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Take a Tour

Take a tour

The Boston Athenæum offers a variety of tours and talks to help visitors and Members engage more deeply with the institution’s history, collections, and resources. 


Open to the public
$2 plus admission / free for Members
Reservations are strongly recommended
Call Patron Services at 617-720-7612 to register

Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 3:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 11:00 a.m.

These docent-led, hour-long tours focus on the architectural history of the Athenæum’s building and on the institution’s fine arts collection. The Athenæum’s current home—its fifth—opened in 1849 and has been expanded and renovated twice, once from 1913 to 1915 and again from 1999 to 2002.

Throughout its history the Athenæum has collected a range of materials, including rare books, manuscripts, works on paper, paintings, and sculpture, as well as an impressive circulating and reference collection. Docents discuss the wide range of special collections and feature selected artworks throughout the tour. 

Tours are limited to 8 visitors and often sell out. We recommend making a reservation two weeks to a month in advance. Walk-ins are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis if space permits.



Open to the public
Docent and Staff-Led: Free with admission / Free for Members

Curator-Led: $5 plus admission / $2 for Members

View the Events Calendar for dates
Reservations are strongly recommended
Call Patron Services at 617-720-7612 to register

Join a Boston Athenæum member of staff or docent for an exploration of Required Reading: Reimagining a Colonial Library. Showcasing special collections items such as Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World (1666) and a nine-language Bible (1657), Required Reading features a contemporary artist's replica of the massive, ark-like bookcase designed in 1883 to house the historic King's Chapel Library. A range of community partners share their own "required reading" lists, expanding and investigating "essential knowledge." Come to be informed, surprised, and intrigued, as well as to reflect on your own indispensable books.

Docent and staff-led gallery talks are approximately 30 minutes.

Curator-led gallery talks run about an hour.

Gallery talks are limited to 10 people. We recommend making a reservation in advance. Walk-ins are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis if space permits.



For members only
Reservations are not necessary​

Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12:00 p.m.

Designed for new members and current members who would like a refresher, these tours will introduce you to the Athenæum’s grand, historic building at 10½ Beacon Street and familiarize you with the various library and research services that are available to all members.

Tours begin at noon sharp. Please meet at the Circulation Desk on the first floor.



The Athenæum happily schedules private tours for groups of 5 to 20 people with a minimum of two weeks’ notice. Tours can be scheduled during public hours and are subject to the availability of docents. Private tours cost $10 per adult (ages 13 and up) and $5 per child (ages 5 to 12). Group visits to special collections can also be arranged for an additional fee.

To schedule a group tour or to inquire about our rates and opportunities for academic groups, please contact Hannah Weisman, Director of Education, at or 617-720-7617.



Beginning in February 2020

These 30-minute discussion-based tours encourage visitors to look closely at materials from the Athenæum’s rich collections and consider them within a particular context.