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Boston prides itself on being a city of neighborhoods – 23 distinctive neighborhoods, to be exact, each one a compact area with its own special character and charms. Choosing just one can be really difficult.
It seems like it would be easy to make a decision: do you want history, modern architecture, a place near one of the city’s amazing parks, a quiet hideaway or something right in the middle of all the action? But in Boston, you can almost have it all – if not in one block, then certainly in the nearby surrounding neighborhoods. Yup, might as well face it, you won’t have an easy time choosing where to live. But that’s not exactly a hardship, right?
All that said, we’re here to make your move easier – from picking the right-for-you neighborhood to helping you get settled in. We’re Bellhop, and our Boston movers (all our movers, across the nation, actually) are skilled professionals dedicated to making your relocation a stress-free experience.
Moving to Boston – what you need to know before you go
Boston has a tight-knit community feel, even though people tend to switch neighborhoods often – upgrading from student housing to city apartments, and then moving out to the suburbs, and perhaps back to a smaller home in the heart of Boston once their kids have grown up. And then you have the folks whose family has lived in one neighborhood forever – they tend to be the ones that keep a place’s traditions and spirit intact over decades of change.
But all that goodness comes at a cost. Boston is expensive. The median home value in Boston is $569,500, according to Redfin, and it is definitely a seller’s market. It’s not just houses, either – Boston typically ranks in the top five most expensive cities in the U.S. The cost of living here is 53% higher than the national average – and utility prices are 26% higher than the national average, according to data from Payscale.com.
And there’s something else you need to know about moving here …
Boston’s Big Moving Day
Another unique thing about Boston is that 60-80% of the city’s leases turn over on exactly the same day – September 1. This is meant to make life easier for the 200,000 or so students who arrive in Boston every fall. But factor in that many residents of Boston (about 59%) opt to rent instead of buying, at least at first, and the majority of them are moving in and out on one day – yes, it can get chaotic. It’s essential to work with movers who know Boston, understand what permits are needed, have tactics for dealing with the chaos and other Boston move issues like getting “Storrowed” – the local term for when a truck (often a moving van) slams into the underside of one of the low-clearance overpasses on the parkway.
Okay, that’s the basics. Now let’s find you a neighborhood you’ll love. Below is our very opinionated list of the best neighborhoods in Boston. And since we know “best” means something different to everyone, our choices include a wide-range of neighborhoods.
The Very Best Neighborhoods in Boston
Nightlife, a younger vibe, in a relatively inexpensive neighborhood
Allston and Brighton are in the western part of the city right near Boston University and Boston College. Typically described as a great place to live for young professionals and students, the neighborhood also appeals to an older crowd looking for a more affordable and livelier alternative to other Boston locations.
You’ll be right near the Chestnut Hill Reservoir near Cleveland Circle, a beautiful green space that’s home to squirrels and swans along with many walking paths, including the 1.5 loop around the reservoir. Head to Brighton Music Hall to check out up-and-coming indie bands, or Boston University’s Agganis Arena for more mainstream performances. For late night eating, there’s the burgers at The Avenue, for pasta check out Carlo’s Cucina Italiana, and for adult beverages (and excellent brunches) visit the Lone Star Taco Bar and (right next door to Lone Star!) Deep Ellum.
Everything you ever thought Boston would be
Chances are that when you think about Boston, Back Bay is the neighborhood you’re picturing. Set next to the Charles River, Back Bay is the classic Boston neighborhood, considered to be one of the city’s more exclusive residential areas – it’s been in demand for well over a century.
