What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of living in Boston, Massachusetts? Cream pies, Fenway, Park, Boston Pops? Or maybe you’re thinking of notable historical sights or Boston’s many exclusive colleges.
Whatever comes to mind, we are here to tell you that living in Boston is a treat. There’s so much more to this diverse and eclectic metro area than most folks realize.
If you’re considering moving to Boston, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of some of the pros and cons of living in Boston to help make your decision easier.
Read on for an honest breakdown of daily life in Boston
The Honest Pros & Cons of Living in Boston
With a population exceeding 685,000, Boston offers many of the conveniences and amenities of big city life while retaining a small-town feel in a plethora of neighborhoods.
This is largely thanks to tight knit communities and walkability, but look at me already getting ahead of myself.
Let’s cover everything you need to know.
Note: This post is part of the Local Living Series, wherein locals share honest insights of living in a specific city through comprehensive pros and cons lists. If you’d like to reach out to the author directly with questions, please do so in the comments below and our team will ensure it gets to the right person.
Pros of Living in Boston
#1. Location, location, location
Moving to Boston means living in a great central location for travel throughout the Northeastern United States. You’ll have easy access to several beaches, coveted vacation destinations (New England fall color) and will be in close proximity to nearby metropolises, such as New York City and Philadelphia.
Boston is a great starting spot for day trips to destinations such as Salem, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Plymouth Plantation and much more. New York City, while not quite a day trip, is accessible in a four hour drive.
In short, you’ll never have a reason to be bored when living in Boston. Plus, the icing on the cake is that Boston’s Logan Airport provides easy access to domestic and international flights.
#2. Cultural opportunities and experiences
If you’re a history lover, a music fan, or an arts fanatic, you’ll be astounded by the cultural opportunities available while living in Boston.
Boston’s architecture documents the history of one of the United States’ first major cities.
For a city of its size, it has an astounding number of museums – 58 – and that doesn’t even include the many galleries and freestanding historical buildings around the city.
And you better believe that while living in Boston, you’ll have access to numerous historical buildings, sights and cities – including Salem, Massachusetts, known for the witch trials of the 1690s.
#3. Extensive public transportation system
Boston is home to America’s first subway system, which was built in 1897. As the city grew up around the subway, routes were continually expanded to include new neighborhoods.
Public transportation in Boston is excellent, and it is entirely possible to live in the city without owning a car. Considering the high cost of living in Boston, this can be a great money-saver, particularly for students.
The subway system is generally safe and runs on a regular schedule.
#4. Boston is safe
US News recently rated Boston as the 13th safest place to live in America, based upon crime statistics and residents’ own reports.
Essentially, living in Boston is safer thank most cities of its size or larger. US News further reports that, in 2020, Boston’s violent crime rate was lower than the national average (which includes not just large cities, but smaller towns and rural areas as well.)
So if you’re moving to Boston with a family in tow, consider it a good move!
#5. The food scene
Boston is a diverse city with numerous ethnic neighborhoods, and is particularly famed for its fresh seafood and Italian cuisine.
Those living in Boston might point out, however, that you’d better not miss the Italian food in the North End or the incredible Asian cuisine of Chinatown. With more than 3,000 restaurants, there is definitely something for everyone.
Interested to try Boston’s dining scene for yourself? Check out this helpful article on the best outdoor dining options in Boston!
#6. Educational opportunities
While Boston is known for its phenomenal colleges and universities, there are many public school options in the Boston metro area that are also equally unparalleled.
The Boston Latin School, for example, is a public exam-entry school that is ranked number 36 in the entire nation by US News. As one of the first public schools in the US, its alumni list is filled with a who’s who of history, including Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name a few.
#7. Comfortable summers
The winters in Boston might be frightful, but the summers are pleasant and mild. Average summer temperatures range from the mid-70s to high-80s with very few, if any days, getting into the 90s.
#8. Diverse neighborhoods
Boston is a city made up of many distinct neighborhoods. Whether you prefer somewhere laid-back and artsy, a fast-paced lifestyle, or a historically ethnic neighborhood, you’ll can find something to meet your needs when moving to Boston.
A few of the more famous Boston neighborhoods include the North End, a historically Italian neighborhood, and Chinatown, which is home to a large Asian population.
#9. Public green spaces
If you’re looking to get away from the concrete of the city, you’ll find an abundance of green space when living in Boston.
Large public parks, lakes and other green spaces abound and include spots like the famous Boston Common, Fenway Gardens, the Esplanade and Greenways.
Boston Commons is known for its history as America’s first public park, and for it’s iconic swan boats.
#10. Strong Economy
Boston has a thriving economy with a strong jobs market with particularly abundant opportunities in innovation and tech, education, and finance sectors.
A 2018 report named Boston the American city with the “fastest growth in job opportunities” in the nation.
