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6 Best Boston Metro Neighborhoods for College Students

By: Nicole DiCenso
November 26, 2018

Boston, Massachusetts is home to a handful of the best colleges in the country. Between Harvard, MIT, Boston College, and Northeastern University, you’re bound to run into some smart students no matter where you live. The city is known for its historic brownstones and soaring high rises, though it’s easy to find more suburban homes on the outskirts of town.

There are also endless ways to occupy your time in “Beantown”, whether it be catching a fly ball watching the Red Sox play at rowdy Fenway Park, learning up on your history walking down the famous Freedom Trail, or slurping up spaghetti in the delicious Italian North End. You won’t have any trouble getting around either because the city is fully serviced by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority bus as well as the train, locally called the “T.”

Rent in Boston ranks towards the higher end of the spectrum with a one-bedroom costing around $1,700/month and a two-bedroom at $2,100/month. That being said, many of the students attending college in the city tend to live in some of the neighborhoods surrounding Boston to save on rent and to have shorter commutes to their respective campuses. Are you looking to move to “the hub” for school? Here are the best neighborhoods to for college students the Boston metro.

Cambridge

The city of Cambridge is located just across the river from downtown Boston. If you think the name sounds familiar, that’s because the prestigious Harvard University is located there, as well as equally reputable Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Students from both universities gravitate towards a few key locations. Harvard Square, Central Square, and Porter Square are the most popular, as students can take the bus or redline to either campus.

Cambridge is beloved by residents its buildings are less industrial than Boston proper, creating a more suburban feel with amazing views of the city.  For fun, many 21+ students spend their Friday or Saturday nights at A4cade. Why is this locale so popular? That’s because A4cade is a bar and and arcade that can only be accessed through the freezer of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese in Central Square. If you’re hungry, you’re likely to find a lot of college students hanging out at the famous Mr. Bartley’s Burgers for their legendary milkshakes and inventive hamburgers. If Cambridge isn’t your style, many students also live in the adjacent and strikingly similar Charlestown.

Cambridge report card:

  • Walk score: 87, Very Walkable
  • Transit score: 72, Excellent Transit
  • Bike Score: 96, Biker’s Paradise
  • Places to check out: Harvard Square, A4cade, Mr. Bartley’s Burgers

Somerville

Although Tufts is the only college to call Somerville its home, this neighborhood is a hot spot for college students because of its easy access to downtown Boston and affordable apartment options. If you live near a Red or Orange Line stop, the trip into the city can be less than 20 minutes.  Ridesharing is also a popular option for residents visiting friends at other schools, as it is more direct than public transportation.

Somerville is a very diverse neighborhood, home to students, young professionals, and young families alike. What everyone can agree on though, is that the best donuts in Boston come from Union Square Donuts in Union Square. Maple. Bacon. Donut. Enough said. If you’re counting carbs, you might be better off catching a show at Somerville Theater in Davis Square. When we say show, we mean live music, plays, or movies. This 100 year old theater has been converted into a one stop shop for all things entertainment.

Somerville report card:

  • Walk score: 86, Very Walkable
  • Transit score: 63, Good Transit
  • Bike Score: 89, Very Bikeable
  • Places to check out: Union Square Donuts, Davis Square, Somerville Theater

Jamaica Plain

Affectionately abbreviated “JP,” Jamaica Plain is a quieter neighborhood a little ways outside of the city. This spot is a top choice of many students because it provides easy access to schools like Simmons, Mass Art, and Northeastern, without the price tag of more centrally located apartments. Depending on where you live in JP, the ride into town is usually no more than 30 minutes by rideshare, and sightly longer via public transportation on the Orange Line.

Jamaica Plain is one of the more diverse neighborhoods in the Boston Metro, which can be observed through its great mix of cuisine choices. Tres Gatos, an eclectic restaurant off of hopping Centre Street, triples as a bookstore and a music store. If you’re searching for a full day of fun, look no further than the Sam Adams Brewery. The brewery offers daily tours and has a tap room where you can try as many variations of the beer as you’d like! For a more relaxed vibe, many students spend some time outside at JP’s most popular parks, Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond. A similar neighborhood a little less popular than Jamaica Plain but also a little more affordable is its neighbor Dorchester.

