: Justin Katigbak / Travel Portland

A Visitor’s Guide to Portland’s Neighborhoods

September 7, 2021

Editor’s note: Face coverings (ages 5 and up) are required at all indoor and outdoor public spaces statewide, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more here. It’s also wildfire season — plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.

If you had one day to explore Portland, where would you start? It would be hard to choose, since the Rose City is comprised of six distinct geographic regions, each with its own personality and diversity of shops, restaurants and attractions. In fact, Portland’s regions started out decades ago as quadrants — Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest — framed by the Willamette River, Burnside Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But the city grew to encompass North and most recently South Portland thanks to the growth of neighborhoods, visitor-friendly businesses and gathering spaces. 

The good news is that it’s a breeze to get around, so you can easily explore the city in one day, or spend a week soaking up the culture of each nook if you choose. Whether you’re going by foot, car, bike or public transit, there’s no shortage of ways to shop, dine, play and indulge in Stumptown’s finest. Here’s a quick primer on how to start.

Map of Portland showing the rivers, neighborhoods and six distinct geographic regions of Portland
The Rose City is comprised of six distinct geographic regions, each with its own personality and diversity of shops, restaurants and attractions (illustration by Lisa Holmes/Yulan Studio)
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An old gas station is a converted pizza restaurant
Signal Station Pizza in St. Johns is one of the walkable neighborhood's cool dining spots. (Photo by Justin Katigbak / Travel Portland)

North Portland

Located west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, between the Willamette and Columbia rivers, North Portland is a mix of old and new. The most popular spots are the historically Black neighborhoods of North Williams and North Mississippi avenues — parallel streets with several blocks each of not-to-miss spots. North Williams’ Either/Or Cafe offers a great space to sip drinks and mingle. Find great pizza and a taste of Portland’s diverse music scene at Mississippi Studios. Art enthusiasts must visit North Mississippi’s Ori Gallery, which showcases some of the city’s most thought-provoking works by queer and trans artists of color. In the nearby Albina District, get a taste of the African diaspora at African food cart Kabba’s Kitchen. Venture to North Lombard to indulge in Peruvian cuisine at Casa Zoraya or to the quiet neighborhood of St. Johns for exciting, only-in-Portland spots like Homegrown Smoker vegan barbecue, Signal Station Pizza (housed in a repurposed vintage gas station) and Gabagool, a former food cart lauded for its handmade pasta.

Explore more of North Portland’s neighborhoods: St. Johns, Mississippi, North Williams area.

The owner of a food truck holds a plate of food
Feast on comfort food from one of Northeast Portland's most popular food carts, Trap Kitchen. (Photo by Susan Seubert)

Northeast Portland

Perhaps no place embodies the diversity of the city quite like Northeast Portland, located on the east side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and north of Burnside Avenue. Anchored by the Lloyd Center and Moda Center at the Rose Quarter for sports, concerts and other performances, the Lloyd District and Alberta Arts District are full of local shops, breweries, boutiques and brunch spots — all best accessed on foot or by bike. Don’t miss Kee’s Loaded Kitchen in the King neighborhood and Nicholas Restaurant for authentic Lebanese cuisine on Northeast Broadway. A bit farther east, in the Hollywood District, the Hollywood Theatre is a neighborhood gathering spot that hosts top-notch films and events year-round. Try some of the city’s best takeout from Gado Gado and pastries from Vivienne Kitchen & Pantry. A few miles east, grab a locally sourced beverage or treat from the Native-owned Bison Coffee House in the Cully neighborhood or a hot-wing and mac-and-cheese creation at Trap Kitchen PDX. Grab your takeout for a picnic at Irving Park, Grant Park or Rose City Park.

Explore more of Northeast Portland’s neighborhoods: Alberta Arts District, Lloyd District, 28th Avenue, Beaumont, Cully, Roseway, Sandy Boulevard, 42nd Avenue.

People walk along a paved path next to a reservoir with the city skyline in the distance
Mt. Tabor Park is a favorite spot for walking, running and picnicking on Portland's east side. (Photo by Justin Katigbak / Travel Portland)

Southeast Portland

Stretching across the area south of Burnside Street and east of the Willamette River, Southeast Portland includes family-friendly attractions like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and natural spaces like Mt. Tabor Park and Powell Butte Nature Park. When it comes to markets, visit CORE food-cart pod and Portland Mercado for their selection of dozens of food carts from around the globe, both with expansive outdoor seating. Other top spots include Ice Queen PDX on Southeast Stark Street for vegan treats and My Brother’s Crawfish near Southeast 82nd Avenue for a Southern-style seafood boil. Find unique basketball memorabilia and sneakers that celebrate Portland’s love of hoops culture at Ball Was Life on Southeast Hawthorne, a district known for eclectic shops and casual eats. If comic books are your thing, explore the best selection of rare and popular titles at Books With Pictures on Southeast Division, where you’ll also find some of the buzziest Portland restaurants and cool boutiques for browsing. 

