The Best College Towns in Massachusetts

Attracting bright minds from all corners of the globe Massachusetts boasts some of the best college towns in the country.

Join us as we explore some of the best college towns in Massachusetts, from the classic charm of Cambridge and Amherst to the hustle and bustle of Boston and Worcester, these towns are top of the class. Whether you’re a prospective student, a parent or just someone interested in the unique atmosphere of college towns, this guide will give you a taste of what makes these Massachusetts gems so special.


Harvard Square on a beautiful day

Let’s kick off our journey with the quintessential college town, Cambridge. Home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this charming city has a long history of academic excellence. Nestled just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge offers a mix of historical architecture, cutting-edge innovation and a vibrant intellectual culture that’s hard to beat.

Harvard Square is the heart of Cambridge, a lively hub where students, tourists and locals alike gather when the sun is shining in Massachusetts. The square is filled with coffee shops, bookstores and eclectic boutiques, perfect for an afternoon of shopping or people-watching.

When hunger strikes, enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants, ranging from American classics to international cuisine. And with so many events and festivals throughout the year, there’s always something happening in this bustling college town.


View of Amherst and Amherst College from the sky

Next up on our tour of the best college towns in Massachusetts is Amherst. Home to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire College, this picturesque town is a haven for academics and nature lovers alike. Surrounded by the beautiful Pioneer Valley, Amherst offers outdoor enthusiasts plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking and exploring the majesty of the great outdoors.

In the heart of Amherst, you’ll find a charming downtown area, complete with locally-owned shops, art galleries and an impressive selection of restaurants. The Amherst Cinema, an independent theater, showcases a mix of popular films and arthouse flicks, making it a favorite spot for film buffs. And with several nearby farms and orchards, it’s easy to see why Amherst is a favorite among foodies.


Aerial view of Boston and the surrounding college campuses

Our next stop brings us to the bustling metropolis of Boston. While not a traditional college town, Boston is home to more than 50 colleges and universities, including Boston University, Northeastern University and Suffolk University. With so many stellar schools within its city limits, Boston offers a unique blend of history, culture and academia.

The city’s rich history is on display at every turn, from the Freedom Trail to the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood. Alongside its storied past, Boston boasts a vibrant arts scene, a plethora of museums and some of the best shopping in the region. And with a robust public transportation system, getting around the city is a breeze, making it easy to explore all that Boston has to offer.


Lake view in Medford near the Tufts University campus

Just a few miles north of Boston, you’ll find the charming city of Medford. Home to Tufts University, Medford is a quaint, picturesque community that perfectly balances the convenience of city living with the charm of a small town. The Mystic River runs through the heart of the city, providing a peaceful backdrop for leisurely strolls, bike rides and riverside study sessions.

Medford’s historic downtown area is filled with unique shops and eateries, as well as the Medford Public Library, an architectural gem that dates back to the 19th century. And with a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the annual Arts Across Medford event, there’s always something of interest in this vibrant college town.

Chestnut Hill

View of Chestnut Hill just off the Boston College campus

Another great option for those seeking out the best college towns in Massachusetts is Chestnut Hill, a quaint suburb just west of Boston. Home to Boston College, Chestnut Hill offers a serene setting that’s perfect for students looking to balance their academic pursuits with a taste of nature.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir, a popular spot for jogging, walking or simply soaking in the views, is a must-visit for anyone exploring the area. The picturesque campus of Boston College is also worth a stroll, showcasing beautiful Gothic architecture and sprawling green spaces. For shopping enthusiasts, The Street at Chestnut Hill offers a mix of high-end retailers and unique boutiques, while foodies will appreciate the variety of dining options, from cozy cafés to upscale eateries all within walking distance of campus.


Aerial view of Worcester and Clark University

Our journey through the best college towns in Massachusetts wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Worcester, the state’s second-largest city. Home to a whopping nine colleges and universities, including Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and College of the Holy Cross, Worcester is a diverse, bustling city with plenty to offer.

For those who love the arts, the Worcester Art Museum and the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts are must-sees, while sports enthusiasts will appreciate the city’s minor league baseball and hockey teams. The city’s food scene is diverse and constantly evolving, offering a wide range of dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining establishments.


Aerial view of Northampton and the Smith College campus

While our list of the best college towns in Massachusetts has focused on some of the most well-known cities, there are plenty of other hidden gems worth exploring. One such town is Northampton, home to Smith College. This vibrant, artsy town is known for its lively music scene, quirky boutiques and a wide array of restaurants and bars. With its scenic surroundings and friendly atmosphere, Northampton is one of those places that students just tend to stick around after receiving their caps and gowns.


Williams College campus on a cloudy day

Similarly, Williamstown, home to Williams College, is another small town with big charm. Nestled in the scenic Berkshires, Williamstown offers a blend of natural beauty and rich cultural experiences, thanks to the renowned Clark Art Institute and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Make one of these Massachusetts college towns your home

Massachusetts is truly a treasure trove of college towns, each with its own unique appeal. From the bustling streets of Cambridge and Boston to the serene beauty of Amherst and Chestnut Hill, these cities offer a diverse range of experiences for students and visitors alike. Whether you’re in search of the quintessential college experience or a thriving city with a rich academic scene, the Bay State has it all and then some.

Now that you’ve seen the top collegiate destinations in Massachusetts, which college towns rank best nationally? Find out here.


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