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Marshmello Big Night Entertainment Group The Grand
Photograph: Courtesy Big Night Entertainment Group

The best college bars in Boston

With cheap drinks, late nights and fun party vibes, these bars are almost too cool for school.

JQ Louise
Edited by
JQ Louise
Written by
Cheryl Fenton
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When your desire to go out far outweighs your budget, nightlife can be tough in a city known for expensive living and swanky cocktail lounges with $200 tabs. But holding court as a true college town (we’re home to 35 colleges and universities and about 152,000 students), there are a number of joints around Boston that cater to the 20-something set. Whether your goal is affordable drinks or late night clubbing (budget be damned), here are the best college bars in Boston. For more college-friendly spots, check out the best cheap eats in Boston and Boston’s best late night dining options. Looking for something more refined? The best cocktail bars in Boston will do the trick.

RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best bars in Boston

Best college bars in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • Gastropubs
  • Quincy Market

A short stumble from Faneuil Hall, The Black Rose is a beacon for Boston's bachelor degree-bound crowd. It basically checks all of the boxes as any college kid's ideal pub, serving properly poured Guinness and typical Irish fare in a traditional, comfortable and lively environment. Regular live music and Irish accents galore add to the experience, and its close proximity to the area's other bumping bars makes it perfect for an impromptu crawl. 

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 2 of 4

Located in the lively Fenway neighborhood, this Irish pub and music venue attracts college students, Sox fans and concert-goers alike. Aside from its lengthy list of Irish and Scotch whiskeys, this spot stands out thanks to its a steady stream of open mic nights and live cover band performances, plus epic parties for Halloween, New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. But regardless of when you hunker down here for a big night out, this place is pretty much always packed. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Allston/Brighton

A night out at Tavern in the Square in Allston—or TITS, as it’s so lovingly called—is a rite of passage for local college kids. Every Thursday through Saturday, this Brighton Ave institution is bumping with BU students and new grads, who are there to get their drink and dance on. Aside from hosting a live DJ three nights a week, this spot is known for its game day action, all of which can be viewed on a slew of big-screen TVs sprinkled throughout the bar.

Whether you go for a round of beer, darts, or music on a jukebox, this neighborhood dive bar is packed with plenty of high energy right in the heart of Harvard Square. An easy-going staple for locals and students since 1953, the menu is all about finger foods (think hot dogs, pretzels, wings, and potato wedges), and the rotating drafts, spirits, shots, and sips don’t disappoint.

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  • Bars
  • Allston/Brighton

Cheap beverages, pool tables and multiple TVs all make this Comm Ave establishment a staple amongst BU students living that Allston-Brighton lifestyle. Located on the corner of Kelton Street, Harry’s is a neighborhood joint where college kids and recent graduates commingle over draft beers, inexpensive mixed drinks and affordable bar bites. Regular trivia nights and game day screenings add to its appeal for young people, who flock to this watering hole just about every night of the week. On the weekends, patrons attempt to stave off those hangovers from partying the night prior with Harry’s brunch, which features spiked pancakes, a rotating donut special and plenty of bloodys and mimosas for the table.

The Grand
Photograph: Courtesy Big Night

6. The Grand

This high-tech Vegas-style dance club might not be known for having the cheapest drinks, but if you want to unwind from a week of classes, there’s no better place. Known for securing a lineup of top DJs, the house lights go down and the vibe goes up for a night of dancing, fog machines, strobes, and celebration. Wallflowers need not apply. Aced your mid-term? Celebrate with bottle service (but it’ll cost you a pretty penny).

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Downtown
  • price 1 of 4

Thrifty college students looking for a solid night out love this Financial District dive bar. The neighborhood surrounding this Pearl Street spot may be filled with swanky, high-rise office buildings and the suits that work in them, but Biddy Early's remains afforable and unpretentious—bordering on gritty. As patrons down inexpensive buckets of beer and wallet-friendly pub grub at this downtown establishment, they can also partake in extracurricular entertainment like Keno and Golden Tee.

