Historic Boston site: Faneuil Hall

It turns out the seventh-most popular tourist destination in the world is essentially a shopping mall and a food court. Yes, Faneuil Hall, where you can also buy clothes from a number of chain stores or overpriced keychains that say “Boston” on them, was the most visited spot in Boston in 2011. (It also ranks third among Foursquare check-ins in 2011, if that matters.)

Faneuil Hall’s popularity among tourists is likely reinforced by its abundance of shops, but it doesn’t hurt that the area is located between both the historic North End and busy downtown. Faneuil Hall sits in a prime location.

“It’s probably because it’s part of the Freedom Trail,” Matthew Brearley, owner of the Brearley Collection store in Quincy Market, said. “There are a lot of international tourists who come here. During the summer we get a cruise ship every day. People come here because they want the full Boston experience.”

Brearley – whose shop sells framed photographs of historic Boston sites and Red Sox players, among other shots – said he gets traffic from people headed to TD Garden for a Celtics or Bruins game, which was happening on the evening I went. For locals, Faneuil Hall probably gets written off as a tourist trap. But on some off days, like a particularly nice Monday in March, it’s kind of a cool intersection of old buildings meeting new shops. Of course, it doesn’t hurt it’s easy to get far away from Faneuil Hall if the mass of tourists becomes too much to handle.

“Boston is a compact city,” Brearley said. “It’s not too far to get from here to Fenway (Park). And any tourism magazine will tell you this is a good place to stop if you want to see the city.”

Faneuil Hall:

  • Established in 1742, expanded to include Quincy Market in 1826
  • Marketplace located at intersection of Congress and North Streets
  • Marketplace Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 12-6 p.m. Sunday
  • MBTA stops: Government Center, State, Haymarket
  • (617) 523-1300
  • www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com
  • Fun fact: Durgin Park, the oldest existing restaurant in Faneuil Hall, opened in 1826.

Flickr set on Faneuil Hall

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