Posted: 05/08/20 | May 8th, 2020
Boston. Beantown. “The Town.” My hometown.
I love Boston. I’m probably biased since I grew up here, but I think it’s one of the most underappreciated cities in the entire country and one of the best destinations. It’s just a wonderful, friendly place to live and visit!
The history, the food, the sports, the community. Boston is like a big small town. And all the college students here help give the city a permanent youthful energy!
But what are the best places to stay?
Well, that depends on a lot of factors.
So today, let me break down the best neighborhoods in Boston from a local’s point of view and give you suggested places to stay in each part of town.
But, before I get into the specific neighborhoods and recommended places to stay while there, let me answer some of the most common questions I get asked about Boston:
What is the best neighborhood budget travelers?
Budget travelers and young backpackers will want to stay in Brighton/Allston. It has lots of cheap food and nightlife options.
What is the best neighborhood in Boston for families?
Brookline is a quiet neighborhood that’s perfect for families who want to stay in a more residential area. The North End is also a good choice for families.
What is the best neighborhood in Boston for partying?
If you’re looking to enjoy Boston’s nightlife, stay in Fenway.
What is the best neighborhood in Boston overall?
My favorite neighborhood is Back Bay/Copley. It’s got a little bit of everything!
So, with that said, here’s a breakdown of where to stay during next visit to Boston:
Boston Neighborhood Overview
Best Neighborhood for Luxury: Back Bay/Copley
The Back Bay is one of the most beautiful (and upscale) neighborhoods in town. It includes the happening Copley Square (home to the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church and the shops at Copley Place), as well as the beautiful homes on the surrounding streets near the river and the shops and restaurants on Newbury and Boylston Streets. Fun tip: There’s a farmers market in Copley Square on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
Best Places to Stay in the Back Bay/Copley
- BUDGET: Garrison Street Apartment – It’s hard to find a super cheap place to say in this neighborhood. This is as close as it gets. In a historic brick building, these beautiful serviced apartments are just like staying in Airbnb and come with all the amenities of home. There’s also a beautiful rooftop.
- MID-RANGE: Boston Copley House – Copley House is actually a set of studio apartments located in traditional brick row houses, each with fully equipped kitchens and cable TV. The building also has a beautiful rooftop.
- LUXURY: Fairmont Copley Plaza
– This is easily one of the most luxurious hotels in the city! It’s located near Newbury Street with its busy restaurant and shopping scene, but the hotel’s OAK Long Bar + Kitchen is an excellent dining option. If you’re staying on the concierge floor, you’ll get free continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. There’s a rooftop health club and outdoor deck.
Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: Downtown
Downtown is Boston’s commercial and financial center. It’s one of the oldest parts of town, a maze of cobblestone streets and historic buildings against a backdrop of giant modern skyscrapers. The area has really become “hot” the last few years (it was run-down when I was growing up here), and you’ll find tons of hip cocktail bars and restaurants here. And there are lots of tourist attractions that make up a section of the Freedom Trail (for example, the Old South Meeting House, Faneuil Hall, and the Old State House). Plus, it’s right next to Chinatown (good food) and the Commons (the city’s main park).
Best Places to Stay in Downtown
- BUDGET #1: Hostelling International Boston – The HI Boston is one of the best in the HI chain. It only opened six years ago, so it’s still pretty new. It has a kitchen and common area as well as rooms for meetings. The beds come with a personal shelf, a reading light, and power outlets. It’s the best hostel in Boston!
- BUDGET #2: Found Hotel Boston Commons – This hotel offers dorm rooms in addition to privates, so it’s a great option if you’re on a budget. You’ll get a bunk bed with a curtain for privacy and your own locker. The private rooms are pretty small, but they’re clean and newly renovated and come with a desk. I love all the wood finishings throughout the building.
- MID-RANGE: The Godfrey Hotel Boston – This boutique hotel has a stylish lobby as well as a fun bar serving up delicious drinks. The rooms have everything you need, including a desk area and lots of natural light.
