After all, you can do whatever you want to your home to make it cozy and yours. You can fill it up with comfortable furniture, paint the walls, and hang up all of your favorite photographs.
But you can’t change the neighborhood. If a community doesn’t suit your needs sooner or later you’re going to hate living in your new home. If you care about nightlife, for example, then you’re not going to enjoy having to travel all the way across town just to find a decent restaurant and an evening’s entertainment.
Furthermore, Boston is a “city of neighborhoods.” Every neighborhood is like its own city-within-a-city. Every single one of them has its own flavor and character. It’s almost as if there are multiple cities all nestled within the city limits. And that’s to say nothing of the various suburbs that make up the Boston metro area.
Of course, what makes a community “the best” varies from person to person. Some young professionals are mostly concerned about the commute or the night life, while others are far more interested in getting the biggest home they can score for the money. You’ll find information on communities which will help you meet every kind of need, below.
This article focuses on neighborhoods within the city of Boston, though it does offer a brief preview of great suburban options as well. If you’re interested in finding some of the best Boston suburbs for young families, click here.
What Makes a Great Neighborhood?
While everyone answers that question a little differently, there are some common threads which make a neighborhood more livable and sustainable.
The first, of course, is the commute. It’s hard to enjoy living anywhere if you’re paying your own weight in gas money each week in order to reach a job that’s an hour away or more. Fortunately, Boston is a well-planned city—as you’ll see, most of its best, most livable neighborhoods make it easy to get to work.
The second is of course access to entertainment, dining, shopping and nightlife opportunities. While some home owners do enjoy a quiet environment far away from the hustle and bustle of the city most young professionals want to be close enough to enjoy everything Boston has to offer—and they definitely don’t want to be stuck in some wasteland full of chain restaurants and stores.
Affordability and home size are of course factors, too. Every Boston neighborhood has its own unique character, and most have readily identifiable home-styles, with one tending towards brownstones and condos while another features stately Victorian houses.
Many professionals also want the option to get outside and play, which is why we’ve included a section on “getting out into nature.” We’ve considered both the summer offerings and the winter offerings here.
Finally, there’s the neighbors—are they friendly? Do they talk to one another? While some young professionals love their privacy, others will want to know they’ll be welcomed. And while it’s tough to make generalizations, I’ve done my best to give you a clear picture of what you can expect.
I’ve used each of these important considerations to highlight the features of the neighborhoods that meet each of these needs the best. This will allow you to zero in on the neighborhood qualities that are most important to you. I’ve also included information on a couple of suburbs which young professionals often enjoy living in.
Boston Communities Which Offer the Best Commute
Almost any Boston neighborhood offers plenty of access to public transportation. However, if you’re looking for the neighborhood which offers you the quickest, best access to the downtown area, two communities do stand out.
Jamaica Plain and Dorchester are just six miles from the downtown area, which means they too, offer outstanding, easy commutes for young professionals. There are generous amounts of public transportation for those who don’t want to fight Boston traffic.
With that being said, you really have to work hard to find a “bad” commute from any Boston neighborhood. Brighton and Roslindale are just 7 miles away from downtown Boston, and they have outstanding public transportation options as well.
West Roxbury is a bit farther out, but is actually well known for offering one of the easiest commutes. It’s served by both the subway and the bus system, and it has access to Route 1 and I-95. Traffic is good—you can get to most of Boston’s major employers from here within 10 to 15 minutes.
Watertown isn’t a bad choice either. It’s a suburb of Boston that’s just 9 miles from the downtown area. However, keep in mind that Watertown is only served by MTBA bus lines, not rail lines, which might make your commute harder to navigate.
Malden is another suburb with a fast commute; it’s just six miles away. It’s served by 18 bus routes and the Blue Line, which means it’s connected enough to remain a car-free choice.
If none of these communities appeal, Brookline, Canton, Somerville and Cambridge all offer very good commutes, as do Medford and Arlington. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.
