The historic market town of Boston is an undiscovered gem of Lincolnshire. Standing on the River Witham close to its estuary at the Wash, it was once the largest port in Europe, and has a fascinating history built on local and international trade. Today the town is reinventing itself, with quirky art installations and a an array of independent businesses opening around the cobbled town centre. Here we compile some of the best things to do in Boston when you visit this characterful town.
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Is Boston worth visiting?
Yes, Boston is absolutely worth visiting! We thought we would clear this up first, as it is a question we are often asked.
We have visited Boston many times ourselves over the years, and we have seen the remarkable change that has been happening in the town. It has slowly shaken off its clichéd reputation of being a left-behind old port town and become rejuvenated with a new generation of local businesses and creative initiatives.
The remnants of Boston’s old maritime days still remain, and are a big part of the town’s identity and character. But the town centre has now been revived with a spate of independent shops, cafés, restaurants and local art projects.
Where to stay in Boston on your visit
Before we get into our recommendations for things to do in Boston, let’s take a quick look at accommodation in the town. It’s definitely worth making a weekend of it when you visit, and there is an interesting choice of places to stay, with a mixture of popular old hotels and quirky new options nearby.
For a complete rundown of these options you can read our guide to hotels in Boston, which includes a selection of our favourites and also takes a look at some alternative places around the town.
One such example is Appletree Holiday Park. We stayed for a night at this Away Resorts holiday park following its multi-million-pound redevelopment. Read our review of Appletree Holiday Park and our experience in one of its new lodges.
Spoiler: you can see some more characterful accommodation among our tips on things to do in Boston below, including stays at a 19th-century windmill and a repurposed 16th-century inn! Read on…
Things to do in Boston: sightseeing and activities
1. See the magnificent Boston Stump (St Botolph’s Church)
St Botolph’s Church, affectionately known as the Boston Stump, is a unique building that is the most striking feature of Boston’s landscape. Its parish church tower stands at 83 metres high and is the tallest of its kind in England.
You can see the Boston Stump for many miles around from the Lincolnshire countryside. It is an ever-present sight in the town, looming magnificently above the rooftops from its location between the Market Square and the banks of the Witham.
The building’s iconic tower was completed more than 500 years ago. Today, you can retrace history by climbing up its 209 steps! Look out for ornate decorations and artefacts along the way, such as a door knocker dating back to the 13th century.
It’s free to enter the Boston Stump, or you can pay for a guided tour. Book ahead of time on the Parish of Boston website.
2. Explore history at Boston Guildhall
During medieval times, Boston was one of the most important ports in Europe. The town was a thriving centre of trade with continental Europe via the estuary of the River Witham into The Wash.
Boston Guildhall, built in the late 14th century, was at the fulcrum of the town’s trading activities. It was owned by the Guild of St Mary, which wielded heavy influence at the time.
The building has been preserved immaculately over the centuries, with many original features still intact. Today it is a museum, hosting a fascinating collection of artefacts that tell the story of Boston’s maritime and trading history. There is no better place to learn about the town’s colourful past.
The museum at Boston Guildhall is open 10:30am to 3:30pm from Wednesdays to Saturdays.
3. Peruse the stalls at Boston Market
Boston is still a traditional old market town at heart. Its cobbled market square has been the centre of activity in the community for centuries, and remains so today.
To experience Boston at is liveliest, visit on a Saturday or Wednesday when the market is in full swing. Stalls are scattered around the square selling fresh produce, clothing and gifts.
Stall vendors at Boston Market are some of the friendliest you will ever meet. Pop over to Brandon’s Fruits for example, where Kelly, Allie and Daisy will have a chat with anybody! These guys won last year’s trader of the year award, so you can be sure you will be taking away some fresh fruit and vegetables of the highest quality.
Even if you don’t buy anything, market days are still a great time to see the town when it is a hive of activity. You can beat a Saturday morning in the square when the sun is shining!
In addition to the regular weekly market, there are also occasional themed markets, such as the craft and gift market, which is held on the last Thursday of every month.
4. Find all of the Boston Buoys
Boston’s maritime history meets avant-garde creativity in a new trail that has seen six old shipping buoys transformed into imaginative art installations.
The Boston Buoys are placed in six discreet locations around the town. Once you’ve stumbled across one of them, you’ll be curious to find them all! This map shows where you can find them.
Artists Carrie Reichardt, Jo Chapman and Bex Simon were each commissioned to create two of the Boston Buoys, and each has been designed and decorated meticulously in its own theme and style. The installations have brought new intrigue to the town centre and are fun to spot while you’re out and about.
5. Explore seven floors of 19th-century Maud Foster Mill
England’s old windmills have been slowly disappearing from the landscape over the decades. But one that still stands proudly is Boston’s Maud Foster Mill, which is still operational after more than 200 years.
At 76 metres, Maud Foster Mill is one of the tallest remaining operational mills in the country. It stands just a short walk away from Boston town centre, perched next to the Maud Foster Drain canal.
