Visiting Boston is never a bad idea. One of the most historic cities in the US, Boston is also one of the most culturally rich. The home of the Freedom Trail, America's oldest public park in the form of Boston Common, Quincy Market, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the New England Aquarium, Boston is absolutely packed with great things to do. Plus, downtown Boston is home to tons of bars and restaurants that make great places to spend some time when you visit Boston, and you can even take advantage of free walking tours to explore more of the center of the city and save money at the same time.
In general, Boston isn't cheap. The desirability of the city has given it some extremely expensive real estate, and some of the city's top attractions can also be quite costly to visit. However, it is possible to visit Boston on a budget and see what the city has to offer without breaking the bank.
The first thing to do is drop off your unneeded bags at a Boston luggage storage. Knowing your belongings are safely looked after will free you up to explore downtown Boston on a budget and make the most of your time in the city.
Cheap places to stay in Boston
Everyone wants to stay in downtown Boston, but it's not always the best option. Although you'll have ready access to bars, restaurants, and many of Boston's top attractions, you'll also pay a lot more to stay centrally. A better option when visiting Boston on a budget might be to consider staying a little further out of the city and make use of the excellent public transport network to get you where you need to go. If you're looking for some guidance on where to stay in Boston, check out our guide on the best neighborhoods in the city.
Hotels in Boston cover the full range of price points, from luxury accommodations all the way down to backpacker hostels. You can also find some good deals on short-term holiday rentals on sites like VRBO and Airbnb. These sometimes have the advantage of giving you kitchen facilities so you can do your own cooking, which always helps save money.
If you're visiting Boston on a budget and looking for some cheap accommodation, here are some places worth considering:
Located to the south of downtown Boston, this three-star hotel is hardly the fanciest place to stay in the city, but it does offer decent accommodation at a relatively low price. You can get a twin room in the summer months for around $200, and the rooms only get cheaper in the off-season.
Easy to reach on the Red Line from South Station, it's very easy to visit the heart of the city from here. This quieter neighborhood offers several great parks and even a local winery, but it is definitely better suited for those who want somewhere peaceful to get a good night's sleep. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and free parking for your rental car, and there's also an indoor pool.
Hostelling International is a well-known provider of cheap vacation accommodation around the world, and their Boston location continues this tradition with affordable rooms ideal for visiting Boston on a budget.
This budget hotel is located in a charming brick building and offers free Wi-Fi, a kitchen the guests can use to cook their own meals, and a workspace if you're working remotely. The cheapest option is to stay in the standard dorm, but there is also a premium dorm and even some private rooms with their own bathrooms. In the middle of the summer season, a standard dorm will cost you around $100 per night.
This hotel is undeniably basic, but probably the best thing about it is the fantastic location. Located just steps from Boston Common and the Freedom Trail, this hotel is well within walking distance of many of the main attractions you want to see when visiting Boston. The staff can also advise you on self-guided tours of the city for a great free thing to do in Boston.
Another great option for visiting Boston on a budget, this two-star hotel is the ideal base if one of your goals when you visit Boston is to take a Fenway Park tour. Oasis Guesthouse is located right next to Fenway Park and is also just a short walk from the Museum of Fine Arts. Plus, the hotel has excellent public transportation connections that make it easy to reach just about anywhere in the city — no need for a rental car.
In the summer, a room here will cost you around $200. A budget single room is the cheapest option, but you will be sharing a bathroom. The hotel also offers single and double rooms with private bathrooms if you're willing to spend a little more for a more luxurious experience.
Cheap things to do in Boston
There are tons of things to do in Boston, and some of the best in the city are either free or very cheap to take part in. That makes it easy to see the best of Boston on a budget. Take advantage of some of these low-cost activities to get the best out of the city without spending a fortune.
Boston has had as much impact on the history of the United States as any other city in the union, and the city is home to some of the most important historic sites in the country. You can see 16 historic sites by walking the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile trail that runs from Boston Common through the North End to the Bunker Hill Monument. Along the way, you'll see the Massachusetts Statehouse, which dates back to 1798 and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. You'll also see a cemetery that dates back to 1660, the Old Corner Bookstore, and the site of the Boston massacre. You can also visit Boston Harbor and see the beautifully preserved warship, the USS Constitution, which is also free. It costs nothing to walk the Freedom Trail, making it one of the best free tours in the city and ideal for those visiting Boston on a budget. However, some of the attractions along the way charge for admission.
