When someone gives you directions that start off with “you can’t get there from here,” you know you are in Boston. But aside from the maddening one-way systems and tangle of streets, the city has an extensive public transport system, grand cultural institutions, albion towers of academia and smugly bourgeois brick architecture that are permanently attractive to long-time residents and mini-fridge carrying university students alike.
What is it known for?
In many ways the history of Boston is the history
of the United States. Many of the nation's creation myths were born here, from “the
shot heard round the world” that began the American Revolution (in nearby
Lexington), to the tea party that has political resonance today. You can walk
the Freedom Trail (just follow
the red bricks!) that takes you through a tour of downtown Boston, past the Old North Church and the State
House to name a few historic spots.
But do not think that Bostonians
live in the past. With 52 colleges and universities, every autumn thousands of
fresh-faced students descend on the city to begin their higher education — and
sometimes even begin their studies. Yes there a lot of baseball-hat-wearing
students investigating the bottom of a pint glass, but there are also amazing
innovations at institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology media
lab. And the city’s high energy can be attributed to the young people rowing up
the Charles River and walking down Boylston Street.
Boston has a number of fine
cultural institutions like the Isabella
Stewart Gardner Museum, which recently opened a new Renzo Piano-designed
wing, and the annually televised Fourth of July celebrations. There is also a thriving
dining and nightlife scene influenced by the young population, but does not
only cater to it.
Where do you want to live?
Boston stretches west along the Charles River and
south from Boston Harbor with Cambridge across the river and the suburbs
enclosing the city in a “C” shape. Downtown is perennially popular, especially
now that the Big Dig (the decades-long, extremely expensive project to submerge
the highway that cut through downtown Boston) is finished. "The downtown
neighbourhoods are surging and prices are moving up in both sales and
rentals," said John Ranco, a Boston real estate agent. "There are
three to five new high-rises and more building is in the works." These
full-service downtown buildings are popular with empty nesters, as is the Back
Young professionals have been
moving into the brick terraced houses of South End for awhile now and are
starting to populate South Boston, which is rapidly shifting and still
provides value for the money. The areas nearest the T subway lines and the
financial district have seen a lot of new construction, and near Castle Island
and the harbour many of the classic multi-family homes have been renovated.
Families often look in Charlestown
or Brookline for the schools, depending on their budget, or move to nearby
suburbs such as Watertown, Waltham and Newton. The neighbourhoods of Allston
and Brighton (near Boston University and parts of the Harvard campus) are known
for their many rentals and high student ratio, which means they have lots of
lively bars and restaurants, and a slightly transient nature. In fact, 1
September, when all of the students move in and out of their apartments, is
known as Allstonmas (or the Allston Christmas), because of the plentiful
furniture that they leave curbside.
Boston is close to many of New England's most
beautiful spots, from Henry David Thoreau’s beloved Walden Pond to the Maine
coast. In the summer many residents head to Cape Cod and Newport, Rhode
Island. In winter, the ski resorts of Vermont and the White Mountains of New
Hampshire are just a couple of hours away.
The shuttle from Logan airport
flies to New York every hour, and there is also the Acela, the higher speed
train that does the trip in less than three hours. Direct flights to London and
Paris are about six and seven hours away, respectively, and Miami is a
Boston has suffered a housing downturn like the
rest of the US. "Unit sales are flat, but because inventory in most areas
of the city is very low, prices are positioned to rise," said Ranco. Meanwhile
rents are rising around the city, having gone up more than 12% since 2005,
compared to the 16% drop in sale prices from the same period.
The average rent in the city -- the
fifth most expensive rental market in the country -- is $1,686, while a two-bed
condo downtown starts around $2,500 a month. Buyers should expect similar
properties to start at about $575,000.
Boston Phoenix: longstanding alternative weekly
known for its culture criticism and coverage
Boston: restaurant openings, reviews and chef
news around town
Hub: blog covering “all Boston, all the
time”, plus a humorous pronunciation guide to “Boston English”