How do New York City and Boston compare?

How do New York City and Boston compare?

New York is built like a grid, while Boston’s geographical layout is very much helter-skelter. … Boston’s 617,000) and is over 5 times more densely populated (over 72,000 people per square mile to Boston’s 14,000).

(New York City as a whole has a population of over 8 million and a density of about 28,000 per square mile.

They’re very different cities. Boston lacks the geographic constraints that New York City — specifically Manhattan — has. Manhattan is an island, and not a very large one, which is why there are so many skyscrapers and other tall buildings on it.

They kind of had nowhere to go but up. New York is built like a grid, while Boston’s geographical layout is very much helter-skelter. A popular meme spread by New Yorkers (there is an age-old rivalry between the two cities) explains it well:

How do New York City and Boston compare

New York is also much, much larger than Boston. Manhattan alone, which is usually what most people are thinking of when they think of New York City, has almost three times as many people (1.6 million vs. Boston’s 617,000) and is over 5 times more densely populated (over 72,000 people per square mile to Boston’s 14,000).

(New York City as a whole has a population of over 8 million and a density of about 28,000 per square mile. The Bronx is the only mainland borough, Brooklyn and Queens being on Long Island while Manhattan and Staten Island are islands unto themselves.)

Both cities are extremely expensive to live in, with an average one-bedroom apartment renting for around $2,500 – $3,000 a month. (New York City’s other boroughs tend to be cheaper than Manhattan, but Brooklyn and Queens are also very pricey and rents in the Bronx are presently rising very quickly.

Staten Island is the only borough where you’re likely to find anything for less than $1,500 a month, and frankly, Staten Island sucks.) (EDIT: I did a little more research, and the Bronx is now apparently on par with Queens in terms of rents.)

I’m a native New Yorker, but I do like Boston. It has some gorgeous old architecture, plenty of cultures, and a lot of history. But I’ll still take New York.

How do New York City and Boston compare
How do New York City and Boston compare

If I love New York City, what will I hate about Boston?

Utter lack of anything resembling “fashion”. I’m no fashionista, but living in NY since 2001 and having lived in Boston for 7 years before that, I couldn’t bear the idea of walking out of the house like this in NYC, yet you will see armies of these guys in downtown Boston:

The trains stop running altogether late at night.

The taxi system sucks.

How do you feel about winter?

Walking through the Boston Common one evening, I glimpsed something moving beneath the bushes.

“Ugh,” I thought. “Rats.”

It’s automatic. Right, New Yorkers? I’d probably be worried if whatever was rustling in the foliage of Tompkins Square Park turned out to be something other than a rodent.

Not in Boston. That movement in my peripheral vision was just couple of frolicking sparrows.

It’s happened more than once. Every time: birds.

Boston: Birds, not rats.

Still a New Yorker at heart, though.

What are the advantages of living in Boston rather than New York City?

I lived in both cities – NYC for 4 and Boston for 7. The scale of Boston is so manageable and the network of people you plug into isn’t as vast — you’ll expect to see people you know on the streets of Boston and you’ll be shocked in NYC to do so.

If you live in NY you’ll constantly get the feeling that you are in the center of the universe, but as I got older I didn’t feel quite the need to be there at the center. The arts and culture are amazing in both cities but you won’t be able to afford to do everything you’d like in either.

In NY you expect to walk everywhere and you might think you can drive in Boston, but you will be sorely frustrated in your car.

I loved the access to the ocean and amazing beaches while in Boston — and the ability to view the horizon line if just occasionally. Both cities are vibrant and fun and amazing, but I’m happy living in my little village in Upstate NY now!

I got a job offer in tech in Boston that pays ~$140k and one in SF that pays around ~$117k. Should I move to Boston?

(I’ve lived in Boston since 1990. My first roommate out of college lives in the San Francisco area and I’ve visited him a bit, staying over in various seasons.)

Yes, concerning cost of living, Boston is better. For $140k, you can afford to live in the city and own or rent (33% max towards housing of $140k = $46-47k, or about $4k a month — easily doable). Even 1 bedroom lofts around Kendall Square in luxury apartments will be below $4k. Just don’t buy a condo in the financial district.

Other considerations:


San Francisco has better weather, especially between January-March than Boston. Likelihood it will snow. I’ve been here 25 years, I cannot think of a winter without snow. Likelihood it will be below 32F some days.

