Affectionately called Beantown, this Massachusetts city is the unofficial student capital of the United States, with an energetic college population and ample green spaces.

This article is the third in a series featuring the top five cities for students around the globe in 2012, determined by QS. A number of factors were considered in the organization’s ranking, including educational institutions, quality of living, affordability and employer activity. Boston came in third.

Boston, Massachusetts -- affectionately called Beantown -- is the unofficial student capital of the United States, with the greater Boston area containing some of the most distinguished universities in the world, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With their renown attracting some of the brightest students from around the globe, the heart of New England is young, energetic and bustling. But the historic city has tranquil pockets as well, with quiet corners and ample green spaces.  About 20% of students are international, and more than 500 international employers are present and hiring within Boston – substantially more than the other top-ranked student cities -- offering attractive post-graduate prospects within the city.

Best spots
The Fenway area -- home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team -- attracts students from nearby Boston College (BC) and Boston University (BU). On game days, the neighbourhood’s numerous sports bars, such as Jerry Remy’s, Who’s on First and the cavernous, bowling alley-filled Jillian’s, are packed with college students fraternising over beers.

Located in Cambridge, a neighbourhood across the Charles River from downtown Boston, the Harvard Square area is a popular gathering spot for Harvard and MIT students, with several restaurants serving up affordable, tasty grub. Favourite choices include burritos at Felipe’s, burgers at Mr Bartley’s, frozen yogurt at BerryLine and steaming slices at Pinnochio’s Pizza and Subs (locally called “Noch’s”). College kids also fill the tables at Hong Kong, a hip restaurant, lounge and nightclub in Faneuil Hall and Daedalus, a gastropub in Harvard Square that has an attractive outdoor patio area.

The Cleveland Circle area, situated at the west end of the city, is popular with BC students who flock to local cafes during the day and head out to beloved dive bars like Mary Ann’s at night. In the Davis Square neighbourhood, spots like the Burren pub serve a similar purpose for Tufts students. The Allston/Brighton area, located in the city’s northwestern corner, is home to student-friendly establishments such as  Harry’s Bar and Grill, a sports bar with weekly discount specials and Common Ground, a bar that often throws  ‘90s nights and Millennium parties.

Student activities
Boston’s most anticipated college events are the universities’ annual music festivals – like Yardfest at Harvard and Spring Fling at Tufts University -- during which big-name headliners perform free concerts before the spring semester ends. Many Harvard activities, including trivia and karaoke nights, take place at Queen’s Head Pub, a student-run campus watering hole that is cheaper than most bars in the area.

One of the greatest advantages of living in a city with a sizable student population is the chance to appreciate the many talents, projects and extracurricular activities at other universities. The Berklee College of Music, which attracts top international talent and counts the band Passion Pit among its alumni, often organises free student performances in such picture-perfect locations as the Boston Harbor National Park. The free-to-watch boating regattas on the Charles River are also well-attended on fair-weather race days, when students cheer on their classmates, with Boston College students making a strong showing. The river is also the site of the world’s largest two-day rowing event, Head of the Charles Regatta, which takes place every October.

Many of Boston’s universities regularly bring eminent speakers to their campuses. One ongoing series is Harvard Thinks Big, reminiscent of the famous TED talks series but featuring Harvard professors. Such events are generally advertised around college campuses or listed on university websites.

Student discounts
The Museum of Fine Arts, one of Boston’s leading cultural institutions, is free for students carrying ID from one of the many schools in the city and the museum’s special exhibits and film screenings are discounted for students.

The historic Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the New England Aquarium offer discounts for all university students, while admission to Harvard’s museums -- of which the Harvard Museum of Natural History is a stand-out -- is free for Harvard students and discounted for all other college kids. Even movie theatres like Regal Cinemas Fenway and AMC Loews Boston Common cut students a discount.

Day trips
During the warmer months of May to September, many students head to the serene beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and coastal Newport, Rhode Island. Cape Cod, located about 70 miles southeast of the city, can be reached by ferry or bus, and Newport, located the same distance south, has coaches from Boston.

A common day trip around Halloween, 31 October, is to travel the 18 miles north from Boston to Salem, Massachusetts, which was the site of a massive witch hunt and subsequent trials in the 1600s and is usually especially decked out for the holiday. For outdoor enthusiasts or literature buffs, Walden Pond is also worth a stop. Located one mile from the Concord train station, about 20 miles from Boston, it is the site of famed author Henry David Thoreau’s temporary self-exile and experiment in simple living, which was documented in his iconic work Walden. Boston also has a number of ski resorts within a few hours of the city including Mount Sunapee, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area and Blue Hills Ski Area, and some universities such as Brandeis and Boston College organise shuttles that take students to the Wrentham outlets for a day of discounted shopping.

Travelling on a budget
Boston’s metro system, called the T, is fairly convenient, though there are pockets of the city like South Boston where coverage is sparse. Most of the city’s universities offer discounted monthly or semester-long passes for students who anticipate crisscrossing the city regularly.

A favoured mode of transport among all college students is cycling, and those without wheels of their own can take advantage of Boston’s new pay-as-you-go bike sharing program, Hubway. Owning a car in the city is difficult since parking is pricey and difficult to find, but many universities have formed discount partnerships with ZipCar, a convenient car rental program aimed at those who want to get out of the city for a short break or transport their groceries from the supermarket.