Portland, Oregon is a cool city. There’s no other way to say it! It’s got great food (including all-you-can-drink craft beer and specialty coffee), amazing shopping, fun cultural activities, and there’s so much to do. This guide will help you explore the best neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon so you can make the most of your trip!
I’ve been to Portland a few times before, and have always enjoyed it. It’s got some great areas and it’s fun to just wander around and get lost. Now, full disclosure, I don’t live in Portland so am not a local expert on the best Portland neighborhoods but I am familiar with the city! And, with some help from the good ol’ internet, I hope this guide will help you discover the best that Portland has to offer for your next visit!
Portland is the largest city in Oregon, but still not a very large city – it only has a population of 645,000 and a lot of people think it has a small-town kind of vibe. It’s located right in the north of the state, close to the border of Washington. Portland is the “City of Roses,” and has a temperate climate – not too hot in the summer, and not too cold in the winter!
There are so many quirky and weird things to do in Portland, and the city is known for having a vibrant arts and culture scene, and a commitment to being eco-friendly. You’ll definitely find a lot of things to do in Portland, but once you’ve enjoyed a bit of time, you can also head out to the beautiful Oregon coast, about a three-hour drive away. Road-tripping and exploring the coast is absolutely one of the best things to do in Oregon and will give you a trip to remember!
As mentioned, Portland is not a huge city, but it is still big enough to take into consideration some of the different areas and neighborhoods. Depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s arts and culture or food and drink, green spaces, or residential areas, there is a neighborhood in Portland for that! Read this Portland travel guide to help you find the best places to stay and explore in Portland and plan your next trip.
Best neighborhoods in Portland Oregon
To understand the different neighborhoods, let’s start with a bit of a geography lesson. There are six areas of Portland – North, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast, and Southwest – which are called the city’s “quadrants” (the irony is not lost on me… it’s a geography lesson, not a math one!).
Burnside Street divides the city into the North and South and the Willamette River is the East-West dividing line. There are actually 90 formal neighborhoods recognized by the city in Portland, which is quite a few considering it’s only 145 square miles large.
It’s unlikely you’ll have time to explore all 90 neighborhoods, so we are just going to look at some of the highlights! This Portland travel guide will go through some of the cool neighborhoods in Portland and explore things to do, where to stay, and what to eat.
Starting off in the Northwest quadrant is the trendy and happening Pearl District. Formerly full of warehouses, it has not been transformed into an upscale neighborhood with great restaurants and bars in addition to a vibrant arts and culture scene (including Powell’s Books, the infamous Portland bookstore!)
Pearl District Location
The Pearl District is located in the Northwest quadrant and downtown Portland. It is easily walkable from its neighbors in the northwest quadrant, sandwiched between Old Town Chinatown and Nob Hill.
What is the Pearl District popular for?
The Pearl District is a popular neighborhood with young professionals and others who are looking for a great place to eat and have a night out. It’s known for its many art galleries and draws a creative and artsy type of person. It has great shopping, with a ton of quirky and unique stores to check out.
Things to do in the Pearl District
While there are seemingly endless things to do in the Pearl District, here are some of the top choices:
- Powell’s books: This has got to make your list of places to go! It’s the world’s largest independent bookstore, spanning the length of a city block! You can truly get lost at Powell’s and spend a day browsing all the titles. Definitely one of the best things to do in the Pearl District… and probably Portland!
- First Thursday: If you enjoy art and checking out galleries, make sure to join First Thursday. This event happens – you guessed it – on the first Thursday of every month. Art galleries will debut their new exhibitions and host events to draw people in for a visit!
- Go shopping! There is a large selection of shopping choices, ranging from trendy brands like Fjällräven to independent and ethically made furniture like Picchu + Bold.
- Eat and drink: The Pearl district is a great place to go for a meal, whether casual or fancy and a drink (or a few!) for a night out!
