Neighborhoods and housing
Affordable, full of culture and easy to get around, Providence is more than a great place to pursue your graduate studies; it’s a great place to live. This neighborhood guide will help you (and any accompanying loved ones) better navigate your off-campus options as you get ready to make the move.
RISD’s Residence Life office manages on-campus apartments for graduate students. If you prefer to live off campus, Residence Life has put together a guide to living off campus and some helpful tips for how to begin your search for housing. JumpOffCampus is a great place to start.
Other useful resources include the Brown University Auxiliary Housing site and off-campus living guide, local realtors (such as Samson and Armory Management Company) and residential real estate sites like Trulia and Zillow. Another good way to discover available housing is to check bulletin boards at coffee shops and grocery stores around the city. Finally, we recommend taking a drive through the various neighborhoods and looking for rental signs—it may seem old fashioned, but it’s a great way to find an available place in a neighborhood you like.
RISD’s partnership with College Student Insurance enables students to apply for discounted property insurance. If you do decide to live off campus, you must register your off-campus address with Residence Life by August 1.
Neighborhoods near RISD
Across the Providence River from the main part of campus, downtown (aka “Downcity”) Providence is home to the Fleet Library and the CIT/Fletcher Building, where a majority of the RISD graduate departments and studios are located. If you're looking to live off campus, you'll find a range of apartment-style living options and amazing examples of 19th-century architecture here as well.
Beyond being walkable and bikeable, two transportation hubs are in the area: the Kennedy Plaza bus station and the Providence rail station. There are also many restaurants, hotels, bars and venues, including The Dean, Oberlin and North. During the warmer months, Movies on the Block draws crowds, as does Waterfire, and in the winter you can catch hockey and basketball games at “the Dunk” next to the Providence Place Mall. Johnson & Wales, Roger Williams, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island all have locations downtown as well.
Just south of downtown is the Jewelry District, where there are a number of loft-style living options as well as restaurants and the Providence Children's Museum. To the north, in Smith Hill, you'll find the Rhode Island State House.
The East Side of town (not to be confused with East Providence across the Seekonk River) is made up of a number of small neighborhoods. College Hill is home to both RISD and Brown University, and its main commercial strip, Thayer Street, has a wide range of dining and shopping options.
To the south of College Hill is the Fox Point neighborhood, with Wickenden Street and India Point Park at its base. You'll find great restaurants and shops on Wickenden as well, including The East End and Adler's Design Center & Hardware. India Point Park often hosts festivals and concerts and is the entrance to the well-loved East Bay Bike Path, which runs 14.5 miles along the Narragansett Bay to Bristol, RI.
The Wayland neighborhood lies to the east of College Hill around Wayland Square, where you'll also find a variety of shops and restaurants (Eastside Marketplace, Red Stripe, Books on the Square) and a laundromat (most apartments in Providence are equipped with a washer/dryer in the basement, but it's always good to inquire). The Blackstone neighborhood lies a bit further to the east and its Lippitt Park is home to the Hope Street Farmers Market during the warmer months.
Mount Hope is located in the northeast quadrant of Providence, north of College Hill. Hope Street runs through it and is another great area for food (Ivy Tavern, Not Just Snacks, Three Sisters) and shopping. In general, the East Side is fairly walkable and bikeable and it's also serviced by the RIPTA bus system.
Interstate 95 runs to the west of downtown Providence and the West Side lies just beyond it. This area is defined by two neighborhoods: the Broadway/Armory district and Federal Hill. A well known Italian-American community, many restaurants, bars and markets line its main street, Atwells Avenue.
Broadway, a commercial street south of Federal Hill, has a number of vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants including The Grange and Nick's on Broadway. It is also home to the Columbus Theatre and record shops Armageddon and Analog Underground.
Further to the south of Broadway is the Armory district, where you'll find the Avery, Hudson Street Deli and other restaurants. The Dexter Parade Grounds adjacent to the Armory hosts a farmers market every Thursday in the warmer months. If you travel east on Westminster Street back toward I-95, you'll find local favorites like White Electric Coffee and Frog and Toad.
West Side neighborhoods offer a wide range of living options—from condos to apartments to single-family homes—and provide easy access to RISD's campus whether you're walking, biking, driving or taking public transportation.
To the west of the Armory district is Olneyville, a neighborhood known for its mill buildings and its impact on art and music as the home base of the Fort Thunder arts collective in the '90s. You'll find loft- and apartment-style housing here and some great bars and restaurants including Troop and Olneyville New York System (a go-to for the city's famed hot wieners). There's a lot for artists and designers to get involved in in this part of town too—be sure to check out The Steel Yard and the wurks. If you're an intrepid cyclist, Olneyville is a bike ride away from campus and RIPTA buses also serve the neighborhood.
Just to the north of Providence, Pawtucket was a major textile industry hub in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, many of its mill buildings have been converted to either studio space or living accommodations, making the area popular among RISD grad students and alumni. In Pawtucket, you'll find good restaurants (Pho Horn's, Garden Grille), interesting shops like Lorraine Fabrics and venues like Machines with Magnets.