How to Spend One Day in Boston: Itinerary & Best Things to Do

Boston is one of the most visited cities in the United States and offers an array of awesome tourist attractions. It’s also the capital city of Massachusetts and is situated within Massachusett Bay – which is part of New England. 

Now, if you’re only spending one day in Boston, it can be pretty overwhelming choosing which sights to visit. However, I’ve got you covered!

I’m going to cover the must-visit sights if you’re only spending a day in Boston so that you can make the most out of your trip. This guide is also going to give you all the information you need including how to get around the city, where to stay, and the best time to visit. 

Boston is relatively small compared to other cities in the US and the main tourist areas are situated quite close together. If you follow this itinerary, you won’t have to fuss around with public transport or spend hours walking between destinations!

So, let’s get into the article and show you the ultimate one-day Boston itinerary.

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

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Useful Info for Spending One Day in Boston

How to get to Boston

Boston Logan International airport serves as the primary airport for New England. It serves plenty of domestic and international flights and is situated about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from Downtown Boston. 

There are several ways to get from the airport to the city center, but the best way is the free bus. It takes you right from the terminals into Downtown. You can also grab a taxi, or simply hire a car. 

If you’re traveling from other cities in the United States you can choose to take a train service into the city. Amtrak is the best choice as it connects Boston with Baltimore, New York, Portland, and Washington D.C among others.

Catching the bus between cities is another popular choice. One of the best websites for cheap bus tickets is Megabus, as they cover over 100 cities in the United States.

You’ll often find that many of the train and bus services run overnight if the journeys are long, which is great as it saves you a night of accommodation costs! 

Streets in Boston, Massachusetts

Best time to visit Boston 

Although Boston can be visited at any time of year, the best time tends to be either the summer months (June-August) or fall (September-October). 

If you’re visiting between June and August, expect lots of crowds. The temperatures hover between 60-80°F (15-26°C), and the humidity can be pretty stifling. The warm climate attracts plenty of tourists, so the popular attractions can get pretty busy. 

Fall is another great time to visit Boston. The months of September and October will see the humidity and temperatures drop to around 46-57°F (8-14°C). This makes walking around the city much easier and the fall colors are simply beautiful. Boston is actually a great starting point for a New England fall foliage road trip!

If you’re looking to save a bit of cash, you can always head to Boston during the off-season. November and December are often the cheapest time to visit as hotel prices drop. However, Boston winters aren’t for the faint-hearted so you’ll have to come prepared! 

How to get around Boston 

Boston has plenty of great public transport links including the subway, local buses, and commuter rail. You can also use ferries and water taxis to get around too!

Getting around Boston is pretty cheap, but if you don’t fancy taking public transport you can also make use of the city’s bike-share program. The city only covers an area of 89 square miles (232 km2) which means it’s incredibly easy to get around.

However, you won’t have to worry about catching public transport for this one day Boston itinerary, as it’s fully walkable! This means much more time for sightseeing, as you don’t have to worry about traveling to the other side of the city. 

If you do decide spending one day in Boston just isn’t enough, then make sure you use public transport to visit some of the other popular neighborhoods within the city. This includes taking trips out to Fenway-Kenmore, and the South End.

Where to stay in Boston

As you’re looking to see the best of Boston in a day, you’ll benefit from having a centrally located hotel. If you plan to follow this itinerary, I’d recommend staying in either Downtown Boston or the North End.

Downtown Boston is a brilliant area for sightseeing and is known for its quirky bars and delicious restaurants. It’s also one of the most budget-friendly neighborhoods in Boston.

The North End is situated right on the waterfront and is home to the best Italian food in the city. The nightlife scene isn’t as big here as in Downtown Boston, so it’s a better option for families with young children.

When it comes to staying in Downtown Boston you’ll have plenty of choices, whereas the North End is a bit more limited. 

It’s also important to note that Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States when it comes to accommodation. Even the budget accommodation will set you back some dollars, so keep this in mind. 

If you want to read more about the best areas to stay in the city, check out my in-depth guide about where to stay in Boston. However, if you’re in a bit of a hurry and just want to get something booked – here are my top recommendations. 

Boston Harbor Hotel
Photo credit: Boston Harbor Hotel via Booking.com

LUXURY – Boston Harbor Hotel

Boston Harbor Hotel is a 5-star waterfront hotel that overlooks Boston Harbor. One of the best things about this hotel is the Rowes Wharf Sea Grill & Bar. It’s known for its tasty seafood and offers a scenic view of the harbor whilst you dine. 