Jamaica Plain report card:

  • Walk score: 87, Very Walkable
  • Transit score: 74, Excellent Transit
  • Bike Score: 91, Biker’s Paradise
  • Places to check out: Tres Gatos, Sam Adams Brewery, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Pond

Allston/Brighton

Okay, technically Allston and Brighton are two different neighborhoods, but anyone from the area will tell you otherwise. There are even some maps that have combined the two towns into one! If you’re attending a school that begins with “Boston,” chances are you live in Allston/Brighton and are a student at Boston University or Boston College. Located on opposite sides of the town, both schools favor off-campus housing so most of their students rent in the vicinity. Luckily for them, the neighborhood is especially affordable for only being 30 minutes outside of town.

Allston/Brighton is treasured for its great food and music options, including Brighton Music Hall, a favorite for indie, alternative, and local bands. Many bars and restaurants in the area also host weekly trivia presented by Stump. If you’re near Boston College, you’ll want to check out Cleveland Circle as it’s a favorite of the colleges students for it’s array of food, shopping, and entertainment.

Allston/Brighton report card:

  • Walk score: 84, Very Walkable
  • Transit score: 66, Good Transit
  • Bike Score: 91, Biker’s Paradise
  • Places to check out: Brighton Music Hall, Cleveland Circle, Stump Trivia Bars

Brookline

Between Jamaica Plain and Allston/Brighton sits the somewhat urban town of Brookline. This neighborhood is well-liked by college students because it provides the convenience of the city for people who don’t want to live in it. Brookline is a quieter community and home to many young families who favor the lower cost housing. The neighborhood is also in a great location for students because it has easy access to most of the colleges in the area including Emmanuel, Boston College, Boston University, and Mass College of Pharmacy. In their free time, many students hang out in Coolidge Corner. This area is not only the birthplace of President John F. Kennedy, it also has a number of restaurant and shopping options. Another fun spot in Brookline is Larz Anderson Park, site of The Larz Anderson Auto Museum, America’s oldest car collection.

Brookline report card:

  • Walk score: 78, Very Walkable
  • Transit score: 68, Good Transit
  • Bike Score: 72, Very Bikeable
  • Places to check out: Coolidge Corner, Larz Anderson Park, Larz Anderson Auto Museum

Back Bay

Last but certainly not least (expensive) is the lovely Back Bay. As Back Bay is one of the only neighborhoods listed that is technically considered within Boston city limits, it’s no wonder that apartments in the area fetch a hefty price tag. In fact, Back Bay is the most expensive neighborhood in Boston. Be that as it may, there are still some savvy students who’ve been able to find more affordable housing in the area. It’s an especially great location to live if you’re attending Berklee College of Music, Emerson, or Suffolk as they are all within walking distance.

Back Bay also has perfect access to the best shopping in the city. Close to designer shopping haven Newbury Street and the landmark Prudential Center, college students need to be extra careful they don’t spend their textbook money on a new pair of shoes. The neighborhood is also famous for its historic brownstone apartments that overlook the Charles River.  If you’re looking for a very slightly less expensive option, many students call neighboring Beacon Hill home.

Back Bay report card:

  • Walk score: 96, Walker’s Paradise
  • Transit score: 97, Rider’s Paradise
  • Bike Score: 86, Very Bikeable
  • Places to check out: Newbury Street, Prudential Center, Charles River

With so many colleges and great neighborhoods, Boston is one of the best places for college students to live.There are endless ways to keep busy, great food around any corner, and enough shopping around to put a hole in your wallet. Listed above are just a few of the many awesome neighborhoods for college students in Boston, but some honorable mentions include East Boston, including South Boston (Southie), and the South End (yes, they are two different neighborhoods!)

Finding Your Boston Apartment

Decided on a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle? Check out our comprehensive guide on how to find an apartment in Boston. Then learn about the average rent in Boston.

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AUTHOR
Nicole is a Marketing Specialist and contributing author at Apartment List where she writes content on rental life and trends. Nicole previously worked in sales at HubSpot and Forrester and has a BA in Marketing from Bryant University. Read More
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