Where to Live in Portland Oregon
Despite it’s small town vibe, the Portland Metro is enormous. There are lots of areas that are almost completely different to the next. You can live it up in the lap of luxury in downtown’s Pearl district or you can opt for the super chilled out pace of St John’s.
If you’re moving to Portland it can be confusing as to where the perfect places to live are for each different style of living. One thing that is definitely unique to PDX is that many first-time visitors will go straight into the more commercial section of downtown and wonder where all the notorious Portland weirdness is hiding. Downtown is great, but some areas are almost exclusively business buildings and that can be deceiving. Of course, if you happen to be downtown when Portland’s favorite Unipiper is closeby, you’ll have no doubt in your mind that Portland is keeping Portland weird.
A lot of the Portland “scene” can be found in the areas surrounding the city center. There are cool little semi-hidden pockets all around the city, you just need to know where to look.
In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the neighborhoods of Portland, and the different styles of living you’ll find in all the five quadrants of the PDX metro (yes, we have not 4 but 5 quadrants). It’s such a diverse city, and we don’t want you to miss out on your perfect place to live. We’ll also go over some of the pros and cons of each area of Portland.
Where should you live in Portland?
South Waterfront is a clean, beautiful area that is often overlooked by newcomers because, as with all the great spots in Portland, it’s slightly tucked away just out of the main view.
If, however, you’re going to study or work at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), you might’ve seen the area. It’s connected to the OHSU tram, and that’s a ton of fun to ride on, even if you don’t work up at the university. The tram is also a stunning architectural sight in itself. As well as this, it gives you the opportunity to see the city of Portland, the Willamette River, and Mount Hood all at once. Hop on at the South Waterfront and check it out for yourself. For the general public, the aerial tram fares can be found here. There are both roundtrip and monthly options available. Kids under six years old ride free and all active and retired military cards are honored as well.
The South Waterfront has a lot of great condos right next to the water. There’s also the new Tilikum Bridge (because ‘Bridge City’ obviously didn’t have enough bridges already). You’ll find that South Waterfront has great accessibility to I-5, HWY 26, and HWY 217. It’s also only 10 minutes away from two of Portland’s largest employers; Nike and Intel. South Waterfront has a lot of different options when it comes to transit.
The City is also planning a new area, which will be the sixth section in the Portland metro and will have easy tram access as well. The name of the proposed new area is simply “South Portland.” The home addresses of Southwest Waterfront start with zero, and the new area will follow this trend. So, if you see houses listed starting with zero, you know you’ll have the OHSU tram nearby. Medical professionals, students, and patients ride free with either OHSU badges or a ticket from the OHSU concierge.
Marquam Hill is where the university and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital are both located. The university and its teaching hospital has been named among the best in the nation for multiple specialties. The children’s hospital ranks as a top pediatric facility for six specialist fields. The hospital also has a midwifery program for expecting mothers and a full Women’s Health Centre as well.
Up a little way from the waterfront is a part of Southwest Portland that is located on the hillside. It’s great because it is close to all of the entertainment of Northwest (more on that later) as well as home to the Portland Timber’s stadium and the world’s largest sports club, the Multnomah Athletic club. This area tends to be where a lot of young professionals live as it is within a 10-15 minute walk or a 5 minute tram ride into the city centre. It’s also weirdly affordable for how great it is.
Living in Southwest Portland Waterfront Information
PROs of living in Southwest Waterfront Portland: There are plenty of convenient and affordable transport options. It’s near Oregon Health & Science University, downtown Portland, and has lots of great restaurants. There are a lot of condos, townhomes, and just generally great places to live.
CONs of living in Southwest Waterfront in Portland: There’s only one way in and one way out of the area, so you really have to plan your day around the traffic patterns. The Southwest Waterfront in Portland doesn’t have any detached homes, however, there are detached homes 5 mins from the South Waterfront.
Living in Southwest Waterfront in Portland is best for: professionals, medical professionals, couples, and those looking for urban luxury by the river.
Southwest Waterfront Portland Housing style: Condos and townhomes
Average price range of condos/townhomes in Southwest Portland: $400k+ for smaller condos. $1M+ for larger condos.
Southwest Suburbs of Portland
Southwest Portland (a little different from the waterfront and quite a bit further out) is great for families and those looking for a more suburban setup. It has large sprawling spaces, huge brand new and older homes, and a laid back way of life. You can also find some properties with amazing views here.
