There’s no denying that Portland is a beautiful city. Rows of tree lined streets and a city surrounded by one of the largest urban forests in the country.
It’s a green city full of charming bungalows, great restaurants and local shops and nowhere is the city’s beauty more evident than in the best neighborhoods in Portland.
I’m a lifelong Portland local and wanted to provide some insights on the best Portland neighborhoods for first time visitors and/or folks planning to move to Portland.
Each neighborhood in Portland feels as unique as the city itself and planning a trip can feel overwhelming because there’s so much to see and do! But fret not because I have you covered.
Without further ado, let’s cover everything you need to know about the best neighborhoods in Portland.
Best Portland neighborhoods Map
Portland is comprised of six quadrants: North, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and Southwest. Fun fact, the South quadrant is the newest and only entered the scene May 2020.
Best Portland Neighborhoods
#8. Downtown Portland
Listen, I understand that downtown Portland is getting a bad rap these days due to political activity, but in all honesty — it’s a beautiful Portland neighborhood and worth exploration, especially once it gets back to its feet.
Portland’s downtown core a vibrant community with interesting restaurants, great local shopping options, home to Pioneer Courthouse Square — referred to as Portland’s living room, and much more.
The downtown neighborhood is easy to explore on foot because it’s so compact. Make sure to swing by the waterfront, especially during cherry blossom season to see an delightful array of spring color.
If you’re in a shopping mood, head to Pioneer Place for big name brands and tax-free shopping.
Make sure to visit the Portland Saturday Market. Think crafty locals selling everything from birdhouses to paintings, food, jewelry and musical instruments. Visiting the Saturday Market is on most peoples to-do lists because it’s quintessential artsy Portland.
And last but not least — visit Voodoo Donuts because no one will believe you were in Portland if you don’t!
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Portland is also one of my favorites for sentimental reasons.
When my family moved to America our first residence was a lovely old home within the charming Laurelhurst neighborhood, which is why Laurelhurst Park is one of my favorite parks in Portland to this day.
It’s a charming old-school Portland neighborhood is highly desirable because of the stunning homes and overall lovely neighborhood feel. It’s also really close to downtown Portland, which makes it a great option for folks moving to Portland for a job downtown.
My favorite restaurants in the area include Laurelhurst Market and Pambiche, make sure to try both!
#6. Mt. Tabor
The Mt. Tabor neighborhood is best known for charming homes that exude a welcoming neighborhood feel. This Portland neighborhood encircles Mt. Tabor Park where you can climb to the top of and get breathtaking views of Portland (it’s one of the best viewpoints in the city!).
Mt. Tabor Park is home to various hiking trails, great dog park, beloved community garden, tennis courts and ample picnicking opportunities.
Start your day exploring this cute neighborhood in Portland with a delicious cup from Albina Press (it’s so quaint) and then walk into the park by way of the neighborhood streets.
My favorite restaurants include Por Que No and Coquine for very special occasions.
#5. Hawthorne District /Belmont
The Hawthorne District is one of the most beloved areas in Portland by locals and visitors alike. This is mostly thanks to the lively stretch known as Belmont Street, where you’ll find a high concentration of interesting shops, phenomenal restaurants, quaint cafes, vintage clothing stores and bars that are easy to walk to.
The Hawthorne District spans an impressive 43 blocks and definitely has an artsy and quirky vibe to it. So if you’re looking to shed some light on the daily life of the average Portlander, I highly recommend this area.
Make sure to check out the Asylum Food Pod (considered one of the best in the city) and swing by Apizza Scholls for the best pizza in the country.
#4. The Pearl District
The Pearl District is a great Portland neighborhood for those that enjoy a more industrial feel in a city.
Classy glass high rises (with steep rent prices, I assure you) engulf visitors below, but thankfully there’s a plenty of cafes and a beautiful park by the name of Fields Park for those in need of reprieve.
My favorite cafe in the area is Sisters Coffee and I used to start every Saturday morning by walking to it for a great cup of coffee and some beans for the week. The staff is always to inviting and warm and I looked forward to the visit.
While you’re exploring this charming neighborhood in Portland, make sure to swing by one of the best bakeries in the city, Lovejoy Bakers before visiting the largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s Books.
If you’re celebrating a fancy occasion, I suggest making reservations at Andina Restaurant (I’ve celebrated birthdays and job promotions here plenty of times!).
#3. Boise (Mississippi Avenue)
When most people think of Portland’s quirkiness they probably envision a Portland neighborhood like Boise, especially the lively corridor that is Mississippi Avenue.
Mississippi Avenue is lined with colorful storefronts and locals shops that cater to any whim a millennial might enjoy. There’s a beautiful plant nursery, awesome restaurants, food cart pods, fantastic breweries (some of the best in Portland!) and plenty of charming shops.
