Boston’s Neighborhoods

While all of the neighborhoods listed below are popular with Boston University undergraduates, Allston/Brighton is often the top choice among students living off-campus.  For more extensive neighborhood descriptions please see the Housing Resource Guide, which is available at this address: www.bumc.bu.edu/ohr/hrg/. Additionally, BU Today has an online guide to the various neighborhoods in Greater Boston. The slideshow can be accessed at: http://www.bu.edu/today/nearby-neighborhoods/.

Allston/Brighton

Although Allston and Brighton are two distinct communities with their own zip codes and unique characters, this area is often referred to as simply “Allston/Brighton.”  With its thriving nightlife, inexpensive housing, and close proximity to the western edge of the Charles River Campus, this district is especially popular with BU undergraduates. Allston/Brighton offers easy access to dozens of retail establishments, restaurants, and bars, and is only 20 minutes via the Green Line to downtown Boston.  Although BU and Boston College students tend to dominate Allston/Brighton, this residential area is also home to families with close ties to the neighborhoods.

The Gardner, Ashford, and Pratt Street area plays host to an active weekend social scene.  If you prefer a quieter residential atmosphere, you would be wise to steer clear of this area.  As a social center with a high student turnover, housing in this area takes considerable abuse and is not always in the best condition.  To avoid any surprises during move-in, be sure to inspect any prospective units carefully before signing a lease.

Cleveland Circle sits at the end of the Green “C” Line near Chestnut Hill and is a haven for Boston College undergraduates and young alumni.  Although this area is indistinguishable from its Brookline neighbor, it is actually a small community within Brighton and caters to the needs of students on a budget.  From this westernmost point, access to the Charles River campus by the MBTA “T” is approximately 40-45 minutes and only 20 minutes by car.  Free on-street parking is available but limited.  A residential sticker is required in some areas.

Click here to learn more about the Allston neighborhood and view a slideshow.

Back Bay

The Back Bay is known for its stately brownstones, Parisian-style boulevards, trendy boutiques, fine dining, and upscale hotels.  Back Bay stretches from downtown Boston to the Kenmore/Fenway area and includes Copley Square, parts of the South End, the Boston Common, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall – a tree-lined park area nestled between elegant brownstones.  Some of Boston’s most famous architectural landmarks – Trinity Church, the Boston Public Library, the Hancock Tower, and the Prudential Center – are situated in the heart of Back Bay.  Newbury Street, which boasts some of Boston’s best shopping, is also located in this area.  Back Bay is among Boston’s most exclusive districts and is at its best during the holiday season.  While the Back Bay is home to the Berklee College of Music, as well as MIT fraternities and BU’s Danielsen Hall, rents can be out of reach for most budget-conscious students.  Parking is also expensive and difficult to find.  Access to the Charles River campus is via the Green Line Arlington, Copley, Hynes Convention Center “T” stations.  The Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) is a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute bike ride from the Back Bay.  By bus, take the CT1 bus or the #1 bus, which starts at the Hynes Convention Center and runs direct to the BUMC via Massachusetts Avenue.

Brookline

Located south and west of the Charles River campus, this sprawling residential community tends to attract undergraduates in search of a quieter community as well as graduate students, faculty, and staff.  Coolidge Corner sits at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Beacon Street and is the heart of the Brookline Community.  Coolidge Corner features a mix of take-out eateries, fine dining, bookstores, boutiques, and real estate agencies.  This area is home to college students, young families, working professionals, and retirees.  Only a 20-minute walk from the Charles River campus, Coolidge Corner and the surrounding area offers the convenience of urban living with the feel of a suburban community.  Brookline’s many public parks add to the area’s appeal and provide space to relax, take in the sun, and escape the congestion of city life.

