The 11 best Boston attractions

We’ve sifted through the city’s museums, parks and historic sites to select the very best Boston attractions
Boston Public Library, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Eric Grossman and Time Out contributors |
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From storied landmarks to world-class museums, the top Boston attractions defy the city’s famously changeable weather with plenty of opportunities to duck indoors. You could spend the better part of a day exploring the Art of the Americas wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, let alone the rest of the museum’s vast collection. For a more intimate cultural experience that’s unique to Boston, visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a short walk along the Emerald Necklace. Plus, there are the usual things to do in Boston you just have to tick off on any visit. One big bonus about these Boston attractions? They’re all close to some of Boston’s best restaurants—so make a day, or night, of it.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do with kids in Boston

Best Boston attractions

1
Boston Public Garden
Photograph: Shutterstuck
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Public Garden and Boston Common

icon-location-pin Beacon Hill

The dual jewels of the Emerald Necklace, the city’s historic park system, perfectly reflect the vision of venerated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Public Garden - America’s first botanical garden - is a lovely place to stroll, with pathways designed for promenading. The seasonal, waterfowl-shaped Swan Boats, introduced in 1877, are adored by children as well as adults. Across Beacon Street is the Boston Common, where, depending on the season, you can ice-skate on the Frog Pond, play softball or tennis, or simply lounge with a book on one of the grassy knolls, the majestic State House behind you.

2
Fenway Park, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Things to do, Sport events

Fenway Park

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

Seeing a game at the home of the Red Sox is a quasi-religious experience for countless locals. (If you’re not the sporty type, try catching a concert instead.) The oldest ballpark in the majors dates from 1912, and to truly appreciate Fenway’s colorful history, join one of the frequent guided tours that are offered daily. The most famous part of the stadium is its 37-foot-high left-field wall, known affectionately as the Green Monster.

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3
Museum of Fine Arts
Photograph: Shutterstock
Museums, Art and design

Museum of Fine Arts

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

Founded in 1870, the MFA moved from Copley Square to its current home, a neoclassical granite building on Huntington Avenue—the so-called “Avenue of the Arts”—in 1909. The globe-spanning collection encompasses more than 500,000 objects. An array of performances and special events attract culture hounds of all ages. Penny pinchers can visit on Wednesdays after 4pm, when admission is by voluntary contribution.

4
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum/Nic Lehoux
Museums, Art and design

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

icon-location-pin Mission Hill

The Gardner museum is a lavish reconstruction of a 15th century Venetian palace, complete with a luxurious interior courtyard and seasonally changing floral display. First opened in 1903, the museum is notable for its varied collection, which includes European, Asian and Islamic art from classical times to the turn of the 20th century. The museum entrance is located a short walk from the MFA, making it easy to check out the city’s two most beloved museums in a single visit.

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5
Boston Public Library
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Boston Public Library

icon-location-pin Back Bay

The BPL regally sits across from Copley Square, attracting scores of student groups, visitors, and casual book-browsers to its multi-faceted complex. The labyrinthine structure is a joy to get lost in; be sure to visit the cloistered courtyard, a most tranquil place to linger. Join a free tour covering the library’s art and architecture, or check out one of the talks and readings that are regularly offered.

6
Arnold Arboretum
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Arnold Arboretum

icon-location-pin Jamaica Plain

The arboretum, one of the world’s leading centers for plant study, was established in 1872. In a beautiful, sprawling park setting, this living museum is administered by Harvard University. Open to the public, it provides the opportunity to see more than thousands of specimens of trees and plants from around the world. Free guided tours are available on designated days throughout the year—contact for details.

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7
Trinity Church
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Trinity Church

icon-location-pin Back Bay

The unabashedly ornate Trinity Church is the visual centerpiece of Copley Square. The intricate, colorful stained-glass windows are most impressive, as is the list of Boston royalty who have passed through the doors over the years. The church is also known for its extensive murals—almost every inch of wall was handpainted by a team led by American artist John La Farge. 

8
Institute of Contemporary Art
© Institute of Contemporary Art
Museums, Art and design

Institute of Contemporary Art

icon-location-pin Seaport District

Once crammed into a tiny building in Back Bay, the ICA moved to its spacious new Seaport home in late 2006, and is now the cultural cornerstone of the waterfront. With its 65,000-square-foot floor space, the dramatic, glass-walled building houses galleries, a theater and a café. The museum prides itself on being a platform for challenging works; for a lighter experience, catch a concert or DJ set on the breezy, scenic back deck. In 2018, the museum renovated a condemned building in the East Boston Shipyard for its new art annex, the ICA Watershed.

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9
Museum of Science, Museums and galleries, Boston
Museums, Science and technology

Museum of Science & Charles Hayden Planetarium

icon-location-pin West End

This kid-friendly museum is committed to providing an interactive and educational experience, making science accessible through a wealth of hands-on activities and engaging exhibits. Highlights include the domed Mugar Omni Theater for IMAX movies and the multimedia Charles Hayden Planetarium. There’s an enormous gift shop, a café courtesy of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, and a spectacular view of the river to admire from the vast windows at the back of the museum.

10
Faneuil Hall
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do, Event spaces

Faneuil Hall

icon-location-pin Quincy Market

Built for the city by the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742, Faneuil Hall has hosted countless key moments in Boston's history. And while the building is mostly synonymous with the surrounding commercial activity - most notably Quincy Market's myriad shops - it still hosts the occasional political debate and symposium as a nod to its history. Faneuil Hall is part of Boston’s National Historic Park, and rangers provide brief historical talks in the Great Hall daily (when there aren’t any official civic events).

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11
Bunker Hill Monument
Photograph: Shutterstock
Attractions, Monuments and memorials

Bunker Hill Monument

icon-location-pin Charlestown

This 221-foot granite obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolution. Visitors can listen to free talks from park rangers, or climb the monument's 294 steps (a brisk ascent takes five minutes) for a breathtaking view of Boston. 

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