From pioneers to sporting legends, Boston is known for its pivotal role in US history and beyond. From the bygone days of Puritan settlers in 1630 to the establishment of world-famous colleges, Boston is famous for its mighty significance across the world stage.
And that’s not even counting the iconic Boston accent, historic buildings, contribution to culture and arts and much, much more.
Read on to delve deeper into 15+ things Boston is known for, including some little-known facts about super-famous landmarks...
What is Boston Known For? 5 Historical Facts About Boston You Need to Know
Just five things Boston is known for - with some things you might not know about them!
The First European Settler in Boston Wasn’t a Puritan - and He Gave The City Its Name
As you probably already know, Boston is known for being one of the first places to be settled by European colonists in the US during the 17th century.
What you might not know is that the first European to call Boston “home” was a man named William Blaxton, a Cambridge University graduate and Church of England chaplain from Lincolnshire, England.
Blaxton was baptized in the town of Boston in Lincolnshire and named his new abode after his hometown. He lived alone for five years before the Puritans arrived in 1629 - or almost by himself. At the time, it's believed that Blaxton owned the biggest book collection in America (around 180 volumes).
Boston Might have Had The World’s First Fire Department
Boston is known for having many US “firsts” - but this one is especially impressive.
Fires were among one of the biggest dangers to people in the 17th century, and in 1679, Boston experienced a pretty catastrophic one. After the fire, the city organized the world’s first fire department, consisting of 12 firefighters, a chief called Thomas Atkins, and an engine imported from England.
And Boston law and order with fires didn’t stop there. Until the early 1800s, Bostonian homeowners were required by law to have two buckets filled with water in case of an emergency. If a citizen failed to respond to an alarm, they risked being fined a dollar!
The Boston Tea Party: Defiance In The Harbor
When you hear the name “Boston”, it’s almost impossible not to think of the famous tea party that changed world history.
Feeling that the British monopoly on tea and taxes had reached a fever pitch, a decision was made by American colonists. On that fateful December day in 1773, they boarded British ships stationed at Griffin’s Wharf and threw 342 tea chests into the harbor.
This, along with the 1770 Boston Massacre, were both sparks that ignited the American appetite for revolution and has long been considered a pivotal moment in US history.
What’s up, Boston! Want to learn more about Boston’s incredible history? There’s plenty more where this came from. We create walking tours, scavenger hunts and outdoor escape rooms where it’s up to you to reveal Boston’s hidden gems and many secrets…are you up to the challenge? Find out here!
It’s Home to The World’s Oldest Annual Marathon
Boston is known for its eponymously named marathon which was inaugurated in 1897.
The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon, and its creation stemmed from the success of the first modern marathon at the 1896 Olympics.
Since then, it has become a symbol of resilience and human endurance, transcending sports to become a deeply significant cultural event.
Each Patriots' Day in Massachusetts, it draws participants and spectators worldwide, embodying the spirit of competition and community. The marathon's historical significance was further highlighted in 2013, when the city rallied in the face of a tragic bombing, showcasing Boston's strength and unity.
…And The United States’ First Large Public Library
Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library (BPL) holds the distinction of being the first large free municipal library in the United States.
With its founding principle of "Free to All," it revolutionized access to knowledge and education, setting a precedent for public libraries nationwide.
Its architectural marvel, the McKim Building in Copley Square, opened in 1895, epitomizes cultural and intellectual accessibility. Housing over 23 million items, the BPL serves as a beacon of learning, community engagement, and historical preservation, embodying the democratic ideal of accessible education for all.
What is Boston Known For? Educating The World
You can’t say Boston without remembering some of the world’s most prestigious universities that are on its doorstep. Here’s some things you should know about Boston’s famous educational pedigree…
Harvard University: A 17th Century Beacon of Knowledge
Although it technically resides in Cambridge, just across the Charles River, Boston is famous for being home to Harvard University.
Founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, Harvard University was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard.
Harvard boasts an illustrious list of alumni, including eight U.S. presidents, numerous foreign heads of state, and several Nobel Laureates. The university is also known for its vast library system, the largest academic library in the world, and its significant contributions to research and innovation across various fields.
MIT: The Reason Your Email Address Looks Like it Does
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, adjacent to Boston, was founded in 1861 with a mission to advance knowledge in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship.
Since those halcyon days, MIT has become one of the world's leading institutions for cutting-edge research and innovation, particularly renowned for its contributions to computer science, engineering, and physics.
Its distinguished alumni include 97 Nobel Laureates, numerous astronauts, and several pioneers in the fields of technology and science. We give a special thanks to Ray Tomlinson, the MIT graduate who formulated the email format (user@host) - we all owe you so much!
Incredible Inventions: Boston’s Famous World Exports
Beyond providing us with emails, Boston is known for giving the world a bunch of stuff that has changed the way we live.
We’re talking about inventions you and I (and everyone else) use nearly every day of their lives, such as the telephone, microwave oven and even spreadsheets!
In case you’re wondering, the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, was created in Boston in 1876; the microwave by Percy Spencer in 1945, and the earliest spreadsheets were invented by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in the 1970s.
What is Boston Known For? Notable Landmarks and Places
Looking for somewhere to go to learn more about Boston’s past, present and future? Here are some of the key landmarks to see in the city (and some interesting facts about them!).
The Oldest Building in Boston: Paul Revere’s House
Boston is famous for its oldest building, once the former home of an American patriot and now a thriving museum in Boston’s historic North End.
