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Top Spots to Live 2022: Boston and Cambridge

Those wanting to be close to the city look to neighborhoods with a semi-suburban feel, some remaining affordable housing, and a vibrant culture.

Naomi Elliott for the boston globe

Explore the 2022 Top Spots to Live package by region: North | South | West


Top Spot: Hyde Park

Median home price: $566,750

Increase since 2016: 51.1 percent

There’s a lot to love about Hyde Park, Boston’s farthest-flung neighborhood: There’s its semi-suburban feel, its three commuter rail stops, the municipal George Wright Golf Course, and the nonprofit Riverside Theatre Works. There’s also Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream and Bowling, a fixture for some 50 years. But if there’s one thing Ron himself — Ron Covitz, that is — loves about the neighborhood, it’s the customers he gets to meet.


“I love the people, and the diversity of the people,” Covitz says. “If you ever stood in our ice cream line on a Sunday night, you’d see people from everywhere, all over the world.”

Covitz counts Boston Mayor Michelle Wu as an ice cream customer, just as former mayor and Hyde Park native Thomas Menino once was. After Covitz transformed his father’s bowling alley and pool hall into a family-oriented ice cream shop, “It was Tom Menino who suggested, very early on, that I go nonsmoking, so that I’d have kids’ birthday parties,” he says.

With his youngest son, Jay, now in charge of the business, Covitz feels lucky that he and his family have been able to serve the community all these years. “I worked with my father, all my kids have worked with me — and I mean all my kids, I have four kids, and every one has spent some time here,” he says. “It’s just been a wonderful, wonderful part of my life.”

Runners-up in the under $600,000 category


Median home price: $579,000

Increase since 2016: 34.7 percent


Median home price: $599,500

Increase since 2016: 33.5 percent

In the geographic center of Boston, Roxbury offers access to the Orange Line (and Southwest Corridor Park), Franklin Park, and vibrant Nubian Square, arguably the beating heart of Boston’s Black culture. As Harvard University continues expanding across the Charles River into Allston, once-dormant Western Avenue has sprung to life with new development (and beer gardens), while the heart of the neighborhood around Harvard Avenue hosts an eclectic, student-friendly melange of small eateries and live music venues.



Top Spot: Mattapan

Median home price: $600,000

Increase since 2016: 55.8 percent

Maria Higgins has lived in the same two-family house for almost 40 years: First, with her mom, who bought the house after a divorce and rented out the lower unit. Later, Higgins got married and raised two kids there, and now she and her husband — and two Australian shepherds — live in the downstairs unit, so she can take care of her 93-year-old mom upstairs.

Higgins isn’t sure what originally prompted her mother to buy in Mattapan, but expects it had something to do with the relative wilderness out back. “She wanted woods and green space, so behind my house is undeveloped land,” Higgins says. There’s a lot more where that came from: Mattapan is bordered by Franklin Park to the north and the Neponset River Greenway to the south, and includes Mass Audubon’s 67-acre Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, where Higgins is a committee member.

Higgins has noticed development in the neighborhood, and on the one hand, she says, “I kind of feel like it’s the last section in the city of Boston that you might be able to afford.” At the same time, while Mattapan Square offers a busy shopping district and Red Line trolley service, it’s still the only Boston neighborhood without a sit-down restaurant with a full liquor license, an inequity Higgins hopes will end soon. Either way, while some of her friends have moved out of Boston, she’s staying put. “The city is a wonderful place to be.”


Runners-up in the $600,000-$800,000 category


Median home price: $647,000

Increase since 2016: 42.2 percent

East Boston

Median home price: $659,000

Increase since 2016: 39.5 percent

Residential Roslindale offers more single-family homes with yards than most Boston neighborhoods, along with a much-loved village and a portion of the Arnold Arboretum. East Boston has always been a magnet for newcomers from across the world; in recent years, sleek waterfront condos have also been drawing buyers from across Boston Harbor.


Top Spot: North Cambridge

Median home price: $1,043,814

Increase since 2016: 62.3 percent

Merry White, a Boston University professor, has lived in North Cambridge for more than three decades, and in Cambridge since 1953. And yet, New England being the way it is, she still sometimes feels like an outsider. As an anthropologist, however, that doesn’t bother her much. “Anthropology means you’re always a stranger, but you can appreciate it more because you’re observing, observing, observing,” she says. “You notice things because you’re not from there.”

And there’s plenty to observe in her quirky corner of the city, which runs from Porter Square along Massachusetts Avenue toward Arlington, and includes the Alewife MBTA station (plus bike paths that offer safe cycling routes to Davis Square, Watertown, or all the way to Bedford). “North Cambridge is not a single enclave, it’s got all these little micro-neighborhoods, which I think is fascinating,” she says — such as the birdhouse neighborhood. “There are a couple of blocks where every single tree and lamppost, everything, has birdhouses on it.”


As a cookbook author, White appreciates the neighborhood’s myriad food options — including, she marvels, no less than four poke restaurants within walking distance of her home. She loves Curio Spice Co. on Mass. Ave. — ”walking in there is sort of a culinary geography lesson,” she says — but “the secret gem of the neighborhood” is a corner store called Thistle and Shamrock. Since the early days of the pandemic, the tiny grocer has been selling boxes of fresh produce for pickup — with a new recipe inside each week, written by White herself. “It’s become our corner store, and it’s become the heart of the neighborhood.”

Runners-up in the $800,000 and up category


Median home price: $1,101,407

Increase since 2016: 31.7 percent

West Cambridge

Median home price: $1,478,774

Increase since 2016: 31.2 percent

A residential area nestled between Central Square and the Charles River, it’s not hard to see the appeal of Cambridgeport. And stretching west from Harvard Square, West Cambridge has been prime property since the days when Colonial-era Tories lived on Brattle Street.


15 Manila Avenue in Hyde Parkhandout image


15 Manila Avenue | Hyde Park

Price: $729,000

Square feet: 1,612

Lot size: 0.09 acre

Bedrooms: 3 Baths: 1.5

This 1920 Colonial near the commuter rail has an updated kitchen, hardwood floors, a spacious backyard with mahogany deck, and a bonus bedroom or office on the top floor. (Listed by Katie Gellenbeck, Engel & Volkers Boston)

—Additional reporting by Dylan Dhindsa

Explore the 2022 Top Spots to Live package by region: North | South | West

Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to