more after a day of walking around, plan to have dinner in Fort Point or the Seaport, as there are many top restaurants to choose from within a small radius. For more on things to do in Fort Point and the Seaport, visit here and here.

Evening

7 p.m. If you’re coming from the Seaport, you’ll probably want to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi (or walk to South Station and take the train to get to the Kenmore stop) to arrive at the new Time Out Market Boston in the Kenmore/Fenway neighborhood. Here under one roof, you can try dishes from not one, but 15 of the city’s top restaurants. This contemporary dining experience is modeled after the Time Out Market Lisbon, with other U.S. locations now in Miami, Chicago, and New York. Choose to make a casual dinner out of this or just grab apps and drinks.

If you prefer to stick with a traditional dinner, check out our list of the top restaurants in Boston and make a selection that works based on the neighborhood you want to visit and the type of food you want to eat.

9 p.m. No matter what part of the city you’re in, there are restaurants and bars all over to continue your night. If you’re looking for a big night out, Boston’s newest club is The Grand in the Seaport, but you’ll also be able to find anything from more casual bars to lounges if that’s more your scene. 

2 a.m. Most bars close at 2 a.m., so at this point (if not earlier), it's time to head back to your hotel. That concludes a jam-packed day and night in Boston!

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