Flyby’s Official Boston Walking Tour
Believe it or not, we live right next to a city with way more to do than Cambridge (sorry, Cambridge). And if you want to be able to say you went to “a small liberal arts college outside of Boston,” you should at least know the bare minimum of Boston. Since we know you’re busy reconfiguring your schedule so you’ll be in the same section as Hot Lecture Kid, we’ve put together a quick crash course tour of Boston with *modules* you can pick and choose from. By the end of this, plus a six-month winter, you’ll be able to call yourself a true Bostonian (and I would know — I’ve been one my whole life).
Mass. Ave. and the Charles River — 2 hours
Starting with the least interesting but most necessary step for a walking tour, we have the casual stroll down Massachusetts Avenue to get to the Harvard Bridge. If you’re nervous about staying on track, set the destination on your phone to the Hynes Convention Center T Station. Some places of interest you’ll pass on your way are Goodwill for some good old-fashioned thrifting, Flour Bakery + Cafe for a coffee/pastry moment, and MIT, where you can bask in how much prettier our campus is than theirs.
To skip this step, take the 1 Bus (Nubian) from Mass. Ave. @ Holyoke to Mass. Ave. @ Marlborough, then walk across Commonwealth Ave.
Newbury Street/Back Bay — 2 hours
For a slightly less tourist-swarmed experience than everything listed further down, check out Back Bay. The beauty of being a pedestrian is that you can go the wrong way down a one-way street, so we recommend walking up Newbury Street from where you entered toward the Public Garden. The majority of Newbury is lined with shops: chains, like Uniqlo, Muji, and Urban Outfitters, as well as local businesses like Trident Booksellers and the boutiques you’ll see further up the street. You can go to the nearby Prudential Center (just put that into your GPS) for a more mall-y experience — we’re talking Aritzia, Eataly, Barnes & Noble — and a great view if you take the elevator all the way up. If shopping’s not your thing, you can turn right on Exeter Street to see the famed Boston Public Library and walk toward the Commons on Boylston Street for better sights.
To skip this step, take the Green Line (any letter) from Hynes Convention Center to Park Street. To skip this step and the step before, take the Red Line to Park Street.
Downtown Crossing and Faneuil Hall — 2 hours
When people say “downtown Boston,” this is what they’re talking about, and there’s a lot to do there. This area can be a bit tricky to navigate, so put Faneuil Hall into your GPS if you’re nervous. First, make sure to take a walk through the Public Gardens and Boston Common, which are right next to each other. You can catch a glimpse of the gold-topped State House up the hill from the parks. This area is a bit of a choose-your-own adventure: for people into history, check out the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street to see the graves of notable figures such as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock. For book lovers, Brattle Book Shop on West Street has a great collection of used books, including the discount area in the outdoor lot next to the shop. If you want to shop, try visiting nearby Downtown Crossing for shops like Primark, Macy’s, Old Navy, and a lot of relatively cheap food. If you’re feeling tired after exploring so much of Boston already, we recommend hanging out in Downtown Crossing’s Caffè Nero, a European coffee chain, for great coffee and pastries and a cozy atmosphere that usually has ample seating.
Once you’re ready for more, you can go up Washington Street to find the Old State House, which looks like a slightly more ornate version of Massachusetts Hall. Then, turn right onto Court Street to pass the ugliest building in all of Boston, City Hall, and wave hi to Michelle Wu. You can then pass between City Hall and the Starbucks with a giant kettle hanging off the front to get to Faneuil Hall. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, we recommend at least taking a stroll through to take in the *vibes.* Don’t skip Quincy Market, the building in the middle, but also don’t buy anything there — it’s super overpriced.
To skip this step… I don’t know, just walk fast, I guess? There’s no convenient route using public transit to get from one end to the other, and it’s not that far of a walk.
Aquarium and North End — 2 Hours
If you want to see the ocean and eat some good food, this is the portion of the tour you’ll really enjoy. Cross the Greenway (that big strip of parks) and go vaguely left to reach the Aquarium. Unless you’re really into marine life, don’t pay the $32. You can see the seals outside for free. Then, stare at the ocean for at least 20 minutes. It’s good for the soul.
When you’re done marveling at the sea, double back the way you came and go the opposite direction on the Greenway to get to the North End, Boston’s Little Italy. Just follow the signs to get there, and definitely eat something while you’re there. Get a cannoli, or pizza, or at least coffee. Tip: one Bricco sandwich can feed two people. Take a look at Paul Revere’s house on N Square Street if you want — it’s more the kind of thing you see so you can say you saw it than an actual thing that’s cool to see.
From here you can either take the Green Line or walk back to Park Street, where you can take the Red Line back to Cambridge and feel the stress of Harvard slowly descend upon you.
Honorable Mentions — Museums
Boston is home to so many museums, and absolutely none of them are conveniently located, so if you’re more interested in *culture* than anything else, you might get more out of these than the regular tour.
Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — For the classic art museum experience that totally isn’t motivated by taking a cute picture for Instagram, take the Green E Line Southbound from Park Street to these museums. You can get into both for free with a Harvard ID.
Museum of Science — Take the Green D or E Lines Northbound from Park Street to explore science without having to do a p-set after. Unfortunately, there’s no student discount for Harvard students.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and Institute of Contemporary Art — Take the Red Line straight from Harvard to South Station, then watch actors play Revolutionary War-era Bostonians while you throw imitation tea into the harbor as many times as you could ever possibly want. While you’re over there, you can see some modern art at the ICA, which is free for Harvard students who present their student ID.