Washington Square, only one “T” stop west of Coolidge Corner, offers a mix of affordable apartments and restaurants with easy access to BU.  Brookline Village, a small community approximately one mile south of Coolidge Corner, borders Jamaica Plain and is accessible via the bus and the Green “D” Line.  With its affordable rents and easy access to the Longwood Medical Area, Brookline Village is especially popular with graduate students and young working professionals.  To access BU’s Medical Campus, take the B, C, or D Green Line to the Hynes Convention Center and transfer to the #1 or the CT1 bus.

Overnight parking is prohibited in Brookline.  When considering rental properties, check to ensure that parking is included.  If not, you may need to arrange for off-site parking at a cost of roughly $75-$175 per month.

Click here to learn more about Coolidge Corner and view a slideshow.

Click here to learn more about Brookline Village and view a slideshow.

Cambridge

Traditionally associated with those “other” institutions of higher learning, Cambridge sits north of Boston University and is popular with graduate students, faculty, and staff.  Cambridge abuts Somerville and Belmont to the north and Watertown to the west, and is home to four communities: Harvard Square, North Cambridge/Fresh Pond, East Cambridge, and Cambridgeport.  Rents vary greatly from area to area and are generally lower the further distance from Harvard Square.  The North Cambridge/Fresh Pond area, for example, offers more affordable apartments and is accessible by the Red Line’s Alewife Station but adds another 20 minutes to the commute to the Charles River Campus.  Housing in the Harvard Square area is much in demand, especially by MIT and Harvard University students, so the competition for affordable rental units can be intense.  Units in older two-and three-family homes within a short walk of Harvard Square are especially desirable, but these bargains can be difficult to find.  Parking in the Harvard Square area is extraordinarily difficult to locate so taking public transportation is your best option.  To access the Charles River Campus, take the Red Line to Park Street and hop on a Green Line “B” train heading outbound.  The BUMC is about a 20-25 minute drive from Harvard Square.  Follow Massachusetts Avenue, which cuts through Cambridge, south to the BUMC.  By bus, transfer at Andrew Square then take the CT3 bus to the BUMC.  Alternatively, take the #1 bus, which runs straight down Massachusetts Avenue, or hop on the #47 bus from Central Square to the BUMC.

Click here to learn more about Harvard Square and view a slideshow.

Click here to learn more about Central Square and view a slideshow.

Click here to learn more about Inman Square and view a slideshow.

Fenway/Kenmore

Considered “sacred ground” by dedicated Boston Red Sox fans, the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood is much more than an area surrounding one of the country’s oldest and most beloved ball parks. Although often grouped together, Fenway and Kenmore are actually two distinct neighborhoods offering different amenities.

Kenmore Square sits at the intersection of three major arteries – Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street, and Brookline Avenue – on the easternmost side of the Boston University campus.  Kenmore is a hub for public transportation and includes bus and MBTA “T” stations with easy access to Logan Airport and downtown Boston.  Boston University owns and operates a considerable number of graduate and undergraduate units in the Kenmore/Audubon Circle area.  For more information about housing available in this area, visit BU’s Housing Office or Rental Property Management.

The Fenway area is also home to the “Colleges of the Fenway” (Simmons, Wheelock, Wentworth Institute of Technology, MassArt, Emmanuel, and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy).  Bordered by Northeastern University on the south, Massachusetts Avenue on the east, and the Massachusetts Turnpike to the north, this dense neighborhood is popular with students and young working professionals.  The Longwood Medical Area, a cluster of several world-class hospitals to the east of the Fenway, stretches along Brookline and Longwood Avenue, and includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Harvard Medical School, and Children’s Hospital.  This area also boasts some of the city’s leading cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Symphony Hall, home of the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Boston’s Emerald Necklace, park and recreational space designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, begins in the Fenway and serves as a refuge from the sights and sounds of urban living.  Although recently constructed units are available, much of the housing stock in both neighborhoods dates back several decades and offers the charm and challenges of older units.  Apartments in this area often retain the original woodwork and craftsmanship of a bygone era.  The charm can be eclipsed, however, by older plumbing and obstructed views.  Rents are generally competitive.

