At first glance, you might probably say that there’s really no significant difference between living in Boston versus living in Cambridge. After all, the two cities are practically situated beside each other, with only a narrow stretch of the Charles River between them. There are so many overlaps when it comes to the food, weather, and culture in both cities. Furthermore, the two practically share custody of the major educational institutions found in the area, namely Harvard, MIT, and Boston University.
However, if you dare venture this option out loud, you might hear differently from the locals! City pride is quite fierce from both Bostonians and Cantabrigians, so it should come as no surprise that you’ll get passionate praises from both sides.
If you’re trying to decide how to find a neighborhood in Boston or Cambridge for your new apartment, here are some tips that might help you decide.
Cost of Living
The first thing that you will most likely look at is the cost of living in both cities. According to Numbeo, Boston has a slightly cheaper cost of living compared to Cambridge. You will typically need to spend around $6,613 per month in Boston compared to $6,800 per month in Cambridge to maintain the same standard of living. This amount covers rent, utilities, and food.
On average, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs around the same in both Boston and Cambridge (around $2,650 per month). However, if you’re okay living outside the city center, the apartment rates are a bit cheaper in Boston ($1,934/month) compared to Cambridge ($2,175/month)
Winner: Boston slightly edges out Cambridge.
Since Cambridge is technically home to both Harvard and MIT, living in the city feels like living on one huge college campus! The demographic of the city skews slightly towards the younger generation, as the bulk of the population is composed of college students, graduate students, and young professionals. Since there is a high number of young people, you should expect to find a lively and colorful local crowd, with a very friendly and warm atmosphere.
Boston, on the other hand, has a more “big city, small-town” feel. Since the cost of living and renting is somewhat lower compared to Cambridge, you will find that the demographic leans more towards families and retirees. Boston has some of the best K-12 schools in the state of Massachusetts, which is why families with small kids prefer to find apartment rentals in Boston neighborhoods.
Winner: It depends on what you’re looking for! If you want to settle down in a quiet suburb, Boston is the better choice. However, if you want to immerse yourself in “campus life”, then Cambridge is calling you.
When it comes to crime rates in Cambridge, the city has been ranked as one of the safest in the state. Both property crime and violent crime are below the national average, and Neighborhoodscout.com has found that Cambridge is 21% safer compared to other major US cities.
On the other hand, Boston has not fared so well with the city’s crime rate. According to AreaVibes.com, the city has an average crime rate that is 6% higher compared to the national average.
Winner: Cambridge is the clear winner here.
Economy & Job Market
Since Cambridge is home to two Ivy League schools, the local workforce is both strong and diverse! The major industries in Cambridge include IT, software technology, and education, although you will also find great jobs in the healthcare and biotech industries. Not surprisingly, MIT and Harvard are the two largest employers in the city, but you will also find a thriving economy composed of locally-owned businesses that cater to the younger customer base.
According to recruitment site Indeed, Boston is the top city on the East Coast and the third best city in the USA for job seekers. The city offers a wide variety of both established companies and promising startups. Just like in Massachusetts, you will find great employment opportunities in the IT, biotech, and healthcare industries.
Winner: It’s a tie! Both Cambridge and Boston offer great employment opportunities, particularly if you hold a degree in one of the premier workforce industries.
Transportation & Traffic
One of the biggest aspects of Cambridge’s “campus culture” is the ease of getting around, particularly for commuters. This is why Walkscore.com has given the city an overall score of 74. If you want to break it down further, the city rates a walk score of 87 and a bike score of 96, which means that you don’t even need a car to get around Cambridge!
Boston isn’t far behind, with an overall score of 72. The city has a walk score of 82, and a somewhat lower bike score of 70. The lower overall score may be attributed to the fact that there are some areas of the city that are inaccessible if you don’t have a car. What’s more, Boston traffic is considered to be one of the worst in the state.
Whether you live in Boston or Cambridge, however, you can easily access the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Known affectionately as “The T”, this is the main form of public transportation that services both cities. There are six Red Line Stations that will allow you to move from Cambridge to Boston or vice versa.
Winner: Cambridge wins over Boston in the battle of transportation.
Points of Interest
Both Cambridge and Boston are rich in historical and cultural points of interest!
If you love going to museums, you’ll never run out of places to visit in Cambridge. The city is home to the Harvest Museum of Natural History, Harvard Art Museums complex, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. However, Boston is no slouch either, as you can find great museums as the Boston Children’s Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, and the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
Hard-core sports fans are always welcome in Boston. Red Sox fans are a mainstay at Fenway Park, Patriots buffs flock to Gillette Stadium, and Celtics die-hards guarantee a sold-out TD Garden whenever there are home games.
Of course, Boston and Cambridge are perfect for those who love the outdoors. Boston has some of the best dog parks in the state if you need a day out with your beloved pooch. Cambridge, on the other hand, boasts the 155-acre Fresh Pond Reservation. Sunny weekends are best spent hiking, walking, and jogging along the trails. You can also polish your gold game at the nine-hole golf course!
Winner: Another tie! Both cities offer a wealth of indoor and outdoor activities, and there is something for everyone.
When it comes to fresh seafood, you really can’t go wrong in Boston OR Cambridge! Due to both cities being located so closely several bodies of water, fresh seafood is everywhere. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that serves bad seafood because the locals take a lot of pride in serving “ocean to table”. Boston Public Market is one of the best places to visit if you want to taste true New England fare.
Aside from great seafood, Boston and Cambridge are also known for great ethnic cuisine. In Boston’s North End, you can find the city’s Little Italy. If you find a restaurant with a line out of the door, you’re probably at Giacomo’s Ristorante. Do yourself a favor and try their lobster ravioli!
Should you find yourself in Cambridge, make a beeline to Giulia. Since its opening in 2012, this restaurant has been a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Their homemade lamb sausage with wild fennel risotto is a must-try.
Winner: No matter where you choose to eat, you’re going to walk away with a huge smile!
Boston or Cambridge?
So, let’s answer the burning question: where should you rent an apartment in the battle of Boston vs. Cambridge?
Just like in our New York vs. San Francisco battle, there is no one answer that will suit everyone. Ultimately, you will need to decide the best city for you depending on your needs and preferences. This guide is here to help you weigh your options.
Whether you choose Cambridge for its “college life feels” or you pick Boston because you’re looking for affordable housing, you’ll find that the important thing is that you’re happy with your choice!