A few centuries ago, events in Boston changed the course of history - revolutionaries started to break from colonial powers and an independent America was born. History looks pretty sweet here, but it works well with the present to leave a lasting impression.
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The prime draw is the Freedom Trail. How kind is a city that builds a 2.5-mile path to lead you to 16 historic landmarks, from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument? Plus, many of these landmarks are nestled in the city's prettiest neighborhoods, so history lessons look great as well as offering context to the events leading up to American Revolution.
As befits a distinguished city, there are great museums, parks and institutions with strong ties to the past. In Cambridge, you can feel the presence of great minds and great achievement in the storied grounds of Harvard University.
Boston is not all genteel, however: sports fans are passionate about the Red Sox (baseball) and the Patriots (gridiron). Cheer alongside locals at a baseball game at Fenway Park, the nation's oldest ballpark.
A Harvard sweatshirt and a Red Sox cap? There's plenty more to souvenir shopping in Boston! On the Freedom Trail, the marketplace behind Faneuil Hall is a good place to start, with stalls, food, street performers and an air of ye-olde history.
The city's links with history and academia mean that it's known for great bookstores and antiques. Newbury Street in Back Bay is a great place to wander, for high-street labels and upmarket finery among the townhouses, with some excellent refueling stops too.
The SoWa Art + Design District has found its home among the old warehouses of the South End - seek it out for unique artisan studios, galleries and boutiques.
Ok, more history: the oldest restaurant in the country is in Boston (the Union Oyster House, from 1826). Seafood is the crowning glory all over town - cod, lobster, oysters, clams and delectable creamy chowder are high on wish lists, and the Seaport District is the best place to find all manner of fishy treats.
The North End neighborhood is the city's real-deal Little Italy, where pizza and pasta perfection is on offer and wine bars and bakeries offer an authentic slice of the continent.
The South End and neighboring Chinatown are home to excellent late-night eat-streets. Cambridge swells with crowd-pleasing options, including many that fit student budgets plus a fun nighttime bar scene.