Moving to Portland: Your Guide to Portland’s Best Neighborhoods

Hello, Portland lovers! Are you thinking about moving to the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon? Do you want to know more about its diverse neighborhoods and what they have to offer? Well, you’re in luck because I’m here to give you the ultimate guide to Portland’s best neighborhoods! Whether you’re a young professional looking for a vibrant community or a family searching for a quiet residential area, Portland has it all.

Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland OR
A beautiful day for a hike at Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland OR, with a gorgeous view of Mount Hood in the background.

I’ve lived in three different areas in Portland. I started in Northwest Portland, which was an amazing area for a young professional looking for a fun vibrant community. I then moved to the suburbs to a town called Tualatin, an easy 20 minute drive to downtown Portland. Now, I live in West Linn, a suburb 30 minutes from downtown Portland, which is great for raising families. From the downtown core to the surrounding suburbs, let’s explore the best Portland neighborhoods that make up this Pacific Northwest gem.

I had a delicious donut at Heyday, at the Core Collective Oregon Eateries on SE Portland. I think Portland must be the donut capital of the world.

Downtown Portland

Let’s start with the heart of the city, downtown Portland. This area is perfect if you’re looking for easy access to coffee shops, great restaurants, and shopping. Downtown is also known for its art galleries and museums, with the famous Portland Art Museum located here. There is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which I’ve spent a lot of time at, my favorite event being the World Domination Summit.

WDS dinosaur world record
This is me about to get into my dinosaur costume to break the world record for most people in a dinosaur costume at WDS. Keep Portland weird!

If you’re a young professional moving to Portland, downtown Portland is an excellent choice due to its proximity to the best venues and clubs in town.

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland OR
I saw a great tribute band, Glass of Hearts, a Blondie tribute, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland.

Advantages of Moving to Downtown Portland

Vibe: There’s nothing quite like the vibe of Portland. The people are diverse, the city is colorful, and there is an energy here that is truly unrivaled.

ukulele jam Park Blocks Portland Oregon
This is me hosting a ukulele jam in Park Blocks in downtown Portland

Public Transportation: Public transportation in Portland is unbeatable. You can get almost everywhere via light rail, bus, streetcar, or biking. Plus, many employers will give you transit passes or priority parking if you opt to use public transportation.

Walkability: Portland isn’t known as the “City of Bridges” for nothing. It is famous for being very walkable, which is a huge bonus if you prefer to stay healthy by walking or biking instead of driving everywhere.

Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland,
Here is the Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland, which is a pedestrian and light rail only bridge, no cars.

Nightlife: Downtown Portland has an extensive and lively nightlife. Whether you enjoy craft beer, dancing or live music, there is something for everyone.

Disadvantages of Moving to Downtown Portland

Housing Costs: The growing popularity of the city has led to higher living costs, particularly for those seeking housing in the downtown core. This means that prices for condos, apartments, and even simple rooms can be quite spendy, making a move to downtown Portland out of reach for some folks.

Portland State University is in downtown Portland, near the Park Blocks. This is the Simon Benson House, the Portland State University Alumni Center, a beautiful historic home.

Traffic: As with any big city, traffic is a problem in Portland. However, it is known to be particularly bad in downtown. Be aware that you may face heavy congestion and limited parking options if you choose to move to downtown Portland.

Homelessness: Unfortunately, Portland is a city that has seen a rise in homelessness over the last few years. Many people in downtown Portland are a part of this population, which can sometimes contribute to safety concerns for locals and non-locals alike.

Crime: Crime is a rising concern in many cities across the United States, and Portland is no exception. Downtown Portland, with its bustling streets and vibrant nightlife, has become a hotspot for criminal activity, from petty theft to assaults and robberies. However, the suburbs of Portland seem to offer more safety and security, with lower crime rates and a slower pace of life. While it’s impossible to guarantee complete safety anywhere, it’s important to consider the risks when choosing where to live or visit.

West Hills

Next up is the Washington Park neighborhood, located in the West Hills of Portland. Nestled in the city of roses, the West Hills neighborhood in Portland Oregon is something special. Its stunning views and prime location have been home to Portland’s elite since the roaring 1920s. Communities like King’s Heights, Arlington Heights, and Portland Heights boast beautiful historic homes and panoramic views of the city. Willamette Heights and Council Crest offer a more relaxed and charming feel, with quaint streets and unique architecture.

Each has its own character and history, but all offer the unbeatable West Hills lifestyle – the perfect blend of city living and natural beauty. This area is perfect if you love green spaces and beautiful architecture. One of the highlights of Washington Park is Forest Park, one of the largest urban forest reserves in the United States. Additionally, Washington Park is home to some of the city’s oldest and most historic homes.

