Where to Stay in Boston for College Visits

MIT building with big columns
MIT campus

Boston is home to some world-renowned colleges, and you can experience dozens of campuses in one visit to the city. Unfortunately, the schools are spread across the city, so this post will help you find the ideal starting point for your visits, especially if you plan to take public transport.

I lived in Boston for 3 years, and I work at an EdTech startup that helps students get into college, so this is right in my area of expertise.

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FAQs About Visiting Colleges in Boston

I’m visiting a lot of colleges—what’s the best place to stay?

It ultimately depends on which colleges, but I’d recommend downtown Boston since you’ll have access to all the T lines (that’s what locals call the subway system) as well as Commuter Rail lines (if you’re visiting campuses further outside the city).

In particular, staying near the Park St or Downtown Crossing T stops will get you easy access to the Green, Red, and Orange lines; plus, South Station is close too. HI Boston Hostel is a budget option near here, while The Godfrey Hotel is nicer, more traditional hotel stay.

What is the cheapest place to stay that still gives me access to a lot of campuses?

Unfortunately, the most convenient area (downtown Boston) is the most expensive. If you want more budget options, I recommend staying along the 66 bus line (particularly in Cambridge), as the line runs on both sides of the Charles River, giving you easy access to Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Northeastern, Berklee, and Wentworth.

Here are some hotel options in Harvard Square, which is the last stop of the 66 bus. Irving House tends to be the most affordable option.

Harvard and MIT

T line: Red

Colorful trees in Harvard Yard in the fall
Harvard Yard, via ecbcreates on Shutterstock

Harvard and MIT, two of the most prestigious universities in the world, are only a little over a mile away from each other. They’re on the other side of the Charles River in Cambridge, which is technically a city of its own, but very much integrated with Boston infrastructure.

Central Square in Cambridge is a fun and bustling place to stay, and cheaper than downtown Boston. It’s right between the two schools, and you can walk or take a bus between two campuses. The Red Line will take you directly into the city, and the 66 bus from Harvard will take you to the other side of the river to easily visit other schools. Le Meridien is a popular hotel option, as it’s close to both campuses and has cool amenities like a rooftop garden and 24hr gym.

For a cheaper, but still convenient stay, you can find a hotel further into Cambridge, along the Red Line. Other popular squares include Porter Square and Davis Square (Porter is more commercial, and Davis is more residential and has more independent shops). Porter Square Hotel is quite charming, but there are also many apartment rentals in the area if you need more space.

If you want to specifically be near Harvard, then you can’t beat Harvard Square. You’ll get to experience life as a student, and the square is full of great restaurants and shops. The Charles Hotel at Harvard is a popular stay, thanks to its elegant interior (including a beautiful library).

If you want to specifically be near MIT, then Kendall Square or a hotel along the river would be the best options. I’d recommend Hyatt Regency Boston/Cambridge for proximity to campus, great service, and river views.

Northeastern, Berklee College, Wentworth Institute of Technology

T line: Green (E), Orange (a short walk)

Walkway and buildings at Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Northeastern University, via Depositphotos

This trifecta is within walking distance of one another, so I grouped them together. The most pleasant place to stay for these 3 schools would be back Back Bay—it’s central, pretty, and bustling. You can walk to the campuses or take the T easily.

For hotels there, The Lenox is one of the most popular and right next to the beautiful Boston Public Library; see my top recommendations for Back Bay hotels for more options.

A more budget option would be Mission Hill, which is a residential area closer to Northeastern and Wentworth. Here are some apartment rentals in Mission Hill, but make sure to pick options close to the T.

There are two other neighborhoods you can consider, but I wouldn’t particularly recommend them:

  • South End (expensive)—this is a very posh and artsy residential area, but only the border with Back Bay has easy access to the T. The Revolution Hotel is a more budget-friendly but still solid option that’s only a few blocks from the T.
  • Roxbury (budget)—there are fewer things to do here, and there aren’t really any T stops unless you’re on the outskirts near the Orange line. This area also has a higher violent crime rate than other areas in Greater Boston (people say it’s safe if you’re smart, but you should just keep this in mind). For popular hotels here, Residence Inn is well-reviewed.

Boston University

T line: Green (B, but all can work)

Boston University Bridge with the city skyline in the background and a biker going by
BU Bridge

Boston University is right along the Charles River, and there are lots of options for places to stay. Back Bay is again the nicest option, giving you easy access to campus and the city.

Other solid locations include:

  • Fenway/Kenmore: This central area has plenty of shops and restaurants. Stay here if you want more of the big city feel. The Verb Hotel is a particularly cool, music-themed stay with retro rooms.

  • Brookline: Brookline is quiet, residential, and beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s on another T line, but if you stay close to Amory Park, BU is walking distance. The Arcadian Hotel has mixed reviews, but its location is good, and you may get a good deal on room rates.

  • Cambridgeport: Just across the river, Cambridgeport is residential and quiet. To get to BU’s campus, you can walk across the BU bridge (and get amazing views of the Boston skyline). I recommend Hyatt Regency Boston/Cambridge as it’s right along the river and less than a mile’s walk to BU. This hotel is perfect if you’re visiting both BU and MIT.