Click here to learn more about Fenway/Kenmore Square and view a slideshow.

Jamaica Plain

Jamaica Plain, affectionately known as “JP,” is perhaps the most culturally and ethnically diverse section of the city.  Only 20 minutes from downtown Boston, JP boasts some of the finest parkland in the city.  The Arnold Arboretum, a 265-acre botanical garden, features educational programs and community events.  Jamaica Pond, a short walk from Centre Street, offers boating and walkways perfect for running and cycling.  JP has a well-deserved reputation for its eclectic mix of wonderful restaurants, everything from Cuban to Indian, Italian, Irish, Middle Eastern, and Ethiopian.  Housing prices vary depending upon the area and style of accommodations, which include triple-decker houses, stately Victorian homes, and some apartment buildings.  The Green “E” Line, which runs along the same route as the Green Line but continues on through the center of Jamaica Plain.  Commuting to and from JP requires changing from the #39 bus to the Green Line at Copley Square.  JP is also accessible via the Orange Line, which runs south to Forest Hills.  Jamaica Plain is one of the few sections of the Boston that does not require a residential parking sticker.  Rents in JP are generally reasonable regardless of whether the property is close to Brookline or further south toward Forest Hills.

Click here to learn more about Jamaica Plain and view a slideshow.

Somerville

Somerville sits north of Cambridge and borders Belmont and Watertown on the west.  Medford, home to Tufts University, is Somerville’s northern neighbor.  Davis Square, the heart of Somerville, features family-owned restaurants, coffee shops, and stores.  At night, the area comes alive as Tufts, Harvard, and MIT students flock to the area’s jazz and rock music clubs.

Somerville offers a rich cultural and ethnic diversity.  The population of this densely populated community is a mix of Tufts students, young professionals, working families, and immigrants.  For more information about this urban community, check out the video entitled, “Welcome to Somerville, MA” on www.youtube.com.

Harvard is just one “T” stop away from the Davis Square Red Line stop.  To access the Charles River Campus, take the Red Line inbound from the Alewife, David, or Porter Square stations, change at Park Street and take a Green Line “B” train outbound.  By bus, take the Red Line inbound to Central Square, change to the #47 bus at Green and Magazine Street, and exit at the stop on the BU Bridge.  To access the South End and the BUMC, take the Orange Line from Sullivan Square.

Click here to learn more about Davis Square and view a slideshow.

South End

Not to be confused with South Boston  or “Southie,” the South End is situated just south of Back Bay and is especially popular with BU medical and dental students.  The South End is home to the Boston Ballet, the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA), several art galleries, and some of Boston’s finest restaurants. After years of decline, this ethnically and economically diverse area has undergone significant redevelopment and is now one of the hottest rental markets in the city. Tremont Street, Washington Street, and Columbus Avenue run through the heart of this neighborhood and host many of the area’s restaurants and businesses. The BU Shuttle Bus (“The BUS”), a free service for members of the Boston University community, connects the Medical and Charles River campuses with stops along Massachusetts Avenue.  For a map of bus routes and to track buses in real time, visit www.bu.edu/thebus.

Harrison Court, at 761 Harrison Avenue, features studios, one- and two-bedroom units and is conveniently located directly across from the BU Medical Center. With its close proximity to the BUMC, this building is so popular that there is usually a waiting list. For more information about Harrison Court and 815 Albany Street, a state-of-the-art medical student residence scheduled to open in June 2012, contact Rental Property Management at 617-353-4104 or visit their website [www.bu.edu/orpm].

Click here to learn more about the South End and view a slideshow.

