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Without being too crass, one of the best activities in Allston-Brighton is people-watching, for whatever your motivations. You'll find an exciting mix of ethnicities and age groups, from upper middle class college kids to Vietnamese immigrants to the local Russian community. Take in the sights at the White Horse Tavern or The Kells on Brighton Avenue during summertime when the floor to ceiling windows are open, or just grab a patch of stoop and watch.

Revision as of 01:19, 7 April 2005

Allston-Brighton, Massachusetts is a part of the city of Boston, though it has alternated annexation over the years. First founded in 1646, Allston-Brighton was known as Little Cambridge for the better part of the 18th century. In 1807, Allston-Brighton separated from the City of Cambridge. For nearly a century, Allston-Brighton thrived as a meat-packing and slaughter town; in 1874, the City of Boston annexed Allston-Brighton.

Today, Allston-Brighton is known as the student village, owing to the enormous number of college students and recent graduates that live in the area. Boston University and Boston College bookend Allston-Brighton.

For more general history, visit the Allston-Brighton Historical Society.

Get around

Allston-Brighton is located on the western edge of Boston, bordering Brookline to the south, Boston College and Newton to the west, Boston University and Kenmore Square to the east, and Cambridge, Watertown, and the Charles River to the north. Though the boundaries between Allston and Brighton tend to be quite blurred, for practical purposes Warren St. cuts Allston-Brighton in half, with Brighton to the west and Allston to the east.

Like the rest of Boston, driving a car is generally a bad idea and a means of transportation to be avoided if at all possible. If you must use a car, however, exit 20 off the Mass Pike (I-90) will bring you to Allston-Brighton.

The MBTA Green Line B trolley travels the length of Allston-Brighton along its southeastern edge and is free going outbound (west). Major stops from east to west are Packard's Corner, Harvard Ave., Washington St., and Chestnut Hill Ave. The 57 bus traverses Allston-Brighton through its center; board at any B-line stop from Kenmore Square to Packard's Corner. The 66 and 64 buses respectively connect Cambridge's Harvard and Central Squares to Allston-Brighton.

The main drag of Allston is Harvard Ave., specifically the stretch between Cambridge St. and Comm Ave. A cluster of interesting shops and eateries are to be found here. Walking west 1/4 mi. from the intersection of Harvard and Brighton Ave. towards Cambridge St. is Union Square, marked by the wonderfully old Twin Donuts sign.

Grab the 57 bus or walk about a mile down Cambridge St. to the heart of Brighton, Brighton Center, at the corner of Washington and Market Streets. Farther down Washington St. at the westernmost edge of Boston lies Oak Square, a largely residential neighborhood with several great bars and restaurants. Taking Chestnut Hill Ave. a mile south from Brighton Center you'll come across Cleveland Circle right on the edge of Brookline, with lots of bars, restaurants, a movie theater, and the end of the Green Line C trolley.


Without being too crass, one of the best activities in Allston-Brighton is people-watching, for whatever your motivations. You'll find an exciting mix of ethnicities and age groups, from upper middle class college kids to Vietnamese immigrants to the local Russian community. Take in the sights at the White Horse Tavern or The Kells on Brighton Avenue during summertime when the floor to ceiling windows are open, or just grab a patch of stoop and watch.


Things to do in Allston largely include just walking about and enjoying the area. There's a lot of little boutiques, some interesting crowds, and a relatively easy-going atmosphere.


Need supplies for magic or just new age stuff? Visit Ritual Arts, on Harvard Avenue. 153 Harvard Avenue, Allston. The former store O has been incorporated into Ritual Arts, and offers exotic gifts for women.


Allston-Brighton has some of the best ethnic restaurants in the metro Boston area, bar none. Brazilian and Vietnamese dominate, and the bars aren't half bad either, but more on that later. The best indicator of the local restaurants' quality are the patrons - if you want good Vietnamese, follow the Vietnamese crowd.


