As far as cities go, Providence, Rhode Island, is a little one. It measures in at just over 20 square miles (nothing compared to New York City’s 300 square miles or even Boston’s 90), and it’s home to a modest population of around 180,000, according to the latest U.S. Census.
Despite its relatively small size, the capital city of Rhode Island is still broken up into a number of unique neighborhoods, each with its own personality. There’s the bustling downtown area, the quaint East Side, and artsy, up-and-coming sections such as Olneyville, just to name a few.
If you’re considering a move to Providence or even just planning a visit, you’re probably wondering where you should focus your efforts. The following are some of the best neighborhoods in Providence, Rhode Island and what you can expect from each:
1. Blackstone and Hope
Best for: Established Families, Professionals
The Blackstone and Hope neighborhoods are located in the northeastern section of Providence, comprising a large chunk of what’s known as the East Side. These neighborhoods are predominantly residential, and Blackstone actually boasts the highest homeownership rate in the city.
Blackstone and Hope are two of the most desirable locations in Providence thanks to their beautiful landscaping, distinctive architecture, walkability, convenience, and safety. That being said, Blackstone is also one of the most expensive areas to live. Hope is a little more renter-friendly, with ample multi-family houses on quiet side streets.
One of the biggest attractions in these neighborhoods is Blackstone Boulevard, a scenic 1.6 mile walking path constructed in 1894. The Boulevard, which is lined with magnificent homes, is a popular destination on nice days, and it hosts a free outdoor summer concert series, as well as a farmers market. Blackstone is also home to the Swan Point Cemetery, where you can find the gravestone of H.P. Lovecraft, a horror and sci-fi writer.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat or some retail therapy in the area, your best bet is Hope Street, the dividing line between the two neighborhoods, where you’ll find a variety of cute shops and highly-rated restaurants.
- Blackstone Boulevard
- Hope Street Farmers Market
- Swan Point Cemetery
- Hope Street
Best for: City Lovers
If you love the hustle and bustle of city life and want to be steps away from the best restaurants, shops, and venues Providence has to offer, then DownCity, also referred to as Downtown, is where you need to be. Many of the neighborhoods in Providence have a suburban feel, but downtown has a quintessential urban vibe and the convenience of a true metropolitan area.
As in any downtown area, rent in DownCity is significantly higher than in other neighborhoods, but if your budget allows, you can find a luxurious apartment to call home. This area is packed with retail shops, theater and music venues, corporate offices, and every type of restaurant imaginable, so you’ll truly want for nothing.
Among other popular attractions, DownCity is home to the Rhode Island Convention Center, the Providence Performing Arts Center, the Providence Place Mall, the Rhode Island State House, and WaterFire, the city’s free public art installation that takes place every summer. As you might expect, parking is a little tougher in downtown Providence than in other neighborhoods.
- Providence Place Mall
- Providence Children’s Museum
- The Superman Building
- Trinity Repertory Company and the Providence Performing Arts Center
3. Fox Point
Best for: Hipsters, History Buffs
Fox Point is another desirable neighborhood in Providence thanks to its rich history, quirky shops, and close proximity to downtown. As the most southern neighborhood on the East Side, it’s located just across the Providence River from DownCity.
Way back in the 1600s, Roger Williams and a group of religious exiles from the Massachusetts Bay Colony traveled up the Seekonk River, eventually landing in Fox Point. Today, Roger Williams Square on Gano Street remains as a monument of this historic moment in Rhode Island’s history. This neighborhood is also home to many historic buildings built in the 1800s.
Like other East Side neighborhoods, Fox Point is considered a safe area and is easily walkable. Unlike Blackstone, however, it has a higher percentage of college students due to its close proximity to local universities and affordable rents.
Perhaps one of the best-known destinations in Fox Point is Wickenden Street, which boasts an array of quirky restaurants and shops. You’ll find everything from art studios to coffee shops, which is why this area is a popular hangout for college students. The neighborhood is home to India Point Park, which stretches along the Seekonk and Providence Rivers and is the starting point of the East Bay Bike Path.
- East Bay Bike Path
- Roger Williams’ landing point
- Wickenden Street
4. Federal Hill
Best For: College Kids, Foodies
If you’re looking for inexpensive rent and a whole lot of amazing food, then Federal Hill is the way to go. This neighborhood is commonly called Rhode Island’s “Little Italy” thanks to its award-winning Italian restaurants, and it’s also a popular location for new, adventurous eateries.
Federal Hill is located to the west of DownCity—the two neighborhoods are separated by Route 95. While Federal Hill is, in fact, a whole neighborhood, many locals will use “Federal Hill” interchangeably with “Atwells Avenue,” the area’s cultural center, where you’ll find some of the best Italian restaurants in the Northeast.
As mentioned, Federal Hill is one of Providence’s more affordable neighborhoods, and while it’s generally considered a safe area, certain parts can be a little rough around the edges. Because of its reasonable rent, this is a popular housing location for students attending college in the city.
In addition to the classic Italian spots on Atwells Ave, Federal Hill is also home to several unique restaurants, such as The Grange, Ogie’s Trailer Park, and Bayberry Beer Hall. The close proximity of all these amazing food options makes Federal Hill a foodie’s dream.
- Italian restaurants on Atwells Avenue
- La Pigna Arch
- RI Museum of Science and Art
5. College Hill
Best for: Millennials, Academia
In Providence’s College Hill, you can have the best of both worlds. On one hand, it retains the quaint, homey feel and easy walkability of the East Side, but it‘s also home to several bustling areas that have a distinctly urban vibe.
As you may have guessed by its name, this neighborhood is home to two of Providence’s most prominent universities. Ivy league Brown University and the highly-regarded Rhode Island School of Design both have campuses on College Hill, so as you walk around this area, you’ll undoubtedly encounter plenty of students. The area also hosts several private secondary schools, including Moses Brown and The Wheeler School.
When it comes to housing in this area, a lot of the apartments are quickly snatched up by college kids, but if you can find a rental, chances are it will be affordable. The neighborhood is considered safe, but it can certainly get rowdy at night, especially on the weekends.
If you’re looking for shopping, entertainment, or a bite to eat in College Hill, Thayer Street is where you need to be. The road, which stretches alongside the Brown campus, has an impressive variety of small eateries, including every type of cuisine imaginable. It’s also the location of the historic Avon Theatre, which was built in 1938 and still maintains its Art Deco design.
- Thayer Street
- The Avon Cinema
- Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design
- The Aldrich House