In addition to the neighborhoods listed above, faculty, staff, and graduate students also reside in several other communities in and around Boston. Accessing these neighborhoods typically requires a car or commuter rail transportation:

Arlington

While commuting to Arlington would prove challenging for most undergraduates, this community is a good option for graduate students, faculty, and staff.  Wedged between Medford, Somerville, Belmont, Winchester, and Lexington, Arlington sits north of Boston at the end of the Red Line and offers easy access to Cambridge via Alewife station.  Buses also run regularly along Massachusetts Avenue, which extends from the South End through Arlington, and serves as the main artery into Cambridge and downtown Boston.  Although Arlington is only 6 miles north of Boston, the commute by car to downtown can take an hour or more in rush-hour traffic.  Even so, the selection and price of rental properties in this area can be worth the longer commute.  This northern suburb also affords easy access by bus or car to Lexington, Concord, and Bedford – perfect for weekend excursions.

Arlington offers an array of housing options from large high-rise apartment complexes to converted two-family homes.  Dozens of eateries, small shops, and bakeries line Mass Ave and are especially popular with residents of area apartment buildings.  The Minuteman Bikeway, an 11-mile recreational trail, begins at the Alewife “T” station, winds its way through Arlington and Lexington, and ends in Bedford.  This bike path is used by both walkers and riders and passes by some of the town’s recreational areas, including playgrounds, athletic fields, a skating rink, and Spy Pond.  Close to businesses along Massachusetts Avenue, this trail is also popular with commuters who bike or walk to the Alewife “T” station.  Two area theaters provide the best entertainment at affordable prices.  Located on Mass Ave in East Arlington, the Capital Theater shows recent releases at discounted prices.  The Regent Theater, a 500-seat performing arts center on Medford Street, features plays, live performances, and family entertainment.

Beacon Hill

Located in the heart of Boston, Beacon Hill has long been home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents.  This National Historic District features well-appointed federal style brownstones, brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets, and gas lamps.  Beacon Hill is home to Suffolk University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House and is a short walk to the Financial District, Government Center, Boston’s theater district, and Newbury Street.  With its central location and Charles Street Red Line stop, Beacon Hill also allows easy access to Cambridge, Somerville, and the northern suburbs.  Although Beacon Hill is a congested area with narrow alleyways and little parking, it is considered a desirable section of the city and much sought after for its charm and historic appeal.  The rental units in this area are typically smaller, more expensive, and extraordinarily difficult to come by.

Click here to learn more about Beacon Hill and view a slideshow.

Charlestown

Home to the Bunker Hill monument and the U.S.S. Constitution, Charlestown sits north of the city and connects to Boston proper via the Zakim Bridge and Charlestown Bridge.  Charlestown is one of Boston’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods.  This area has long been known as a working-class neighborhood with a strong Irish identity.  Charlestown has undergone a facelift in recent years, especially near the waterfront, and offers a mix of older, renovated units and newly-constructed housing.  Charlestown is accessible via the Orange Line stations and Sullivan Square and Bunker Hill, as well as by the #93 bus.

Dorchester

Dorchester, Boston’s largest residential community, is home to the University of Massachusetts/Boston and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Dorchester’s affordable housing continues to attract an ethnically diverse population with a strong pride in the area.  Dorchester is a hodgepodge of smaller neighborhoods each with its own character and sense of community.  These communities include: Uphams Corner, Columbia Point (home to the JFK Museum and UMASS/Boston), Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Four Corners, Codman Square, Ashmont, and Neponset.  Prices for condos and rental units tend to be somewhat lower in Dorchester than in other areas of the city.  The housing stock in this area ranges from older Victorian homes to three-family homes (better known as “triple-deckers”) and the massive Harbor Point apartment complex.  Transportation along the Red Line is reliable and traveling time depends upon the location and time of day, generally anywhere from 10-25 minutes.

