The City of Boston Gets Great Yelp Reviews

Who reviews an entire city, anyway?


On Yelp, the City of Boston has 4.5 stars.

No, we’re not talking about some summation of the reviews of all the businesses in Boston. We’re talking about reviews of Boston itself. In an essay for CityLab, Kriston Capps points out that Yelpers have a strange habit of leaving reviews for entire cities. Why? Are people checking Yelp to see if they should visit? Can any one person adequately sum up the amalgam of people, experiences, and places that make up a metropolis? Who knows, but in Boston’s case, 85 Yelpers have tried. Some of them visited the city. Some went to college here years ago. Some Yelpers have lived here for years. (Isn’t that a bit like a waiter leaving a review for the restaurant where he works?)

Regardless of their motivation, here’s what we learned from Boston’s Yelp reviews:

“Boston isn’t a city…’s a cesspool of people who think too much of themselves.” This comes from Billy E., who in 2008 gave Boston its only one star review.

“WHY DON’T YOU MARK YOUR DAMN STREETS?!” asked Kim P. in 2011. She gave the city two stars, but many who reviewed it more kindly shared her frustrations.

Jack M. offered up some classic Boston nativism in 2009. “This is MY town.I’ve been here my whole life. Which is longer than you. So I win,” he wrote. His score? Three stars. It may be his city, but he’s a little ambivalent.

Steve L. went the more traditional guidebook route. “Boston is one of my favorite cities to visit, whether for business or leisure. Great walking city, fully of museums, culture, and of course, history.” Four stars.

Adam M. was effusive in his five star review: “By far, the greatest city in the United States! The best in arts and sports, more historical locations per square inch than ANYWHERE else in North America, and a very humble citizenry.”

There are a few trends in Boston’s Yelp reviews. The city needs to mark its streets better. And actually, if it could just design the layout of the streets better, too, that’d be great. Visitors enjoyed the city’s focus on history, but our people get mixed reviews. Nevertheless, as Adam M. suggested, we do pretty well compared to other American cities. New York, New Orleans, and Austin all have 4.5 star reviews to match ours. But some cities didn’t fare as well. Los Angeles got 3.5 stars. St. Louis has two. (For comparison, Boston’s Green Line also gets two stars.)

But as is often the irritating case with Yelp, a review often told us more about the person leaving it than it revealed about the city of Boston. When summing up a whole city, one’s judgement has to clouded  by personal experience. No one has seen it all, done it all, met all the people. Eventually, you’ve got to just throw up your hands and pick a star. That seems to be what Yelper Peter G. did in his review, which reads in its entirety: “It ain’t perfect. But fuck – it’s home.” Imperfect, maybe, but he still gave Boston the full five stars.