top of page
  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

Have Fun and Save Money: Free Things to Do in Boston

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, at no additional cost to you.

Boston is one of the oldest cities in America and is full of culture and history. With so much to do, it can be hard to decide which activities you should spend your time on. Luckily, Boston has plenty of free activities that are both fun and budget-friendly! Here are some great things to do in Boston that won't cost you a penny.

From the iconic Freedom Trail to Fenway Park, Boston has something for everyone. There are plenty of attractions that won’t cost anything, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Public Garden, Harvard Square, and more. You can also take advantage of a free walking tour or guided bike rides around the city.

Exploring free activities in Boston can be both a fun and budget-friendly way to experience the city. Not only will you save money but these activities are also great opportunities to meet locals, learn about the city’s history and culture, and try new things.

If you are a Massachusetts resident looking for something to do on the weekend or a tourist on a budget, below are some fun things that you can do for zero cost in the city of Boston.

1. Walk the Freedom Trail

One of Boston’s most famous tourist attractions, the Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long path through 16 historically significant locations. If this is your first time in Boston, this will be a perfect way to get to know some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods.

Beginning at the Boston Common, a trail of red bricks will guide you to multiple stops along the trail. Special ground markers on the sidewalk will denote the location of these historic stops.

Some of the most iconic landmarks in the Freedom Trail are The Massachusetts State House, the Old South Meeting House - A.K.A the launching point for the Boston Tea Party - Faneuil Hall, and more. You can check out a complete list of sites on their website.

Although they do offer paid guided tours, walking along the trail on your own is totally free. If you’re afraid you’ll miss a stop or get lost, they also have a free PDF map of the trail on their website.

Keep in mind that many of the other things to see and do mentioned in this post are also included in the Freedom Trail. However, they have been featured because we believed that you should spend more time (than the tour allocates) exploring these locations.

2. Visit the Boston Public Library

If you have ever watched a movie that took place in Boston, odds are that you have already seen parts of this library before. You can access the older part of the library through its front gates, which you can access through Copley Square. The building opens its doors for all visitors at 9:00 AM every day, except for Sundays (opening time is at 11 AM).

Boston Public Library’s beautiful interior, designed in a Renaissance architectural style, is lined with thousands of books, sculptures, and paintings. As soon as you walk in through the front door, the grandeur of the marble walls and staircases within the entrance hall makes a remarkable first impression.

As you go up the stairs on the second and third floors, you can find where the library houses its rare books and incredible paintings. One of the most iconic rooms inside the library is Bate’s Hall. This incredible room is famous for its walls lined with books, its barrel-vaulted ceiling, and the iconic green lamps that sit atop every table.

Before you visit Bate’s Hall, keep in mind that this is a quiet space and disruptions are not welcome. There are several other spaces inside the Boston Public Library to see, but my favorite has to be the courtyard garden. From the first floor of the library, you can access the courtyard from either the left or right sides.

The space is lined with columns and arches and is a beautiful sight to see. You can come here just to admire the space, or to sit down at one of the tables and relax or have lunch. Whichever it is that you choose, definitely don’t miss this spot when visiting the library.

3. Walk the Exterior Grounds of Trinity Church

Also located in Copley Square, Trinity Church is a National Historic Landmark and one of the country's top 10 buildings. The church sits proudly in the square, with its front side facing the Boston Public Library.

The current church was built in 1877 to replace the original Trinity Church, which had been burned in the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Built in a Romanesque Revival style, the structure stands out in the square. There are multiple ways to visit Trinity Church, depending on how much time you want to spend there.

Walking around the exterior of the church to admire its architecture is a fun experience, and truly feels like something out of this timeline. Exploring the grounds of the church is free to the public, and anyone is welcome to take photos.

Visiting inside the church is also possible, but there is a $10 visitor fee unless you are coming in for a service or prayer. If you wish to visit a service, the church offers five of them on Sundays. Check out their website for more information and to check out the available services.

4. Take a Tour of Harvard

Being the oldest university in the country, there is no question that Harvard University is one of the most famous sites in Boston. This prestigious institution was founded in 1636, and its beautiful and historic campus is a must-see when visiting the area.