#11. Healthy lifestyle
Boston residents enjoy a high quality of life and standard of living with access to excellent medical care. Massachusetts General Hospital, is ranked the 3rd best hospital in America.
Boston is home to many innovative medical programs and exceptional doctors and surgeons, which means you’ll be in good hands should you need medical care.
#12. Sports culture
Love ’em or hate ’em, Boston is home to two of America’s most famous sports teams, The Boston Red Sox and The Celtics. Fenway Park is the oldest – and arguably most famous – stadium in MLB (Major League Baseball), so you’ll have no shortage of great games to catch.
The spots culture is very much alive and well in Boston, so pick a team to root for and go all out!
Cons of Living in Boston
#1. Cost of living
Moving to Boston on a budget? It will be tough.
Living in Boston has always been expensive and the cost of living continues to increase yearly. Whether buying or renting, it’s a challenge to find an affordable living situation in many of Boston’s popular neighborhoods.
Boston’s housing costs are 48% higher than the US average, with the average rent in 2020 coming in at just over $3,400. Students in the city frequently start out in dorms or with multiple roommates to ease the financial pressure of daily life in Boston.
#2. Bitter winters
Living in Boston in the summer is a breeze. The real test comes when winter hits!
The average winter temperatures hover around freezing, with occasional bouts of below-freezing dips. It’s not unusual to have snow and ice that lasts into March, or even April. Mercy!
Boston’s average snowfall in January (based on the past thirty years) is just under thirteen inches. Of course, the number of inches in any given year can fluctuate greatly from that average number.
The short of it is, you can expect lots of snow and bitter winds for several months of the year when living in Boston.
#3. Nightmare traffic
All those jokes you’ve heard about driving in Boston aren’t too far off base. Boston is not an easy town to navigate. Unlike New York City, Boston is not set up on a grid system.
Streets run every which way and roundabouts are common. For many years, studies have ranked it the worst traffic congestion problem in the US, with commuters losing an average of nearly 150 hours per year in traffic.
#4. Parking is a headache
Parking in Boston is both expensive and difficult. Finding spots in neighborhoods or business districts can be impossible, and where they do exist, you can plan on paying a high premium.
Many people opt to pay a monthly fee for parking, rather than struggle to find street parking at their residence. So if you’re moving to Boston with a car in town, make sure to account for the high cost of car ownership + parking while living in Boston.
#5. Lackluster nightlife
If you’re moving to Boston for nightlife, you might be disappointed. Clubs and bars close at 2 AM or earlier. Because of the overall high cost of living, you’ll also find that drinking gets very expensive very quickly.
#6. Expensive flights
Logan Airport may be easy to get to, but it’s also a smaller airport which does not serve as a hub for any of the major airlines.
This equates to more expensive flights, which can really add up if you’re a regular traveler. While flights run regularly, on average, tickets are more expensive than from neighboring airports.
#7. Difficult landlords
Finding and securing rental unit when moving to Boston can be incredibly tricky. Because of the influx of students and the incredibly competitive rental market, you’ll find lots of inexperienced landlords and – unfortunately – some who are quick to take advantage of renters.
It’s especially important to carefully review leases and rental contracts, and many new renters hire a real estate agent to help navigate the process.
#8. Fitting in can take time
While the stereotypes of Bostonians as prickly and grumpy are not – by and large – true, neighborhoods tend to be close-knit and more reluctant towards outsiders.
It takes time to adjust to any new city, and many new Boston residents report that, at first, it can be a little lonely.
Boston natives can take a little longer to warm up, partly due to the ever-rotating cast of students that filter through the city. It’s a place with a lot of turnover.
#9. Smaller living spaces.
You know that whole high-cost-of-living in Boston thing we keep bringing up? Keep in mind that it also equates to getting a smaller space for your money.
Whether you’re renting or buying after moving to Boston, odds are that you are going to end up with a much smaller home for the money than you would have in many other cities.
With Boston’s rental cost averaging in at around $4.25 per square foot, many residents might gladly take the smaller space for the monetary savings.
#10. Lots of walking
Arguably, this could be a pro or a con of living in Boston. If you’re coming from a city where you’re used to parking your car and walking right into a business, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Whether you take public transport or have to find a parking spot at your destination, you are likely going to be doing a great deal of walking in your everyday life.
Summer walking can be great, but you may find yourself cursing it come winter. 25% of Boston commuters walk at least half a mile each way to work, whether coming from a train or bus stop or walking from home.
If you’re not a fan of getting real up close and personal with your neighbors, living in Boston might not be for you. The greater Boston area is the third most densely populated city in the United States!
The city of Boston takes up substantially less land than most other cities with its population. Stores and services are crammed in close together, and you can expect to find a crowd just about everywhere you go.