For an entry fee of £4 you can climb up through all seven floors of the mill and get an insight into its history and production processes. Downstairs in the shop – which is free to enter – you can buy stoneground flour and porridge oats from the mill, as well as various books and souvenirs.
And guess what – it’s even possible to stay in the mill! If you are looking for something romantic and unique for a couple’s stay in Boston, this could be the answer. On the first floor there is a self-catered apartment with a king-sized bedroom. Check availability and make a booking on holidaycottages.co.uk.
6. See a performance at Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre & Art Centre is a characterful performance venue in Boston, set in one of the town’s most interesting historic buildings.
The Grade II listed building once formed part of a medieval friary, with elements of the structure dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It has been gradually restored over the years, but some heritage features remain intact, such as a 17th-century staircase.
In the 1950s the building was repurposed as a performance space, and it remains so today. The theatre has an intimate capacity of 229, and has a focus on showcasing the works of local dramatic groups. Check out the Blackfriars Art Centre website to see the upcoming programme.
7. Browse the independent outlets on Dolphin Lane
Boston town centre is compact and easy to get around on foot. There are all sorts of interesting shops to explore around the town, and you can find some hidden gems on Dolphin Lane, a cobbled alleyway off the market square.
Look out for the arched Dolphin Lane sign on the east side of the Market Square, next to the Nationwide Building Society. The narrow lane runs from here to Pump Square. A prison stood on this spot centuries ago, and it is believed there are two dungeon cells underneath the surface where prisoners were once made to pump water for the town’s inhabitants.
Along Dolphin Square today you will find an assortment of independent businesses, from cafés and bars to butchers, and from book shops to beauty salons.
Like this kind of thing? On the other side of the town centre, across the river, you will find another interesting shopping alley just off the High Street – Emery Lane. Huddled along this passageway are jewellers, gift shops and some more interesting places to grab a bite to eat.
Things to do in Boston: food and drink
8. Eat and drink healthily at The Greenhouse
An up-and-coming coffee scene in Boston is breathing new life into the town centre. One example of this is The Greenhouse, a creative, dog-friendly coffee shop opened in 2022 by Dan and Lee Revell-Wiseman, a couple who recently moved to the area.
We met the friendly owners of the coffee shop to hear about their vision for it, which you can read about in our story on inside The Greenhouse.
On the menu at The Greenhouse you will find peculiarities such as beetroot or turmeric lattes, and a variety of freshly made light bites. Among the best-sellers is a toastie filled with Boston sausage, spinach and homemade chilli jam.
The Greenhouse is located on Church Street, a cobbled road just behind the Market Square that looks out onto the Boston Stump. It is refreshingly decorated with house plants, channelling a personal passion of Lee’s – and hence the name.
Lee and Dan have quickly become a part of the community and strive to use local suppliers, such as Stokes Tea & Coffee of Lincoln, as well as Brandon’s Fruit, an award-winning stall on Boston Market.
9. Have breakfast or a tapas lunch at Caffe Delfino
Midway along Dolphin Lane you can’t miss the London-Underground-inspired front of Caffe Delfino, a comfy and welcoming café that is perfect for grabbing a few light bites by with a cuppa.
Caffe Delfino is one of our favourite places to stop by for lunch in Boston. It has a laidback atmosphere and a rustic-chic setting, with bare-brick walls, and a mishmash of plush seating and wooden benches.
You could call in for a tasty breakfast, or a spot of tapas or a sandwich for lunch. There are usually some creative specials on the menu too – I had a New York deli panini on my last visit, which was delicious.
The menu is full of variety and is frequently switched up to match the seasons or introduce something new. The owners are clearly passionate about what they do, and it shows.
10. Eat outside in the sunshine at Boston Lock Cafe
When the sun is shining in Boston, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to al fresco dining options. Boston Lock Cafe has one of the best settings in town, overlooking the river.
The location is not the only thing going for this place. From breakfast burritos to healthy buddha bowls, the food is excellent to match the view. The coffee is great too!
It’s a very dog-friendly place. The friendly staff will usually bring a bowl and some treats for your four-legged friends to make them welcome! You can walk off lunch afterwards with a leisurely stroll along the river.
11. Have afternoon tea at White Hart Hotel
Another eatery in Boston with a gorgeous view is the White Hart Hotel, looking out onto St Botolph’s Church from the opposite side of the Witham.
The hotel is set in a 19th-century coaching house with a courtyard bar overlooking the river. The restaurant here is a great option for any meal of the day, but an afternoon tea in the sunshine is really top notch.
You can also book to stay at the hotel, which has a convenient location just a couple of minutes’ walk across the bridge from the Market Square.
12. Wine and dine at Church Keys
If you’re lucky enough to get a table in the popular outdoor space at Church Keys Wine Bar & Restaurant, you’ve got one of the premium spots in town.
This friendly eatery occupies a striking 16th century building, with a whitewashed facade that gleams in the sunshine. Its name derives from a bygone time when it is believed that the keys to the Boston Stump were stored here to keep them safe.
