This is not a long walking tour but there is plenty to see and do in this relatively small section of Boston. We start at the waterfront at the New England Aquarium. Walking a short distance west will take you through part of the Greenway (Boston moved its elevated highway underground and replaced the above ground section with a public park system that cuts south to north through Boston) up to the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. And then just on the other side of the Greenway is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Public Market and the open-air market Haymarket. While there is a great deal of history at Faneuil Hall, and a number of retail stores for shopping, kids and adults will find an incredible number of eating places / food stalls / restaurants in this area providing an almost unlimited choice of foods.
Walking the path without stopping is less than a mile long and would only take about 20 minutes.
Stop1. New England Aquarium
(1 Central Wharf, 617-973-5200, www.neaq.org)
The principal feature of the Aquarium is the 4 story Giant Ocean Tank, a cylindrical 200,000 gallon tank simulating a pre-Columbian Caribbean coral reef with 2,000 fish and 140 different fish species. The tank is so large that when construction on the building began, the tank was built first and then the rest of the building around it. The tank is open at the top and visitors take a circular path around the tank with 52 windows allowing them to view the fish at different angles. The walkway ends at the bottom of the tank into a 150,000 gallon penguin exhibit. Check when you arrive for feeding times within the tank.
The aquarium is at is busiest in the middle of the day so if you want to beat the crowds try to visit when the building opens or after 3pm. Also to cut down on cost, there are picnic benches at the front plaza so you can bring a lunch rather than buying at the inside cafeteria.
At the entrance to the Aquarium is a harbor seal exhibit which can be seen for free.
The Aquarium also has an Imax Theatre and offers whale watching cruises between April and October.
Stop 2. Rings Fountain.
An unpredictable fountain that jets through the air from a flat paved surface. Kids may run through to cool down. At night the lighting in the fountain make it a real spectacle. Running daily from late May – early October (Columbus Day) 9AM-11PM.
Stop 3. Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion.
The pavilion is an information and ticketing booth for the ferry service to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Parks which are a collection of 34 islands and peninsulas in the Boston Harbor. The islands offer a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, bird watching, etc. and are an important ecological habitat for local wildlife.
Historical sites at the parks include: Fort Warren (civil war era fort, building began 1833, used as a training facility for union soldiers), Fort Andrews (built in 1900, was an active coast artillery post, one of the army’s earliest radio transmitting stations, had 30 structures in the 1920s, held Italian prisoners of war in WWII), Boston Light (oldest continually operated light station in the country, 1st lit Sept 4, 1716), Deer Island(internment camp during King Philips War – 500 Native Americans held over winter of 1675-76, in 1800s a hospital established for Irish immigrants arriving during the Great Famine, now wastewater treatment which started back in 1875).
The parks do not charge an entrance fee, the only cost is the ferry ride. One ferry ticket can be used to visit as many islands as you like in a single day. It is recommended to allow at least 4 hours to visit one island (including ferry travel), and a full day to visit two. Arrive at least 20 minutes before ferry departure to allow time for boarding. Adult - $20, child - $13 and various packages are available. Boats depart from Long Wharf North in downtown Boston.
There is one public drinking fountain on The Greenway, located near the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion. There is also a ground-level dish for pets. Note: the fountain is not active during the winter.
Stop 4. Greenway Carousel
This one of a kind 36 seat carousel was made with local animals native to the land, sea and sky of Boston including lobster, cod, fox, squirrel, grasshopper, peregrine falcon, turtle, butterfly, skunk, oarfish, whale, rabbit, owl, and harbor seal.
The Greenway Carousel is located at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove between the Armenian Heritage Park to the north and the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion to the south, across from Faneuil Hall and Christopher Columbus Park on the Greenway.
Tickets are $4 each and the carousel is open mid-April to December.
Stop 5. Christopher Columbus Park
This is a public park facing the harbor and provides a variety of places to sit and relax with a great waterfront view. There is a playground, a rose garden and a fountain. There is a public restroom next to the Marriott Hotel.