East Boston

East Boston, one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city, is a working-class area directly beneath the flight path to Logan International Airport.  East Boston is a peninsula, separated from the rest of the city by the harbor, and is accessible to the North End via the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels and to South Boston and Storrow Drive by the Ted Williams Tunnel.  Although this low lying area can be prone to flash flooding during winter storms and torrential summer downpours, East Boston offers a variety of two- and three-family homes to choose from as well as some of the most stunning views of Boston.  Although rents in this area are typically less expensive than the rest of the city, the distance from this location to both the BUMC and Charles River Campus is significant and presents a challenge for commuters.  East Boston is accessible via the “T” Blue Line.  To reach the BUMC, take the Blue Line to State Street, transfer to the Orange Line, and then connect with the CT1 bus at Massachusetts Avenue.  To reach the Charles River Campus, take the Blue Line to Government Center and transfer to a Green Line “B” train heading outbound.

Malden

Located just north of Boston, this ethnically diverse community is largely residential.  Apartments in this area are typically large and moderately priced.  Malden is easily accessible to supermarkets, Laundromats, and shopping centers.  Because Malden offers access to the Orange Line and several bus routes, traveling by car is convenient but not necessary.

Mission Hill

Mission Hill, a culturally diverse neighborhood bordering Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, is home to many Northeastern, MassArt, and Wentworth Institute of Technology students.  Like Jamaica Plain, housing in this area of the city includes triple-deckers, Victorian homes, and mixed-income complexes.  Huntington Avenue cuts through the Northeastern campus and connects Mission Hill with the Copley Square/Prudential area as well as downtown Boston.  Brigham Circle, Mission Hill’s commercial hub, is a block away from Brigham and Women’s Hospital with stops for the Green “E” Line train and the #39 bus.  To access the Charles River Campus, take the #39 bus to Copley then switch to a Green “B” train heading outbound.  BUMC students should take the #39 bus or “E” Heath Street train to the Symphony stop then transfer to the #1 or CT1 bus.  Apartments in Mission Hill tend to be large.  Parking is readily available but parking permits are required.

Newton

Voted among the top 10 safest cities in the country, Newton is a prosperous suburb 8 miles west of Boston, known for its strong community and excellent school system.  In 2009, Newton North and Newton South high schools were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in Boston Magazine’s ranking of public schools in the greater Boston area.  Newton is a collection of 13 smaller neighborhoods.  These communities include: Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Lower Falls, Newton Centre, Newton Corner, Newton Highlands, Newtonville, Nonatum, Oak Hill, Thompsonville, Upper Falls, Waban, and West Newton.

Rental prices throughout the 13 communities vary from expensive housing in large complexes geared to working professionals to less expensive units in multi-family dwellings.  A unit’s proximity to Boston or the Massachusetts Turnpike (“Mass Pike”) can drive up the price.  Finding an affordable apartment close to public transportation may require some effort and a little luck.  Newton Centre with its mix of coffee shops, ice cream parlors, eateries, banks, and boutiques is a good starting point in any apartment search.  This area is popular with Boston College undergraduates and law students as well as young working professionals.  Grocery stores in the area include Whole Foods Market at the intersection of Beacon and Walnut Streets and Star Market on Boylston Street/Route 9 in Chestnut Hill.  The Chestnut Hill Mall and Atrium Mall offer the finest in upscale shopping and are located on Route 9, approximately a half mile from Newton Centre.

Although Newton is only 20 minutes away by car and 45 minutes via the Green Line, the area’s suburban location can feel far removed from the BU campus.  Access to Waban, Newton Highlands, Newton Centre, and Chestnut Hill is via the Green “D” Line heading outbound to Riverside.  To access Auburndale, West Newton, or Newtonville, catch the MBTA commuter rail leaving either from Back Bay station near Copley or Yawkey Way, a short walk from Kenmore Square.  Although the quality and price of rental housing in Newton can be superior to property closer to the BU campus, some units are not accessible by public transportation, so a car may be necessary.  On-street parking is prohibited during the winter months (November – April).  Because vehicles left overnight during the winter months are subject to towing, renters need to arrange for off-street parking and budget accordingly.

