Top 2 Historic Cities in the U.S.: Boston vs Philadelphia

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However short the United States’ history has been, it is full of fascinating stories and events. Because of this, there are many historical cities to visit in the U.S. for history buffs, including the top 2 more fascinating historic cities in the U.S.: Boston and Philadelphia. Both of these cities have their own storied past to learn from, and plethora of historical attractions to check out.

Whether your interest is battlefields from the Civil War, or the forming of the Constitution, you’ll find that plus more in these two historic cities. So which one is best for history buffs? Read on to discover the top reasons to visit each – then you can decide which one is the best destination for history lovers.

Historic Boston

USS Constitution in Boston Harbor
Boston plays a major role in America’s history, right from its very beginnings as an early settlement. It was also where the American Revolution was started by the puritans who felt repressed by the British. Some of the major events of early American history took place in Boston.

Although Boston is a very modern city, it still preserve the history that makes it unique, from architecture to the main sights of historic significance. Every good city offers a way to combine history with the food that defines it, and Boston is no exceptions to that rule. There are many tours that include discovering the food alongside the historical sights.

⇒ Book a “Boston in one day” sightseeing tour

Boston's historical statues

Top Historic Sites in Boston

The Freedom Trail

One of the top things to do for visitors to Boston is walking the Freedom Trail. The 2.5 mile walk is easy to do and is full of historical information along the way. The tour starts at Boston Common,  the oldest public park in the United States.

This park was where British troops camped in preparation for the Revolutionary War. It also has a history for public hangings, and is the sight of the oldest community burial grounds in the city.

Along the Freedom Trail, you’ll also pass by the Paul Revere House, the statue of Benjamin Franklin, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Bunker Hill Monument. All together, there are 16 historic sites along the Freedom Trail.

⇒ Book a private 3-hour Boston Freedom Trail tour

Boston Harbor

The Boston Harbor area is another ideal area for history buffs who are staying in the city and looking for unique areas to explore. It’s a natural harbor that was once the site of the Boston Tea Party that paved the way for the American Revolution in 1773.

The harbor has always been the main port of Boston and was historically the most major seaport of the east coast, once welcoming all imports meant for the east. These days you can take a guided sightseeing cruise out to the surrounding islands, go on a whale watching tour and see some old Civil War sights.

⇒ Book a tour of the Boston tea party ships and museum

Granary Burial Grounds

Another historically significant site in Boston is the Granary Burial Grounds, which is where many key figures in America’s history were buried, like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Sam Adams.

It’s a stop along the Freedom Trail, but even if you’re not taking the whole tour, the burial grounds are worth a stop just to see the old gravestones.

Bunker Hill Monument

You may be wondering why there is a obelisk in Boston, reminiscent of the Washington Monument in Washington DC. It seems a strange monument to commemorate such a pivotal battle in America’s history.

The monument stands atop Breed’s Hill, where the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place. You can go inside and walk the many steps to the top of the monument for a look out at the view from above.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

About an hour outside of Boston is another epicenter of American history, Plymouth, where the earliest settlers of America landed and began building a new life for themselves. The city is a living history to a time long ago and brings to life what it might have been like for early settlers to the area.


Historic Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has always been one of my favorite cities because of its role in United States history. The city was founded by William Penn in the late 1600s and played a pivotal role in the shaping of America. There are many historical attractions in Philadelphia, making it one of the best places for family vacations or for those looking to learn a bit more about American history.

While Philadelphia has rapidly become a very modern and vibrant city, especially for foodies, the historical center of the city maintains its appeal for history buffs. Unlike Boston, Philadelphia really embraces its past and preserves its historic buildings and architecture in order to share it with the world.

Not only can you visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in the historic center of Philadelphia, you can spend a fantastic day wandering around the many iconic attractions and monuments, discovering a part of America’s past that helped shape it into what it is today.

The best area to stay in Philadelphia while visiting is the Center City, because of its proximity to the historic sites. You’ll be within walking distance of all the main sites listed below.

