If you’re planning a trip to Boston and wondering where to stay without a car, then you’re in the right spot.
Moving around Boston car-free is doable and fun. But, it’s crucial to pick the right place to stay. If not, you might end up far from the fun spots and spend too much time traveling. This guide will help you avoid that.
I’ve spent time in Boston without a car. I’ve used public transport, walked a lot, and learned about the city. Now, I want to share what I know with you.
Whether you’re traveling alone, visiting with a partner or friend, or with the whole family, I’ve ensured this guide is for you.
Let’s get started.
📖 Table of Contents
- The Best Places to Stay in Boston Without a Car
- How to Get Around Boston Without a Car
- Things to Do in Boston Without a Car
- Is Boston Safe to Explore Without a Car?
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Places to Stay in Boston Without a Car
When visiting Boston car-free, selecting a place close to public transit and attractions within walking distance is crucial. Here are the top neighborhoods to consider.
If you're mainly after the best places to stay, no matter which of the five no-car-friendly neighborhoods in Boston, here's a quick roundup of the top accommodation for all budgets:
|● 🎒 Budget:||HI Hostel|
(Rated: 8.8 of 10) 🤩
|● 🏨 Mid-Range:||Boston Yacht Haven Hotel|
(Rated: 9.6 of 10) 🤩
|● 🥂 High-End:||The Whitney Hotel|
(Rated: 9.1 of 10) 🤩
1. Downtown: Best for Urban Explorers
Downtown Boston is a bustling and vibrant area that’s perfect for travelers without a car. You’ll have easy access to countless attractions, shopping centers, and restaurants. Moreover, Downtown is the central hub of the MBTA subway system, known as the “T.”
Staying in this area will provide you with an excellent starting point for exploring the city and taking in everything Boston has to offer.
If you decide to stay here, don’t miss the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market, and the New England Aquarium.
- Central Location: Downtown is the city’s heart, providing all attractions within easy reach.
- Transit Hub: Being the central point for the MBTA subway system makes moving around a breeze.
- Can Be Noisy: The bustling nature means it’s lively, which causes some noise.
Downtown is the go-to for travelers seeking a rich urban experience while having everything Boston offers at their fingertips.
For a full Boston experience, from history to modern-day attractions, Downtown serves it all on a silver platter.
📌 TIP: Consider starting your morning in Downtown at Thinking Cup café on Tremont St. Followed by a dive into history at Brattle Bookshop, one of America's oldest bookstores. And as evening sets, you can enjoy the breathtaking views from Legal Harborside in Seaport.
2. Back Bay: Best for Architectural Admirers
Back Bay is a fantastic option for anyone looking to stay in Boston without a car.
This neighborhood is known for its beautiful architecture, great shopping, and dining options. With easy access to public transportation, getting around the city is a breeze.
Enjoy the nearby attractions, such as Newbury Street, Copley Square, and the Boston Public Library, all within walking distance.
- Rich Architecture: The neighborhood boasts everything from historic brownstones and grand buildings, capturing the essence of Boston’s architecture.
- Shopping and Dining: With Newbury Street at your doorstep, you can indulge in world-class shopping and gourmet meals.
- Crowds During Peak Times: As a tourist hotspot, it can get crowded, especially during weekends or holidays.
Back Bay is ideal for those with an appreciation for architecture and a liking for exclusive shopping.
For a deep dive into Boston’s architectural wonders, combined with top-notch shopping experiences, Back Bay is unbeatable.
📌 TIP: Strolling early in the morning offers a serene view of Back Bay's architecture without the crowds. Be sure to visit the iconic Trinity Church in Copley Square, a masterpiece of Richardsonian Romanesque design.
3. North End: Best for History Buffs and Food Lovers
The North End is another excellent option, especially for those interested in history and experiencing Boston’s rich Italian culture.
This neighborhood also offers easy access to the Freedom Trail, which will take you to many historical sites around the city, as well as some of the best Italian dining (the perfect combination).
The area is also well-served by public transportation, allowing you to navigate Boston without a car easily.
- Historical Significance: Walk the Freedom Trail and discover Boston’s rich past.
- Italian Cuisine: Authentic Italian dining at its finest, from pasta to pastries.
- Quite Busy: Being popular means there’s often a crowd, especially in dining spots.
