Travel Guide | Boston

The College Tourist Student Guide to Boston

Boston, MA: New England’s city of passion, charm, and history

In the heart of New England is a beautiful, historic, clean, and inviting city–welcome to Boston, Massachusetts!

boston from the roof of boston university building image

A view of Boston from the roof of a Boston University building

You’ve probably heard that we have a funny accent and struggle with saying words like “park” and “car,” or that we are too passionate about our baseball team, or that we live off of clam chowder. Some of these stereotypes may have some truth to them, but I invite you to find out what Boston is all about beyond them. I expect you’ll find a city with heart and soul, with vibrant art and beautiful landscapes, a city that anyone would be proud to call home.

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Typical Bostonian architecture: brownstones

Top 5 Must Sees:

1. The Prudential Center
Located right by Copley Square, this skyscraper–the second tallest in Boston, right behind the John Hancock Tower–has two amazing features for tourists to take advantage of: the first is the large shopping center at the building’s base, with all the typical mall stores plus great dining options and some upscale boutiques. The second, and probably the best part of the Pru, is the Skywalk Observatory at the very top of the building, which provides tourists an astounding 360 degree view of all of Boston.

2. Faneuil Hall
Boston is full of history, and this tourist hotspot is just one piece of it. Located in the Government Center neighborhood, Faneuil Hall was first built in 1742. Today, it is part of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. There are several shops and restaurants in the area, as well as frequent street performers around the building.

3. Newbury Street
The quaint and scenic Newbury Street is comprised of several blocks of shops and restaurants. What makes Newbury Street special is the beautiful architecture and the tree-lined sidewalks. It’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday of Sunday afternoon when the weather is nice–it attracts a lot of people, both tourists and natives. My favorite shops on Newbury Street are Trident Cafe and Bookstore, Raven Used Books, Lush Cosmetics, and Newbury Yarn, a cute little knitting shop. You’ll find a nice mix of small mom-and-pop boutiques and larger chain shops like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. And when you’re done shopping, Newbury Street conveniently ends right at my next must see:

4. Boston Common
The Boston Common, a large, gorgeous public park complete with grassy lawns, a large pond and bridge, sculptures, and trees for shade, is my absolute favorite place in Boston. I could spend hours wandering around the park or laying out in the sun with a book. It is so cute and inviting, I can’t resist spending my Sundays studying there rather than in my dorm room. When the weather is nice, you can take a ride on a Swan boat in the pond, and in the winter you can visit Frog Pond to go ice skating.

5. Fenway Park
This historic baseball stadium, the oldest in the nation, is basically a Boston Red Sox fan’s Mecca. Do your best to see a baseball game during your time in Boston–you’ll probably be blown away by our crazy, dedicated fans! And even if baseball isn’t your thing, take a tour through the stadium. Tickets are pretty cheap, and they give you access to a guided tour all around the stadium with fun facts about the park’s history.

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Fenway Park!

Fun for Free:

There really is no shortage of free fun in the great city of Boston. My favorite free activity is, as mentioned above, hanging out in the Boston Common. It’s the prime picnic spot when the weather is nice! Or, head to the Esplanade, the stretch of land right along the Charles River that is outfitted with running trails and grassy lawns.

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A view from the Esplanade, before spring had sprung

My second favorite free activity is visiting the Boston Public Library. It’s a big, gorgeous structure located right near Copley Square, and is filled to the brim with books! There’s even a cute cafe on the bottom floor, right near the stunning outdoor courtyard.

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The courtyard at the Boston Public Library

A lot of museums in the area, like The Museum of Science for instance, offer student discounts on their admission prices, but the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA for short) gives college students free admission when they show their college ID! The MFA is huge–seriously, you could wander around for hours and still not have seen everything.

There’s also the Freedom Trail, a walking tour through some of Boston’s most important historical spots. You can opt to buy a ticket for a public guided tour ($12, but students can get a $2 discount), or you can simply pull up a list of the official Freedom Trail stops along with a map and walk the trail yourself! Check out the Freedom Trail’s website, where they have all the stops and maps for you to visit the locations on your own.

If you can, go to Boston at the end of April to watch the Boston Marathon! Patriot’s Day, a holiday to commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord, falls on every third Monday of April, and is the biggest celebration of the year in Boston. Hang out and cheer on the runners with your friends!