⇒ See all the historic sights with a Philadelphia Pass

Independence Hall in Philadelphia's historic Center City

Top Historic Sites in Philadelphia

Liberty Bell & Independence Hall

While the Liberty Bell hasn’t been in operation for a very long time, it still remains a celebrated part of history, and it’s fascinating to learn its story and see it up close at the Liberty Bell Center. Stop by the Independence Visitor Center to obtain tickets to tour the Independence Hall, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

It should be a stop on everyone’s itinerary in Philadelphia. The visit includes a walk through the rooms where both the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written and signed.

⇒ Book an old city walking tour in Philadelphia

Betsy Ross House

Ever wondered about the history of the U.S. flag? You can learn how it was made at the Betsy Ross House. Betsy Ross was an upholstery maker in the city, who was approached by George Washington and asked to make the first ever United States flag that would be a symbol of American freedom.

The exhibit features a tour through the house as well as an actress dressed as Betsy Ross who will share with you all the knowledge she has of the event and her involvement in the making of the flag.

Museum of the American Revolution

In early 2017, the Museum of the American Revolution was opened. The main centerpiece of the museum is the tent used by George Washington during the war, but there are hundreds of other artifacts and information about the war that brought America’s independence at the museum.


Whether Boston or Philadelphia is the best city to visit for history buffs, it is clear that both offer a unique and special learning experience for history lovers. If you haven’t already visited these top 2 historic cities in the U.S., you absolutely must check them out and decide for yourself which one wins the award for best city for U.S. history.

Top 2 Historic Cities in the U.S.: Boston vs Philadelphia

9 thoughts on “Top 2 Historic Cities in the U.S.: Boston vs Philadelphia

      • Motto says:

        I have read that Boston did tear down a lot of their colonial history and architecture over the years while it modernized. The North End has had many incarnations. Philadelphia has done a better job at retaining their historic sites. Overall, Philadelphia is also larger than Boston, so it’s historic areas, especially colonial homes cover a much larger area, more specifically Federal and Georgian architecture. Society Hill is slightly larger than Beacon Hill, but both are among my favorite neighborhoods anywhere. You don’t really find those places anywhere else other than Philadelphia or Boston.

        • Laura Lynch says:

          I agree with you, Philadelphia has done a better job preserving their historical buildings and promoting their history as a destination. I think Boston would rather not be known as a historic city. I really like those neighborhoods in Boston, too.

  1. Motto says:

    Look no further than comparing their City Hall. Philadelphia’s is gorgeous and Boston’s is very dull. The homes of Sam Adams and John Hancock were even torn down in the 1800’s.

    Boston has the Freedom Trail at least, but Philadelphia’s is more comprehensive covering entire city blocks. Both are the best for colonial history though. It’ll really transport you hundreds of years.

  2. Mike says:

    Boston Massachusetts is a beautiful city and has a lot to offer one thing is that you don’t have to worry about getting rob. The crime rates are off the charts in PHILLY it has great history but you are not safe in PHILLY Boston Massachusetts is a beautiful city and has a great history that you can walk around for days and not see it all the food is out of this world with so many different choices Boston is safer better food and great history people and is one of the greatest cities in the country

    • Motto says:

      Boston is also 1/3 the size of Philadelphia. You do realize how much smaller Boston is, right?

      Crime rates are off the charts in Philly? Based on what? Rocky movies? It’s 2018, not 1978.

      Philly’s crime rate is the same as Buffalo, NY. They average 18 murders per 100k. Boston averages about 8 per 100k.

      I really wish people that you can tell have never been somewhere, would stop using outdated stereotypes for cities. It’s beyond tiring.

      Someone from New York.

  3. Motto says:

    The crime rate thing about Philadelphia is REALLY REALLY outdated.

    Source: I’ve been going for years. The best parts of Boston and Philadelphia match up VERY well, as they are similar cities. Boston is just smaller, and priced out it’s poverty and gentrified much earlier than Philadelphia. That’s it. Philadelphia’s best neighborhoods are just as nice as Boston’s. They both have that Northeast vibe and the colonial history and charm that no other city in the US can match. Brother cities.

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