Those keen on diving deep into Boston’s history while feasting on Italian delicacies will feel right at home.
North End seamlessly merges Boston’s historical journey with its Italian soul, making it a must-visit.
📌 TIP: Reservation is key! Popular Italian restaurants might have wait times, so book in advance. I highly recommend visiting Giacomos Ristorante.
4. Fenway: Best for Sports and Art Enthusiasts
If you’re a sports fan, the Fenway neighborhood is the perfect place for you.
In addition to being home to the famous Fenway Park, this area also offers plenty of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
Fenway is well-served by public transportation, making it easy to explore other parts of Boston without a car.
And don’t forget to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum if you decide to come here
- Sporting Events: Catch a game at Fenway Park, the heart of Boston’s sports scene.
- Art and Culture: Museums like the Museum of Fine Arts are just around the corner.
- Game Day Traffic: On match days, the area can get quite congested.
- Higher Prices on Game Days: Services and accommodations might spike in price during significant events.
Fenway is heaven for sports fans who might also like arts and culture.
With a perfect blend of sporty vibes and cultural undertones, Fenway promises a variated Boston experience.
📌 TIP: If you plan to visit Fenway Park, I recommend booking your tickets in advance. Here you can also check for upcoming events if you still want to stay here despite a game and avoid peak times.
5. Beacon Hill: Best for History and Elegance Fanatics
Located near iconic landmarks like the Massachusetts State House and the Boston Common, Beacon Hill is an elegant neighborhood with plenty of charm.
This area is known for its narrow streets, brick sidewalks, and historic homes.
Staying in Beacon Hill puts you within walking distance of not only these attractions but also public transportation options, making it a great choice when visiting Boston without a car.
- Classic Charm: Immerse yourself in the neighborhood’s rich history and elegance.
- Walkability: Most attractions are within a short walk, making exploration easy.
- Narrow Streets: The streets are charming but can be a bit tight and uneven at times.
Beacon Hill is a great place for people who want to enjoy Boston’s fancy history while still having all the conveniences of a city.
To experience Boston’s classic charm and step back into a more elegant time, Beacon Hill awaits.
📌 TIP: The gas lamps light up the streets beautifully after sunset; it's the perfect time for a walk (and taking unique photos). Temple Street is a good place to experience these in the perfect settings.
How to Get Around Boston Without a Car
Boston offers multiple ways to get around the city without needing a vehicle. In this segment, we’ll delve into the various transit options.
MBTA: The T Subway
In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates a public transportation system known as the T. It includes four subway lines: Blue, Orange, Green, and Red.
The T is an efficient and affordable way to navigate the city without a car. For smoother travel, you can either purchase a reloadable CharlieCard, buy single-ride CharlieTickets at stations, or pay with cash upon boarding, though exact change is typically required.
If you’re looking for a digital solution, consider the MBTA mTicket app, which provides mobile ticketing.
The MBTA also runs an extensive bus system, with routes connecting various neighborhoods and areas not reached by the subway.
When riding the bus, it’s convenient and affordable, especially if you’re venturing outside the city center or aiming for destinations the T doesn’t cover.
When it comes to payment, you can either use the CharlieCard, purchase a CharlieTicket in advance, or pay directly with cash when boarding the bus – but ensure you have the exact amount, as drivers don’t provide change.
Commuter Rail System
The MBTA’s Commuter Rail system is a useful option for those looking to travel throughout the greater Boston area.
This network comprises numerous train lines connecting Boston to its suburbs, allowing an efficient car-free commute.
You can purchase tickets at vending machines, station ticket counters, or onboard from conductors with cash. Alternatively, the MBTA mTicket app can be used for digital purchases and is cheaper.
📌 TIP: Be aware that purchasing tickets onboard comes with a $3 fee if you embark from a station with available vending machines or sales counters.
Boston’s waterways offer scenic travel options via the MBTA’s ferry services. These vessels can carry you to waterfront spots like the Boston Harbor Islands, Hingham, Hull, and Charlestown.
Riding a ferry can be a relaxing alternative to crowded subways and buses while still being an efficient mode of transportation.
For ticketing, you can purchase tickets at ferry terminals using cash. But if you prefer the convenience of digital, the previously mentioned MBTA mTicket app can also be used here.
Using a rideshare app can be especially useful for shorter trips or when public transportation is not easily accessible from your location.