Advantages of Moving to West Hills

Unbeatable views: West Hills is situated up on a hill, giving residents panoramic views of the city skyline, stunning sunsets, and a lush green landscape.

Nature access: The neighborhood is surrounded by parks and hiking trails, making it easy to escape into nature at any time. The popular Forest Park is just a short drive away.

Portland Japanese Gardens in Washington Park in Portland OR
I love the Portland Japanese Gardens in Washington Park in Portland OR

Low crime rates: Portland as a whole has lower crime rates compared to other big cities, but West Hills specifically has a very low crime rate. The community is considered to be safe and family-friendly.

Great schools: If you have kids or plan to in the future, West Hills has some of the best educational institutions in the city. Top-rated schools in the area include the Ainsworth Elementary School and Lincoln High School.

Convenient location: Although West Hills feels like a serene escape from the city, it’s only about a 15-minute drive to downtown Portland. You get the best of both worlds: a peaceful neighborhood with easy access to city amenities.

Disadvantages of Moving to West Hills

Expensive housing: West Hills is known for having some of the most expensive homes in Portland. If you’re on a budget, you may have trouble finding affordable housing in the area.

Steep hills: This goes along with living on a hill, but it’s an important factor to consider. The steep roads and sidewalks can be difficult to navigate, especially during snowy or icy weather.

Limited shopping and dining options: While there are some great local businesses in West Hills, there aren’t as many options as you’d find in other parts of the city. For example, there aren’t any big grocery stores in the immediate area.

Traffic: If you commute to work or have to run errands during rush hour, you may have trouble with traffic. The narrow roads and limited space can make it hard to get around during peak times.

Limited diversity: West Hills is often seen as a wealthy and homogenous neighborhood. If you’re looking for a diverse community, this may not be the best fit for you.

Nob Hill

Moving on to Nob Hill, also known as Northwest Portland, this neighborhood is home to some of Portland’s most popular bars and restaurants. Nob Hill is where I first moved when I came to Portland. I wanted an area that was walkable and bustling. Because I was a single woman, I wanted there to be a lot of chances to meet new people, so looked for a place that had a lot of pubs and foot traffic, and Nob Hill was the area that had the most. 

Advantages of Moving to Nob Hill

First, let’s talk about the pros of living in Nob Hill. One of the biggest advantages, in my opinion, is the location. Nob Hill is conveniently situated in the northwest part of the city, giving you easy access to some of Portland’s best attractions and activities. You can walk to Washington Park, which is home to the famous Japanese Gardens, the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, and more. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll be thrilled to know that Nob Hill is known for its fantastic restaurants and bars. Some of my personal favorites include Thai Bloom, The Fireside NW Portland, and Papa Haydn’s. Plus, if you’re a fan of shopping, you won’t be disappointed – Nob Hill is home to some of Portland’s best boutiques and vintage shops.

Disadvantages of Moving to Nob Hill

Of course, there are some downsides to living in Nob Hill as well. The biggest disadvantage is the cost of living. As one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city, Nob Hill is also one of the most expensive. You can expect to pay higher rent prices here than in other parts of Portland. Additionally, parking can be a real challenge in Nob Hill, especially during peak hours. If you own a car, you’ll definitely want to consider this before making a move.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Nob Hill can be a bit noisy. Since it’s a popular area for nightlife, you may hear music and revelers late into the night on weekends. Some people like the energy and excitement, but if you’re a light sleeper or just prefer a quieter lifestyle, Nob Hill might not be the best choice for you.

Sense of Community

On the other hand, one thing I love about Nob Hill is the sense of community. Despite the hustle and bustle of city life, Nob Hill residents are really friendly and welcoming. There are lots of local events and festivals that take place throughout the year, giving you plenty of opportunities to get to know your neighbors and feel like a part of the community. Additionally, the architecture in Nob Hill is truly stunning – which is why it’s often referred to as Portland’s “millionaire’s row”. If you appreciate beautiful homes and historic buildings, you’ll feel right at home in this neighborhood.

Pearl District

The Pearl District is adjacent to Nob Hill and is a popular destination for young professionals and families alike. The neighborhood is known for its high-rise apartment buildings and offers excellent access to public transportation. There are many new apartment buildings here, and I have a friend who recently bought a condo here for their retirement living.

Laurelhurst Park

If you’re looking for a residential area that’s perfect for young families, look no further than Laurelhurst Park. This Southeast Portland neighborhood is known for its tree-lined streets and beautiful homes. It’s also home to Laurelhurst Park, one of Portland’s most popular parks, offering tennis courts, a movie theater, and plenty of walking paths.