#12. Limited daylight hours
Boston’s northern location means that during a large portion of the year, it begins getting dark in the late afternoon. While this may not be a big deal for some, it can be quite disruptive to many people’s internal clocks and leave them feeling drained or tired.
Between the few hours of daylight, cold weather, and rain, the climate and lack of sun can exacerbate SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms for some individuals.
However, there are ways around SAD while living in Boston — invest in a Happy Light – here’s the one I use daily.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Boston (Post Summary)
There you have it; a few compelling arguments in regards to moving to Boston. To recap, here’s the complete list of the pros and cons of living in Boston.
- Great location
- Cultural and educational opportunities
- Great food scene
- Serviceable public transportation
- Eclectic neighborhoods
- Thriving job market
- Green spaces
- Balmy summers
- High cost of living
- Bitter winters
- Boston traffic
- Difficult and expensive parking
- Lackluster nightlife options
- Expensive flights
- Difficult landlords
- Small living spaces
- Steep curve for making friends
- Lots of walking
- Dense neighborhoods
- Limited daylight hours
Of course, in the end, only you can be the one to decide which city best matches up with your own personal needs, budget and personality.
What one person considers a pro, another might think of as a con. Boston is just one of many great cities throughout the U.S. Best of luck to you in finding the perfect place to hang your hat!
Redfin featured Embrace Someplace in their recent article: What is Boston Known For? 12
Things That Will Make You Fall in Love With the City | Redfin
Let us know if you have any questions or comments in the section below. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you!
MARK SUTHERLAND says
Spot on!!!! YES ( LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION) ROXBURY #1 RESTUARANT, MBTA, then again spot on LANDLORDS, FITTINGS IN, COST, PARKING
Tom heels says
Born in Boston..love it
This is a VERY accurate description of our experience. The city has a great vibe & we’re making the best of it!
We recently moved to Boston and this is exactly how I would describe it…making the best of it lol
Thanks! It really helped
Patrick Richard says
To me, at age 70, the fantastic de-stresser of a city like Boston, is : using the subway ! Live near a subway station and you’ve got it made. In my opinion that also offsets just about any other nightmarish prices of living there. Think about only that for a moment : No car means a) no tickets, b) no parking nightmare ever, c) no windshield ice scraping marathons, d) saving time (of no parking, no mechanics, no mechanical problems that strand you), e) no mechanical costs (besides no mechanics, no PARTS to order), f) no insurance. There are so many transportation options in the area why would a car be of much use. Take a bus or subway to a car rental and drive somewhere nearby like the lakes of western Mass. and New Hampshire, the beaches of the cape. Where my wife and I currently live in Manhattan, when we go to the supermarket, we take a rolling flight bag and a backpack and that should do for at least a weeksworth of groceries. Boston subway lines should get you near or exactly to a market. Unlike Manhattan, you’d have to dress like an Eskimo if you have to walk in Boston’s winter. Share a flat’s cost with two hand-picked housemates. I’ve only visited Boston many times (from New Hampshire) or at other times, but to me, it is nearly the finest city in the US for all that it has.
Sarah Marie says
Boston is absolutely amazing but there is a little bit of elitism that makes it a little unbearable at times. Also, moving to Boston is absolutely nuts – parking permits and Storrow Drive. After our initial nightmare move, we hired Monster Movers and they were awesome.
Justin Credible says
Boston is boring. I live in MA. I grew up going into Boston on weekends and other parts of New England. Living in the suburbs is better. Anywhere in eastern MA is a close drive to Boston except Cape Cod. You get a much more affordable cost of living in the suburbs and higher quality of life.
I live in a coastal tourist town in southeastern MA. I have a middle-class economy and enjoy my home and town. I would not be able to be a home owner if I lived in Boston. Poverty and crime is much higher in Boston compared to the suburbs. The worst parts of Boston are for American Blacks and Hispanics (think Dorchester and Roxbury).
I am Hispanic from foreign born parents. The best thing my parents did for their family is move to the U.S. and move out of Boston. Boston is highly segregated. Boston has a slight cosmopolitan feel to it. Compared to major cities of the world like Rome, Buenos Aries, Tokyo, Mumbai etc, Boston is nothing special.
You will visit more places in the world living in a affordable town and traveling on vacation. If you move to a famous city of the world you often are stuck there because the cost of living is so high. Live in a small town and see the world on your free time.
James Edward Flynn says
You didn’t mention the best 4th of July celebration in the country. D.c. not even close.
I love the info that has been passed on here. I spent a good deal of time in Boston when I was younger with my work. I am now wondering about retiring in Boston. I am wondering if there are Senior rental units throughout the city. Also wondering about the cost. Any info you can give me would be much appreciated.
Thank you, Madam ! You made some intersting points ! Boston in summmertime looks very nice too me !