The Best Neighborhoods To Stay in Portland, Oregon

Posted by
Arthur McMahon
February 08, 2021
Updated September 25, 2023

best neighborhoods portland oregon
Photo: Getty Images

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Portland is only as weird as you want it to be, and you can control your level of weirdness simply by choosing the right neighborhood to stay in.

Of course, all of Portland neighborhoods are a little bit weird — in a delightful way.

There are over 100 distinct neighborhoods and districts throughout the city. You’ll find there are as many unique places to stay in the city as there are reasons to visit, and each area has its own vibe and attractions to draw you in.

Whether you want to be close to the action in Downtown, get your nature fix at Forest Park, or partake in a legendary Burnside pub crawl, one of the Portland neighborhoods below will be perfect for your visit. Read on to figure out which Portland neighborhoods will best suit your next Rip City getaway.

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Southwest Hills: The Best Neighborhood for Families

The Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park, just west of the Southwest Hills. // Photo: Jonathan Cohen, Getty Images

Simply called the “West Hills” by locals, the Southwest Hills neighborhood sits above the city. While the neighborhood is but a few steps away from Downtown, its natural topography separates it from the heart of the city with broad swaths of greenery. Places like Governors Park and the Marquam Nature Park form a natural noise-absorbing border wall.

That said, there are areas of the West Hills that provide awesome views of the city. On clear days, these same vistas are decorated with the distant snow-capped peaks of mounts Hood, Adams, and St. Helens.

The separation from (and proximity to) Downtown is part of what makes it the best of the Portland neighborhoods for families. There’s an abundance of kid-friendly parks nearby, and the ever-popular Oregon Zoo and iconic Portland Japanese Garden are only minutes away.

The homes in the West Hills are overall large, historic, and ornate. They come in all styles, from Victorian estates to ranch homes. Many are off winding forest roads, cantilevered above the region’s tree-laden hillsides.

West Hills is also directly above Portland State University and adjacent to the massive OHSU complex, making it a convenient area to stay when visiting friends and family at either campus.

Related Read: The 9 Best Beaches in Oregon to Enjoy the Pacific Vibes

Pearl District: The Best Neighborhood for Urban Exploration

A street scene under an abstract rain shelter in the Pearl District. // Photo: Dave Alan, Getty Images

Located on the waterfront near Downtown and Old Town Portland, the Pearl District is one of Portland’s most popular, most historic, and most urban neighborhoods. Until recent decades, The Pearl was a railroad and warehouse district, but it’s now a chic community becoming more and more popular by the day. It manages to maintain its small-neighborhood charms while existing just steps from the city’s skyscrapers and modern offices.

It’s where many of Portland’s white-collar workers who prefer a short commute choose to live and has boutique stores, antique shops, and coffee shops aplenty on nearly every street.

This neighborhood is also home to Powell’s City of Books, a famous destination for bookworms from across the west. This is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with books that covers an entire city block.

At The Pearl, you’ll have the option of renting a high-rise loft apartment or a street-level condo across a wide range of prices. Many new green spaces have been opened as the area undergoes redevelopment, including the community-centric Jamison Square, with a kid-friendly wading pool.

Buckman: The Best Neighborhood for Couples and Culture

revolution hall portland
Revolution Hall, formerly Washington High School, is historic landmark and cultural center in Buckman. // Photo: Tony Webster

You can call it hip, hipster, or just plain weird, but Portland’s unique culture is alive and thriving in Buckman. This centralized neighborhood on the east side of the Willamette River is packed with independent shops, eateries, and beerhouses, and its north and south borders are formed by two of the city’s most popular streets – Burnside and Hawthorne avenues.

This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Portland with many historic homes and buildings, especially in the eclectic mini-district around Hawthorne Avenue. The equally trendy neighborhoods of Belmont, Kerns, and Laurelhurst are all within walking distance, too.

Since it’s across the water from Downtown, Buckman is the best place to see Portland’s skyline silhouette from across the river. The Waterfront Loop Path hugs the river through Buckman and is popular for biking and walking, with pedestrian pathways leading to Downtown and other stretches of the city.

Also nearby is the Rose Quarter, Portland’s hub for events and sports. If you’re looking to catch a Trailblazers game, rock out at a show in the Moda Center, or attend a conference at the Oregon Convention Center, Buckman is a great place to stay.

Forest Park: The Best Neighborhood for Outdoor Recreation

portland forest park
Fog along a trail in Forest Park on a fall morning. // Photo: Dave Alan, Getty Images

Adjacent to Portland’s beloved Forest Park, a 5,200-acre urban park with over 80 miles of trails, the Forest Park neighborhood borders miles of natural Pacific Northwest forest (as well as Downtown Portland.) Many of the homes here are deep in the lychen-covered woods with direct access to trails.

