Exploring Salem along its Heritage Trail

I have already been to Boston a few times, but I had never had the chance to visit the nearby Salem, another city in Massachusetts of undeniable historical importance, but best known for a dark aspect of its history: its witchcraft trials.

Visiting Salem was part of the reason we organized this New England road trip. So I was pretty excited when we finally arrived at the small coastal town, after spending a few days in Connecticut and Rhode Island. And since we weren’t sure where to start, we decided we’d follow the Heritage Trail to give us a glimpse of the little town.

The Salem Heritage Trail is somewhat reminiscent of the Freedom Trail in Boston: it is an urban trail of about 5 kilometres that allows you to discover some of the historic places of the town. The trail is identified by a yellow line painted on the sidewalks of the city. There isn’t really an official beginning or end, so you can start wherever you want and follow it at your own pace.

Yellow line on the sidewalk of Salem
Walking along the Heritage Trail is easy, just follow the yellow line!

We started our walk near North Washington Square, where stands the statue of Roger Conant, founder of Salem. Salem was founded in 1626, on a peninsula called Naumkeag by the First Nations who lived there when European settlers arrived. Conant led a group of fishermen there. A few years later, the first Puritan settlers began to arrive.

A statue of Roger Conant
Roger Conant is recognized as the founder of Salem

Salem quickly developed into a major port city (it was involved in the triangular trade, among other things). But today, the small town’s best-known historic moment is arguably its witchcraft trials. These began after young Abigail Williams and her friends, who were accused of having bizarre behavior, began to accuse people of witchcraft. In the collective frenzy that followed, more than a hundred people were arrested, and 20 people were convicted and then executed.

Flowers at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
A monument to the memory of one of the victims of the witchcraft trials

The trials stopped when Governor William Phipps disbanded the court, after his wife was also accused of witchcraft.


The Heritage Trail passes by the Witch Trials Memorial, located right next to Charter Street Cemetery. The trail also passes by the popular Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon, where you can learn more about this dark moment in Salem history.

Charter Street Cemetery
Charter Street Cemetery dates from 1637 and is the oldest cemetery in Salem

It’s interesting to see how much that part of Salem’s history is used today to attract tourists. Throughout the city, there are references to witchcraft, whether in thematic shops, in the decoration of the streets or in the many guided tours offered. Witches are definitely everywhere in Salem!

A witch in a Salem street.
Witches are the emblem of Salem

Our walk took us to several of Salem’s tourist attractions: the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (where you can learn about Salem’s maritime history), the House of Seven Gables (made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel) and Salem Common (a historical park). And since the trail passes through several streets in the historic centre of the city, there are also many restaurants, cafes and shops (among our favorite stops was Ye Olde Pepper Company, the oldest candy company in the United States!).

For us who did not have a fixed itinerary, following the Salem Heritage Trail was really the best way to explore this small town!

Salem Common
Quiet Salem Common


  1. We went to Salem during October a few years ago, which was a lot of fun. I imagine we must have walked along part of the Heritage Trail, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was until now.

    1. It actually used to be called the “Red Line” up until two or three years ago, but they changed the name and the colour a few years ago. Salem must be something to see in October! The city looked like it was already decorated for Halloween!

    1. It is! I think it makes a nice day trip from Boston, and it has a unique history and a quirky atmosphere.

  2. We had the best time in Salem and stayed in a bed and breakfast across the Common. House of Seven Gables was amazing, so was the lobster at Sea Level and we loved that pub right there at the Witch Mall, so much we went twice.

    1. Oh, I’ll note for the next time! We actually walked by the pub in the Witch Mall, but didn’t try it. Just one more reason to go back! 🙂

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