- LUXURY: The Langham – This is a traditional-style hotel with a gorgeous ballroom; a chocolate bar on Saturdays in Café Fleuri; huge, opulent rooms with super plush beds and pillows; an incredible staff; and a grand entranceway. It’s a splurge!
Best Neighborhood for Budget Travelers: Brighton/Allston
Brighton and Allston are two neighborhoods known for their large student and recent graduate populations. You won’t find a lot of tourists here. Because of this, the restaurants and bars cater mostly to the twenty-something crowd. There’s not a lot of “things to do” in this part of town — it’s just more a cool neighborhood to stay in with cheaper nightlife and dining options than elsewhere. (I group them together because….well, they’re super close, and we locals tend to do that!)
Best Places to Stay in Brighton/Allston
- BUDGET: The Farrington Inn – This small guesthouse also has dorm rooms, making it one of the most affordable options in the area. All the rooms are air-conditioned, and some come with kitchenettes. There’s free Wi-Fi too.
- MID-RANGE: Studio Allston Hotel Boston – This ultra-artsy hotel appeals to young travelers, who like making use of the common areas and the outdoor patio (complete with a rum bar). Each room comes with its own unique artwork! It’s fun place to stay, even if the rooms are kind of small.
- LUXURY: AC Hotel by Marriott Boston Cleveland Circle – This hotel has convenient access to the whole city via the MBTA Green Line. It’s home to a nice business center and a 24-hour fitness center as well. It’s your standard chain hotel, really, but I like it for the location and lounge.
Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Fenway
This area is home to the Red Sox and Fenway Park. However, Fenway is also one of the most academic and cultural districts, with nearly a dozen colleges and universities located nearby. In recent years, it’s become the yuppie capital of the city, and tons of new condos and restaurants have opened up. It’s a nightlife mecca, especially at the clubs and bars along Lansdowne Street. Nearby, there’s Kenmore Square, where you’ll find some pretty great museums, like the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall.
Best Places to Stay in Fenway
- BUDGET: Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Back Bay/Fenway – This is an extended-stay hotel near Fenway Park, with studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom suites. Each one has a kitchenette where you can save money by cooking at home rather than eating out. Perfect for when you’re traveling with groups!
- MID-RANGE: The Verb – This might be the hippest place to stay in Boston’s city center, complete with a large vinyl library exclusively for guests. There’s definitely a party vibe around the pool in the summer. It has wonderful rooms with natural light, art, and modern fixtures; free Wi-Fi; and a fantastic fitness center.
- LUXURY: Hotel Commonwealth – This swanky spot is the official hotel of the Boston Red Sox. The rooms are modern and ultra-luxurious, with plush covers and usually a couch. The on-site restaurant is the swanky Eastern Standard. The hotel also has a great lounge overlooking the city.
Best Neighborhood for History: North End
The North End neighborhood is Boston’s oldest and is commonly referred to as “Little Italy,” since it’s where all the Italian immigrants in the 19th century settled (as such, it has the best Italian food in town). This waterfront community has cobblestone streets and plenty of good reasons to visit, including the Paul Revere House and Christ (Old North) Church (with the oldest set of ringing bells in North America).
Best Places to Stay in the North End
- MID-RANGE: Battery Wharf Hotel – This place isn’t exactly budget, but the North End doesn’t really do budget. The rooms come with large TVs, free Wi-Fi, and impressively comfortable beds. The Aragosta Bar and Bistro serves a fantastic Italian breakfast, and the lobby lounge does cocktails and candy (seriously). Even better: the spa is top-notch.
- LUXURY: Boston Yacht Haven – If you want a room with a view, this is it. The Boston Yacht Haven is right on the water, and it even has its own marina (where you’ll definitely see a few super yachts around). The rooms are crazy posh, and if you can, request one with a harbor view and balcony. There’s free breakfast; other perks include free Wi-Fi, board games, and an in-room microwave and fridge.
Best Neighborhood for Arts and Culture: Cambridge/Harvard Square
Home to Harvard and MIT, Cambridge is a quintessential college town across the Charles River from Boston. With its grassy parks and tidy town squares, it might seem like a quiet place, but there’s a great arts scene, plenty of museums, and lots of live music. There’s a restaurant for every taste, and I think it’s one of the most culturally diverse parts of the city. This is the hip spot to be.