Advantages of Moving to Laurelhurst Park

Abundance of Green Spaces: One of the biggest advantages of living in Laurelhurst Park is its namesake- a stunning park. Laurelhurst Park is known for its lush, green trees, stunning gardens, and a serene pond. It is the perfect place to jog, walk your dog, or have a picnic with friends. The beauty of the park attracts tourists from all around, making it an excellent place to relax and unwind.

Welcoming Community: Portland, in general, is known for its friendly, welcoming community, and Laurelhurst Park is no exception. The community has charitable events, galleries, and neighborhood meetings to bring people together and nurture the community spirit. If you are looking to meet new people and find a sense of belonging in your new area, Laurelhurst Park is the place to be.

Disadvantages of Moving to Laurelhurst Park

Heavy Traffic: One disadvantage of living in Laurelhurst Park is that traffic can be heavy in the area. The park is located near the city center, and many people commuting tend to pass through the area. This results in traffic congestion during rush hour, especially on the two major streets connected to the park, which can be frustrating for residents.

High Living Costs: While the accessibility to job opportunities is a plus, it’s important to note that the cost of living in Laurelhurst Park is on the higher side. The rent or mortgage expenses in this area can be more than what someone would consider reasonable in other parts of Portland. The extra expense can be a significant disadvantage of living in this area, especially for families and individuals on a tight budget.

Alberta Arts District

Lastly, let’s talk about the Alberta Arts District, one of Portland’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. Located in Northeast Portland, this area is known for its small businesses, music venues, and food trucks.

The Alberta Arts District is also home to the Last Thursday. Last Thursday on Alberta St in Portland is an event that is not to be missed. Imagine strolling through a street filled with art vendors, live music, and performances from some of the most talented artists in the community. This event is a community-grown gem, and it’s completely free for everyone to attend. During the months of June, July, and August, Alberta Street is closed to traffic from 6-9p.m. to make way for the festivities. The galleries in the area also hold their opening parties on the last Thursday of each month. If the weather is nice, then vendors take to the streets, further adding to the magical atmosphere.

There are also many great clubs in the area. My favorite is the Alberta Rose Theatre.

Alberta Rose Theater in Portland OR
My friends playing a show at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland OR

Advantages of Living in the Alberta Arts District

A Vibrant, Creative Culture: If you’re someone who appreciates creativity, art, music, and street performers, you’ll feel right at home in this neighborhood. The Alberta Arts District has an eclectic vibe that’s hard to find anywhere else. The streets are filled with colorful murals and unique shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to upcycled furniture. The area is known for hosting several art walks throughout the year, where local artists and creatives come together to showcase their talents. If you’re an artist or creative, this district could be the perfect place to live.

Plenty of Options for Dining and Drinking: As you might already know, Portland is home to some of the best food and beer in the country. The Alberta Arts District boasts some delightful eateries and drinking spots to whet your appetite. Whether you’re looking for a delicious cup of coffee, a vegan mac and cheese, or an exceptional craft beer, you’ll find it in this neighborhood. Some of the popular food establishments include Pine State Biscuits, Salt & Straw, and The Bye & Bye. If you value good food and drink options, the Alberta Arts District is a fantastic option.

A Wide Variety of Housing Options: One of the great things about living in the Alberta Arts District is the wide variety of housing options available. You can find everything from beautiful, historic homes to modern apartments to quirky, DIY tiny houses. Whatever your preference and budget, you’re sure to find something in North Portland that fits your preferences.

Disadvantages of Living in the Alberta Arts District

It Can Be Expensive: Like most trendy neighborhoods, the Alberta Arts District can be pricey. Rent and housing prices have risen considerably in the last few years, with many young professionals and families moving to the area. If you’re on a tight budget, you might find that your options are limited. However, with some research, you could find affordable options that fit your budget.

Parking Can Be a Challenge: One of the biggest complaints about living in Portland is finding parking. The Alberta Arts District is no exception to this rule. Parking can be a bit of a headache, especially during peak hours, when the streets are filled with cars. If you have a car, then you’ll need to consider this when choosing a place to live. However, many people choose to walk or bike around the neighborhood, so this might not be a significant concern for everyone.

It Can Be Crowded: The Alberta Arts District is a popular neighborhood, and as such, it can get crowded at times. During peak hours, the streets can be filled with people, and you might have to wait in line at your favorite food spot or boutique. However, if you’re someone who loves the hustle and bustle of a busy neighborhood, then you’ll thrive in this area.

Crime: There can be more crime in this area, with issues like catalytic converters getting stolen off cars, etc.

