Discovering The 10 Best Neighborhoods in Portland Oregon

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Written By John @ The Portlandist

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When attempting to split the great city of Portland, Oregon into neighborhoods, it is nearly impossible to determine which is the best neighborhood in Portland as they each have distinct properties that make them worthy of the title unto themselves.

If you are searching for fine dining, ritzy shopping, or if you are looking for affordable housing or decent school districts, each of Portland’s many neighborhoods has qualities that will draw in residents of various desires, and only you can decide for yourself which is the best neighborhood in Portland, for you and for you alone.

In a general sense, Portland is split into seven areas with many neighborhoods within each of these districts. Within these areas sit some of the best neighborhoods in Portland.

  • NoPo is the North Portland Neighborhoods including Eliot, Humboldt, and Portsmouth
  • Northwest Portland has the Hillside and Linnton neighborhoods
  • Northeast Portland includes Cully, Rose City Park, and Woodlawn
  • Central PDX is the heart of the city with the Pearl, Lloyd, Downtown, and Old-town Chinatown
  • Southwest Portland has the Hillsdale, Maplewood, and Multnomah neighborhoods
  • Southeast Portland consists of neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Hawthorn, and Sunnyside
  • East Portland has Centennial and Parkrose Heights

All told, Portland is a conglomeration that becomes more than the sum of its parts. When you read the history of these neighborhoods, many of them were small towns absorbed by the growing Portland area.

As it grew, it took on more and m, more of the surrounding area as its own, incorporating these small villages and townships into one large area called Portland, a continually growing and developing city that has the feel of a small town while still growing into a large metropolitan city.

When you come to Portland, you will get the sense of a bold new city while at the same time feeling comfortable in the smaller neighborhoods located throughout the city.

A local sense of pride overwhelms the sense of “city” and makes Portland one of the greatest places to live in the country. So check out our picks for the best neighborhoods in Portland below.

The Best Neighborhoods in Portland Oregon

Below are our picks for the top 10 best neighborhoods in Portland Oregon. To snap directly to a specific location, please click the corresponding link in the list below.

  1. Downtown
  2. Old Town – Chinatown
  3. Nob Hill Northwest
  4. Pearl
  5. Eliot
  6. Portsmouth
  7. Cully
  8. Lents
  9. West Centennial
  10. Multnomah

10. Downtown

portland neighborhoods downtown

When investigating any city, you should begin with the heart of the downtown area and Portland has a thriving city center to explore.

Situated on the west shore of the Willamette River, Downtown Portland has high-rise business and residential buildings nestled in among the growing skyline.

Intentionally structured with shorter city blocks and more narrow streets than other large cities, Portland we set up to allow for the commercial success of a downtown neighborhood while maintaining a smaller and more comforting town feel.

The footprint of Downtown Portland is just over one square mile, and packed within that small area is a community that identifies as the city center both commercially and culturally.

Large businesses, prominent residential accommodations, and artistic qualities such as fine restaurants and art museums all co-exist within a few blocks of one another making a nearly self-contained area that attracts those looking to live “in the city” but not wanting to give up the beauty of living in Portland’s artistic qualities.

Downtown continues to renovate into one of the best neighborhoods in Portland as old buildings are re-purposed into new uses, and empty parking lots are being built into storefronts and the next hot locations to explore.

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9. Old Town – Chinatown

portland neighborhoods old town chinatown

Without straying too far from the Downtown neighborhood, falling mostly north of Burnside Street, Portland’s Old Town Chinatown area is a lively and fun district.

This neighborhood is one of the best neighborhoods in Portland if you’re looking for some nightlife fun.

Though the moniker of Chinatown came late in the district’s life, this was the original urban core area with a long history of Japanese and Chinese cultures saturating the streets to the point where many of the street signs are still bilingual in English and Cantonese Chinese.

There is no lack of interesting things to do in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown. The Shanghai Tunnels, the Japanese American Museum, and the Lan Su Chinese Garden and Tea House will provide you with that serene sense of Eastern Asian cultures.

If you’re up for something a little more modern, take a trip to the original Voodoo Doughnuts, a Portland favorite that has spread far and wide with franchises as far as Florida. Under constant renovation and re-invention, one of the best neighborhoods in Portland continues to evolve into a central spot where residents and visitors can come out and have some fun.

Old buildings, old businesses, new friends, and some of the greatest places to hang out in Portland.

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8. Nob Hill Northwest

portland neighborhoods nob hill northwest

It seems no matter where you go, the name “Nob Hill” is synonymous with “affluence” and “class”.

The mainstay of this designation is San Francisco California, but even as far as New London Connecticut, when you say Nob Hill, it means you have some degree of expendable income.