Where to eat:
- Porque No ($$): My favorite tacos and guacamole in Portland! Their margaritas are also very good. Lines start to form quickly during the lunch hour and dinner hours. If you can, swing by during happy hour – runs daily from 3-6pm or Taco Tuesday, when tacos are 50 cents off.
- Gravy: One of the best brunch spots in Portland so it gets busy fast. Best known for gravy dishes and large portions.
- Lovely’s Fifty-fifty ($): Undeniably delicious wood-fired pizza served alongside homemade ice cream. This well reviewed spot came in with a bang and it’s hard to image Mississippi without it. The secret to their award-winning taste? A sourdough starter.
- Little Big Burger ($): Great smaller burgers with truffle fries to boot. The catsup here is really good (but some consider it spicy). I normally stop it for a quick bite if I need a boost of energy. However, if you plan to only have one meal while exploring Mississippi Ave, make it Porque No or Lovely’s Fifty-fifty.
- Ruby Jewel Scoops ($): Delicious ice cream sandwiched between cookies of your choice. My personal favorite combo is lavender ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies – but go crazy and come up with a combo of your own!
Where to drink:
- Prost! Marketplace ($): A food cart pod serving creative cuisine on Mississippi Ave. Regardless of what you choose to eat (Matt’s BBQ is my personal favorite), make sure to grab brews from Prost! The German brewery adjacent to the cart pod. This food pod has picnic tables, lighting and a tent to keep diners dry – so come rain or shine!
- Stormbreaker Brewing ($$): A local’s favorite for good reason! My co-worker goes once a week, especially during the warm summer months when the outdoor patio could not be more inviting. Their brews are top notch and you can expect nothing less from the service.
Where to shop:
Pistils Nursery ($ – $$): One of my favorite plant stores in Portland! Some of the bigger plants are not normal people priced, but smaller 4-inch potted plants go for $8, not too bad in the plant world.
Meadow: Salt, Chocolate and Bitters ($$). A cute shop worth a visit even if you don’t plan to purchase anything. They have finely selected chocolates from all over the world in addition to massive salt blocks and unique wine.
ReBuilding Center ($$): I actually just discovered the ReBuilding Center (because I’ve been living under a rock, apparently) and I’m regret not knowing about it earlier. It’s a massive 40,000 square foot building full of recycled home materials for shoppers to pursue. It’s great for updating your home and simply getting inspired.
#2. Alberta Arts District
Whenever I have a spare weekend for exploring, I don’t fight the gravitational pull that leads directly to the Alberta Arts District because this is the quintessential community neighborhood in Portland.
And what’s not to love? This colorful artsy neighborhood has everything – delicious food, one of my favorite brunch spots, cute local shops galore and some of the best murals the city has to offer!
Swing by the Kennedy School to see what happens when you convert a school into a hang out spot for the neighborhood (the detention room was converted into a bar).
If you’re visiting Alberta neighborhood in Portland during the summer months, check out Last Thursday where local vendors, artists, performers and musicians share their craft along Northeast Alberta Street. It’s a very fun way to spend the evening.
Where to eat
- Proud Mary Coffee ($$): One of my top 5 favorite brunch spots in Portland! Proud Mary hails from Australia and chose to make Portland its first US destination – how lucky can one city be?
- Pine State Biscuits ($): This is a Portland staple and graces most “top places to eat in Portland” lists. The Reggie is an easy crowd favorite and their plain biscuits are so good I get them as snacks!
- Bollywood Theater ($$): A super hip Indian restaurant with a fun millennial/Portland twist. If that’s a thing? We visited with a group of friends for a birthday celebration and tried about 15 small plates– all were big hits! The food is reason alone to visit, but if that’s not enough to convince you, the atmosphere is so fun.
- Petite Provence ($$): Dare I say my mother’s favorite brunch spot in Portland? I can see why; it feels like stepping into a corner of Paris. My mom and favorite aunt love this place and usually host out of town guests here. Their croissants are so good (especially when warm) and brunch portions are generous. But the real star of the show is the pastry case near the front door – do NOT pass!
- Salt & Straw ($$): Goodness, I’d fear for my safety if I didn’t mention Salt & Straw here! It seems that the more popular and “mainstream” a place gets, the harder it is to like. But Salt & Straw is the exception! I don’t care if the queen tweets about it, it will always be dear to my heart because their ice cream is so good. Make sure to try their seasonal flavors – usually released the first of the month.