Hawthorne District

The Meadow, Hawthorne district, Portland OR
The Meadow in Hawthorne district, Portland OR has over 120 craft salts, 400+ artisan chocolates, 100+ cocktail bitters and so much more. It’s the perfect place to explore your love for salt and sweet!

Nestled in southeast Portland, the Hawthorne district is a trendy and bustling neighborhood that continues to attract both locals and visitors alike. Known for its vibrant energy, unique shops, cozy cafes, and outstanding food, the district exudes a hipster and bohemian vibe that Portland is renowned for.

Hawthorne district, Portland OR
The main street of Hawthorne district, with the classic Bagdad Theater.

Its lively commercial center features an array of independent boutiques, vintage stores, and iconic landmarks such as the Hawthorne Theatre, attracting music and movie enthusiasts from across Portland. With an eclectic mix of people, architecture, and culture, the Hawthorne district is a great place to visit or move to.

Memento PDX, Hawthore district, Portland OR
Memento PDX has something for everyone, from locally made cards and candles to unique jewelry and handbags. Let your style shine in this charming shop full of cute, classic, and curious merchandise!

The Suburbs of Portland

Portland has been growing in popularity in the past few years, and it’s not hard to see why. The city is picturesque, vibrant, and has something for everyone. But sometimes, the hustle and bustle of city life can be a bit too much. That’s where the suburbs come in! You should definitely include looking at the suburbs if you are moving to Portland.

West Linn

I have to start here because this is where I live now, and I love it! Located south of Portland, West Linn is a beautiful suburb with lush greenery, scenic views, and luxurious homes. The suburb has a small-town feel and is well-known for its community events, including farmer’s markets, concerts, and festivals. There is a cute historic downtown area with well preserved houses and a bustling main street.

G.A. Harding Residence in downtown West Linn OR
This is the super cute 1895 Queen Anne Stick. G.A. Harding Residence in downtown West Linn OR. The original siding was shiplap.

For those who love the outdoors, West Linn offers various parks and hiking trails, including the popular Mary S. Young Park.

Mary S. Young Park in West Linn Oregon
I love going hiking with my son and his friends at Mary S. Young park in West Linn, OR

The area is perfect for families as it offers excellent schools, including West Linn High School, which has the highest graduation rate in the area. The only downside to living in West Linn is that it’s an expensive suburb, with a high cost of living.

Willamette Garage in West Linn Oregon
My favorite place to eat, the Willamette Garage, a food truck pod in West Linn OR. Collections of food trucks really took off in the Portland area during covid, and now are here to stay because people love them so much.

Oregon City

Oregon City is another suburb located south of Portland but is far more affordable than West Linn. It’s popularly known for its historic downtown area, which has eclectic cafes, unique shops, and a rich history. It’s also home to the popular Willamette Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. The suburb is perfect for families as it offers lots of parks and good schools.

Clackamette Park in Oregon City
I spend a lot of time at Clackamette Park in Oregon City

They also have affordable stores, like my favorite discount grocery, Grocery Outlet. However, the downside is that it may not be ideal for those who want a bustling city experience as it’s a suburban area. There are also some homeless people that live here.

Tigard

Tigard is a lively suburb located southwest of Portland and has access to excellent transportation as it’s situated near major highways and public transportation. It is a family-friendly town with access to quality schools, parks, and various family-friendly activities. It offers a unique shopping experience at Washington Square Mall and is home to the renowned Broadway Rose Theater Company.

There is a downtown area, but it’s currently under construction, and generally not that bustling.

Musi's on Main Upscale Resale store in Tigard OR downtown
Musi’s on Main Upscale Resale store in Tigard OR downtown

Tigard is an affordable area to live in but can have a high cost of living if you’re interested in living closer to the city. Also, the traffic on the 217 highway can be a nightmare, especially now with heavy construction (July 2023). There is also a lot of new residential development.

new homes in Tigard Oregon
New homes in Tigard OR, behind the Fred Meyer on 99W.

Gladstone

Located southeast of Portland, Gladstone is a small suburb with a welcoming community and affordable housing. Gladstone is an excellent option for those looking for a calm suburban area that’s still close to the popular attractions of Portland. The suburb offers various indoor and outdoor activities, including the popular McLoughlin Promenade, which offers incredible views of the Willamette River. We also bike here frequently, going on the Trolley Trail, McLoughlin Promenade, then on to the Springwater Corridor. The downside to living in Gladstone is that the town is still developing and may not have as many amenities as the other suburbs on the list.

