Don't miss out! Get the best events & activities in your inbox weekly...
Submit Event
View Newsletter

Boston Customs House Observation Tower

Amazing Views from the Boston Clock TowerBoston Clock Tower Observation Tower at Marriott

The Marriott Boston Customs House (aka “The Boston Clock Tower”) is actually one of the city’s very first skyscrapers.  It was the tallest building in Boston from 1915 to 1965.  This iconic 492-foot structure has been a central part of the Boston skyline for over 100 years. 

But did you know there is an observation deck at the top?  The views are simply amazing!  Here's what you need to know about how to get a birds eye view of Boston from the Custom House Observation Deck.

The top of the tower is open & accessible to the public during limited hours. A fenced-in area surrounds the deck allowing visitors a view of the city from all sides.

customs house boston clocktower views

photo credit: BostonCentral

Customs House Observation Deck Tours

Timing is everything when visiting this venue, as the 26th-floor observation deck is only open once daily (at 2:00 pm 6 days a week with the exception of Fridays), and weather permitting, so its a bit of a roulette play.  But well worth it if the stars align for you.

Registration is required 48 hours in advance by calling 617-310-6300 (x4 - front desk).  No back packs are allowed, and there are now only 8 people allowed per reservation.

Nonetheless, it’s a gorgeous building with a lot of history and great views of the city The iconic clocktower also pretty spectacular to look at from the Greenway and the Waterfront, day or night.

customs house boston clock tower observation deck bostoncentral

photo credit: BostonCentral

As you enter the building (from the entrance on State Street), you'll be greeted by a wide stone hallway that leads to a cozy circular lobby with inviting seating and a scaled-replica of the Customs House Tower.

Boston Clock Tower Marriott Customs House

photo credit: BostonCentral | Custom House Replica

Be sure to glance up to see the impressive Rotunda above you.  One would never think something like this would be inside!


photo credit: BostonCentral | Customs House Lobby Rotunda

Obervation Deck Tour Info

The Custom House observatory is open year round.  Tour times take place at 2pm sharp, weather permitting.  (The floor is stone and rain/snow make it slippery, during the winter they can close due to icicles).

Reservations should be booked by calling, call early as we do fill up.  Visitors should call 617-310-6300 Opt 4 (front desk) to reserve a free tour spot.

Once you arrive, simply check-in at the front desk and you will be escorted to the elevator bank.  Your adventure awaits you on the 26th floor.

When you get off the elevator, take a look at some of the historic photos in the observation deck lobby.  It's really cool to see images of familiar Boston streets & scenes from over a hundred years ago!

clock tower customs house boston observatory view

photo credit: BostonCentral | Observation Deck

The observation deck consists of a tiled walkway with several cast-iron seating areas.  The deck goes all the way around the building so you are able to see Boston from all four sides of the Customs House Tower deck.

customs house boston observatory view boston harbor

photo credit: BostonCentral | Observation Deck Boston Harbor

One of our favorite views is the one that looks out over Boston Harbor.  Below you can see the Greenway and Rings Fountain, The Aquarium, Long Wharf, & Boston Harbor.

customs house boston observatory view greenway and boston harbor

photo credit: BostonCentral | Observation Deck

Just to the left, of the scene above, you can see The Marriott Hotel, Christopher Columbus Park, a bit of the North End, and East Boston, just across the Harbor.

customs house boston observatory view christopher columbus park

photo credit: BostonCentral

It's an exhilarating experience to see the city from this birds eye vantage point.  You are likely to enjoy refreshing breezes up here on hot days - but the spectacular views are what you will remember most.

stacey sao bostoncentral customs house boston observatory

photo credit: BostonCentral | Stacey Sao

Turning the corner we can now get a rare view of Quincy Market from above along with the Boston Public Market, more Greenway, and a bit of the North End.

customs house boston observatory view quincy market aerial

photo credit: BostonCentral 

Panning out a bit further, you can see the Zakim Bridge, Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown, TD Garden and North Station and the North End.