I cannot think of a winter where the whole winter was balmy. This winter has been nice so far. Edit: I take it back. Today was brutal. I wanted to find my ski pants for merely walking around outside. Temperatures in the morning commute were the high teens plus wind chills …

You can expect some humidity in the summer i.e., some July and August days, especially when it’s in the 80’s and 90’s will feel like a sauna. It’s not as humid as San Antonio or Houston.

A friend of mine joked that at least in Boston in the summer, if you put cookies on a sheet, they get dry. If you did that in San Antonio, they get soggy. San Francisco apparently has a little humidity with the fog, but this is negligible.

There are arguably 3 seasons in San Francisco; there are 4 in Boston.

Advantage: San Francisco unless you like snow and all four seasons.

Walkability and Public Transportation

So people in Boston complain about the T (the MBTA or Mass Bay Transit Authority), especially how it’s not as on time as they’d like, or in winter months how it breaks down or whatever. If you live in the cities of Boston or Cambridge, they are very walkable. At least we have public transportation; I’ve heard it’s negligible in San Fran.

Activities, especially for younger professionals

Boston is definitely aware of the college students. In the summer months, most students go away, the traffic is much better, there aren’t as many people in Boston proper. That being said, the city tries to have activities that are either free or relatively cheap. Most of the outdoor events will be in the summertime, but there are plenty of free to inexpensive activities such as the Landmarks Orchestra, Independence Day Boston Pops Concert and Fireworks, Movies on the Esplanade Hatchshell and at the Boston Harbor Hotel, various types of music at the Boston Harbor Hotel, Shakespeare on the Common, etc.

Boston is a fabulous city for younger professionals.

Education System

As you may know, Massachusetts in the union has the best education system. There are funny articles like If Massachusetts Were A Country, Its Students Would Rank 9th In The World

Boston is the modern-day Athens, with two world class institutions in Cambridge (Harvard, MIT) and numerous colleges, including 5 colleges in the top 50 of the country (adding Tufts, Boston University, Boston College). Continuing education and/or graduate level studies are pretty common here too.

Advantage: Boston

How do New York City and Boston compare 1
How do New York City and Boston compare

General Friendliness

Okay, so California definitely beats Massachusetts in terms of strangers. It has been said anecdotally that if you could liken people of a state to an animal, Californians would be Golden Retrievers (always happy to see you!) and Massachusetts people would be a lobster (tough hard exterior! but soft on the inside once you can break through the shell).

This is true in stores as well. While shopping, I’ve had a lot more people in California come up, say hi, introduce themselves, ask me if I need any help, and see if I am finding what I need, and tell me they’re available to me if I need help. In Massachusetts, this is the exception — very rare.

Making eye-contact with people and smiling: in California, that’s human behavior. In Massachusetts, that’s a rarity — are you a salesperson?! Are you a scammer?!

Advantage: San Francisco


I think Metro San Francisco has more diversity than Metro Boston, but around the universities and within 10 miles of the city (“within the 128/95 belt”) there’s quite a bit of diversity. New England tends to be the least diverse within the Union — especially when you get out to the suburbs. Within the city proper or at least around the colleges, there’s a lot of diversity.

Advantage: San Francisco

Professional Sports and Sports Teams

This is completely lopsided in the last 15 years. We Bostonians are spoiled. 9 professional championships?! Yikes. San Francisco only has 4: 3 with the Giants and the 2015 Golden State Warriors NBA title. Bostonians have the Pats in the calendar years of 2002, 04, 05, 15; the Red Sox (2004, 07, 13); the Celtics (2008) and the Bruins (2011).

I think I would say that sports are like religion of many people — people religiously watch their teams and the games, people know of statistics and so on. Some people nearly worship Bill Belichick (“In Bill We Trust”) and Tom Brady (“Superman”).

Sports are also safe topics for conversation.

Advantage: Boston

Health, Healthcare and Being in Shape

While Californians are generally in better shape (San Francisco’s adult obesity rates beat Boston’s) and have lots of great avenues such as hiking mountains and going camping, if you live in the city of Boston, since it’s very walkable, you can get decent exercise in the city. Healthcare-wise, Boston has a number of the top hospitals in the nation.


How do New York City and Boston compare

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