Bostonians like their freedom. The city's rebellious reputation dates back to the days of its founding by a group of religious freethinkers fleeing the dictates of the English crown. More than a century later, the same flicker of freewill sparked the War for Independence and fired up a new nation. Nowadays, this nonconformist spirit manifests itself as an unwillingness to follow traffic regulations. Rule number one for the perfect day in Boston: do not even think about driving a car around here.

8 am
Rent a bicycle from Urban Adventours (103 Atlantic Ave) and join the cavalcade of commuters cycling along the Charles River. Cruise east through the Esplanade, a green masterpiece designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. On warm days, Bostonians migrate to this popular park to sunbathe, picnic and feed waterfowl. Take a break at the Longfellow Bridge to take in a fantastic view of the Boston skyline.

Cross the river at the Museum of Science and pedal back on the Cambridge side. Here, the campus of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology is recognizable by its classical architecture. Between the Walker Memorial and the Hayden Memorial Library, you can catch a glimpse of Alexander Calder's impressive sculpture La Grande Voile.

10 am
Continuing west along the river, you will reach the campus of Harvard University, apparent from the many spires and steeples on the horizon. Lock up your bike so you can browse the bookshops and boutiques of bohemian Harvard Square. While you are here, take a tour of the historic university campus: try the Unofficial "Hahvahd" Tour for laughs.

12 pm
All that time on your bike has made you hungry. Have lunch at Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage (1246 Massachusetts Ave), a Harvard Square institution for more than four decades. Choose one of 40-odd burgers and finish it off with sweet potato fries and a raspberry-lime rickey.

2 pm
Make your way back into the city centre (if you are too tired to ride, you can take your bike on the subway, known as the  "T"). You will spend the afternoon following the Freedom Trail - a great introduction to revolutionary Boston.

The red-brick path starts at the Boston Common and winds its way past 16 sites that earned this town its status as the birthplace of America. Stroll along the 2.5-mile trail, which follows the course of the conflict: from the Old State House (206 Washington St), where Redcoats killed five men during the so-called Boston Massacre; to the Old North Church (193 Salem St), where the sexton hung two lanterns to warn that British troops would come by sea. The Freedom Trail ends at Bunker Hill, a monument to the eponymous battle.

6 pm
Retrace your steps back across the Charlestown Bridge and into the North End, an Old World enclave that has hardly changed in the last century. Italian immigrants and their descendants have held court in this warren of narrow, winding streets since the 1920s. That makes it a perfect choice for dinner. Snag one of a dozen candlelit tables at Pomodoro (319 Hanover St) and feast on fried calamari and seafood fra diavolo. For dessert, enjoy a cannoli and a cappuccino at Caffe Vittoria (290-296 Hanover St).

10 pm
After-dinner drinks are at the ironically named Liberty Hotel (215 Charles St), formerly the Charles Street Jail. The prison was forced to close in 1990 due to notoriously inhumane conditions; now the graceful granite building is a spectacular luxury hotel. Catwalks still circle the five-storey lobby, where you will find the trendy bar Clink. Order a pint of the local beer - named after revolutionary hero Samuel Adams - and enjoy your sweet freedom.


The article 'A perfect day in Boston' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.