Boston Communities with the Hottest Night Life, Culture, and Entertainment
When it comes to night life, spots for foodies to enjoy great independent restaurants, unique shopping destinations and cultural opportunities several of Boston’s neighborhoods definitely stand above the rest.
Nightlife is a pretty broad category, encompassing everything from foodie hot spots to live music venues. However, the communities below have a large sampling of just about any shopping, dining, or entertainment options you might want to explore.
Dorchester is actually known for its night life. It’s the first thing people will tell you about this thriving neighborhood. It would be impossible to list all of the great Dorchester destinations here, but here’s a small sampling.
Twelve Ben’s is known as a great place to meet fellow professionals while enjoying cheap beer and great food. It doesn’t have a website, but it doesn’t seem to need one. You can grab bowling, drinks, and shuffleboard at the Xperience Lounge and Boutique. The Eire Pub is a great place to enjoy great Irish food and has been a Boston hot spot since 1963. You’ll also find plenty of shopping destinations to enjoy.
Brighton is a great place to live if you love live music. The Brighton Music Hall does such a good job of finding great indie and local artists that performances are often “standing room only.” You can also find live music (and great food) at The Green Briar Irish Pub. Foodies get plenty of options too. If you’ve just got to get up and dance, visit Great Scott.
Jamaica Plain offers plenty of destinations to enjoy. The Bella Luna Restaurant and Milky Way Lounge runs a variety of events, from “Rock and Roll Bingo” to open mic events. Their menu is also rather amazing, featuring everything from lobster rolls to gourmet pizzas. If you want farm fresh food or amazing cocktails try Ten Tables, which bills itself as a “true neighborhood restaurant.” And if you’re looking for local art, The Hallway Gallery is a don’t-miss (you’ll get music there, too).
Cambridge may seem buttoned down and erudite, but it’s got a wild side all its own. In addition to the many, many shopping and dining opportunities you’re going to find plenty of hot spots when the sun goes down. Get your groove on at The Naga Dance Club, enjoy live music at Toad, or see what’s playing at the American Repertory Theatre. Cambridge is technically a suburb, but it’s so close to the city limits that it might as well be treated as a Boston neighborhood in its own right.
If none of these communities appeal, Brookline and Newton offer outstanding entertainment options as well, though you won’t find as many nightlife locales in these suburbs. See The Best Boston Suburbs for Young Families.
Most Affordable Boston Communities
Most young professional buyers are concerned about finding an affordable home, and that’s wise. You never want to get in over your head! Boston’s a thriving urban area and the cost of living is high, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer sticker shock everywhere you go. These communities offer great spaces at reasonable prices.
Many young professionals will go looking for condos. Fortunately, there’s no such thing as a “generic” condo anywhere in the Boston Metro Area. Often, once you step through the doors of your new home, you’ll never even register that your space is attached to a larger building. Usually, aiming for a condominium will keep you closer to the action going on within the city limits.
With that being said, there are some affordable options for those who are dead-set on owning a single family home.
Brighton offers a lot of gorgeous condominiums at highly affordable price points. You might even luck out and find some in the high $100,000s, though if you do, you’ll want to move fast and have everything you need to make an offer, including a mortgage pre-approval. Competition for affordable housing this affordable is fierce Note that if you’re looking for a single family home Brighton isn’t the way to go—single family homes in Brighton are anything but affordable, and are rare to boot.
Get the latest market information on Brighton homes here.
Roslindale is another highly affordable choice for young professionals looking to score a new condo. You might even find some affordable single family homes here…the occasional affordable hidden stand-alone gem is not unheard of, though typical single family homes are expensive. A home buyer who is flexible and patient can get a great balance between square footage and cost.
Get the latest market information on Roslindale here.
Dorchester is pretty comparable to Roslindale with similar average home prices. You’ll find more single family homes here than condos, all for a wide variety of prices, including some downright amazing, well-kept finds at low price points you almost won’t believe until you see them for yourself. Many of these are stately Victorian homes who don’t look anything like budget homes—a bonus when you’re trying to impress your friends and family members.
Get the latest market information on Dorchester here.