Best Places to Stay in Cambridge/Harvard Square
- BUDGET: Irving House at Harvard – This is more a B&B than anything else, with a cute and cozy atmosphere; rooms with comfy beds, a desk, and couches; a shared kitchen space; and on-site laundry facilities. It’s a peaceful place to stay.
- MID-RANGE: Porter Square Hotel – Near Harvard and MIT, Porter Square Hotel has a lovely patio and garden during the summer months. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard hotel, with spacious rooms and lots of natural light. It’s clean, has friendly staff, and is one of the more affordable hotels in the area.
- LUXURY: The Kendall Hotel – This gorgeous Victorian-style boutique hotel was built in 1894 and is located next to the MIT campus. Each room is decorated individually with unique art. The beds are wonderfully soft. The breakfast buffet is great, and there’s a “wine hour” each night on the rooftop. Splurge here!
Best Neighborhood for Return Visitors: Seaport
When I grew up, there was nothing here but the Children’s Museum and a lot of empty space. Now it’s one of the coolest parts of town, with tons of condos, high-end restaurants, fancy cocktail lounges, museums, the awesome outdoor space Lawn on D, and the Harpoon Brewery. Every time I come back here, I’m just shocked by the change that’s happened!
Best Places to Stay in Seaport
- BUDGET: Staypineapple at the Alise Boston – A trendy spot for young travelers, the Staypineapple has a lot of fun perks, like dog-friendly rooms and bicycle rentals. Fluffy towels and bathrobes are a nice touch.
- MID-RANGE: Encore Bed & Breakfast – Every contemporary room at this B&B has wonderful views of Boston’s skyline, as well as queen-sized beds and great in-room sound systems. A nice breakfast with fresh pastries and coffee is served each morning! Free Wi-Fi.
- LUXURY: Aloft Boston Seaport District – Aloft hotels are always a good idea, and this one is no exception. All rooms have their signature beds and large walk-in showers, and the WXYZ Bar is an awesome spot to grab an evening drink.
Best Neighborhood for Families: Brookline
Brookline is a big town, but part of it abuts Boston, and that area has a quiet, small-town feel. It’s not overly touristy, mostly a residential area with quiet streets and brick apartment buildings. Walk around and visit the many small shops and cafés, or grab lunch at one of the many amazing restaurants (like yummy quesadillas at El Centro). There’s a T (metro) line that runs through the area, so it’s easy to get downtown!
Best Places to Stay in Brookline
- BUDGET: Coolidge Corner Guest House – This little place is a gem! It’s in a quiet neighborhood, it’s comfortable, and the owners are friendly. The rooms have very traditional décor, and they are all different. It includes free breakfast too.
- MID-RANGE: Courtyard by Marriott Boston Brookline – All the rooms at the Courtyard come with a work desk, a nice seating area complete with a sofa, and a coffee maker. The fitness center has cardio machines and free weights.
- LUXURY: The Bertram Inn – This small inn has just 14 rooms. Each room is different: some are decorated with fancy beds (even with old-fashioned bed posts), curtains, and luxury leather chairs. Others are simple and floral. But they are all “old school” and antique. It’s super cozy…and super luxurious. The hotel also has massage services on-site and free Wi-Fi, as well as a lovely patio overlooking the garden.
Boston is one of the best cities in the country! Not only does it have picturesque neighborhoods and top-notch dining and bars but it is steeped in history. One of the things I love so much about Boston is that, for one of the biggest cities in the country, each neighborhood has its own small-town feel so you don’t feel like you’re in a giant metropolis. There’s also a ton of free things to do in Boston, so it won’t hit your wallet hard.
Book Your Trip to Boston: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com, as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
For a list of the best hostels, check out this post on the best hostels in the Boston!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use — and I think they will help you too!
Looking for more information on visiting Boston?
Check out my in-depth destination guide to Boston with more tips on what to see and do, costs, ways to save, and much, much more!