The Forest Park neighborhood is almost separate from the city, creating the feel of being in a remote community far from downtown. The reality, though, is that you can be in the city in five or 10 minutes, making it one of the best Portland neighborhoods for people obsessed with Pacific Northwest nature.

Forest Park is home to many of Portland’s most popular fringe attractions. The Hoyt Arboretum is surrounded by hiking trails that stretch out in every direction. It’s a great spot to stop and learn about Portland’s great outdoors before hiking deeper into the lengthy Forest Park trail system.

Travelers may also want to see Pittock Mansion, a gorgeous museum on immaculately landscaped grounds showcasing the city’s pioneer history. It’s up on a hill and has some of the best views of Portland and its surroundings of anywhere in the city.

Forest Park has miles of trails, some leading to viewpoints overlooking the Tualatin Valley and the convergence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The Audubon Society of Portland and the on-site nature sanctuary offer trail programs and guided hikes, and the Witch Castle ruins offer a glimpse into Portland’s past.

Alberta Arts District: The Best Neighborhood for Artistic Folks

alberta arts district portland
Murals and graffiti art dawn many of the walls in the Alberta Arts District. // Photo: Flickr

The Alberta Arts District is actually a fusion of three Portland neighborhoods (King, Vernon, and Concordia) bridged by the boutique shops, art galleries, and independent eateries of NE Alberta Street. Local designers are put front and center at the retail locations in this neighborhood, and the counterculture vibe reigns supreme. If you’re after Portland’s famous weirdness, you’ll find it here.

That said, the neighborhood is extremely welcoming to people of all creeds and colors. This historically poor section of Portland is where immigrants lived in the city’s early years, and from those roots blossomed a diverse community where art, collaboration, and inclusion now shine.

As often the case with artists, change and evolution happen at such a rapid pace in this district that the neighborhood is always evolving. Galleries are always rotating what artists they have on display, new celebrations and festivals spring up every year, and businesses seem to rotate with the seasons.

The true embodiment of the Alberta Arts District is on full display during every last Thursday of the month at the cleverly named Last Thursday street festival. This monthly celebration of art and community represents the current trends in the neighborhood, and each new month brings a different mosaic of sights, tastes, and smells to experience.

Need another reason why this is one of Portland’s best neighborhoods? It’s midway between downtown and the PDX airport. That makes the Alberta Arts District both quirky and convenient, so for some, it’ll be the perfect Portland experience.

Sellwood-Moreland: The Best Neighborhood for Small-Town Vibes

oaks amusement park portland
Adrenaline Peak, an iconic roller coaster at Oaks Amusement Park. // Photo: Jeremy Thompson

There are many reasons why you might choose Selwood-Moreland as a place to stay while visiting Portland. The neighborhood is really three independent communities: Sellwood, Eastmoreland, and Westmoreland.

Each of these self-sustaining communities is, for the most part, out of sight of Portland’s city center. They’re more like independent towns with easy access to the city. They’re all very walkable and great options for families or visitors who prefer staying outside the city. There’s even a historic theme park in the area called Oaks Amusement Park, a Portland icon since 1905.

The area is also home to multiple historic theater venues (the Moreland Theater is a well-known one) and has its own selection of notable eateries, as well as a rotating cast of food cart businesses that have become hugely popular around the city.

Much of the “Keep Portland Weird” crowd hasn’t made its way down to Sellwood-Moreland, which will be either a benefit or a drawback depending upon your tastes. Nevertheless, it’s a welcoming community that leans a bit more conservative than much of the rest of Portland. That’s not to say the neighborhood is without personality, though — it’s simply a tad more subdued than what you’ll experience deeper into the city.

Portland Travel Tips

  • Get a Hop Fastpass for easy public transit travel, or rent a bike from Cycle Portland. Public-use E-scooters are also a popular way to get around the city.
  • Embrace the weird. There are a lot of quirky characters, wacky art installations, and independent thinkers all across Portland. Being weird is a part of the norm.
  • Get out of the city. Ask a local what it is you should see or do during your stay and they’ll say something like “Have you seen the Gorge?” or “You’ve got to take a trip to the coast!” or “Have you been to Mount Hood yet?” Portlanders sure do love Oregon, and they’ll make sure you do, too.
  • Everywhere is someone’s favorite place to eat or drink. In Portland, every business attempts to stand out from the crowd. There’s always a new hot brunch spot every week, a newly discovered gastropub that’s all the rave, or a newly rebranded donut shop. Wherever you choose to indulge or imbibe, you can’t go wrong.

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