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North End & Charlestown Walking Tour

On Friday or Saturday mornings, you can enjoy Boston's lively outdoor market in Haymarket Square. On Sunday you can attend a service at Old North Church.

Haymarket, Boston MA
Weekly open-air market on Friday and Saturday in Haymarket Square.


Start at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (MBTA Green or Blue Line train to Government Center).

Finish at the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") in Charlestown.
Time: 2 hours, more if you tour several buildings.

The distance is about 2 miles (3.2 km).

Best Time: Anytime. The open-air market is on Friday and Saturday; Old North Church has services Sunday morning.

From Faneuil Hall Marketplace, cross North Street and walk up Union Street past the

1. Union Oyster House

Union Oyster House, 41 Union Street, Boston's oldest restaurant still in operation. It's been here since 1826. Continue walking north, then turn right and if it's Friday or Saturday you'll be in the midst of

2. Haymarket

Haymarket, the name by which Boston's open-air produce market is generally known. Every Friday and Saturday, this area is thronged with costermongers selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Boston's weekly outdoor market.

Northeast of Haymarket is the North End, Boston's "Little Italy." The first street you'll see is...

3. Salem Street

Salem Street, the narrow street lined with Italian groceries, butchers, fish stores and other shops. Turn right and walk one block to

4. Hanover Street

Hanover Street, the "main street" of the North End, lined with Italian-style cafes and stores. Walk two blocks up Hanover to Prince St. and turn right to reach North Square and the

5. Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House , 19 North Square (tel 617-523-2338), a small clapboard dwelling surrounded by crooked cobbled streets. It's the only house left in downtown Boston that was built in the 1600s.

Paul Revere House, North End, Boston MA
Paul Revere's house in Boston's North End.

Paul Revere moved in about a century after the house was built, and he lived here during the Revolutionary period. The house would be interesting even if the great patriot had never set foot in it, with its quaint weathered exterior, small windows, and wide floorboards. But furnished in colonial style and admirably furnished with explanatory materials, the house is better than an hour's history lecture.

Walk back down Prince St. to Hanover St., turn right, and walk a few very short blocks to

6. Paul Revere Mall

Paul Revere Mall, with its equestrian statue of the revolutionary hero. The church at the southeastern end of the mall and across Hanover Street is St. Stephen's, built by Boston's favorite architect, Charles Bulfinch. At the northwest end of the mall stands

7. Old North Church

Old North Church, 193 Salem St.) You can see by the church's location why it was a good place from which to give a signal. The code, as every schoolchild knows, was "one if by land, two if by sea," and it was two lanterns hung in the tower that started Paul Revere and William Dawes on their fateful night rides to warn the Colonials that British troops were heading out from Boston to search for hidden arms.

Old North Church
Christ Church, Episcopal, known as the Old North Church.

Old North is the oldest church building in Boston (1723), and is today officially known as Christ Church, Episcopal. A walk around inside turns up many curiosities that bear on the history of Boston and the United States; memorial plaques to famous men, nameplates on the very high pews.

The tall graceful windows of Old North Church are exceptionally fine.

Although it's hemmed in by houses and shops on all sides, Old North Church does have a set of tiny terraces and gardens on its north side, open to the public.

The small formal garden and the fountain are good to refresh your spirit on a hot day, and the memorial plaques set into the walls are, in some cases, delightful. One reads:


Here on September 13, 1757
"John Childs who had given public notice of his intention to
Fly from the steeple of Dr. Cutler's church, performed it to
The satisfaction of a great number of spectators."

"In 1923 the year of the first continuous flight across
The continent this tablet has been placed here by
The Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America
To commemorate the two events."

The question that comes to mind: would it not have been faster to dispatch John Childs from the steeple to Lexington and Concord by air, rather than Dawes and Revere by land, on that historic night in 1775?

Walk uphill on Hull St. past no. 44, the narrowest house in Boston, to find

8. Copp's Hill Burying Ground

Copp's Hill Burying Ground, the second oldest cemetery (1660) in the city. Among the cemetery's permanent inhabitants is fiery Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. Some of the tombstones were marked by British musket-balls during the revolution. You can visit daily from 9 am to 4 pm.

While you're up on Copps Hill, look across to Bunker Hill, with its obelisk monument, and the old Charlestown Navy Yard to see the tall masts and complicated rigging of the USS Constitution. To reach the ship you must walk over a mile, across the Charlestown Bridge and to the right; you might want to take a taxi instead.

9. Bunker Hill Monument

The 200-foot granite obelisk which towers above Charlestown marks the spot where Colonel William Prescott of the Continental army stood with his small force and held off wave after wave of attack by British regulars on June 17, 1775.

Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, Boston MA

Construction began on the monument in 1828, a half-century after the battle. There's a fine view of Charlestown, the navy yard, and Boston from the top, 295 steps up (no elevator!)

Down the hill, docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard is the...

10. USS Constitution

USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") is still commissioned in the service of the US Navy. The ship still gets under way once a year, on the Fourth of July, when it's taken a short distance out into the harbor to fire a 21-gun salute.

USS Constitution, Old Ironsides
The USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides."

Sailors in 1812 period uniforms will take you through the ship and explain its workings to you free of charge. The nearby Museum (a private enterprise) houses many artifacts dealing with the Constitution's history and its 40 battles at sea (all won), besides a "Life at Sea" exhibit, showing what shipboard life was like in 1812.

The Charlestown Navy Yard also offers programs on the yard and the American Revolution.