Beaverton

Beaverton is one of the most popular suburbs of Portland. It’s a great place for families, as it’s known for its excellent schools and a strong sense of community. The downtown area is vibrant, with plenty of restaurants, shops, and events throughout the year. The downside is that it can be a bit more expensive to live in Beaverton than some of the other suburbs. Traffic can also be an issue during peak hours.

Tualatin

Tualatin Community Park
A kayaking group about to set sail at Tualatin Community Park

If you’re looking for a suburb with easy access to nature, Tualatin might be the perfect place for you. The city is nestled between two rivers and has over 200 acres of parkland and natural areas. It’s also home to some great wineries and distilleries.

Tualatin Commons outdoor patio with flowers
Tualatin has a lake with some restaurants and condos around it. Tualatin Commons.

This is the second city I lived in in the Portland area. We bought our first new house here, and it was quite affordable at the time. It’s a convenient location with easy access to both the I-5 and the 20. It lacks a bit of character, but has probably the most interesting festival I’ve ever been to, the Pumpkin Regatta. Every October, the water in the lake is no longer a serene blue – instead, it’s taken over by giant orange pumpkins! This phenomenon is none other than the Tualatin Pumpkin Regatta, an annual event that has been gaining popularity since its inception in 2004.

West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin, OR. Photo by Scott Marx

The highlight of the event is the pumpkin race, where brave souls take to the water in hollowed-out pumpkins, paddling frantically to the finish line. It’s a sight to behold, with creative and intricate pumpkin boats ranging from pirate ships to sports cars making their way across the water. But besides the race, there are plenty of other fun activities to enjoy, such as pumpkin carving contests, food booths, and live music. It’s a unique celebration of autumn and all things pumpkin, and certainly not one to be missed!

Winona Grange in Tualatin Oregon
I spend a lot of time here at the Winona Grange in Tualatin, where I host my ukulele jams.

Hillsboro

Hillsboro is another popular suburb of Portland, known for its affordable housing and growing tech industry. It’s home to Intel’s largest campus, which provides plenty of job opportunities. The downtown area is small but charming, with plenty of restaurants and shops. I think that the largest Indian community is in this suburb, and all the best Indian supermarkets and restaurants are here. The downside is that the commute to downtown Portland can be quite long, especially during rush hour.

Lake Oswego

Lake Oswego is one of the most affluent suburbs of Portland, known for its beautiful homes, excellent schools, and clean air index. The city is situated on the banks of Lake Oswego, making it great for water activities like swimming, boating, and fishing. However, the cost of living is quite high, and the city is known for being somewhat exclusive.

Hanko's Sports Bar and Grill in Lake Oswego Oregon.
Okay, this photo is not representative of the upscale chic Lake Oswego, but this is where I spend the most time, at Hanko’s Sports Bar & Grill, where they have karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights.

A beautiful state park is in Lake Oswego, called Tryon Creek State Park. It’s only 5 minutes from downtown Lake Oswego, and has 645 acres of gorgeous, lush forest.

Tryon Creek State Park
My son and his friend hiking at Tryon Creek State Park.

Gresham

Gresham is an up-and-coming suburb of Portland, known for its diverse community and easy access to nature. The city is situated at the base of Mount Hood and has plenty of parks and hiking trails. It’s also more affordable than some of the other suburbs on this list. The downside is that it can be a bit of a commute if you work in downtown Portland, and the schools aren’t quite as highly rated as some of the other suburbs.

Choosing a suitable suburb to move to can be daunting, but the good news is that Portland has so many incredible suburbs to choose from! To make the best decision, consider what’s important to you, whether it’s proximity to high-quality schools, affordability, or access to outdoor activities. West Linn is perfect for those who want an upscale living experience, while Gladstone offers an affordable yet comfortable suburban lifestyle. Oregon City has a rich history, and Tigard offers excellent transportation and beautiful parks. No matter what suburb you choose, you can rest assured that Portland has a welcoming community that will make you feel at home.

Conclusion

Moving to Portland, Oregon is an exciting prospect, but choosing the right neighborhood can be overwhelming. From the bustling downtown core to the quiet residential areas, Portland has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a vibrant community, green spaces, or easy access to good schools, Portland’s neighborhoods have it all. So, be sure to work with a real estate agent who has thorough knowledge about the neighborhoods within your preferences and requirements. Plus, Portland’s unique “keep Portland weird” vibe, tax-free shopping, numerous bike lanes and paths, and excellent public transportation make it one of the best places to call home. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring and find your new home in this beautiful city!

For more moving guides, here is an article on moving to Hawaii from California.

Cute kitty on a rental bike on Tilikum Crossing Bridge near OMSI. Photo by Cat Mapper (Max Ogden) on Unsplash