The Godfrey Hotel Boston
Photo credit: The Godfrey Hotel Boston via Booking.com

MID-RANGE – The Godfrey Hotel Boston

The Godfrey Hotel Boston has plenty of on-site facilities for guests, but the highlight is its location. The hotel is situated close to many of the sights on this one day Boston itinerary including Boston Common, the Freedom Trail, and the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum.

Harborside Inn
Photo credit: Harborside Inn via Booking.com

BUDGET – Harborside Inn

Harbourside Inn is situated in the perfect location if you’re looking to see the best of Boston in one day. Not only is it located in the city’s waterfront district, but the Freedom Trail also starts 150 yards from the hotel’s front door. 

Overview of Your One Day Boston Itinerary

Breakdown of your one day in Boston

Here is a quick overview of how you’re going to spend your one day in Boston.

  • Morning: Mike’s Pastry, North End (Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copps Hill Burying Ground, Skinny House, Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum)
  • Afternoon: Quincy Market, Sam Adams Boston Taproom, part of the Freedom Trail (Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Massacre Site, Old State House, Old South Meeting House, Old Corner Book Store, Benjamin Franklin Statue, King’s Chapel, Granary Burying Ground, Park Street Church, Massachusetts State House), Boston Common, Public Garden
  • Evening: Beacon Hill (Acorn Street, Longfellow Bridge, dinner)

Map for your one day in Boston

Below you can find a customized map that includes all the locations you’re going to visit on this Boston itinerary.

I marked the different times of your one day in Boston with different colors – I used blue for the morning, green for the afternoon, and red for the evening, so you can easily see which places you’re going to visit during the day.

If you open up this post on your phone and you click on the bracket in the upper right corner of the map, it will open up in your Google Maps app so you can always have it with you. Super convenient, right?

Morning of Your One Day in Boston

Morning treats at Mike’s Pastry 

Visit time: 8 am – 8.30 am

Mike’s Pastry is a super popular pastry shop within the city and is the perfect way to fuel your one day in Boston.

I’ve started the itinerary with this spot, as it’s best to head there in the morning to avoid the biggest lines. If you decide to visit in the afternoon, you’ll be queuing for ages – no kidding!

Situated on Hanover Street, this renowned Italian bakeshop is famous for its unique cannoli. Some of the tastiest flavors include chocolate-covered, Nutella, hazelnut, and strawberry. Although you’re only spending a day in Boston, you don’t want to leave the city without tasting one of these!

If you don’t fancy cannoli, this quirky bakery has plenty of other choices. Why not try some of their biscotti, macaroons, fig cookies, or ricotta pie? You can also taste their delicious lobster tails (don’t worry – there is no actual lobster tail in there). 

Even if you get there at 8 am when it opens, it’s likely you may have to queue. So, if it’s a rainy day in Boston make sure you’ve got an umbrella!

Explore the North End

Visit time: 8.30 am – 10 am 

Mike’s Pastry is actually located within the North End and is only a 2-minute walk from the Paul Revere House. That means you can get straight into exploring this neighborhood or ‘Little Italy’ as it’s sometimes known. 

The North End is the oldest neighborhood in the city and is home to the best Italian food in Boston (hence your visit to Mike’s Pastry). 

As you wander through the narrow alleyways, you’ll be bombarded with amazing sights and smells of Italian dishes and treats. This area is also situated on the waterfront, so make sure you take a stroll along the harbor front. 

However, the most popular sights in the North End are the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, and the Paul Revere House. No one day Boston itinerary is complete without a visit to these three sites!

Paul Revere House

I’d recommend visiting the Paul Revere House first as it’s such a short distance from your breakfast spot.

This house was built around 1680 and is the oldest remaining structure in Downtown Boston. You can tour the home and get a unique perspective into Paul Revere’s life – the famous patriot, craftsman, and entrepreneur.

From there, head to the Old North Church which is a 5-minute walk away. The Old North Church is the city’s oldest church and is one of the most visited historical sites in Boston. It’s best known for its unique architecture and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. 

And lastly, finish your visit to the North End with a trip to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. This is the final resting place for many people who lived in the North End and was used continuously throughout the 1850s.

Right across the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, it’s worth taking a look at the Skinny House, the narrowest house in all of Boston. Legend says that two brothers inherited the land after their father died in the American Civil War.