The neighborhood offers easy access to some of Boston’s finest shopping and dining. Residents here run the gamut from students to young families, professional couples to well-off retirees. Median sale price for a home is $1,310,000, average rent is $3,300 a month, Be aware that this is not always the quietest of neighborhoods, especially when the Sox are playing. But the advantages of living here, in one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods, include easy access to virtually anywhere in the city, along with most of Boston’s most iconic cultural institutions like the Boston Public Library and Symphony Hall. You also get those great views from along the Charles River Esplanade, a favorite park of runners, bikers, and boaters. Other notable green spaces include the Boston Public Garden and Commonwealth Mall. Like Italian food? You’re in luck – Ostra, Sorellina and Davio are excellent. Head to the Friendly Toast when you want comfort food with a twist for breakfast/brunch, and the Parish Cafe & Bar for all sorts of sandwiches. If you like the vibe here, check out Beacon Hill too.
A great place to raise a family if money is no object
Brookline consistently appears in those “Best Suburbs in All of America” lists, and it’s easy to see why – it’s quiet, it’s family-friendly (great schools), it’s green, and the architecture is amazing. But it’s not stuffy and isolated from big city life – particularly in Coolidge Corner, a subsection of Brookline. Here you’ll find restaurants and clubs, coffee shops and breweries, bookstores, an iconic theater (aptly named the “Coolidge Corner Theatre”) and unique, independent businesses. Assuming you can afford it – the median single-family home price in Brookline is $1.88 million, and the average rent is about $3500 a month – Coolidge Corner – actually all of Brookline, is a wonderful place to live. For tapas (and dinner), don’t miss Barcelona Wine Bar, if you’re in the mood for pub grub, head to the Publick House, grab a classic breakfast at Mike’s City Diner, or satisfy all your soup, stuffed cabbage and sandwich cravings at one the area’s many excellent Jewish delis.
So very shiny and new
Also known as the Innovation District, the Seaport is gaining popularity as a residential neighborhood. If you’re looking for a place to live in Boston that’s visually focused on the future, this area could be perfect. Yup, it’s an area that is still a work in progress – there’s usually some construction going on – and some days you’ll feel like you’re tripping over convention attendees, and you’ll need to find your green space in other neighborhoods. But we say the Seaport is one of Boston’s best neighborhoods because it’s a place to embrace change in the middle of all that glorious history.
No surprise that the Institute of Contemporary Art is here, with its exhibitions, performances, screenings, and events. It’s a perfect place for foodies – get your French food fix at Menton, fancy Italian at Sportello, seafood at Row 34, and Asian-Spanish fusion tapas at Blue Dragon. Homes run the gamut from high-end luxury condos with a water view to funky converted industrial warehouses. Prices vary widely too from $1.6M for a home to $3,200 for an apartment. But some areas are at high risk for flooding, so check the data carefully before you buy.
Instant I.Q. boost
Yes, we know Cambridge is not one of Boston’s official neighborhoods. But it’s just on the other side of the Charles River, and it’s a great place to live, so we’re sneaking it in here.
Your primary choices are rentals around the main squares: Harvard, Central, Davis or Porter. Harvard is the most urban, with plenty of restaurants, shops and public transportation along with a lively art scene that includes The American Repertory Theater which is “dedicated to expanding the boundaries of theater, always including the audience as a partner,” according to their web site. Central is a little bit less fancy and a lot funkier (plus, honestly, it can be a little scary). Gauge your tolerance for interesting street life before moving here, but if you’re pretty chill there’s lots to love in Central Square, including indie music hotspot The Middle East Nightclub and some of Boston’s most interesting and unpretentious restaurants. Porter Square is a mix of Central and Harvard. Davis Square appeals to young professionals and Tufts professors, with Irish pubs and ethnic eateries, independent businesses and a small neighborhood vibe. Rents in these areas of Cambridge will run about $2,300 a month, though you can find places for less.
You’ve heard all those stories about how moving is one of life’s most stressful events? Not with Bellhop. Our team of friendly, professional Boston movers make it easy. Whether it’s a local or cross-country move (and everything in between) our Boston movers will put their local knowledge to work for you, to make the whole experience easy and – yes!- even enjoyable. Get in touch with us, we’re always happy to answer your questions!