Staying in the Pearl District is a great idea if you are looking for somewhere very walkable and close to shopping, dining, and galleries. Here are some options:
- Andina: Peruvian food
- Oven and Shaker: Wood-fired pizzeria
- Fuller’s Coffee Shop: Old-school American-diner style cafe
Old Town Chinatown
As the name suggests, this neighborhood is Portland’s oldest and most historic area. It is a busy and vibrant neighborhood with tons to see and do!
Old Town Chinatown is just to the east of the Pearl District, in the northwest quadrant, right beside the downtown area and bordering the river.
What is Old Town Chinatown popular for?
Perhaps the most popular and notable things to do in Old Town Chinatown is to visit Voodoo Doughnut, the quirky and weird doughnut shop that is now iconic to the city. Besides that, this neighborhood is known for the busy weekend Farmer’s market, amazing traditional Chinese restaurants, historic homes, and a busy and exciting entertainment area.
Things to do in Old Town Chinatown
Here are some of the top things to do in Old Town Chinatown:
- Learn some history: This neighborhood is home to the Portland Chinatown Museum, where you can learn more about the Chinese American community in the city.
- Go underground: The famous “Shanghai Tunnels” are a network of underground tunnels beneath the city, perfect for exploring as part of a tour!
- Check out the market: Every weekend, there is a large outdoor market for arts and crafts. It’s called the Portland Saturday Market but is open Sundays too! You can explore 250 vendors selling arts and crafts, homemade goods, and delicious food.
Best Hotels in Old China Town, Portland
Old Town Chinatown is another very walkable neighborhood, great if you are traveling without a car and want to use public transportation. Here are a few hotel options:
Restaurants in Old China Town, Portland
- Dan & Louis Oyster Bar: Serving fresh seafood since 1907
- Lechon: South American-style tapas
- Kasbah Moroccan Cafe: Moroccan food in a cozy location
If you’re looking for a bit of nature in the middle of the city, Nob Hill is the place to be! It encompasses Forest Park and offers the best views in the city. It’s known for being an area with plenty of sophisticated dining and shopping options as well.
Nob Hill Location
Nob Hill is also located in the northwest quadrant, and is also often referred to as “Northwest.” It sits to the west of the Pearl District and encompasses Forest Park, which has 70 miles of different trails for walking, running, and biking. I stayed in the Nob Hill area and really enjoyed it. There was a lot to see and do and had a really fun vibe. I think it’s definitely one of the coolest neighborhoods in Portland!
What is Nob Hill popular for?
Perhaps the biggest draw to Nob Hill is the beautiful Forest Park. It’s also the best area for checking out various boutique shops and trendy restaurants. It is a very pretty neighborhood with old Victorian homes that have been repurposed into different businesses.
Things to do in Nob Hill
- Visit the rose garden: The Portland International Rose Test Garden is a beautiful area to explore and is located in Forest Park. From here, you can see sweeping views out over Portland.
- Go for a walk in Forest Park: There are tons of trails to choose from within this 5,156-acre park! Put on some running shoes and enjoy this little slice of nature in the middle of the city.
- Go window-shopping: Or real shopping… There are tons of quaint and unique shops in Nob Hill, with local creators making up most of the selection! If you love jewelry, try betsy & iya!
Best Hotels in Nob Hill
Nob Hill is a good location for those who want to be in close proximity to the park, perhaps if you like getting up for a morning run before heading out to explore for the day! Here are a few options:
- Budget: HI Portland Northwest Hostel (Note: I stayed here in Portland one time and couldn’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for a budget option!)
- Mid-range: Holiday Inn
- High-end: Hotel deLuxe
Restaurants in Nob Hill
- Southland Whiskey Kitchen: Southern restaurant and bar
- Serratto Restaurant and Bar: Italian and Mediterranean food in an upscale restaurant for a fine dining experience.
- Salt and Straw: Not technically a restaurant… But 100% the best ice cream I have ever had!