North End

The North End, Boston’s “Little Italy,” is a close-knit community famous for its restaurants, bakeries, and small cafes.  On any given weekend night, tourists and locals alike flock to Hanover Street in search of the best cappuccino (Caffe Vittoria) and tastiest cannolis (Mike’s Pastry).  This densely populated neighborhood is located only 5 minutes from Quincy Market and 2 minutes from the waterfront.  Parking is extraordinarily difficult to find on the North End’s narrow streets so taking public transportation is highly recommended.  From the North End, take the Orange Line from Haymarket to Massachusetts Avenue, and then take the #1 or CT1 bus to the BUMC.  To reach the Charles River Campus, take a Green Line “B” train at Government Center heading outbound.  Finding affordable housing in this vibrant community can be exceptionally difficult as most rental units are small and expensive.

Quincy

Quincy, a small city just south of Boston, has a lot to offer for those students, faculty, and staff who want to escape the hassles of urban living.  Divided into four sections – North Quincy, Wollaston, Quincy Center, and West Quincy – this area offers a variety of housing options from high-rise complexes to houses, duplexes, and triple-deckers.  Quincy is considered a safe area, somewhat quieter than Boston, with a strong community atmosphere.  This suburb is made up largely of Irish-Catholic working-class families as well as a growing Asian population.  With its ocean views, the waterfront is a good spot for running, walking, rollerblading, or just relaxing.  The Red Line, with four stops in Quincy, runs direct to the Andrew stop near the BUMC and takes about 20-30 minutes.  By car, take the Southeast Expressway (I-93) to the Andrew Square exit.  On-street parking is free and easier to find than in Boston.  To access the Charles River Campus, take the Red Line to Park Street, then change to a Green Line “B” train going outbound.

Roxbury

Once home to Malcolm X, Donna Summer, and Boston University alum Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this historic community offers a diverse mix of young families and working professionals. Founded in 1630, Roxbury features a variety of housing options from Greek Revival homes to multifamily units and apartments. Roxbury also boasts a vibrant arts scene. It is home for the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists and host of year-round cultural activities, including Roxbury Open Studios, the Caribbean Carnival, jazz festivals, and a speaker series sponsored by the Roxbury Historical Society.

Accessible via the MBTA Orange Line, Silver Line, and the number 1, 8, 15, 22, 28, 47, and 66 buses, Roxbury is a short ride from Boston University’s Medical Campus (BUMC), downtown Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge. While on-street parking throughout much of Boston is hard to come by, few resident parking restrictions apply in Roxbury. Cyclists will appreciate bike trails on the Southwest Corridor and Melnea Cass Boulevard, as well as the community’s growing network of bike lanes across the neighborhood to Franklin Park and other links in the Emerald Necklace.

For coffee and conversation, head to Haley House Bakery Café at 12 Dade Street. Eddie’s Restaurant in Dudley Square and Millennium Restaurant & Grill in Egleston Square feature Dominican fare and are local favorites. And for the best in live jazz, check out Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen on Columbus Ave. and the immensely popular Wally’s Café at 427 Massachusetts Ave. For more information, visit the Bay State Banner (www.baystatebanner.com), a weekly newspaper, Discover Roxbury (www.discoverroxbury.org), an organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement and the community’s cultural, historic, and social life, and Roxbury’s community-based radio station, TOUCH 106.1 FM (www.touchfm.org).

South Boston

Host of Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and home to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), “Southie” is the city’s most Irish neighborhood.  Residents in this largely working-class, seaside community enjoy close proximity to the beach with an easy commute to downtown Boston.  Carson Beach, a 22-acre park, is a popular destination for sunbathing, picnics, fishing, and enjoying the ocean view.  Broadway, the heart of South Boston, and Andrew Square are both accessible via the Red Line.  Southie offers a variety of accommodations from brownstones to multi-family homes and open-air lofts.  Though prices are rising, rents tend to be less expensive than many other locations in greater Boston.

Watertown

Watertown is a middle-class community with a large number of single- and two-family homes, as well as apartment complexes.  Commuting by public transportation may require several bus changes on routes with limited service.  Finding on-street parking is typically not a problem.