One of the brothers decided to build a huge home without waiting for the other one to return from the military. Once the other brother returned, he built the Skinny house as revenge on the tiny land he had left, to block the sunlight and ruin the view of his brother’s house.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Visit time: 10:30am – 12:00 pm

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is a 25-minute walk from Copp’s Hill Burying Ground so allow yourself time to get there. In case you plan to walk there along the waterfront, make sure to stop by the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on the way!

If you’re only spending one day in Boston, I understand there will be a lot of sights you want to see. 

However, this one needs to be included in your itinerary! Visiting the museum is one of the best things to do in Boston and you’ll truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time. 

The tour of the museum takes you back to 1773 and allows you to become part of the famous Boston Tea Party. This political protest was against the British Parliament’s Tea Act which aimed to save the East India Company by lowering its tea tax.

Throughout the tour, you’ll get to learn about the events that led to this and relive the battle through 3D holograms and live actors. You’ll also get a chance to throw tea overboard, and see what it would have been like to be part of the ‘Sons of Liberty’.

The tours last just over 60 minutes and start every 15 minutes, except if you visit in fall and winter. If you’re heading to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum at this time of year, the tours tend to start every 30 minutes. You’ll need to consider this, and possibly allow more time if that’s the case. 

You can get your tickets here for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Interactive tour

Afternoon of Your One Day in Boston

Quincy Market 

Visit time: 12.15 pm – 1.30 pm 

Quincy Market is a shopper’s paradise and one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions as it’s situated along the Freedom Trail.

With over 100 different stores, artisan carts, restaurants, and pubs there is plenty to do. However, after a full morning of exploring, I can imagine you’d be pretty hungry at this point!

Luckily, Quincy Market has an array of food choices waiting for you. I recommend eating at Boston Chowda as they serve the most delicious (you guessed it) Boston clam chowder. 

This tasty traditional dish is a cream-based seafood soup. It contains clams, diced potatoes, and onions, and is then thickened with crackers. 

If you’re not a fan of seafood, there are plenty of other choices including El Paso Enchiladas, Gourmet India, the Dog House, and Regina Pizzeria. 

I’d then finish up your lunch with a Boston cream pie – a delicious 2-layer cake filled with either vanilla custard or cream, before being covered with chocolate sauce. Yum! 

You can also visit Sam Adams Boston Taproom as an optional extra! Here you can enjoy an array of exclusive beers, and relax whilst you let your food digest.

Quincy Market is without a doubt one of the best things to see in Boston in one day. So make sure you leave yourself enough time to wander around the market and treat yourself to some unique buys!

Freedom Trail

Visit time: 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm 

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile trail that connects 16 historic sites in the city. If you’ve only got one day in Boston – this needs to be your priority. 

These sites play an important part in the history of the United States, as they are all related to the American Revolution. The first part of this trail I’ve placed in reverse order, as you’ve already ticked off a couple of places. 

The Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Old North Church, and the Paul Revere House are also part of the Freedom trail but you would’ve already explored these when visiting the North End. 

First up is Faneuil Hall, which is a 1-minute walk from Quincy Market. This hall hosted America’s first-ever town meeting so holds a pretty important place in the history books.

Faneuil Hall

From there you’ll head to the Boston Massacre Site, where 5 civilians were unfortunately killed by gunfire due to a clash in the streets. 

Next, you’ll walk to the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, and the Old Corner Bookstore. 

From the bookstore, you’ll walk to the Benjamin Franklin Statue which is situated outside the Boston Latin School. This school was founded in 1635 and is the oldest public school in America. 

After visiting the statue, you’ll continue along the Freedom Trail until you reach King’s Chapel. You’ll then walk to Granary Burying Ground, and Park Street Church, before finishing at Massachusetts State House.

Old State House

Now, this may sound like a lot of places, but this section of the trail can easily be covered within 1-2 hours. 

Here is a quick overview: 

  1. Faneuil Hall
  2. Boston Massacre Site (4-minute walk from Faneuil Hall) 
  3. Old State House (1-minute walk from Boston Massacre)
  4. Old South Meeting House (4-minute walk from Old State House)
  5. Old Corner Bookstore (1-minute walk from Old South Meeting House)
  6. Benjamin Franklin’s Statue (2-minute walk from the Old Corner Bookstore)
  7. King’s Chapel (1-minute walk from Benjamin Franklin’s Statue) 
  8. Granary Burying Ground (3-minute walk from King’s Chapel)
  9. Park Street Church (1-minute walk from Granary Burying Ground)
  10. Massachusetts State House (3-minute walk from Park Street Church) 

If you want to learn a bit more about each place, you can head on a 2.5-hour Freedom Trail walking tour. This tour will take you to all 16 sights along the Freedom Trail, so you can adjust your itinerary accordingly. 