Explore more of Southeast Portland’s neighborhoods: Hawthorne, Foster-Powell, Belmont, Central Eastside, Division-Clinton, Sellwood-Moreland, Montavilla, Jade District. Here’s how to feast in the Jade District.

A tram rises above a plaza full of pedestrians and cyclists
Hop on a bike or take a stroll among the shops and cafes in the beautiful South Waterfront district, beneath the Portland Aerial Tram. (Photo by Travel Portland)

South Portland

Located on the west bank of the Willamette River, the South Waterfront is known for its high-rise buildings, riverfront shops, elegant restaurants, wine bars, coffee shops and cafes. Take in panoramic views of the city with a walk, bike ride or Portland Streetcar ride across the car-free Tilikum Crossing, or try a trip on the Portland Aerial Tram (temporarily suspended for the public). For more walking and cycling trails, hop onto the South Waterfront Greenway, which stretches from the River Forum Building to the west end of the Marquam Bridge. Dining highlights include Al-Hawr Lebanese cuisine, Cast Iron Pizza and JoLa Cafe. Find easy access to the river at Willamette Park, where you can launch your kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and paddle your way upriver under Portland’s urban bridges. Look for dragon boaters practicing in the summertime. 

Explore more of South Portland.

A train passes by an urban park
Director Park in downtown Portland is a great spot to enjoy a lunch from your favorite food cart any time of year. (Photo by Travel Portland)

Southwest Portland

Encompassing the friendly westside neighborhoods of Hillsdale, Multnomah Village and Goose Hollow, Southwest Portland also includes the heart of the city, downtown Portland. From the trendy West End district to the walkable and bikeable Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette River, you’ll find a mix of upscale dining, food carts, boutiques, hotels and bars. Shoppers will enjoy downtown’s Pioneer Place, home to high-fashion hot spot N’Kossi Boutique, and the charming gift shops in Multnomah Village. The Portland Art Museum is a must-visit both for its exhibits and its trendsetting community collaborations. Among the dozens of dining options, try Seasons & Regions for fresh seafood or Duck House Chinese. Kelly’s Olympian, the Jack London Revue and Dante’s offer some of the best opportunities for indulging in Portland nightlife. Just west of downtown, there’s plenty of green space at Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Explore more of Southwest Portland’s neighborhoods: Old Town/Chinatown, Goose Hollow, Multnomah Village, Downtown.

People walk across a wooden bridge through the forest
Take a walk in one of the United States' largest urban parks. Pick up a Forest Park trail map to find the right fit for you. (Photo by Justin Katigbak / Travel Portland)

Northwest Portland

Northwest Portland is famous for literary haven Powell’s Books, historically iconic attractions like the Pittock Mansion, and the vintage shops and stylish restaurants of Northwest 23rd Avenue. Forest Park, with its vast, wooded areas, is a favorite for hikers and cyclists. You can feel like you’re miles away from the city as you travel north along Highway 30 to Sauvie Island, where you’ll find U-pick berries, pumpkins, flowers and produce at places like Topaz Farm. Back near downtown, the Old Town/Chinatown district is rich with the history of some of the first immigrants to settle in Portland. Visit the Japanese American Museum and the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Just north of Old Town, the Pearl District shines with high-end boutiques and plenty of outdoor patios and cafes. Look for Northwest 21st Avenue’s Bhuna as well as Bamboo Sushi NW and Lela’s Bistro, both located along Northwest 23rd. When it comes to nightlife, sip a drink at LGBTQ-owned Sante Bar in the Pearl District, enjoy Portland’s burgeoning stand-up comedy and improv scene at the Siren Theater in Old Town/Chinatown, or unwind with food and cocktails at the Pearl District’s Mingle Lounge.

Explore more of Northwest Portland’s neighborhoods: Northwest/Nob Hill, Pearl District, Old Town/Chinatown.

About The
Author

Bruce Poinsette
Bruce Poinsette is a writer, educator and organizer based in the Portland metro area. A former reporter for the Skanner News Group, his work has also appeared in the Oregonian, Street Roots, Oregon Humanities and We Out Here Magazine, as well as projects such as the Mercatus Collective and the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon 2015. In addition to writing and teaching, he also hosts the digital series "The Blacktastic Adventure: A Virtual Exploration of Oregon's Black Diaspora." (Photo by Intisar Abioto)

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