Be mindful of surge pricing during peak hours and plan your rides accordingly.
Renting Bikes with Bluebikes
For those who prefer getting around on two wheels, Boston has a bike-sharing program called Bluebikes.
With thousands of bikes available at hundreds of stations across the city, this eco-friendly option is an excellent way to explore Boston’s bike-friendly streets and paths while getting a bit of exercise.
Simply pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another when you’re finished.
📌 TIP: I recommend using Google Maps for getting around the city, including using public transport. 1. Open Google Maps and type in your destination. 2. Choose your travel method: walk, bike, or public transit. Google Maps will show you the best routes and how long they'll take. 3. When you're ready, tap 'Start' for step-by-step directions. And, if you're planning, use the 'Depart at' feature if there's a specific time you wish to leave.
Things to Do in Boston Without a Car
Boston offers a lot of fun things to do. And the good thing is you don’t need a car for most of it.
Whether you’re someone who enjoys tours within the city, day trips to various places, or weekend getaways exploring even further, Boston has got you covered.
Get ready to explore the best of what this city and its nearby areas has to offer.
Best Tours in Boston Without a Car
1. Boston Duck Tour: The Ultimate Urban Expedition
Delve deep into the historic heart of Boston but with a special twist. This tour starts on the roads of the city and then splashes into the Charles River, without you even having to leave the vehicle.
Along the way, you’ll encounter iconic sites such as Beacon Hill, Boston Common, and bustling neighborhoods, all narrated by your knowledgeable and sometimes amusing ConDUCKtor.
- Double Experience: Revel in the unique combination of a land tour followed by an exciting river cruise.
- Live Narration: Engage with tales of Boston’s rich history from your animated ConDUCKtor, offering both education and entertainment.
- Limited Exploration Time: Given its tour nature, there’s limited time to explore stops in detail. Though it’s enough for most people.
- Seasonal Operation: The tour operates mainly during warmer months, so planning is key.
Adventure-seekers and history buffs that wants a special twist to their Boston exploration.
For a lively and unconventional overview of Boston, the Duck Tour offers an adventure that bridges the gap between traditional sightseeing and a unique experience.
📌 TIP: Dress in layers. The weather can be quite different between the city streets and the Charles River. Having an extra layer can help ensure comfort throughout the tour.
2. Boston Whale Watching Cruise: Majestic Ocean Giants Up Close
Embrace the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and the mysteries it holds. This Boston Whale Watching Cruise is not just a trip; it’s an encounter with some of nature’s most majestic creatures.
With the guidance of marine biologists, you stand a chance to witness humpback, minke, and fin whales in their natural habitat.
- Educational Experience: Marine biologists onboard provide detailed insights about marine life, enhancing the experience.
- Guaranteed Sightings: If no whales are spotted, you get a free ticket for another cruise.
- Weather Variability: Sea conditions can be unpredictable, potentially affecting the viewing experience.
- Motion Sickness: The ocean can get choppy, so come prepared if you’re prone to seasickness.
Marine life enthusiasts and families looking for a once-in-a-lifetime oceanic adventure.
The Boston Whale Watching Cruise is a fascinating journey into the world of majestic marine creatures, offering education and unforgettable moments.
📌 TIP: Wear sunblock and bring binoculars. The open sea can be sunny, and binoculars will enhance your viewing experience.
3. Boston Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour: Navigate Boston at Your Pace
Experience Boston’s rich history, culture, and attractions with unmatched flexibility.
This trolley tour provides you the freedom to hop on and off at your desired stops. Whether you’re keen to dive deep into a historic site or simply combine the best of the city, this is your ticket to do it all.
- Customized Exploration: Stay as long or as little as you like at each stop, tailoring your day to your interests.
- Informative Guides: Knowledgeable trolley drivers share interesting anecdotes and facts about Boston’s history.
- Time Restrictions: The last trolley run has a set time, so you must plan your day accordingly.
- Popularity: Certain trolley stops might be crowded, leading to short waiting times.
Independent travelers and those who like to dictate their schedule while soaking in some of the best things Boston has to offer.
For travelers wanting flexibility combined with a guided experience, the Boston Hop-on Hop-off Trolley is the perfect blend of freedom and discovery.