Although we are including this site on our blog about top free things to do in Boston, the original Harvard campus is actually in Cambridge. However, since the campus is extremely iconic and only separated from the city of Boston by the Charles River, we will make an exception.

The best part about the campus, aside from its rich history and beautiful architecture, is that it is free to visit. The Cambridge location is the main campus, where the infamous "Harvard Yard" is located.

Today, those structures are just for show since the gates are never shut and the campus is open to the public. Several historic landmarks are located inside Harvard Yard, including the Memorial Church, Widener Library, and the Harvard University Art Museums.

You can either tour the exterior grounds of the university on your own or join a free tour led by students. If you get hungry during your visit, just outside of the main campus is Harvard Square. This quaint little neighborhood is full of shops and restaurants to choose from.

It is a lively area to walk around, especially in August-May, when classes are in session. Touring Harvard and Harvard Square can take up a good chunk of your day and requires a good amount of walking, so plan accordingly.

5. Visit the Faneuil Hall Marketplace

One of Boston's most iconic tourist destinations, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is made up of four historic buildings including the Quincy Market, North Market, South Market, and Faneuil Hall itself. These historic landmarks are also prominent spots along the Freedom Trail in Downtown Boston.

There's a lot to see and do here, so it might be a good idea to plan a return visit. The marketplace is home to two of the most famous buildings: Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. These buildings are located adjacent to each other and are surrounded by picturesque cobblestone streets that are strictly for pedestrians.

The Quincy Market, previously an indoor pavilion for vendors, now houses a variety of food and crafts vendors. Inside the market, the main hallway boasts food stands on both the north and south sides. Even if you don't plan to eat, exploring the market is worthwhile to experience the atmosphere and appreciate the large dome at the center.

Similar to the Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall served as a marketplace during colonial times. However, it also served as a location for meetings and speeches during the Revolutionary War. Nowadays, it functions as a visitor center and continues to be a site for gatherings and meetings.

Touring the inside of the building is free, but it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you are planning to visit and wish to go inside, it opens at 11 AM from Wednesday through Sunday.

Touring any of these attractions at Faneuil Hall Marketplace is free, but the market is also surrounded by shops and retail stores in case you are in the mood to spend some money.

If you have extra time, also check out the Boston Public Market - which is just a 5 minutes walk from Faneuil. You can also walk straight across the street to get to the Boston Harbor from here.

6. Sit and Relax at Boston Public Garden

The Boston Public Garden is mostly famous because of the iconic Make Way for Ducklings Statue, but the Victorian-era garden has so much more to offer. If you visit Boston in the spring, the park is filled with beautiful tulips at every corner.

In addition to the flowers, the park also offers multiple grass spaces where people can sit and relax, and several sculptures and statues to admire. At the center of the park, there is an artificial lagoon filled with ducks and swans, and surrounded by beautiful willow trees.

Around the lagoon, you can admire the scenery and the ducks from afar or choose to take a ride on a Swan Boat. These rides are not free, but they are worth the $4 fee if this is your first time in Boston. The best times to visit the Boston Public Garden would be either in late spring or in the summer when the weather is pleasant and you can actually sit and enjoy the park.

If you just simply wish to pass by, or take incredible photos with the color-changing foliage, come visit the park in the fall. Regardless of when you chose to visit, do not miss the picturesque scenery of the public garden.

7. Tour the Massachusetts State House

If you walk along Beacon Street, eventually you will find a gated red-brick building with a large golden dome in the center. This iconic Charles Bulfinch building is the Massachusetts State House, and it's one of the most visited historic landmarks in Boston.

Most people just typically pose in front of the building to capture a photo with the golden dome, but you can actually get a free tour of the inside of the building. Free walking tours of the building and collections are offered on weekdays from 10 AM to 3:30 PM.

The guided tours last about 45 minutes, but you can also choose to do a self-guided tour with the help of free maps and paper guides. If you do wish to visit the State House through a guided tour, it is recommended that you make reservations by calling the number on their website.

8. Stroll along the Charles River Esplanade

If you had a long day of sightseeing and just simply want to unwind, take a slow walk through the park along the Charles River. A very popular recreational area, this site is typically visited by locals on their morning walks or afternoon runs.