Every city has its downtown, and Portland is a great one to visit! It is a very small, compact area, which is easy to walk around. It’s also connected with the TriMet public transportation system, so moving around this area is very easy. Downtown is the place to be for shopping, eating, and everything else!
Down Town Location
Downtown Portland is located in the southwest quadrant of Portland, south of the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. It’s located along the Willamette River, so there are plenty of access points to take a stroll along the river.
What is Downtown popular for?
Downtown is a popular destination in Portland for being, well, downtown Portland! There are so many places to visit in downtown Portland. As one of the busiest neighborhoods in the city, you will be able to find so many things to do and see. It’s also home to Portland State University and Pioneer Courthouse Square – a public gathering place to see performances and demonstrations happening in the city.
Top things to do Downtown Portland
- Check out the Portland Art Museum
- Take a walk along the South Park Blocks. This is a 12-block stretch of greenspace near Portland State University and offers a beautiful place to go for a walk.
- Catch a show and listen to some music at the McMenamins Crystal ballroom
Best Hotels in Down Town Portland
By nature of being downtown, this neighborhood has a lot of great hotel options. You are also close to all the main attractions in the city center and can easily walk around the area. Here are a few options:
- Jakes Famous Crawfish: Popular spot for daily flown-in seafood
- Mother’s Bistro & Bar: Homey cafe with comfort food (and quite possibly the best brunch I’ve ever had!)
- Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse: Upscale Brazilian food with all you can eat meat
Alberta Arts District
Ready to embrace your inner artist? The Alberta Arts District is definitely the best neighborhood to do so… after all, it’s in the name already! This area has a wide range of local art, live music, and amazing bars and restaurants to hang out at.
Location of Alberta Arts District
The Alberta Arts District is located in the Northeast quadrant of Portland. It is not in the central Portland core but located a little bit further out. You would need to drive or take public transportation to get to this area of Portland. For this reason, though, it’s a great place to explore and offers some more off-the-beaten-track options!
All of the main attractions are concentrated around Alerbta Street, so you can easily walk to most places you want to visit.
What is the Alberta Arts District popular for?
The Alberta Arts District is known for its vibrant arts and music scene. There is a wide variety of different art galleries and music venues to check out. They also have popular community events like Last Thursday. There are a lot of awesome places to eat and drink, too! And, if you’re looking for something free to do, just wander the streets and check out all the cool murals!
Things to do in the Alberta Arts District
Here are some of the popular things to do when visiting the Alberta Arts District:
- Last Thursday: This is the district’s answer to the Pearl District’s “First Thursday” event that showcases art galleries. Last Thursday in the Alberta Arts District is a true community event, with the street shutting down for more than 150 vendors, artists, and musicians to show off their art!
- Check out some galleries: Some of the popular gallery spaces are Alberta Street Galery, Antler, and Guardino.
- Make some art: A lot of the galleries and shops in this area offer lessons and classes. Flight 64 has printmaking workshops and Collage has just about every kind of art supply you’d ever need or imagine!
Best Hotels in Alberta Arts District
The Alberta Arts District is not in the main city center, so there are fewer hotel options. However, prices can be cheaper and the hotels are not likely to book up as fast. Here are a couple of choices:
- Budget: Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel
- Mid-range: The Alberta Petite Hotel
- High-end: There are no large or upscale hotels in this area, so if you’re looking for something fancy, you may want to try staying in another neighborhood.
Where to eat in Alberta Arts District
- DarSalam: Middle Eastern food with plenty of gluten-free options
- Tin Shed Garden Cafe: A quaint little spot that is dog-friendly!
- Pine State Biscuits: Southern-style buttermilk biscuits and gravy
Thrift shopping, bookstores, amazing coffee… This is what you go to Portland for, right? Hawthorne is a great little neighborhood that has a ton of fun places to explore, great food and drink, and quirky and unique shopping options!
Hawthorne is located in the southeast quadrant. Similar to the Alberta Arts District, it is not in the city center like the other neighborhoods we looked at, but located further out in the suburbs of Portland. But, even though it’s not walkable from downtown Portland or the main tourist areas, it’s definitely worth a visit to check out!