Where to drink
- Great Notion Brewery ($ – $$) : We discovered this place through a close friend of ours and are glad we did! The smoothness and complexity of the brews here is hard to describe. I could easily spend an entire day tasting every single brew here and leave wanting more. Great selection of beer with nice selection of standard pub fare.
- Teote Mezcaleria ($$): We stumbled upon this place en route to the airport and were pleasantly surprised. We ordered their bowls and enjoyed them by a massive covered firepit in the upstairs patio. Happy hour runs daily from 3-6pm – enjoy $1 off cocktails & drafts.
- Zilla Sake House: There are more than 70 varieties of sake are available at this little shop. Let your hair down and try a flight! And if you’re hungry, order some sushi as well.
Where to shop
- Monograph Bookwerks: The quintessential Portland bookstore stuffed to the rim with books.
- Frock: Vintage clothes and locally designed pieces.
- Cord: This shop is a hoot! It’s an outdoor person’s dream full of local knives, axes and camping gear.
- Amelia: A charming and cozy boutique full of vintage styled clothes.
#1. Northwest Portland
Northwest Portland is my favorite neighborhood in Portland and is the Portland neighborhood I chose to live in during my time in the city.
The neighborhood is as charming as you can imagine and it reminds me very much of Europe in that it’s easy to get around by walking or biking and a car is optional.
The NW neighborhood is self sufficient in the sense that you can find everything you need (large grocery stores, bookshops, a library, plenty of restaurants, a hospital, movie theater, etc.)
The most notable part of this charming Portland neighborhood is NW 23rd Avenue – a quaint street peppered with local shops and cafes where you can easily find yourself people-watching for hours.
The Northwest neighborhood is currently expanding further north into an area called Slabtown. It’s chock-full of tactful mid-rise buildings that blend in with the neighborhood’s charm while bracing for the future.
Make sure to check out Washington Park while you’re exploring this neighborhood in Portland. Washington Park is my favorite park in Portland, which is saying a lot! The rose garden within Washington Park is the oldest in the country.
Where to eat
- Ken’s Bakery is my favorite bakery in Portland. Order the Oregon croissant or the ham & cheese croissant if you’re in the mood for something savory. The quality of Ken’s pastries makes my heart sing! But it’s no surprise, considering the owner is a recipient of the uber prestigious James Beard Award.
- Justa Pasta: Our favorite restaurant in NW Portland for the easy-going vibe and great staff. Feels like stepping foot into Italy.
- Salt & Straw Ice Cream: This is Salt & Straw’s original location! And it is popular indeed, the line often wraps around the block. Try the season flavors, released the first of every month.
- Life of Pie Pizza: The wood-fired pizza is delicious – and the margarita pizza is only $5 during happy hour!! This is one of my favorite places for happy hour.
- St. Honore Boulangerie: A well-established French bakery and a staple in this Portland neighborhood. Make sure to try their opera cake or pick up a loaf of bread – so good!
- Besaws: Besaws is a GREAT spot for brunch. My personal favorite item on the menu is the French toast. Happy hour runs daily from 5pm to 7pm but you can visit the bar next door if you’re placed on the waitlist.
- Papa Haydn: The triple chocolate cake and carrot cake are sublime! I wouldn’t necessary recommend visiting Papa Haydn for food, but the deserts are worth a visit! I come here for celebratory occasions with girlfriends.
- Fancy eats: Paley’s Place, St. Jack, Serratos
Where to shop
- Crossroads Trading: Crossroads Trading is a reasonably-priced consignment shop that sells trendy pieces both locals and visitors enjoy.
- Restoration Hardware: Walking through the floors of this beautifully curated (read: expensive) store makes me day dream like crazy! I enjoy it so much I take out of town guest here. Little tip: head upstairs to the rooftop and linger on the outdoor patio – it’s allowed!
- Tender Loving Empire: This is a fun and local “catch all” shop that sells interesting knick-knacks made in Portland. I especially love their selection of greeting cards – so clever and funny.
- Solabee Flowers & Botanicals: My favorite plant shop in Portland. The NW Portland location is new and the shop is beautiful inside, just be mindful that camera photos are not allowed (phones can be used).
Best Neighborhoods in Portland (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the best Portland neighborhoods for first time visitors:
- Pearl District
- Mt. Tabor
Interested in Portland, Oregon? Recommended Reading
- Let’s Talk: Portland, Oregon Vs. Portland Maine: My husband and I visited the “other” Portland in the fall and thought it would be fun to compare the two Portlands — Portland, Oregon is named after Portland, Maine after all.
- Want to know about Portland’s newest nickname? Here’s 20 Interesting Portland Fact You Probably Don’t Know
- 20 Honest Pros and Cons of Living in Portland
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best neighborhoods in Portland. I hope you enjoyed the post!
Until next time,