A little further out, but still in Southwest, you’ll find the more rural areas like Beaverton, Lake Oswego or, even further out, West Linn. Outer Southwest offers great schools, tons of parks, and suburban living. If you’re looking for all of this and a luxury home on a lake, then Lake Oswego is your go-to area. You may even go out to Stafford if you’re looking for a property with land.
For more rural luxury, Sherwood and Hillsboro have some fantastic homes. For homes in these areas, you can expect to pay anywhere between 1 million dollars all the way up to 20 million.
Learn More: Living in Lake Oswego
Living in Southwest Portland SUBURBS Information
PROs of living in Southwest Portland Suburbs:
A great area for families, luxury living, some of Portland’s best schools, parks, and wide-open spaces. Home to areas like Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard, Lake Oswego and, VERY importantly, Oregon Wine Country. Whereas Southwest Waterfront is closer to downtown, Southwest is closer to some of the more rural areas and it’s only 40 mins to the Oregon coastline.
CONs of living in Southwest Portland Suburbs:
Again, a little further out, Southwest Portland does have many large detached homes but it is not very walkable. Southwest has more box stores than funky little local stores. Although, Lake Oswego is located in Southwest Portland and it has its own adorable downtown area with walkability, quaint stores, the lake, and it’s own little community.
Living in Southwest Portland Suburbs is best for: Nike and Intel employees, tech employees, families and those looking for suburban rural luxury.
Housing style: Huge, awesome detached homes in most areas and condos in Lake Oswego.
Average price range: Condos starting at around $400k and detached homes listed at $750k+.
The Pearl District, Nob Hill, Slabtown, and the Alphabet district all make up Northwest Portland. It’s an area with tons of great walkability. A little further out, but still within NW Portland is Forest Park, which is number 15 on the list of the largest urban parks in the United States.
Just 20 years ago, the Pearl district was a rail yard strewn with abandoned warehouses. It has now been given a new lease on life and maintained its old character. Many of the older buildings remain, but they’ve been fully updated to the highest standard of reconstruction and design.
The Pearl is considered inner Northwest Portland because it’s part of downtown. It’s a three-minute walk to the very centre of downtown. It’s also very close to funky bars, the historic Union Station transport hub, and some of Portland’s most established spots. This area has a nice-sized park with plenty of play areas. It’s all condos, lofts, and unmatched style here.
The Pearl is an awesome spot for young professionals who want to be near some entertainment but also want to keep it classy.
If you visit the Pearl, we’d recommend just walking around to take it all in. A couple of hip bars here are 10 Barrel and River Pig. It’s also home to Powell’s City of Books; which, as the largest bookstore in the world, is awe-inspiring to behold and a great place to take visitors.
Nob Hill, Slabtown & The Alphabet District
Also in Northwest Portland, but a 10-15 minute walk from downtown, are Nob Hill, Slabtown, and the Alphabet District. Each is also within easy walking distance to Northwest 23rd Ave–which is absolutely jam-packed with little boutiques and great restaurants.
Well known for its eateries, you really can make a day out of hanging around NW 23rd Avenue. For example, you could a bite for brekky, lunch or brunch at the super authentic New York-style deli, Kornblatt’s. This tiny hole-in-the-wall deli is so NYC that they boil their own bagels, serve a jar of pickles as an appetizer, and have iconic Seinfeld portraits on the wall. Maybe then you stop for dinner at Bamboo restaurant and sit at the sushi bar so that the chef can whip you up some custom eats. Forewarning: those custom rolls and nigiri that are out of this world.
For dessert, there’s the notorious Papa Haydn gourmet cafe, with inside and outside seating, or you could find a spot in line for one of Portland’s most popular places to find inventive ice cream flavors, Salt and Straw. If you feel like cooking at home, there’s also a recently-built New Seasons in Slabtown.
For those with pets, you’re right by one of Portland’s best emergency and non-emergency pet hospitals, Dove Lewis. And, in Portland style, it’s right across the street from an extra pet-friendly pub and pizzeria, the Lucky Labrador.
If you’re looking for a place that’s close to downtown with constant but fairly mellow entertainment, awesome design, historical buildings, and urban hikes, then Northwest Portland is your quadrant.