Free Fun Fridays Program
If you happen to find yourself in Boston in August, which is usually one of the most expensive times of the year to visit, you can take advantage of the Free Fun Fridays program to save money with free admission to some of the city's top attractions. Originally, the program offered free admission to a museum or other attraction every Friday in August, but it has now been expanded to every day in the month. A different attraction offers free admission on a single day in August, so you'll need to check the program's website to see what's available while you're in town. You can expect top attractions like the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Harvard Museum of Science and Culture to be free to visit at this time.
Dating back to 1826, Quincy Market is one of the best places to go shopping in Boston. No longer just a place for produce, it now offers hundreds of stores selling everything from candy to high-end fashion. Of course, shopping isn't free, but it is free to visit the market and soak up the lively atmosphere of this place.
Cheap places to eat in Boston
If you're looking to sample the best food in Boston on a budget, it's a good idea to take advantage of the many street food vendors in the city. You'll find food trucks in many of the city's parks, including Boston Common and Boston Public Garden, as well as around Quincy Market.
However, if you're looking for a more traditional dining experience, there are plenty of places in Boston where you can grab cheap eats. For instance:
Lofts Avana Building Food Court
Though it's located in downtown Boston close to Chinatown, this foodcourt isn't easy to find. Look for the signs for Friendship BBQ along Beach Street. Friendship BBQ serves delicious Chinese barbecue food, but the tiny food court is also home to Avana Sushi and Dumpling King, so it's a one-stop shop for affordable and delicious Asian food.
This local chain is beloved by students and others short on funds. In fact, they even offer a Starving Student deal which features a cheeseburger, fries, and a beer for only $12. That's close to fast food prices, but the burgers on offer here are far more delicious than you'll get at any international fast food chain. So if you want a casual but delicious meal on the cheap in Boston, this is where to get it.
This Mexican restaurant has six locations around Boston, all with the same menu of tasty and extremely filling Mexican food to keep you exploring. The Super Burrito is a hearty meal all by itself, and at less than $10 with your choice of filling, it is a very affordable way to eat in the city.
Cheap bars in Boston
Boston has an extremely lively nightlife scene, thanks in part to its student population. You'll find no shortage of happy hours and affordable dives here.
Named after a local woman accused of witchcraft, there's no mystery to the magic on offer here. This popular dive bar offers cheap drinks, keno, and very affordable food like burgers, nachos, and sandwiches.
This unpretentious pub makes the perfect end to exploring the Freedom Trail. Located close to Bunker Hill, the alehouse offers pints of draft starting at six dollars and a menu of hearty pub food like pizza, sandwiches, and burgers. It's the perfect place to take a break in a popular area of the city without spending a fortune.
With classic rock on the jukebox and plenty of draft beer on tap, this Irish pub is a welcoming place to spend a few hours near Davis Square. A bottle of Bud costs five dollars, a pint of Guinness eight, and a glass of wine six, so you can enjoy yourself here without spending a lot. Note that the bar is cash only, and while there is an ATM on-site, it's probably a good idea to bring some money with you before you go.
Bonus budget tips for Boston
Take advantage of public transportation: Boston has a reliable public transportation system, including buses and trains, which can save you money on transportation. Consider purchasing a CharlieCard, a reloadable card that offers discounted fares.
Visit free attractions: Boston has many free attractions, such as the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the USS Constitution Museum, that can provide a great experience without spending any money.
Purchase a CityPASS: If you plan on visiting several of the city's popular attractions, consider purchasing a CityPASS, which offers discounted admission to a group of attractions.
Walk or bike: Boston is a walkable city, and walking or biking can be a great way to explore the city while also saving money on transportation.
Visit during the off-season: Visiting Boston during the off-season (late fall, winter, or early spring) can help you save money on lodging and transportation, as well as offer quieter and less crowded attractions.
There's so much to do in Boston that no matter what your budget, you can have a good time. Take advantage of the best free things to do in Boston, or choose your own adventure, and you'll find yourself discovering all kinds of hidden treasures here. Just don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Bounce luggage storage in Boston so you can explore more easily.