Boston Public Library

#10 in Best Things To Do in Boston
Boston Public Library picture1 of 2
Boston Public Library2 of 2
Adam Hilliker/Flickr

Key Info

700 Boylston St.

Price & Hours

Free
Mon-Thurs 9 a.m.-9 p.m. | Fri-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m...

Details

Sightseeing, Tours, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.3

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

A library isn't always all about books. The main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, which opened in 1895, is so much more, according to recent visitors who call the architecture "beautiful." Walking into the Renaissance Revival building is akin to visiting a museum. On Dartmouth Street, two immense stone lions sculpted by Louis Saint-Gaudens stand guard by the main entrance. Inside, Bates Hall, the library's main reference reading room, is a 218-foot-long room with a barrel-arch ceiling soaring 50 feet high.

Visitors can take a free tour and learn all about the murals found throughout the library, including John Singer Sargent's series on the "Triumph of Religion," which was returned to its original brilliance after a cleaning and restoration in 2003. Other murals include works by French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who depicted the nine muses in "The Muses of Inspiration," and Edwin Austin Abbey's "The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail."

The Boston Public Library is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. There are no entrance fees. Free one-hour tours are offered daily. Check the library's website for exact times. There are three eateries on-site, which serve breakfast, lunch, snacks and afternoon tea.

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More Best Things To Do in Boston

Faneuil Hall Marketplace1 of 26
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum2 of 26
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market – constitute Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with the oldest being Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742 and now located on the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall has had a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Samuel Adams once stood here to push for resistance against the British, and abolitionists and suffragists have stood on their soapboxes here. In fact, this is where Jonathan Mayhew famously challenged the Sugar Act of 1764 by proclaiming, "no taxation without representation." Since Mayhew's declaration, the marketplace has expanded to include more than 100 shops and restaurants. 

Some former visitors caution that the items sold at Faneuil Hall Marketplace are a bit overpriced. However, if you're looking to kill some time or snap some great photos, consider strolling through the market's halls. You'll also find various cuisines served in Quincy Market if you're in need of a quick bite. Keep in mind that this market gets crowded quickly (especially on weekends and in the summer), so it's best to visit during a weekday if you don't want to encounter hordes of people. 

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