In more recent decades, the building has served as a photography studio, an antiques shop and a Thai restaurant. After a devastating flood in 2013, it was restored and opened two years later as Church Keys Wine Bar.
The restaurant has gained a good reputation for its food, as well as a varied programme of live entertainment, including occasional outdoor music. You can enjoy all this in the scenic riverside setting under the shadow of the Stump.
13. Try an iconic Mountain’s Boston Sausage
You just can’t beat a proper Lincolnshire sausage. We feel spoilt living in Lincoln with so many amazing butchers to try nearby. One summer’s day just after lockdowns were eased, we even decided to do a taste test of seven Lincolnshire sausages from local butchers.
Boston has its fair share of quality homegrown butchers too, and the most famous of these is Mountain’s Boston Sausage. The unmistakeable green shopfront has been a mainstay in the town centre for 170 years. It is now with the fourth generation of the Mountain family, who took it over in 1904.
You can buy many different types of sausage here as well as other specialist meat products, but there’s nothing quite like the classic Boston sausage, made with the family’s secret recipe. Take some away for your summer BBQ and you won’t be disappointed. Also look out for them at events around the county – for example, they have regular stalls and food trucks every year at the Lincolnshire Show.
14. Have some classic Tate’s Fish & Chips
Picture this: you’ve spent a fulfilling sunny day exploring Boston Market, checking out the Guildhall and taking a relaxing walk along the riverside. But now hunger is catching up with you, and what better to fill that hole than some staple local fish and chips?
Tate’s Fish and Chips has been ever-present in the town centre since it opened in 1903. It has the look of a place that has been around for decades, and it’s still the town’s most popular chippy.
The fish is freshly sourced and cooked, and comes in generous portions. And of course it comes with all the trimmings you would expect – mushy peas, gravy, curry sauce, whatever you like. You really can’t go wrong!
Things to do near Boston
15. Take a walk along the River Witham
The River Witham is an integral part of Boston’s story. It was this river’s trading route that allowed the town to flourish, and boats still come and go along it today. When the water level is low, you can even sometimes see the remains of old wooden boats wrecked on the riverbed.
Walking along the riverside pathways will give you a picturesque perspective of Boston. If you approach the town from the Wash side to the south, you will see the Stump looming ahead and shimmering in its reflection on the water.
Continuing to the north of Boston, you can walk or cycle all the way along the river to Lincoln! This 53-kilometre trail is known as the Water Rail Way. It was opened in 2008 after a £2 million investment and a huge makeover, which included artworks being installed along the route.
16. Explore nature in Witham Way Country Park
Located a mile or so out of town to the south, Witham Way Country Park is a lovely green space to go for a walk and look out for wildlife near the banks of the river.
Follow the pathways that lead around the park and look out for colourful wildflowers, butterflies, bees, a diversity of birds, and more wildlife.
There is a small parking area at the park, or you can reach it by foot or bicycle from the town centre. It’s a great little spot to come and enjoy the morning sunshine, or to get away from the bustle for an hour or two after a busy morning at the market.
17. Spot diverse birdlife at Frampton Marsh
A little further afield from Boston you will find scenic landscapes, where storybook English countryside meets the waterways of the coast.
Frampton Marsh is a nature reserve nestled between the town and the shores of the Wash. It is a place of peaceful, almost desolate scenery, where you can escape for a mindful walk.
The site is maintained by the RSPB, and it costs just £3 to enter, including a space at the car park. Once inside, you can follow the trail that runs into the marshland. Keep an eye out along the mudflats for an array of different birdlife.
18. Visit the quirky Bubblecar Museum
One of the quirkiest experiences you will find in the vicinity of Boston is without doubt the Bubblecar Museum, where you can see dozens of microcars from the 1950s and 60s and related memorabilia.
The one-of-a-kind museum gives a fascinating insight into a niche part of motoring history in the UK. If you come along on a ride weekend you can even take a spin in one of the charming old vehicles. Check out the Bubblecar Museum Facebook page for upcoming event dates.
The museum is also on the grounds of a campsite, so you can pitch up and make a weekend of it. Combine your visit with an afternoon tea in the café and take away a unique gift from the museum shop.
19. Stay at the restored 16th-century Old King’s Head
The pretty village of Kirton is situated five miles outside of Boston. At the heart of the village is a historic inn, the Old King’s Head, which has recently been brought back to life after falling into disrepair.
First opened in the 16th century, the Old King’s Head was originally a coaching inn called the Swan. For nearly four centuries it was a hub of the community, before it was sold to a private buyer and closed its doors to the public.
Now, thanks to a restoration project led by Heritage Lincolnshire, the Old King’s Head has been restored and reopened as a luxury B&B, café and community space.
Many of the original features have been carefully preserved in the restoration work. You can book a stay in one of its nine rooms, each with its own intricate design.
Have you visited Boston recently? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.