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Time Out Market Boston
Photograph: Delia Barth

College student's guide to Boston

Where to eat, what to do and how to make the best of your time in Boston.

JQ Louise
Written by
JQ Louise
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Thousands of college students call Boston home each year. Whether this is your first or fifth year in the city, there is so much to see and do. Yes, our city is a notoriously expensive place to live, drink and dine. But there are a number of spots where you can get an affordable, tasty meal and there are so many fun, free things to do. In addition to the top spots listed here, you can usually find reasonably priced food at the best Mediterranean restaurantsbest Thai restaurants and best Indian restaurants in town. But no matter what see how many of the best things to do in Boston you can check off your list before you graduate! 

What to do in Boston for students

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  • Things to do

Dating in Boston can truly take a toll on your wallet. Whether you’re in a stable relationship or still trying to find that special someone, paying for pricey nights out and regular date nights can really add up, if you’re not careful. Despite our city’s expensive reputation, we do have some affordable options when it comes to taking someone out. This list of affordable dates are sure to impress both your special someone and your wallet!

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  • Bars

College is that precious time in your life when your body can handle all of the bar-hopping, but your wallet can not—especially in a place as expensive as Boston. So when you are on a break this weekend, head to these affordable college hang outs across the city. 

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  • Restaurants

“Happy hour” in Boston is kind of a misnomer, as deals on alcoholic drinks have been banned in Massachusetts since 1984. That may change soon in cities like Boston and Provincetown, thanks to a new bill making its way through the legislature

However, that day isn’t here yet, but smart restaurateurs and bartenders have come up with a clever alternative to get you in for a post work drink, and that’s yummy food specials! We found the best places serving food that help take the sting out of a regular-priced drink. From neighborhood joints to high-end restaurants, these are the best places to find a happy hour deal in Boston, but be sure to check social media or call first to confirm as menus change regularly.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

  • Bars

From Cuba to the Middle East, smoking tobacco is historically a culturally strong social activity. In western society, cigar lounges and hookah bars are now prolific, with nightclubs garnering inspiration from these respective regions to adopt social smoking customs. From shisha (also spelt sheesha and called hookah) to cigar lounges, here are Boston’s top places to join in the fun—just keep in mind that most of which are exclusively 21+. For other casual nightlife outings, check out Boston's best college bars or Boston's best beer bars. 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

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars

Wondering where to watch the Patriots games? If you’re looking for a bar or restaurants with big TVs, lots of beer, solid food and a great atmosphere, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re looking to cheer on the Pats with your fellow fans or catch more NFL or NCAA action, here are the best bars for watching football in Boston. For all the other action, or just a fun sports-filled experience, check out the best sports bars in Boston. Or, if you’re just looking for some great beer, try one of Boston’s best beer bars.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Boston

  • Bars

All dive bars are places where you can come as you are, relax, and not worry about a large bar tab. However, the trade is that customers must also take these bars as they are: gruff, slight disarray and the occasional mayhem of a rowdy night. Sadly, like so many other cities, Boston has been losing its beloved dive bars, with trendy restaurants, upscale condo buildings and other gentrification taking their place. But what that means is that those that have stood the test of time must be worth a look. While you’re at it pair them with night at one of the best music venues in Bostonbest comedy clubs in Boston, or best sports bars in Boston

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

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Burgers are always a good call. Whether grabbing one to go for lunch, or savoring over a glass of wine at dinner, finding the best burger in Boston is a worthy cause. Are you someone who wants the classics done right or something more inventive? Either way we have got you covered in this complete guide to the best burgers in Boston! Looking to get your hands on more local, hand-held specialties? Check out the best lobster rolls in Boston, the best sandwiches in Boston, and the best tacos in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

  • Things to do

No matter where your interests lie, you can always find fun in Boston. The best things to do in Boston run the gamut—from seriously entertaining to awesomely educational. Looking for culture? Spend a day exploring Boston's museums. Hungry? You've come to the right place because there are tons of amazing restaurants in Boston that highlight the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape. We have rounded up all the best and most fun ways to enjoy visiting or living in Boston all year round!

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In the summertime we are all searching for the best ice cream in Boston. Luckily New England has long been known for some amazing scoops. In fact, the Hub has been an ice cream innovator since the ’70s, when some of the first Oreos were mixed into freshly churned ice cream in Somerville.

Today, the best ice cream shops in Boston continue to satisfy adventurous eaters with their gourmet concoctions and bold ingredientswhile still cranking out the classics for those New England traditionalists. Treat yourself this season and pair an ice cream cone with the best burgers in Boston or the best pizzas in Boston for a fun night out!

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best desserts in Boston!

  • Restaurants

Poll your friendly neighborhood foodies and a common opinion emerges: Boston’s best restaurants are now in Cambridge. If your list of things to do in Boston is dominated by thoughts of filling your belly, then the student Mecca is where you want to be. It’s here that you will find some of the best pizza in Boston, as well as great brunches and buzzy, envelope-pushing fine-dining. On the hunt for Boston’s most inventive restuarants? Cambridge should be your first stop. Make a night of it by pairing dinner with one of the best free things to do in Boston, or check out our guide to the best live music in Boston. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

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  • Things to do

With its population split between students, millennial post-grads and international transplants, Allston doesn’t exactly scream must-visit destination. But trust us—beneath that veneer of spilled cheap beer and outdated concert posters lies a wealth of hidden gems, including some of Boston’s best cheap eats and wallet-friendly vintage stores. One thing’s for sure—this well-worn, enduring neighborhood will always be home to an eclectic assortment of only-in-Allston characters. Once you’ve had your fill of funky, youthful Allston, keep the fun going by checking out our guides to the best restaurants in Boston and best museums in Boston. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

  • Things to do

It may be cool, but Cambridge is all about squares. The best known of these, and certainly one of the most popular, is Harvard Square. It’s a people-watchers paradise, as the bustle of bookish Harvard students, mohawked punks, camera-toting tourists, buskers, and harried businesspeople creates a diverse and colorful street scene. It is of course intimately tied to the university of the same name, which boasts a panoply of sights, monuments and eye-popping architecture within its modestly sized campus. Check out our guides to the best restaurants in Bostonbest live music in Boston, and best museums in Boston, and you’ll spot several Harvard Square haunts. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

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  • Bars

If you're looking through the best bars in Boston, you'll be happy to find that The Hub is no longer the bare-bones, old-school drinking town it once was. Sure, we still have our fair share of tried-and-true Irish pubs and dive bars—but our city now also boasts innovative cocktail destinations, swanky rooftop joints and craft beer emporiums. Whether you're looking for the driest of martinis, a cold pint of local lager, a creative cocktail or a glass of natural wine, there's a place for you. Nowadays, Boston is also brimming with bars sure to suit every mood—from buzzy to cozy to totally hip. So go big or go small, celebratory or casual at these stellar drinking dens.

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