  • Bagel Rising, 1243 Commonwealth Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), 617-789-4000. M-Sa 7a-7p, Su 7a-5:30p. Fresh-baked bagels that rank among even the best of New York City. Tons of bagel sandwich and wrap combinations. Lots of vegan and veggie options. Soups, teas and coffees. Delicious and very crowded. $2-$5.
  • Pho Pasteur, 137 Brighton Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), 617-783-2340. M-Sa 11a-11p, Su 11a-10p. Home of some of the best Vietnamese around. Cheap and gigantic portions of their namesake pho (noodle soup with meat). Their spring rolls are to die for. $5-$12.
  • Café Belô, 2 locations: 181 Brighton Ave., & 1243 Commonwealth Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), 617-783-4858, 617-202-6277. An amazing buffet of Brazilian and South American foods. $3.99/lb.
  • Tokyo City, 92 Harvard Avenue (T: Harvard Ave), 617-562-8888. M-Sa 11:30a-11p, Su noon-11p. Offers inexpensive, good quality sushi, Japanese, and Chinese food. Their bento lunch box (until 3p) is an especially good deal: a 5-course meal of 5 choices each for $5.95. Entrees $5-$15.


  • Tasca, 1612 Commonwealth Ave. (T: Washington St), (617) 730-8002. Su-Th 5p-11p, F-Sa 5p-12a. Offers tapas, small, appetizer-sized dishes that you order in groups as a meal. A tasty, fun way to enjoy multiple dishes from Spanish cuisine. Tapas $3-$7, entrees $14-$20.
  • Carlo's Cucina Italiana, 131 Brighton Ave. (T: Harvard Ave), 617-254-9759. M-Sa 11a-11p, Su 2p-11a. Possibly the best Italian outside of the North End. Unbelievably perfect homemade pasta in a cramped yet cozy setting. Lines out the door most nights. Full bar. $8-$20


Allston-Brighton is the student village of the area, and naturally you would expect bars. Lots of bars. You'd not be incorrect. As of 2003, there is no smoking in any restaurant or bar in the metro Boston area.

  • The Sunset Bar and Grill. With the exception of some bar in DC, the Sunset has the largest selection of beer in the country. 130 beers on tap, more than 300 bottled varieties. Get your free beer card at the door - then sample 20 different beers, and you get a t-shirt. There are bar stools with nametags on them. The honored ones sampled every beer the Sunset has.
  • Big City. Combination bar and pool hall, served by the Sunset. Exceptionally nice.
  • The Silhouette Lounge. If you are looking for the kind of bar that Archie Bunker would visit, this is it. The ceiling tiles are gray with age and dirt, the jukebox is broken, and the patrons are way past college age.


Oddly enough, for a college-burg, Allston-Brighton has few hotels. You'll probably need to venture into Boston or Cambridge for accommodation. For less expensive hotels, try Natick or Framingham, west of the city. Be aware that as a college town, any area hotels fill up quickly in early September and around graduation-- book well in advance.

  • Farrington Inn, 23 Farrington Ave. (Green Line B train to Packard's corner. Walk 1/4 mile W on Brighton Ave and go R on Linden St to Farrington. Or 57 bus to Linden St and walk N 3 blocks), 1-800-767-5337. While certainly not a bargain, The Farrington is one of Boston's only "budget" accommodations, and certainly the only one in Allston. Tends to attract an international backpackers crowd as well as a swarm of 20-somethings Irish in the summer. Rooms vary in cleanliness, and rates fluctuate daily, but for those wishing to stay in the heart of Allston and party it up with the locals (and your new Irish roomies), the location can't be beat. $22-30/$55-95/$65-105 (dorms/singles/doubles, parking included). Online reservations.
  • Days Hotel Boston, 1234 Soldiers Field Road Boston, MA 02135. T: 1-800-359-4827. Note the name is Days Hotel, not Inn-- this can certainly cause confusion when getting directions. This hotel has gone through several incarnations and seen lots of wear. While not convenient for walking to popular destinations, there is plenty of parking and a large supermarket across Western Ave.

Staying Safe

Allston-Brighton has a large college student population, so criminals of opportunity - burglars, pickpockets, petty thieves - tend to visit Allston-Brighton in droves. Peak seasons for them are any time students are moving in and out - May and September. Allston-Brighton also has its fair share of very aggressive panhandlers and drunks - and not just the students.

Late at night, it's a good idea to travel in groups until you know the area. Even then, travelling in groups is not a bad idea. Allston-Brighton has reasonably good mobile phone coverage outside of buildings, so calling for help is relatively straightforward. However, due to recent budget cuts by the Boston Police Department, response times to 911 calls are significantly lower, in some cases 15-30 minutes for police or ambulance response.

Allston-Brighton also has one of the best martial arts schools in America, though you'd never be able to tell based on the building's appearance. The Boston Martial Arts Center, located at 161 Harvard Avenue, offers self defense classes six days a week. For those moving into the area or planning to stay awhile, it's a good idea to take a few.

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