📌 TIP: Grab a map and plan your stops ahead of time. Also, consider starting early in the day to maximize the number of places you can visit.
Best Day Trips From Boston Without a Car
1. Martha’s Vineyard Getaway: Island Bliss Awaits
Steer clear from the hustle of city life and embark on a peaceful journey to Martha’s Vineyard.
This day trip offers you a seamless experience, complete with round-trip transportation. Upon arrival, witness the island’s charm, scenic beaches, and retro shops offering unique goods.
- Stress-Free Journey: No need for a car; comprehensive transport ensures you get the full Vineyard experience.
- Island Allure: From historic towns to pristine beaches, there’s no lack of pretty sights.
- Peak Season Crowds: Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination; expect crowds in summer.
Beach lovers and those seeking a relaxed day on an island surrounded by natural beauty.
If a slice of island life is what you crave, this day trip to Martha’s Vineyard is your perfect escape, while blending relaxation with exploration.
📌 TIP: Carry some cash for local shops, and don’t forget to try some of the island's famous seafood delicacies!
2. Boston Food and Freedom Trail Walking Tour: A Gastronomical and Historical Journey
Step back in time and go on a fascinating journey through Boston’s rich history and gastronomical roots with this tour.
This immersive experience takes you along the iconic Freedom Trail, where you’ll explore significant historical sites while indulging in delicious local cuisine.
- Historical Immersion: Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Boston as you walk along the historic Freedom Trail, visiting landmarks like the Massachusetts State House and Paul Revere’s House.
- Gastronomical Delights: Savor a variety of delicious dishes and treats at local eateries, providing an authentic taste of Boston’s food scene.
- Local Guides: Knowledgeable guides provide insightful narratives about both the historical context and the gastronomic value of each stop.
- Walking Intensity: The tour involves a fair amount of walking, which might be challenging for individuals with mobility issues.
- Weather Considerations: Since the tour is outdoors, weather conditions can impact the overall experience. Be prepared for different weather scenarios.
History buffs and food enthusiasts will love this tour, as it seamlessly combines the city’s history and gastronomic culture.
This Boston Food and Freedom Trail walking tour offers a stunning blend of history and gastronomy, allowing you to savor the flavors of Boston while uncovering its captivating past.
📌 TIP: Wear comfortable walking shoes and dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions. Bring along a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during the tour, and a camera to capture the scenic sites and mouth-watering dishes you'll encounter along the way.
3. Plymouth and Cape Cod Excursion: Step Back in Time
Transport yourself to the times of the Pilgrims and enjoy the peace of Cape Cod on this enlightening day trip from Boston.
From historic Plymouth Rock to the stunning views of Cape Cod, this journey equally offers a dive into the perfect combination of history and natural beauty.
- Historical Deep Dive: Engage with America’s early history, from the Mayflower to colonial settlements.
- Natural Wonders: Cape Cod’s beaches and landscapes are a visual treat.
- Weather Dependency: Some attractions are best enjoyed in good weather.
History fans and nature enthusiasts who are keen on a journey through time and scenic beauty.
This Plymouth and Cape Cod tour offers a fulfilling experience, matching American history with peaceful coastal landscapes.
📌 TIP: Keep a light jacket or sweater handy year-round, as the coastal breeze can bring a chill even in warmer months. Additionally, bring along a small backpack with essentials like sunscreen, water, and a hat to stay comfortable.
Best Weekend Trips From Boston Without a Car
1. Secret Cavern and Niagara Falls Weekend: Nature’s Miracles Unveiled
Travel from Boston to experience some of nature’s raw power, mystery, and charm at its best.
This tour ensures you delve into the depths of the Secret Cavern and stand face-to-face with the majestic Niagara Falls.
Offering a two-day adventure is a perfect combination of natural wonders and enlightening facts, ensuring lasting memories.
- Two-in-One Experience: Discover both the underground beauty of Secret Cavern and the majestic Niagara Falls in one trip.
- Bilingual Guide: Accessible to a broader audience, ensuring no traveler misses out on fascinating stories and facts.
- Limited Rest: Two days of intense sightseeing can be tiring for some.
Nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers who wish to explore some of the USA’s most iconic natural attractions.
Dive deep into the world of natural wonders with a trip that promises incredible sights, comprehensive guidance, and memories that will last a lifetime.