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A section of the 2014 Boston Marathon on Beacon Street

Finally, check out the Hatch Shell, a large venue for outdoor concerts located right on the Esplanade along the Charles River. The Hatch Shell offers free concerts and shows throughout the year. Last fall, the Backstreet Boys and Of Monsters and Men played a free show together!

Where to Eat:

Boston’s dining selections are nothing short of amazing. Plus, you can cross the river and head into Cambridge, Somerville, or Medford for even more incredible restaurants! But if you’re staying in Boston, be sure to check out the following:

Paramount was first opened in 1937 and is still going strong. Located in Beacon Hill (with a second restaurant in South Boston), this small but outstanding joint is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner–though I can’t recommend their breakfast menu enough! The food is so fresh, and is literally made right in front of you. Go for the omelettes and fresh squeezed orange juice. And make sure you go on a weekday–I hear the line goes out the door on the weekends!

-The menu at Max Brenner has a theme that everyone can agree on: chocolate. Known for it’s succulent desserts–particularly the chocolate fondue–Max Brenner, right by Copley Square, is a restaurant you won’t want to miss. They serve dinner, too, but if you go without ordering dessert, you’re doing it wrong!

Max Brenner restaurant in Boston chocolate fondue image

Two thumbs up for chocolate fondue at Max Brenner!

El Pelon Taqueria is a personal favorite of mine. There are two locations: one in the Fenway area, and another in Allston. The food is inexpensive but amazing, authentic Mexican. Try the burritos–which are the same price as Chipotle’s but are somehow even bigger and more delicious. Or, opt for the chicken enchiladas, my second favorite!

The Wired Puppy, located right on Newbury Street, is one of my favorite coffee shops in Boston. They have free wifi, seating indoors and outside, and–best of all–wonderful coffee. Plus, the staff is incredibly friendly and they have the greatest playlists, with songs handpicked by the employees!

After Dark:

Boston during the day is amazing–and it only gets better at night. Whether you’re looking for a bar, a nightclub, or a concert, Boston’s got you covered.

Though I only went once last semester, The Machine, in the Fenway area, is an awesome, high-energy nightclub that you’ve got to check out.

If you’re looking for music, some of the most popular venues in the city include the House of Blues (Fenway area), the Paradise Rock Club (Allston), the Orpheum Theatre (in the heart of downtown Boston) and the Royale, which doubles as a nightclub.

Finally, if you’re just looking for drinks, try Deep Ellum in Allston. Or you can go to a Tavern in the Square, with locations in Porter Square, Central Square (both across the river in Cambridge) or Allston.


Though many people complain about it, the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) actually provides Boston (and surrounding areas like Cambridge, Chelsea, Somerville, etc) with fairly reliable and easy-to-use public transportation.

The T, a train/trolley that travels both above and below ground, is perhaps the most common mode of transit. There are 5 different lines, defined by color, that operate in the city, along with a commuter rail line that reaches the suburbs. The T is easy to use, especially if you have a Charlie Card, which you can load with money and just tap-and-go.

Aside from the T, MBTA buses are popular, too. There are a ton of different bus routes–cheaper than the T–that run throughout the area.

Don’t forget that Boston is well known for being an extremely walkable city! Walking and biking are totally viable options in addition to public transportation.

Local Knowledge

-Boston is nicknamed Beantown, so don’t be confused if you hear people call it that!
-If you need help getting around on the T, make sure that anyone you ask for help knows that you’re not local. They may not be specific enough for someone who isn’t familiar with the system. Locals know exactly where each color line will take you, and they know that the Green E line won’t stop at Kenmore Square, and that you can’t transfer at Copley, and so on and so forth.
-It’s best that you keep your insults about the Red Sox to yourself…as well as your compliments about the Yankees.

The Prudential Center from Commonwealth Ave after the Red Sox won the 2014 World Series!

The Prudential Center from Commonwealth Ave after the Red Sox won the 2014 World Series!

Johanna Gruber

Boston University | 9 stories

I am a Boston University graduate with a passion for writing, traveling, television, and bubble tea. I have a BA in English with a minor in Journalism, and I interned with the College Tourist over the span of a few years as a writer and senior editor. Check out my website for more info and my portfolio:

One response to “The College Tourist Student Guide to Boston”

  1. […] My new home-away-from-home, Boston is a perfect city: clean, walkable, and exciting. Like Philly and Providence, Boston is a history nerd’s goldmine, but you’ll be blown away by the modern daytime fun and nightlife! “Bahston” has got it all. These suggestions are fresh—if you want more, check out my College Tourist Student Guide to Boston! […]

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