customs house boston observatory view zakim bridge and north end

photo credit: BostonCentral 

Zooming in on this section of the Greenway below, you can see the elaborate labyrinth and the Abstract Sculpture in Armenian Heritage Park

customs house boston observatory view armenian heritage park

photo credit: BostonCentral 

Historic Faneuil Hall with it's gleaming gold dome. 

customs house boston observatory view faneuil hall

photo credit: BostonCentral 

And just beyond Faneuil Hall lies Boston City Hall, a prime example of brutalist architecture that sits upon City Hall Plaza. 

customs house boston observatory view Botson City Hall brutalist architecture

photo credit: BostonCentral 

These telescopic viewers help to get a close up look at Logan Airport, boats in the Harbor and East Boston locations. 

photo credit: BostonCentral

Below is a closer view of the Logan Airport runway, with a few of the Boston Harbor Islands in the distance. If you haven't take the ferry to visit Spectacle Island yet, we highly recommend it!  It's a terrific daytrip, and the ferry conveniently leaves from Long Wharf.

customs house boston observatory view logan aiport

photo credit: BostonCentral | Logan Airport

You may ask - can visitors go up to the observation deck at night?  The short answer is yes - but that luxury reserved for hotel guests only.  Just another reason to book your stay at this local gem, The Marriott Customs House, Boston.  

The location really is fabulous.  The T-station is located right down the street, however Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market just a street away.  A few blocks more and you can explore the Greenway, Boston Harborwalk, Christopher Columbus Park, and Boston's North End.

As mentioned earlier, you can pick up ferry rides to Charlestown & Spectacle Island at Long Wharf, as well as a variety of cruises like Whale Watches or the Codzilla thrill ride.  

Boston Custom House History & Facts

Construction of the Custom House was authorized by Congress in 1835.  The site was purchased in 1837 and the original building opened in 1847.

Three thousand large logs were driven vertically into landfill to serve as support for the building. They were covered with layers of granite and cement to create a sturdy foundation.

The original building is in Greek Revival architecture style.  The granite comes primarily from the quarries of Quincy, Massachusetts.

customs house boston street view up

Customs House Base Columns

The 32 outside columns from the original building each stand 29 feet high and weigh 42 tons. Each column was carved as a single piece and transported one by one from Quincy to Boston by oxen.

In the early 1900s the federal government saw an unprecedented expansion of size and power which mandated a need for expansion of the Custom House. The construction of the tower began in 1913 and completed in 1914.

Customs House Tower Height

The tower is 496 feet high making it Boston’s first “skyscraper.” 10 The Custom House remained Boston’s tallest building until the Prudential Tower was completed in 1964.

Customs House Clock Features

The clock faces were added in 1916.  Each clock face is 22 feet in diameter. The minute hand is 13’8” long and the hour hand is 10’8”.

boston customs house history plaque

Marriott Customs House
3 McKinley Square
Boston, Massachusetts
617-310-6300 x 4

More things to do near the Boston Customs House

The Customs House just a block or two from the Aquarium, and on most summer days "The Cookie Monstah" ice cream sandwich truck is usually located across the street near the Greenway Carousel; or over at Faneuil Hall in the food court. 

Our things to do on the Boston Greenway is another great resource if you are in this area. From gardens and open green spaces to fountains and rotating art installations, you'll find all sorts of things to enjoy along the Greenway.

There are so many more fun things to do in Boston - check out our Boston Events Calendar or this week's events newsletter for ideas on specific events, or if you are looking for a deal, check out our popular article about free things to do in Boston!  

And on the occasion of a rainy day in Boston - here are some ideas for indoor things to do until the sun returns. You can find many more things to do in Boston with kids in our handy guide for families looking for fun things to do all year round.

Another long-awaited Boston observation deck, View Boston, is set to open in 2023 atop the Prudential Center.  The venue will occupy 3 floors, the 50th will be a restaurant called The Beacon; a bar on the 51st called Stratus, featuring the Cloud Terrace; and an observation deck called The View on the 52nd floor.

Stacey Sao~~~
Stacey Sao has been the Managing Director of the family-friendly events and activities website, BostonCentral for over 20 years.  She continues to enjoy discovering and exploring new places to visit in the Greater Boston area.