The 221-foot granite obelisk, a landmark that's visible from miles away, honors the memory of the colonists who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. The rebels lost the battle, but nearly half the British troops were killed or wounded, a loss that contributed to their leaders’ decision to abandon Boston 9 months later. The Marquis de Lafayette, the celebrated hero of the American and French revolutions, helped lay the monument’s cornerstone in 1825. He is buried in Paris under soil taken from the hill. A punishing flight of 294 steps leads to the top of the monument. It's not a can't-miss experience unless you're traveling with children you'd like to tire out. There’s no elevator, and although the views of the harbor and the Zakim–Bunker Hill Bridge are good, the windows are quite small. Note: Depending on visitor traffic, you may need to present a climbing pass before entering the monument; check ahead.
Across the street is the excellent ranger-staffed Battle of Bunker Hill Museum ★, 43 Monument Sq. (at Monument Ave.). The centerpiece is a panoramic mural that depicts the battle in not-too-gory detail, accompanied by displays and dioramas that help set the scene.
To return to downtown Boston: From the Charlestown Navy Yard, a ferry to Long Wharf leaves every half-hour from 6:45am to 8:15pm on weekdays (every 15 min. 6:45–9:15am and 3:45–6:45pm), and every half-hour on the quarter-hour from 10:15am to 6:15pm on weekends. The 10-minute trip costs $3 (or show your LinkPass), and the dock is an easy walk from “Old Ironsides.” Alternatively, walk to Main Street, at the foot of Bunker Hill, and take bus no. 92 toward Haymarket (Green or Orange Line).