  • Bars
  • Quincy Market
  • price 2 of 4

Though this spot claims to be the oldest tavern in town (it dates back to 1795), the crowd that it attracts is certainly one of the youngest aroung. Situated in a seemingly quaint historic building on the corner of Union and Hanover Streets, The Bell in Hand is a favorite amongst the city's young folks, who regularly pack both floors of its immense brick space. Its constant schedule of live DJs, comedians, karaoke and themed music nights keeps those college kids (who don't have to work in the morning) coming in nearly every day of the week.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Beacon Hill

The debate rages on as to whether the understated Beacon Hill Pub, perched at the end of posh Charles Street, is a legitimate dive bar (sort of an inverted diamond in the rough) or a reservoir for high-earning post-grads who haven't managed to let go of their devotion to cheap Buds and Brubakers. Who cares? With not a frill to be found, but plenty of seats and cheap drinks, it's the perfect spot for much more interesting arguments.

  • Bars
  • Harvard Sq

This unpretentious little basement bar—one of the few old-school hangouts left in Harvard Square—continues to attract throngs of thirsty Crimson students. Between 5—7:30pm every evening, all of the food here is half-price with a $4 minimum drink purchase, which is an appealing offer for budget-conscious college kids looking to eat out on the cheap. Just remember that the deal is only available for folks who are posted up inside—not sitting outside on Grendel's patio tables or taking their meals to go.

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Quincy Market
  • price 2 of 4

Ned Devine’s has been a go-to amongst both tourists and locals for more than a decade. During the weekdays, this dynamic spot serves as a modern Irish pub, dishing out classics like fish and chips, award-winning clam chowder, corned beef and Guinness onion soup alongside cold pints of beer to out-of-towners visiting Faneuil Hall. However, on the weekends, Ned Devine’s transforms into lively nightlife destination, where throngs of college students and local youth congregate for live music, drinks and dancing.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Somerville
  • price 1 of 4

Davis Square condos may now go for a million bucks a pop, but at least Somerville still has the Sligo. One of the last bastions of the neighborhood’s blue-collar traditions, the bar is small and dimly lit, playing classic rock on the jukebox and slinging PBRs for only a few bucks. Although it's now shared with Tufts students, this joint still serves generous shots of hard stuff to guys who look like theyve been regulars since Eisenhower was president. Between beers, take some time to read the messages carved into every inch of the wooden bar top.

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  • Restaurants
  • Allston/Brighton

The Avenue is an Allston institution—and not just because it’s conveniently located near the intersection of Comm and Harvard Ave. This place clearly caters to the neighborhood’s younger crowd, with the bar offering weekly drink specials, a solid selection of Jello Shots and a number of beer bucket deals. Depending on the day, its menu of already affordable eats features additional discounts on bar bite favorites like chicken wings and its beloved Avenue Burger.

  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 2 of 4

A legendary spot in the Fenway, this hangout stands tall in the shadow of the Green Monster. College kids looking to dive into Red Sox fandom hang out here, rubbing elbows with multi-generational diehards. Classic fried treats and a lengthy beer list are both a draw, plus patio seating is a plus when weather permits.

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • price 2 of 4

This no-frills Newton sports bar is consistently packed with a varied crowd, including much of Boston College's student population. Buff's may be pretty barebones when it comes to ambiance, but it reels in locals and BC kids alike with its cheap drinks and standout chicken wings, a juicy yet crispy bar snack that frequently rakes in accolades. Combine them with cold beer and big-screen TVs displaying the night's games, and you've got a perfect college hangout.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Somerville
  • price 2 of 4

A pillar of Davis Square's bar scene, The Burren is one of the most popular (and largest) Irish pubs north of the river. During the afternoon, the front room—with its wood-slatted floors and gentle light pouring through the windows—hosts a handful of folks as they nurse bowls of beef stew and pints of Guinness (or any number of local brews), and listen to informal Irish seisiúns. But at night, this place is packed, largely with students from nearby Tufts University, who fill the large back room to hear live (and loud) music.

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