What is Hawthorne popular for?
Hawthorne is known for its quirky and fun vibe, with the walkable Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard as the main draw. There are shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants lining the street, so you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to stay occupied. They also have some unique theatres and cinema houses, so it’s a good place to catch a show!
Things to do in Hawthorne
Here are some of the popular things to do when visiting Hawthorne:
- Shop for vintage clothing: There are a ton of shops to check out, but House of Vintage is the most popular! It is a huge store at over 13,000 square feet, so you can wander here and find all sorts of treasures.
- Catch a show: The CineMagic Theatre runs a mix of contemporary and classic films, so there will always be something interesting to watch! The Helium Comedy Club also puts on hilarious stand-up comedy shows.
- Go skateboarding: Hawthorne is home to a large indoor skate park, the Commonwealth Indoor Skate Park. It also has a shop and gallery space, so you can just hang out if skating is not your thing.
Best Hotels in Hawthorne
There is a very limited selection of hotels in the Hawthorne neighborhood. It is better to go a bit north to Belmont, or west towards the center of the city to find somewhere to stay. There are, however, Airbnbs in the area, which could be a really great way to get the local feel of living in Portland!
- Cubo: Cuban restaurant with a patio
- ¿Por Qué No?: Small, popular taco stand
- Fried Egg I’m in Love: You guessed it, a restaurant that specializes in delicious eggs and breakfast foods!
It’s impossible to include every single location on this list of best neighborhoods in Portland, but here is a brief overview of some other cool areas in Portland to check out:
- Belmont: Located in southeast Portland, Belmont is full of independent shops, vintage clothing stores, coffee shops, and food trucks.
- Foster-Powell: Located in southeast Portland and often referred to as “FoPo”, this neighbourhood is a very bike friendly neighbourhood to explore.
- Mississippi: Located in north Portland, Mississippi has a ton of great places to check out some live music and is an LGBTQ+ center of the city.
- Beaumont: Located in northeast Portland, this neighbourhood is mostly residential, but has a ton of great yoga studios to get your zen on!
- St. Johns: Located in north Portland, this neighbourhood contains Cathedral Park, a lovely place to relax and explore in.
- Jade district: Located in southeast Portland, the Jade district is a very diverse part of the city, home to many immigrant populations.
- Goose Hollow: Located in southwest Portland and the main sports hub of the city, with stadiums and sports bars alike.
- Arlington Heights: Located west of Goose Hollow and popular for the iconic Washington Park and its manicured Japanese Gardens.
- Northwest District: Located between Nob Hill and Slab Town, it is a popular residential area where you can find old Portland-style houses together with sleek new condominiums. Check out the iconic NW 23rd Ave, NW 21rd Ave and Alphabet district.
- The South Waterfront Located south of downtown Portland, The South Waterfront district is a high-rise district and one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the US, connected to Downtown and other districts through public transit.
Best time to visit Portland
Portland is a great city with generally mild weather, so it is suitable to visit at any time during the year. However, the best time of year to visit Portland, Oregon is between May to September, roughly. During this time, it’s likely to be dry and warm. It can get quite hot in the summer, but it has a generally moderate climate like the rest of Oregon and Washington to the north.
The winter months have more rain, but can also be an enjoyable time to visit. You might save a bit of money during this off-season. And you can always just make a list of some great indoor activities to do! No matter what season you go, there are so many cool areas in Portland to explore! I hope that this guide gave you a bit of an overview of some of the best neighborhoods in Portland to help plan your next trip!
About the Author
Alyssa is a freelance writer with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree. Alyssa is passionate about travel and has been to over 20 countries – and counting! Living in Vancouver, Canada, she loves to take advantage of the mountains and ocean by getting outdoors as much as possible. When she’s not writing, Alyssa is probably walking by the river, caring for her many houseplants, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You can keep up with her on her personal blog.