📌 TIP: Carry water and snacks for the journey. Comfortable footwear is a must, given the amount of walking and exploring you'll be doing.
2. Go Boston Card: Your Weekend Gateway to Boston’s Best
Unlock the doors to Boston’s numerous attractions without the hassle of buying multiple tickets.
With the Go Boston Card, you have the flexibility to craft an itinerary of your liking with access to over +45 attractions, including historic sites, museums, and much more.
- Value for Money: Access multiple attractions at a fraction of the individual ticket prices.
- Flexibility: Decide your schedule and which attractions to prioritize, giving you control over your itinerary.
- Time Constraints: To extract maximum value, one might feel pressured to visit multiple places.
- Overwhelming Choices: With so many options, decision paralysis can set in.
Budget travelers and those looking to explore the best of Boston in a short span without burning a hole in their pockets.
The Go Boston Card is the ultimate passport to a stay filled with exploration, history, and culture, offering both convenience and value.
📌 TIP: Plan ahead! While spontaneity is fun, having a rough idea of attractions you wish to visit can help you maximize your card's value.
Other Central Boston Attractions
1. Exploring Boston Common
Boston Common is a central hub for visitors who want to explore the city without a car.
As the oldest public park in the United States, it provides a break from urban chaos with its green space and numerous walking paths.
You’ll find many attractions, including the Frog Pond, iconic statues, and the popular Boston Public Garden, within walking distance.
2. Walking the Freedom Trail
A visit to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a walk along the Freedom Trail.
This 2.5-mile path takes you past 16 historical sites, including the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House, and the Old North Church.
Staying in central Boston allows you to easily start your journey at Boston Common and follow the trail on foot.
3. A Day at the Waterfront
The Boston Waterfront is a nice area to spend a day, walking along the harbor and visiting attractions like the New England Aquarium.
Stroll down the Harborwalk, a public walkway that offers stunning views and access to several waterfront parks.
For dining options, the Waterfront boasts a range of eateries from upscale seafood restaurants to casual harbor-side cafes.
4. Visiting Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall
A stone’s throw away from the waterfront, Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall are must-visit locations for visitors.
Known for its historical significance, Faneuil Hall has been a bustling marketplace and meeting hall since 1742.
Quincy Market, adjacent to Faneuil Hall, houses numerous food stalls and eateries, perfect for trying local cuisine. Both sites are easily accessible on foot when you stay in central Boston.
Is Boston Safe to Explore Without a Car?
Ranked as the third safest city according to Numbeo, Boston is generally safe to explore without a car, much like many other cities in the U.S.
But if you plan to traverse the city on foot or make use of public transportation, there are some simple things you can do to ensure your trip is both enjoyable and worry-free.
Start with some basic research. Get familiar with the city areas that you are eager to explore. Staying near popular landmarks or main transit points can often be an easy way to do so.
When night falls, aim to stay somewhere that has a lively atmosphere. And if you’re exploring new places, it’s always a good idea to stay on the main roads rather than straying into unfamiliar areas.
Also, it’s a good idea not to flash expensive items around, just to keep a low profile.
But there’s no reason to be concerned. Boston is a city filled with history, diversity, and charm. Just pay general awareness, but most importantly, enjoy the rich culture and beautiful sights this wonderful city has to offer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can visit Boston without a car. The city is well connected through its public transportation system, including the subway (called the T), buses, and commuter rail. Many of the city’s popular attractions are within walking distance from each other, especially in areas like Downtown, Back Bay, or North End. Additionally, with the high cost of parking and traffic in the city, not having a car can save you money and time.
Getting around Boston without a car is relatively easy, thanks to its extensive public transportation system. The T subway, which covers a large portion of the city, along with buses and commuter rail operated by the MBTA, makes it convenient to access various neighborhoods and attractions. Additionally, buying a pass for various days offers unlimited subway and bus rides making it even more cost-effective to travel within the city.
The main tourist areas in Boston, such as Downtown, Back Bay, and North End, are highly walkable. For example, staying in Back Bay puts you within walking distance of Fenway Park and just a short T subway ride away from Faneuil Hall. The Freedom Trail, which passes by 16 historical sites, is an excellent self-guided walking tour that showcases the best of the city. Boston’s compact size and well-planned streets make it an enjoyable destination for tourists to explore on foot.