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Globe Magazine

Top Spots to Live 2021: Boston neighborhoods

Head to the Hills (Beacon and Mission), or to Dorchester to find a city dwelling. Plus, a Cambridge neighborhood sneaks in.

A gracious Victorian-era home  in Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood.
A gracious Victorian-era home in Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood.The Boston Globe/file

Explore the 2021 Top Spots to live by region: North | West | South

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST: DORCHESTER

When Chris Douglass, executive chef and partner of Ashmont Grill and Tavolo, first moved to Dorchester about 30 years ago, he was just a single guy looking for an easy commute into downtown. “Then I had kids, and dogs, and got really connected to it,” he says, “and I started to understand what a vibrant, cool community it is.”

As Boston’s largest and most populous neighborhood, and one of its most diverse, Dorchester is many things to many people. But one thing it’s not, Douglass says, is deserving of the disdain sometimes aimed in its direction. “It’s a really solid community,” Douglass says, with strong civic engagement and dynamic multiculturalism.

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And beyond all that? Between its grand old Victorians and the miles of waterfront along Boston Harbor and the Neponset River Reservation, Dorchester can be surprisingly beautiful for a big, urban neighborhood. “I pinch myself at like, how pretty it is along the water,” Douglass says.

Further up the banks of the Neponset, runner-up Hyde Park is one of Boston’s most affordable and suburban-feeling neighborhoods. “You’re not too far from downtown Boston, and also you get the suburban life,” says realtor Kachi Nzerem, who has lived here since 2000. But residents enjoy big-city benefits, too, like free concerts and films at the Francis D. Martini Memorial Shell, and Boston’s free Tenacity summer tennis and reading program for kids.

WELL CONNECTED: MISSION HILL

With the Longwood Medical Area and multiple universities next door, Mission Hill is perhaps the most stable, resilient rental market in the city, says realtor Eric Johnson — which in turn has made it a hit with investors over the past few years. “Between those economic drivers, there’s just always demand,” Johnson says. But companies and wealthy individuals aren’t the only ones buying these days — Johnson says condo demand has soared.

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The compact neighborhood has two subway lines — Green and Orange, one on either end — offering easy access to downtown. “And then you’re walking distance to the Fenway area and downtown Boston, so it just has the ‘it’ factor,” Johnson adds.

In runner-up East Boston, Ale Duque likes having the Blue Line and beautiful outdoor spaces at her doorstep, like the waterfront LoPresti Park, with its views of downtown across the harbor. Meanwhile, the neighborhood’s majority-Hispanic population brings comfort to the Colombia native. “There’s a ton of food around here that connects me to home,” Duque says. “There’s a great sense of community for me, and it feels very safe for me.”

PICTURE PERFECT: BEACON HILL

A picturesque section of Beacon Hill.
A picturesque section of Beacon Hill.Archimage / Alamy Stock Photo

At the high end of the market, wealthy buyers love Beacon Hill — one of Boston’s most historic and most photographed neighborhoods — for all the obvious reasons, says Kiernan Middleman, the Warren Residential realtor: history, character, and proximity. Investors know its location near Massachusetts General Hospital, Kendall Square, and downtown virtually guarantees a steady pool of tenants with great jobs, she says. Downsizing empty nesters, for their part, appreciate the storied history and having Boston Common and the Public Garden outside their door.

Along with walk-up units in some of the city’s most iconic Federal-style brick homes, wealthy buyers can also find new luxury construction at The Archer Residences. And the neighborhood’s picturesque lantern-lit streets range from quiet cobblestone alleys to the bustling thoroughfare of Charles Street, where some longtime local fixtures remain, such as Charles Street Supply — a hardware store that Middleman compares to Mary Poppins’s purse: “It’s small, but magically has everything in it.”

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Residents of Cambridge’s Huron Village “know the butcher, the baker, and the cheesemonger by name,” says realtor Lauren Holleran. Tucked between Harvard Square and Fresh Pond, this popular West Cambridge neighborhood is home to well-kept single- and multifamily homes, and beloved boutique businesses like Formaggio Kitchen and the Hi-Rise Bread Company.

Katie Powers and Jakob Menendez contributed to this story.


WINNERS IN THREE PRICE CATEGORIES

1. Under $600,000: Dorchester

Median home price: $594,800

Increase since 2015: 48.1 percent

> Runner-up: Hyde Park

Median home price: $516,900

Increase since 2015: 44.3 percent

2. $600,000–$800,000: Mission Hill

Median home price: $639,200

Increase since 2015: 48.5 percent

> Runner-up: East Boston

Median home price: $604,100

Increase since 2015: 47.9 percent

3. Over $800,000: Beacon Hill

Median home price: $1,325,700

Increase since 2015: 83.4 percent

> Runner-up: Huron Village

Median home price: $1,506,900

Increase since 2015: 78.2 percent


WHAT YOU GET FOR AROUND $650,000 IN THE CITY

2 Phillips Street Unit PH, Beacon Hill
2 Phillips Street Unit PH, Beacon Hill

2 Phillips Street Unit PH | Beacon Hill

Price: $649,000

Square feet: 710

Condo fee: $200/month

Bedrooms: 1 Baths: 1

On the top floor of an 1899 row house, this unit features exposed brick and wood beams, skylights, a fireplace, wide plank wood floors, and a bonus sleeping loft. (Listed by Eliott Levine, Marston Beacon Hill.)

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* This file has been updated to correct the spelling of Lauren Holleran’s name.


Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.