However, if you simply want to walk the trail on your own you can print out a Freedom Trail brochure! 

Boston Common

Visit time: 3.30 pm – 4.30 pm

Boston Common is next on this list, as it’s only a 1-minute walk from Massachusetts State House. It was established in 1634, making it America’s oldest public park and it’s part of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. 

Not only is this park beautiful, but it’s also the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Although you’re only spending a day in Boston, you’re entitled to a bit of relaxation! 

You can take a stroll around the common, ride a carousel, or simply grab a drink and take a seat for a while. You’ll also find that throughout the year, certain events are held here so keep an eye out for those! 

Although you’re probably not looking to work up a sweat after a day exploring Boston, you’ve also got the choice of heading to the tennis courts or basketball fields. 

However, one of the best times to visit Boston Common is winter! You can go sledding, and Boston Common Frog Pond is famous for ice skating during the winter months.

If you’re wanting to see the best of Boston in a day, don’t leave this place out. 

Public Garden (Make Way for the Ducklings)

Visit time: 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm

The Public Garden is right next to Boston Common and is another great spot to relax in the city. It was the first-ever botanical garden in America and was established in 1837.

This Victorian-era garden has a lot to offer, with beautiful flowers, plenty of space to walk around, and of course, the famous ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ statues.

These statues depict a duck family and are the most popular attraction in the Public Garden. They were inspired by Robert McCluskey’s book ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ which follows the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard. These statues are a must-visit while exploring Boston in one day!

You can also take a ride on one of the ‘swan boats’ which have been taking tourists on a ride of the lagoon since 1877. The lagoon also has its own resident pair of swans that arrive in May for the summer months.

Now, of course, one of the main highlights is the many exotic trees and plants that can be found here. 

The most spectacular show of all is put on by the tulips, as each year around 26,000 tulips bloom for a month or more. The colors are extraordinary and make for one of the most photographed events in Boston.

Evening of Your One Day in Boston

Beacon Hill

Visit time: 6 pm – 9 pm

After spending a day in Boston exploring all the popular sights and eating delicious food, you may think that’s your itinerary finished. No way!

What better way to sign off your one day in Boston than by visiting Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s most historic neighborhoods, and one of the most picturesque areas in the city. 

Although it only covers half a square mile, Beacon Hill is filled with incredible architecture, historical landmarks, local boutiques, and of course, plenty of restaurants! 

One of the must-visit spots to end your evening is Acorn Street. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the country, and once you see the red-brick sidewalks and cobblestones – it’s easy to see why!

Acorn Street is famous within Boston as it’s an original cobblestone street, which is incredibly difficult to find these days. 

The famous Acorn Street

Another place you just have to visit during your time in Beacon Hill is Longfellow Bridge. It offers superb views of the harbor – especially at sunset! 

This bridge spans the Charles River and connects Beacon Hills with the Cambridge neighborhood. You can walk right over the bridge as a pedestrian, and you’ll see it beautifully light up in the evening – another reason why it’s best to leave this one till the end. 

View from Longfellow Bridge at sunset

There are also plenty of great restaurants in the area for dinner, and here are some of my recommendations.

Toscano is the place to go if you fancy some Tuscan cuisine. They serve up flavorful handmade pasta, and delicious pizzas, with plenty of wines to choose from. The Paramount is another great choice and is known for its tasty food and cozy atmosphere. 

This is probably all that you’ll have time for when it comes to your one-day Boston itinerary. 

However, if you find you still have a bit of free time why not head to Charles Street which is one of the city’s best shopping areas. Or you can wander around Louisburg Square which is one of the most affluent areas in all of Boston.

Dinner at Ristorante Toscano

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, the best things to do in Boston in one day! 

You could easily spend days exploring the city, but luckily nearly all of the popular spots are located close together. This is really handy when it comes to sightseeing, as you’ll get to see many of Boston’s popular attractions within a couple of hours.

All of the sights in this article can definitely be visited within one day but I know that some people prefer to take things easy when they travel. This one-day in Boston itinerary is pretty jam-packed, so feel free to take out some attractions if you’d prefer a leisurely stroll. 

In case you have more days in Boston, you might be interested in reading about the best day trips from Boston as well.

Have you visited this awesome city before? If you have, I’d love to hear about your favorite spots!

xoxo, Kriszti


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