One of the best neighborhoods in Portland is named Nob Hill and it is located just off the west bank of the river, behind Slabtown and Old Town Chinatown.

Officially the Northwest district, Nob Hill is populated with an array of Victorian homes in varying stages of refurbishment. Some have just begun to rebuild these estates, others have spent time and money to get their old homes looking just as they did in the golden days.

If you’re looking for things to do in Nob Hill, take a stroll down the famous 23rd Street outdoor mall. There are shops and eateries that will give you a pleasant experience no matter what you are searching for.

The diversity in Portland, and in Nob Hill itself, will have you revisiting this stretch of multicultural shops over and over again. While not completely dedicated to tourist attractions, Nob Hill does bring in its fair share of locals and visitors alike, all looking for that Nob Hill beauty.

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7. Pearl

portland neighborhoods pearl

Portland’s Pearl District may remind some southeastern residents of the River Street portion of Savannah, Georgia.

That sultry and romantic appeal of old warehouses and shipping ports turned into a modern outdoor mall and tourist attraction while maintaining the romanticism of the days of old.

That is why the Pearl District is one of the best neighborhoods in Portland. Stranded between the Old Town Chinatown and the Nob Hill neighborhoods, The Pearl District benefits from the popularity of its neighboring districts. Come to the Pearl District and find out why it’s so popular.

The name itself comes from an effort from one editor trying to get one name to stick, and in this case, it worked. Otherwise known as “The Triangle”, this area of central Portland was known as a popular place to hang out and business startups.

To this day you can find plenty of hungry businesses looking to establish themselves in the Portland Pearl District. Start-up pubs, breweries, and gastro-pubs fill the streets and attempt to attract your patronage as the district goes through constant renewal and a constant cutthroat sense of the best shall survive to walk through the Pearl District and enjoy one business after another, as they pop up, the best survives the Pearl.

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6. Eliot

portland neighborhoods eliot

Once upon a time, in the Pacific Northwest area of modern-day Portland, there was a small town of Albina, Oregon.

Named for the wife of William Page, Albina was a small settlement on the east shore of the Willamette River.

It was officially incorporated into the greater Portland Oregon municipality in 1891 when the Portland area expanded and became a gem in the logging heavy industry area of the entire Northwest region of the expanding United States.

Just across the river from the Pearl District, the Eliot neighborhood enjoys the proximity to the bustling downtown areas of Portland, while maintaining a reserved and quiet lifestyle of a more residential and less commercial district.

One of the best neighborhoods in Portland, Eliot serves as one of the more unique areas where you can live close to the action while remaining distinctly different and across from all the hustle of a bust commercial or industrial area.

Eliot culture centers itself around Free Dawson Park where you can find performances from local artists, singing, dancing, speaking, and otherwise expressing the ideals of one of the best neighborhoods in Portland. The large health care facility within Eliot boundaries makes for a professional community full of people who wish to do more for their community, the people of Portland who wish to do more.

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5. Portsmouth

best neighborhoods in portland

We move now to the northwest area of Portland to the Portsmouth neighborhood.

Located north of Lombard Street and extending north to Columbia Boulevard, this district doesn’t get mentioned enough in the tourist pamphlets but may turn out to be one of the best neighborhoods in Portland.

Originally slated as nothing more than a new real estate subdivision, as Portland grew, so the Portsmouth area, growing from not much more than a new subdivision into one of the best neighborhoods in Portland.

Located in the northwest portion of the greater Portland area, Portsmouth is always looking for a chance to differentiate itself from the other notable neighborhoods of the city. With this constant need to self-identify as a place of prominence, Portsmouth has spawned a number of fabulous businesses and start-ups that have thrived within the Portland area, starting with humble roots here in Portsmouth.

Street food trucks, start-up breweries, local businesses, and other commercial properties have a common ancestry here in Portsmouth. That means if you set up your roots in the neighborhood, you’ll always be subjected to the latest and greatest in innovative ideas looking to establish themselves as the next big thing.

Residents of Portsmouth are always able to say, “I knew them when…” while talking about the latest trends.

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4. Cully

best neighborhoods in portland

If any neighborhood in the greater Portland area gets to claim the “PDX” moniker for itself, it is the Cully area in northeast Portland, just south of Portland International Airport from which the city derives its unofficial nickname from the IATA code for the airport.

Known as an affordable and less expensive area to set up homesteading, Cully is one of the best neighborhoods in Portland to begin your Portland adventure for less rent than you’d find in many of the adjacent neighborhoods.

Criticized as being one of the “poorer” neighborhoods, Cully has its own lifestyle and speed among its other Portland-area neighborhoods. Not everything has to be the fast-paced hustle and bustle, sometimes, Cully represents the best of Portland in the slowing down of the chaotic movement of the greater Portland area and allowing residents to take in real life among the great City of Roses.