Stop 6. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
The marketplace was created in 1976 when the city renovated the Faneuil Hall area and buildings to create what is now a major shopping and eating destination. The marketplace consists of 4 historic buildings: Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the North and South Marketing Buildings.
Stop 7. Quincy Market
(4 South Market St, Boston, MA 02109. https://www.quincy-market.com/)
Quincy Market houses eating stalls provide a large selection of food, snacks and desserts. Watching the food preparation can be as fun as the eventual eating. The North and South Market buildings contain retail stores. There are free one hour tours of Quincy Market on Mondays and Saturdays in July and August.
The area between the Eastern end of the Hall and Congress Street is a part of the Boston National Historical Park and this includes a public art installation (a once and future shoreline) of an 850 foot etched flooring showing the approximate location of the Colonial shore line.
The history of Quincy Market is that in May 1823 the newly elected Boston mayor, Josiah Quincy, helped to organize the building of a new marketplace for Boston to address the lack of space on the ground floor of Faneuil Hall. Part of the harbor, which reached right behind Faneuil Hall, was filled in to create space for the Quincy Market building and two other buildings built on either side which were named the North and South Market buildings. Architect and engineer Alexander Parris designed and completed the buildings in 1826 and the main building was named after Mayor Quincy.
Stop 8. Faneuil Hall
(1 Faneuil Hall Sq)
Faneuil Hall has been a market and meeting place since it was built in 1743.
Peter Faneuil, a wealthy Boston merchant, built and gave the building to the city in order to provide a marketplace for peddlers to sell their wares instead of clogging up the streets with pushcarts. Ironically part of Faneuil’s wealth came from the slave trade thus the building known as “the cradle of liberty” was at least partially funded by slavery.
The building had an open ground floor to be used as a marketplace and an assembly room on the floor above. Leading up to the Revolutionary War it was the site of speeches by Sam Adams, James Otis and many others where citizens could proclaim their dissent against the British crown.
In 1742 the gilded grasshopper weather vane was added to the top of the building. In 1806 the building was greatly expanded by architect Charles Bulfinch and in 1898 was entirely rebuilt out of non-combustible materials.
Currently the ground floor has retail stores in it, the 2nd and 3rd floors house the Great Hall which is an auditorium with 2 tiered seating and the 4th floor is a free military museum which houses a collection (including cannon balls from the Battle of Bunker Hill) from the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company (the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere - since 1638).
Stop 9. Boston Public Market
(100 Hanover St, https://bostonpublicmarket.org/)
Boston Public Market is a year-round indoor public market that houses around 35 vendor stalls offering fresh foods, prepared meals, crafts, and specialty items. Everything sold at the Market is produced or originates in Massachusetts or at least New England, as the seasons allow. The market opened in July 2015 and was the first in the United States with an all-local-food requirement. There is also a 3,200 square foot kitchen within the market that offers hands-on cooking demos, lectures, family activities, exercise classes, training and community events, etc.
An outdoor farmers' market is open on Sundays and Wednesdays from May to November on the plaza next to the building and a second seasonal outdoor farmers' market is available in Dewey Square, near the southern end of the Greenway.
Vendors at the Public Market can validate parking on the overhead parking garage providing attractively priced parking in downtown Boston.
Stop 10. Haymarket
Haymarket is a large open air produce market that is held every Friday and Saturday right near the Haymarket MBTA Station. About 50 vendors are selling fruit, vegetables and fish at low prices which they obtained from wholesale distributors who are making room for new produce that arrives over the weekend.
In 1952 this market was relocated from Haymarket Square, which is one block north, to provide space for the construction of the elevated Central Artery. The buildings around the market were demolished to make way for the highway and for the building of the Government Center.
Haymarket Square sits on land that was previously a pond – Mill Pond. This area was at first called Mill Cove until a causeway was built which closed off the cove from the Charles River creating Mill Pond. The city began reclaiming more land for Boston and started filling in Mill Pond in 1807. The name Haymarket Square first appeared on a map in 1844.