Although there are plenty of things that you can do here, like take a stroll or sit for a picnic, the view of the Charles River is just priceless and probably the main reason to visit. In the warmer months, several people take out their sailboats and go paddle boarding or kayaking around this area.

If you have a paddle board or a kayak, you are welcome to join them in the Charles. If you don't own any of that equipment, you are also welcome to rent them in nearby rental areas. If you have children, several public playgrounds are spread across the Esplanade.

The park stretches for 3 miles between the Museum of Science and the Boston University Bridge, so there is a lot of walking to be done if you want to explore the whole thing. However, you don't need to walk the entire park in order to get beautiful views of Cambridge across the river.

Before you visit, be aware that public parking is not available at the Esplanade. The best ways to reach the area are either by taking the train to a nearby station or parking along the Boston Common, and then walking across Storrow Drive through one of the bridges.

9. Window Shop on Newbury Street

Newbury Street is Boston's version of New York's Fifth Avenue. Lined with retail shops and eateries that stretch along 8 blocks, this opulent neighborhood is an attraction itself.

At the very top of the street, where Newbury meets Arlington directly across from the Public Garden, there are numerous high-end stores. From Burberry to Cartier, Bulgari, and more, the first block along Newbury Street is a perfect spot for window shopping.

As you walk up further, towards Massachusetts Avenue, you'll find more common retail stores and several boutique shops. In addition to fashion, Newbury Street also offers multiple places to eat.

In the summer, several of these places will have outdoor seating. Other things to see on Newbury Street are the Church of the Covenant and the Restoration Hardware Store, which is located inside a historic 1860s building. For a full directory of Newbury Street, check out their online map.

10. Visit Old North Church at the North End

The Old North Church is Boston's oldest surviving church and also an iconic historic landmark. This building is specifically famous for being the location where two Boston patriots hung their lanterns in order to notify Charlestown that the British Army was coming.

Located in the Italian neighborhood of the North End, the church still stands at 193 Salem Street. The site is open to the public on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM, and Sundays from 11:30 AM to 5 PM.

Visiting the exterior grounds of the church or attending a service is free, but there is a small fee if you wish to tour the inside. General admission costs $5, but they also offer guided tours of other parts of the church for an additional charge.

You can also choose to tour the Crypt, where several people are buried, or the bell tower for $10. For any of these attractions, admission for children under 5 is free.

If you are on a budget, or on a mission to only visit free attractions in Boston, simply admiring the church from the outside is also worth the trip. On your way there, take your time strolling around the North End - where you can find Boston's best Italian food.

Take a Stroll Outside Fenway Park

Fenway Park is one of the most iconic stadiums in all professional sports. If you’re a baseball fan, then taking a tour of the stadium is a must. Sadly, they don't offer free tours, but you can still walk around the exterior of the building.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants around the area and lively nightlife. On Jersey Street, you'll also find the Red Sox Team Store. So explore around and get a feel for the atmosphere.

Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum is a beautiful art museum located on the Fenway and houses an impressive collection of artwork, including works by Rembrandt, Botticelli, and Raphael.

The museum also has a lush garden full of vibrant plants and flowers, and a courtyard that looks like it came out of Romeo and Juliet. If you're on a budget but still want to visit the museum, it offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month from 3 PM - 9 PM.

Where to Stay in Boston

There are plenty of options for places to stay in town based on your budget and desired experience. For those that want to stay in the heart of the city, there are many trendy boutique hotels located near shopping districts, historical landmarks and entertainment arenas.

If this is your first time visiting Boston, I recommend that you stay in the Downtown or Back Bay area for convenience and to save on transportation. These are both central neighborhoods that link to other parts of the city - making it easier to walk everywhere. Check out our tops pics below:

I hope you enjoyed this guide for some of the best free activities in Boston. Keep in mind that these attractions are particularly located in central Boston, and other surrounding neighborhoods like East Boston and Seaport were excluded. However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't visit these areas if you have extra time.

If you’re looking to explore Boston on a budget, it's important to plan ahead. Make sure to set aside time for each attraction on your list. From exploring historical sites to enjoying breathtaking views and admiring art, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Happy travels!


bottom of page