  • Allston: This is a younger neighborhood with lots of murals and ethnic food. I would avoid Lower Allston only because it’s not well-connected by transport. The Farrington Inn is pretty much the only option in central Allston, and while it’s budget, it has very mixed reviews.

Boston College

T line: Green (B, C)

Sunset at Chestnut Hill Reservoir
Chestnut Hill Reservoir on BC’s campus

Brookline—This area (technically its own city) is quiet, beautiful, and residential. Stay around the Cleveland Circle area for access to small shops/restaurants and BC’s campus (Chestnut Hill Reservoir is perfect for morning runs). AC Hotel by Marriott For a more commercial/fun area, I recommend Coolidge Corner, which is closer to downtown Boston. Courtyard by Marriott is a good hotel option here.

Brighton—Many BC students live in Brighton; it’s close to campus and you can get into downtown Boston in 40 minutes. Make sure to stay near the B line, or you’ll have to rely on buses, which take longer. Here are some apartment rentals in Brighton.

Allston—This young neighborhood is home to lots of street art and ethnic food. Avoid Lower Allston only because it’s not well-connected by transport. The Farrington Inn is pretty much the only option in central Allston, and while it’s budget, it has very mixed reviews.

Tufts University

T line: Green (E)

West Hall on Tufts University Campus
Tufts University, via Daderot

Tufts is in a residential area in Medford, which, frankly, isn’t the most exciting place to stay (I lived in Medford for a few months). There aren’t even any hotels close to campus, but there are a few apartment rentals. However, the nice thing about Medford is the new Green line extension right on campus, which gets you into the city in 25 minutes.

For a more fun but still lower-cost location, try Gilman Square in Somerville. There are lots of independent shops and restaurants within walking distance (near Union Square), and you’ll be on-campus in 10 minutes with the T. Here are some apartment rentals in the area.

For the most central location with easy access to Tufts, the area around North Station is your best bet. You’ll make it to campus in 20 minutes while being in the heart of the city. An extra convenient hotel is citizenM Boston North Station, which is right above the station and offers skyline views and modern design.

Brandeis University and Bentley University

Commuter Rail: Fitchburg line from North Station

These two universities are actually not accessible with Boston’s local transportation system; you have to take the Commuter Rail. You can stay directly in the college town of Waltham, which has several apartment rentals (the hotels are further away from campus). The Commuter Rail even gets you into downtown Boston in 25 minutes, but keep in mind it’s not as frequent as the T.

If you’re visiting other colleges, it’ll be more convenient to stay near North Station in Boston, as you’ll be able to easily take both the Commuter Rail and the T. The hotel citizenM Boston North Station is right above the station and offers skyline views and modern design.

Wellesley College

Commuter Rail: Framingham/Worcester line from Back Bay

Margaret Clapp Library Wellesley
Margaret Clapp Library, via Daderot

Wellesley’s charming campus is in a similarly sweet college town. I lived in Wellesley for a summer, and there are quite a few shops and restaurants on Central Street, the main street going through town. If you’re only visiting Wellesley, it’s not a bad idea to stay in the town and get a feel for it (here are some apartment rentals). You can get to Back Bay in Boston with the Commuter Rail in 35 minutes.

However, if you’re visiting other schools, it’s better to stay in Back Bay. This Boston neighborhood is my top-recommended place to stay in general, as it’s conveniently-located, full of things to do, and home to quaint buildings. The Lenox is one of the most popular and right next to the beautiful Boston Public Library; see my top suggested Back Bay hotels for more options.

UMass Boston

T line: Red

UMass Boston is in the Southern part of the city, right by the water and near popular beaches. You can stay right next to campus, close to the JFK/UMass T stop in Dorchester (DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Boston Bayside is a good option). However, the area is near a major highway, so be aware that there could be some traffic noise if you stay in this area.

If you’re visiting other colleges, staying closer to downtown will save you some time. The Downtown Crossing and Park St stops on the Red Line can transfer you to the Green and Orange lines. HI Boston Hostel is a budget option, while The Godfrey Hotel is a more posh stay.

South Boston is also close to UMass campus, but most of the area is far from the T, and there’s not as much to do. However, there are a lot of apartment rentals, so you may still find an option near the T.

Bunker Hill Community College

T line: Orange

Bunker Hill Community College is in residential Charlestown, a historic neighborhood north of downtown Boston. You can certainly stay in Charlestown; while there aren’t many hotels, there are some charming apartment rentals in historic homes. Bunker Hill Community College actually has its own T stop, which is only one stop away from downtown Boston, so it’s quite convenient. Just make sure to check if your stay is near the T, as much of Charlestown is far from this public transit stop.

One area I love is Assembly Square in Somerville. It’s two stops north of Bunker Hill Community College, and here, you’ll find an outdoor mall with restaurants, shops, hotels, bars, and a movie theatre. La Quinta is a budget stay and The Row Hotel is upscale.

Finally, you can also always stay around North Station. citizenM Boston North Station is right above the station and offers skyline views and modern design.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or if there are other campuses you want me to cover in this post!

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