Photo by Funky Tee, under Creative Commons public license

When you arrive in Boston, you will be amazed at the variety of neighborhoods that exist within a relatively small area. While these neighborhoods flow from one to the next, sometimes separated only by a stop on the “T” (Boston’s subway system), each section of the city has its own character and ambiance. This diversity of locales creates a wonderful opportunity to go back in time as you see historical sites, take in the local cultures, and taste foods from around the world. I challenge you to visit as many of these neighborhoods as possible during your free time in Boston.

South Boston/Seaport District

This is not just the home of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the area, this part of Boston is well-known for the working class Irish who still live there today. There are now also Lithuanian and Polish communities found here. Several historical sites can be visited in this neighborhood including Fort Point, Dorchester Heights, and Fort Independence on Castle Island.


Historical landmarks are tucked in-between modern architecture in this central part of the city. Many Bostonians can be found here as civic employees at Government Center or young professionals working in the Financial District, both subdivisions of this neighborhood. They mingle with the tourists who stop at Faneuil Hall to watch the street performers or get a quick bite at Quincy Market. The Theater District is also located here if you are arriving early and are hoping to see a show, the ballet, or even an opera.

Photo by Wolfrage, under Creative Commons public license
North End


Located next to Government Center, this section of the city is heavily influenced by Italian immigrants and is filled with many fine restaurants, cafés, and pastry shops. The home of midnight rider Paul Revere can also be found here, along with the Old North Church, both important landmarks dating back to our country’s Revolutionary War. It’s the perfect place to sit at a sidewalk café and enjoy an espresso or cannoli or both!

Beacon Hill

This prestigious neighborhood hosts many of Boston’s public figures, which coincides with the fact that the Massachusetts Statehouse can be found here as well. The tree-lined, cobblestone streets with red brick brownstones create a picturesque, pristine atmosphere that draws many a tourist for a wonderful photo op. Be sure to take a stroll down Charles Street, right at the corner where the Boston Common and the Public Garden connect, and enjoy the boutiques and antique shops along the way.

Back Bay

Another centrally located neighborhood, this busy area of town is home to Copley Place, the Boston Public Library, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, one of Boston’s major parkways, which is divided by a grassy, tree-lined median and holds several statues of historical figures from Boston’s past. This area of town has wonderful shopping opportunities on Newbury Street for the high-end shopper or throughout the Prudential Center mall for the tourist. Boylston Street cuts through this neighborhood and is home to many great restaurants and bars if you are looking for a place to unwind after a busy day.

Photo by David Ohmer, under Creative Commons public license

With several universities nearby and with the location of Fenway Park, this area of town is usually hopping until late into the night. There are several nightclubs, bars, and restaurants here, and it is the perfect place for a younger crowd. If you are looking to take a stroll, the Fens is a green walkway throughout this part of town that connects to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Longwood Medical area is also a part of this neighborhood where people travel from all over the world to see doctors at one of the many prestigious hospitals located here.

The list of neighborhoods in Boston continues – Chinatown/the Leather District is one of the most densely populated districts and home to numerous Chinese and Vietnamese markets and restaurants. The South End is a diverse neighborhood with several art galleries and cute shops. If you are looking for a place to eat in this area, don’t miss Restaurant Row on Tremont Street between Berkley and Mass Avenue. Charlestown hosts the famous Bunker Hill memorial.

Although not technically in Boston, I can’t complete this list without mentioning a few nearby towns. In Cambridge one can visit Harvard Square to see the street musicians; tour the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Harvard University; and enjoy a good meal at one of the diverse restaurants in town. Somerville has Davis Square, another popular nightlife spot with live music and late-night restaurants. Brookline, down the street from Kenmore Square, has Coolidge Corner, with quaint boutiques and numerous bookstores. All three areas are accessible by the “T.”

Clare O'BrienClare O'Brien is the Local Arrangements Team (LAT) communications chair for the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference & Expo. Originally from Buffalo, New York, Clare has lived in the Boston area for more than 20 years. She spent close to 10 years overseeing international student advising and study abroad at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and worked as an international educator in Wisconsin, New York, and Massachusetts while she earned both her master's and doctorate degrees. Clare currently works part-time as an international education consultant where she has assisted several local universities and third-party providers. She is also coediting an anthology of short stories titled From Bangkok to Boston: Inspiring Stories of Travel and Adventure from International Educators.