Visit or Skip? Tourist sites in Boston

If you only have a few days in Boston, you might wonder what the best use of your time is in Beantown. If you’re a huge US history buff, then walking the entire freedom trail might be your perfect Saturday in Boston. Maybe a visit to Old Ironsides (the USS Constitution) in Boston Harbor might tickle your fancy. Even if military history isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of spots to enjoy. Here are a few suggestions based off my recent trip to Boston.

Skip: Quincy Market

I know, everyone thinks of the Faneuil Market buildings as a necessity for their trip. However, it’s not the best for a quiet lunch by any means, or for a local taste. True they have lobster rolls, but as a local friend of mine said “You don’t get the real ones from here.” They have stalls serving up “Philly” cheesesteaks (likely not authentic) as well as other fast foods.

Exceedingly crowded, a bit overpriced and gimmicky (a mini market version of the famous Boston “Cheers!” pub for example), I recommend giving this one a skip.


Visit: Boston Public Market

An indoor market selling local honey, flowers, produce, seafood, and meats; BPM also has plenty of delicious ethnic restaurants. You can even get some clam chowder at the seafood stall if you crave that classic New England taste. It’s less packed and has a better layout of little side aisles inviting you to wander and explore. You can grab local beer and spirits down Hopsters Alley in the market as well.

Seasonally there’s an outdoor farmer’s market right next door to the BPM where you can get incredibly cheap and ripe produce as well.


Skip: Acorn St.

I know that every visitor who goes to Boston hears that they absolutely must go to Acorn Street. It’s the only street that still has the original cobblestone from the earliest days of Bostonian history. Truthfully, it’s a tiny little side alley you can walk up and down in a minute. Plenty of other tourists will be queued up waiting their turn as well.

If you really need that Instagram shot or have never walked on cobblestones before it might be worth a brief detour, but don’t base much of your day around it.


Visit: The Public Gardens

About ten minutes from Acorn Street is the Boston Common and the smaller, Public Garden. Though also a bit touristy, the Gardens in particular give you a lovely place to walk when the weather is cooperative. It’s not as claustrophobic and you’ll find plenty of photogenic spots among the flowers, trees, water features, and statues.

Enjoy the rose gardens in summer and watching the ducks, geese, and squirrels any time.


Skip: Museum of Fine Arts

This one I’m hesitant to say you should skip because I love museums and the MFA’s collection is massive and impressive with new exhibits all the time. However, as much as I love museums, when I go to a new city I don’t like to spend my whole visit inside of a museum. If the weather is too cold or rainy or you have a little more breathing room in your schedule then it could by all means be included in your itinerary. If you’re on a time budget, then it will take a huge chunk of your day.


Visit: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This is an extremely quirky, unique museum. It’s also easier to experience in just 2-3 hours. Gardener was a world traveler and art collector who built a Venetian Palazzo-inspired house in Boston. In it she housed her collection of art and artifacts from all over Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Northern Africa. From Buddhist temple bells to fraying brocaded alter cloths from Catholic churches, her curious personality shines through. Her personal library and her selected works of American artists are also displayed.

Its central skylight garden is also a picturesque scene even on gloomy days. In the supporting building built more recently, there are  modern art exhibits, interactive events (such as weaving demonstrations), and a posh little cafe with a wine selection.


What are some of your favorite Boston spots? Or what spots would you add to your perfect Boston weekend plans?


  1. I used to spend a bit of time in Boston, and was always searching for the best places to eat! haha. Perhaps I should have spent a bit more time checking out the historical sites. The garden looks lovely.

  2. Since I’ve never been to Boston and when I do, I’ll probably search for places to visit and to skip. Your post is a great recommendation for someone who wants a quick overview of this city but who doesn’t have much time. Hopsters alley sounds like a place I’d definitely enjoy visiting to see what wares they are selling.

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