Moving to a new city is always challenging. And a large part of that challenge is looking for a place to live. With so many things to consider when weighing your options—house styles, neighborhood safety, quality of schools, the convenience of location—it can be quite overwhelming.
You’ve most likely seen the neighborhood section in our Portland City Guide. This list, along with our ‘Best Suburbs in Portland,” “The Best Up and Coming Neighborhoods in Portland” and our “Best Neighborhood for Families in Portland” lists are more in-depth guides examining what it’s like living in each of these areas. We include links to popular destinations along with available houses for sale and apartments for rent.
Portland is separated into five sections – Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, and North, with a sixth section planned for 2020 called South Portland. Each section has some neighborhoods totaling 95 in all. The Willamette River divides the city between west and east. Portland is the biggest city in Oregon and has about 620,000 people.
Portland is known as a super liberal city for folks who are progressive and outdoorsy. That’s what people assume about the area, anyway. But really, there are lots of different kinds of people who live there, just like any city. It’s big on art, alcohol and it’s absolutely beautiful there.
But there’s so much more to Portland than its scenery and its bar scene. And a great way to get to know any city at a deeper level is to look at its neighborhoods.
If you’re moving to Portland, we’ve picked out our favorites. The neighborhoods listed here offer something for everyone, from students and creatives to young professionals and growing families. And all of them have unique attractions and a tremendous amount of charm. One of them is sure to be perfect for you.
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If you love dining out, then the Pearl District is the neighborhood for you. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods for young professionals looking for a great nightlife. But it’s also great for families with young kids who want to be close to family-friendly activities. The Pearl, as it’s called, used to be full of warehouses and work yards but has been transformed into a place filled with upscale, world-famous restaurants, art galleries, and classy boutiques. This area is very walkable with many residents opting to get rid of their cars in favor of public transit, bikes, and their own two feet. The Pearl District Neighborhood Association is also strong and is a great place to get to know more about the district.
The Pearl has so much going on it’s hard to keep up. If you’re a fan of bookstores, then check out Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. Or go to the Lizard Lounge, where you can find clothes for everyone, featuring local and global brands. It even has a ping-pong table and live music. Then there’s Lovejoy Bakers, a great place to get lunch, a pastry or a variety of bread. And we mentioned restaurants. Yes, the Pearl District has a lot of them. From fine dining to casual joints, The Pearl has plenty of places to eat, drink and be merry. From Mediterranean Exploration Company to Oven and Shaker there’s so much to explore in the Pearl District’s foodie scene.
There are a bunch of public and private schools in and around the Pearl District, too many to list here. But we’ll highlight a few: Chapman Middle, East-West Sylvan, Lincoln High, are a few public schools in the area. And The Emerson School is a non-profit charter school that caters to Kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
The Northwest District, also known as just “Northwest” or “Nob Hill,” is a densely populated retail and residential neighborhood in the—yup, you guessed it—northwest section of the city. It’s a small area, at only 976 acres, but has more than 14,000 residents. This area is trendy with boutique shops, restaurants and cafes. The Portland campus of Linfield College is in the neighborhood, along with the Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital. The Portland Streetcar system links to Nob Hill to the Pearl District, the Downtown Cultural District, Portland State University and the South Waterfront area.
Like The Pearl District, there is plenty of shopping, restaurants, and coffee shops in this area. Places like Zelda’s Shoe Bar and Music Millennium, a neighborhood record shop that’s been open since 1969. Paley’s Place is a great place if you like French cuisine, and if you’re a chocoholic, then Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe is for you.
Score another one for downtown Portland. While this isn’t an official Portland neighborhood designation, the West End is a hidden gem between West Burnside and Southwest Morrison St., stretching from Southwest Broadway to SW 14th Street. In other words, it’s next to the Pearl District, bookending Powell’s City of Books. This emerging community is quickly filling up with unique shops and making a name for itself as a fashion and design hub.
West End is definitely an outlier when it comes to Portland neighborhoods. It’s funky and fashionable, trendy and forward-thinking, a neighborhood, yet not a neighborhood. It’s where creativity meets fashion meets the nightlife. Places like Union Way, Bridge & Burn and Self Edge are highly-popular shopping destinations, while noodle bar Boxer Ramen, Stumptown Coffee, and Clyde Common are eateries with a lot of foot traffic.
Arlington Heights is about as family-friendly as you can get. Located in Southwest Portland, it’s one of Portland’s most scenic neighborhoods, as it’s nestled in the Tualatin mountain range. There are about 300 single-family homes here, and the neighborhood has some of the most renowned parks in the city, with 323 acres of open space.
Arlington Heights is a great place for outdoors lovers, with beautiful, expansive parks reachable within the neighborhood. Residents can access the 10 miles of rails in Hoyt Arboretum within one to three blocks from their homes. Washington Park is one of the most popular parks in Portland, and there’s a lot to see within its parameters. You can hike around it reservoirs, pay tribute to the Holocaust Memorial, stop and smell the roses in the International Rose Garden, take your kids to play on the playground, or take the train to the zoo. The Portland Children Museum is nearby as well.
Laurelhurst is mostly made up of homeowners with a strong, active neighborhood association that takes its responsibility very seriously. It’s a little over 10 minutes from downtown and surrounds the neighborhood park of the same name. The community is very walkable and is a great place for families.
We mentioned Laurelhurst is a great place for families and there’s no better proof than the neighborhood’s Laurelhurst Kids Club. This group curates a list of other parents with children within the community and schedules playdates. It also compiles a list of vetted babysitters, reviews of nearby schools and sends email alerts with info like stroller recalls and free swim lessons. And they have a website, too. The Laurelhurst Theater is a great place to catch a new or classic flick. And we mentioned Laurelhurst Park before. It’s got a spring-fed pond, a soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts, two lighted tennis courts, a horseshoe pit, wading pool, playground, picnic tables, restrooms, and walking paths.
Neighborhoods are about location and lifestyle, to be sure. But more importantly, they are about the people who live in them. These downtown neighborhoods are culturally rich and offer a range of diverse lifestyles that have helped make Portland one of the most culturally diverse cities in the U.S. We hope this guide helps in your decision-making process.
Good luck with your move to Portland!
Here are our choices for the best suburbs in Portland for 2019.
Portland has so many suburbs it can be really difficult picking the best one (they're all awesome). We're here to make that choice a little bit easier with our 2019 guide to the best suburbs in Portland.