Built around 1680, Paul Revere’s House was where the famous patriot was living when he made his famous midnight ride in 1775, a pivotal event leading up to the American Revolution.
Today, the house operates as a museum, meticulously preserved to reflect its 17th-century origins and Revere's life and times. Visitors can explore the home's period rooms and learn about Revere's role in American history, his silversmith craft, and the daily life of colonial Americans, making it a significant landmark for understanding the nation's fight for independence.
The USS Constitution: The World’s Oldest Naval Ship Still Afloat
Besides being filled with tea, Boston’s harbor is known for its world-famous floating museum affectionately known as “Old Ironsides”.
The USS Constitution is a historic naval vessel and a treasured symbol of American independence and maritime prowess. Launched in 1797, it is the world's oldest commissioned naval ship still afloat.
Anchored in Boston, MA, at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution now serves as a floating museum, open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore the ship's decks, learn about its storied past in defending the nation, and its remarkable victories during the War of 1812.
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park: A Change in Boston’s Narrative
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, located in Boston's North End along the picturesque harbor, is a serene urban oasis that offers both locals and visitors a peaceful retreat from the city's bustling streets.
Dedicated to the famous explorer, this beautifully landscaped park features sprawling lawns, vibrant flower beds, and majestic trees, providing a perfect setting for leisurely strolls, picnics, and waterfront views. The park also boasts a playground for children, a spray fountain for summer enjoyment, and several statues and memorials, including one of Christopher Columbus himself.
This statue of Columbus has proved controversial since the early 2000s: in 2004, the word “murderer” was daubed in red paint over it, in 2006 it was beheaded for the first time, and finally in 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, the statue was beheaded a second time.
Boston’s TV and Movie Scene: One to Watch
Anyone who’s tuned into a good movie or TV show in their lives is sure to recognize Boston as a backdrop from some truly iconic cinematic hits.
Notable movies set in Boston include one of my all-time favorite movies, "Good Will Hunting," which explores the life of a young genius working as a janitor at MIT; "The Departed," a gripping tale of the Irish mob in South Boston; and "Mystic River," a Clint Eastwood-directed drama about childhood friends entangled in a tragic mystery.
As for television, Boston serves as the setting for the iconic sitcom "Cheers," centered around a friendly local bar; "The Practice," which delves into the lives of lawyers in a Boston law firm; and "Bosch: Legacy," a spin-off series that partially unfolds in the city, linking back to the protagonist's past.
What Food is Boston Known For?
If you’re hoping to sink your teeth into some tasty facts, you’ll love reading this section about what food Boston is known for.
Boston is One of Only 2 US States to Have an “Official State Donut”
You’ll find Boston cream donuts on shelves in cafes and stores all over the world, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind as to its origins.
Boston is famous for its eponymously named donut, which was modeled after the Boston cream pie - itself a culinary creation deeply rooted in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Boston cream pie, a cake filled with custard or cream and topped with chocolate glaze, was first crafted in the mid-19th century, with the Parker House Hotel in Boston often credited for its invention around 1856.
The donut version takes the essential components of the pie—the creamy filling and the rich chocolate icing—and encases them in a soft, yeast-raised donut. In 2003, the Boston Cream Donut was designated as the official donut of Massachusetts. The only other state to lay a similar claim is Louisiana, who made the beignet their official state donut in 1986.
Clam Chowdah: More Than a Soup
Boston is known for its delicious, creamy soup known as New England or Boston clam chowder.
Boston Clam Chowder (or should it be “chowdah”?) is a creamy soup that has become synonymous with the culinary identity of Boston, Massachusetts.
This rich and hearty dish combines clams, potatoes, onions, and sometimes celery in a thick milk or cream base. It traces its origins to the local fishing communities of New England, who prized the abundant clam harvests. Over centuries, Boston clam chowder has evolved into a regional delicacy, celebrated for its comforting flavors and connection to the maritime heritage of the area.
Hook, Line and Sinker: Boston’s Incredible Seafood
Don’t worry, there’s nothing “fishy” about Boston’s relationship with seafood. It’s all legit and legitimately delicious, so it’s no wonder that Boston is known for its high quality fish dishes.
To the uninitiated, Boston’s incredible selection of fish-based dishes can seem overwhelming.
From lobster rolls - fresh lobster meat served in a grilled, buttered roll - to fried clams (which in Boston are typically coated in batter and deep fried) you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to sampling Boston’s best-known dishes.
Another item on the menu you might want to keep an eye out for is a “scrod” - a term used in Boston to refer to young cod or haddock, usually baked or broiled in breadcrumbs.
So there you have it, 15+ things Boston is known for. Hopefully, we’ve been able to satisfy your curiosity for now - but you know, there’s always more out there you can discover about Boston.
All you have to do is team up with your partner, friends, family or whoever to solve riddles, complete challenges and answer trivia to lead you on an unforgettable journey around Boston’s most intriguing streets.
The best part? We’ll recommend top-rated bars and cafés along the way and give your team the chance to earn rewards by competing on our leaderboard!
CityDays gives you total freedom to start and finish whenever you like, take extra breaks if you want or need them, and it’s suitable for people of all ages.
You’re also guaranteed your money back if you don’t have an incredible time - although our previous reviews speak for themselves: we’re rated 5/5 on TripAdvisor and 4.95/5 on Google Reviews!