The lack of public parks and green spaces is a common complaint of those looking for uniformity among Portland’s neighborhoods, but the citizens of Cully enjoy their home as much as any resident of any other high falutin’ neighborhood, and since the large Portland metropolitan area is so diverse, if you’re looking for a park, the large residential population of Cully is surrounded by them in every direction.

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3. Lents

best neighborhoods in portland

The Lents neighborhood in Portland has a similar story to many of the other surrounding suburbs.

It was originally incorporated as an independent suburban town and when it reached a significant population, it was absorbed by the growing metropolis of Portland.

In the case of Lents, this happened in 1912 and the growing residential population of Lents has been an integral part of the Portland narrative ever since. With the division of the neighborhood split the neighborhood in twain with the construction of Interstate 205, rather than divide the community, Lents grew around the new highway and became larger than the sum of its parts.

Many of the reasons Lents is listed among the best neighborhoods in Portland springs from the exciting and notable active life the community provides.

A thriving business district along with an active sports complex, in spite of the idea that Portland, Oregon, and indeed the entire Pacific Northwest is a hard sell for pastoral sports such as baseball and soccer, Lents is the home to many teams that beg to differ with their own sports teams, even if they have to compete against other local teams.

The city of Portland sees Lents as a growth opportunity as the residential population has exploded in recent years.

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2. West Centennial

best neighborhoods in portland

Bordering on the neighboring city of Gresham, Oregon, Centennial is split into two distinct areas, Portland claims the area known as “west Centennial” and it is one of the best neighborhoods in Portland.

Right on the far eastern outskirts of Portland, West Centennial is the portion west of 174th Street, but when you live in the area, the entire Centennial neighborhood is home, regardless of where it falls in city jurisdiction and zip code regulations.

If you’ve come to live in the Pacific Northwest, one can assume you’re of accepting nature and open-minded inclusion. West Centennial is one of those communities that will prove to be one of the more diverse neighborhoods you’ve lived within, and one of the greatest melting-pot areas there could be in any neighborhood, in Portland, or anywhere else for that matter.

A wide array of residents from a multicultural celebration of faiths and backgrounds come together to settle a rich and open land, West Centennial is one of the best neighborhoods in Portland because it is an enriching place of new and interesting cultures living in harmony with one another.

The transportation system is a short ride into Portland’s city center, while remaining out here away from the fast-paced city living, you can enjoy living in Portland while residing away from the city center in West Centennial.

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1. Multnomah

best neighborhoods in portland

Portland, Oregon is a large city, but it is surrounded by other municipalities that become a piece of the greater metropolitan area.

Beaverton, Oregon is its own city, however, it is often included in the overall concept of “Portland”.

Right along this border between Portland and Beaverton is the area known as Multnomah and Multnomah Village. The large area of residences in Portland’s southwest range makes for a great boundary between these two incorporated cities.

Late August sees the enormous street festival of Multnomah Days, a celebration of the local artists, entertainers, vendors, and other entrepreneurs of the area. If you’re not there for the large street party, the entire area feels like a village, filled with shops and storefronts that are a year-long street fair.

Wineries, antique shops, coffee shops, and other places to appreciate the artistic offerings of the local residents abound in one of the best neighborhoods in Portland. If you find yourself in the area and feeling a bit peckish, there is no finer area in Portland to find unique food truck vendors looking to expose you to foods from around the world, numerous cultures, and fusions between many others.

The proximity to downtown Portland, or the growing Beaverton area makes Multnomah a central place to set up your new roots.

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Our Final Thoughts: The Best Neighborhoods in Portland Oregon

West-central Oregon is a fantastic place to live. South of the large Seattle Washington metropolis, and far, far north of Sacramento, California, Portland is an island of its own making.

A city consisting of countless cultures and countless peoples, owing to a large portion of its development to the pioneering spirit of early settlers as well as the resilience of native peoples, Portland is a wonderful blend of people from all over the world who come together in a wide selection of neighborhoods looking to make a place for themselves and call it home.

The roughly 95 individual communities that make up the greater Portland area each serve their own purpose and lifestyle. As we explore the ten best neighborhoods in Portland, it is only to showcase some of the area’s attractions and reasons to visit these areas.

With a list of ten, there are 85 more great neighborhoods in Portland to discover and explore. Take it from us, there is nothing so exceptional as a resident of Portland taking pride in their neighborhood and local jurisdiction.

While each of us lives within a street-defined boundary of this neighborhood or that, we are all citizens of the great city of Portland, one of the most incredible cities in the entire Pacific Northwest.

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