Boston is a city of neighborhoods. Beacon Hill dates from the 18th century and features cobblestone streets, gaslights and brick front Georgian townhouses. Back Bay was built a century later by the Boston elite and contains gorgeous Victorian townhouses with wide streets and small front gardens. It also includes the fanciest shopping area in Boston, along lower Newbury and Boylston streets plus the Prudential Center and Copley Place shopping centers. The old North End, which dates from Colonial times, still retains much of its strong Italian heritage. The South End is a vibrant newly restored, cosmopolitan district and includes the Theater District and many of the best restaurants. Bay Village is a charming historic part of the South End. The Harbor area is also newly renovated. Many wharves have been recycled as high-end condominiums. Chinatown is Boston’s center for the Asian community. The Fenway area, which is closest to the hospitals and includes Fenway Ball Park, has a particularly high concentration of student housing, cultural organizations and parkland.
Charlestown, Brighton, Allston, South Boston, East Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Hyde Park and Roslindale are other Boston neighborhoods. These are described in more detail at the Boston Neighborhoods website. Some housestaff have recently purchased homes in parts of Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and Dedham, which are reasonably close to the Longwood Medical Area.
Brookline is a very high quality suburb that begins just 3 blocks west of the Longwood Medical Area. It has superb schools and shops and multiple subway lines. Although homes in Brookline are extraordinarily expensive, condominiums and apartments are more reasonably priced, and many interns and residents live there.
Cambridge lies just across the Charles River from Boston and is home to Harvard University and MIT. Many housestaff enjoy the intellectual ferment of Cambridge and live in the residential areas near Harvard Square. There is a regular shuttle bus from Harvard Square to Harvard Medical School and good subway connections.
For those interested in identifying the most prestigious communities, a list of towns with the most millionaires is available. Similarly, there is a useful map defining the level of education of those who live in various communities throughout metropolitan Boston.
The website Jumpshell has useful information about Boston area neighborhoods and median rental prices.
Greater Boston is actually a conglomerate of over 100 small to medium-sized towns and villages, most of which were incorporated in the 17th and 18th centuries. As such it differs greatly from the more homogeneous towns in many other parts of the country, because each of the Greater Boston communities has its own character, government and school system. The range of variation is quite remarkable. Marblehead is centered on sailing, Lincoln and Hamilton on horseback riding, Lexington and Concord on colonial history, and so on. The Boston Globe contains many tables of useful facts about local towns. In addition, Children’s Hospital has created a downloadable brochure that contains useful advice and data about local communities, transportation, relevant phone numbers, housing searches, the CHB Lease Guarantee Program, Harvard and Children’s housing resources and voter registration.