Living in Northwest Portland Information
Pros of living in Northwest Portland: tons of great walkability. Portland is rated as one of the most walkable cities in the United States, and Northwest Portland is pretty much the city’s most walkable area. This area is close to the soccer stadium where the Portland Timbers play, Providence Park. Northwest Portland has great bars, live music, and some of the best restaurants in the city.
Cons of living in Northwest Portland: Out of the entire area, the only sections with detached homes are the Alphabet District and Slabtown. Having said that, they are also some of the most beautiful homes you’ll ever see. The rest of the area is made up of historical apartment buildings.
Northwest Portland is best for: Young professionals, couples, and those looking for some of the best walkability in Portland.
Housing style: Mostly condos, lofts, and apartments with some nicely-restored detached homes.
Average price range of homes in Northwest Portland: $600k+ for condos and lofts. $750k+ for detached homes in the alphabet district. $300k+ for smaller condos.
Southeast Portland has a lot of detached single-family ranch style homes. The majority of the homes in Southeast Portland were built in the early 1900s, and many are very affordable. You’ll also find homes here that are up in the multi-million dollar range.
Outer Southeast is going through a lot of new development at the moment, and some pretty exciting stuff is happening over there but, to put it delicately, it can be kinda rough.
Inner Southeast has some of Portland’s quirkiest neighborhoods, such as Ladd’s Addition, Hawthorne, Mount Tabor, and Richmond. It’s an area with lots of funky shops, independent restaurants, and art galleries. It’s also great for people watching because you’ll find people wearing some super inventive clothing and sometimes even daily costumes.
Most of Southeast Portland offers lots of fun bars and restaurants.
Living in Southeast Portland Information
PROs of living in Southeast Portland: Affordable housing, lots to do, inner Southeast Portland embodies the kind of atmosphere that Portland was built on.
CONs of living in Southeast Portland: Outer Southeast Portland has a lower walk score compared the rest of Portland, and not as many of the houses in this area have been renovated.
Southeast Portland is best for: families, avid skiers and snowboarders (it’s closer to Mount Hood), and those looking for more affordable housing.
Housing style: Mostly detached homes with some newer condos being built.
Average price range: $250k to $500k+
Although not in downtown or Northwest, Northeast Portland is actually one of the most vibrant places to be in Portland. It’s just over the river from downtown, and it’s the hidden place that probably should be the first place you visit when in Portland. Conveniently, it’s also where PDX International airport is–so it may very well be the first place you visit!
Northeast Portland has cult-classic restaurants and coffee shops like Sizzlepie Pizza, See See Motor Coffee, and the hole-in-the-wall style deliciousness that is Pine State Biscuits (which almost always has a line around the block).
There are also tons of funky shops, great restaurants, and lots of great entertainment in this area of Portland. Many of the houses in Northeast Portland were built in the early 1900s and have since been restored beautifully with modern interiors and stylishly-renovated exteriors. Some of the great neighborhoods you’ll find in Northeast Portland are Alberta, Irvington, Laurelhurst, Hollywood, Boyd Center, and the list goes on.
If you’re looking for a artistic + less polished vibe, great walkability, and things to do for the whole family, Northeast Portland is a really solid place to live.
Living in Northeast Portland Information
PROs of living in Northeast Portland: the area is beautiful with affordable housing on old-growth tree-lined streets. It ticks all the boxes as far as being walkable, family-friendly, entertaining, and close to downtown; but also close to the outer suburbs, near the airport, and offers great accessibility to Vancouver, Washington. It also has a range of fun parks and places to walk.
CONs of living in Northeast Portland: If you’re in outer Northeast Portland, the traffic on NE Portland’s main road, Sandy Blvd, can be pretty bad.
Northeast Portland is best for: families, couples, friends, and all ages.
Housing style: Mostly detached homes with some newer condo structures as well.
Average price range: $400k+
The fifth and final section of Portland is North Portland. Right across the river from Vancouver, Washington, and just minutes from Downtown Portland, North Portland is kind of like it’s own little township.
There’s definitely a well-established and calm vibe here. You’ll find a lot of older-style homes and plenty of affordable living. Unlike Northwest Portland, where you’ll be paying $600k+ for a detached home, you can buy a nice home in North Portland within the $300k+ range.
There’s also a great little community there that we love called St John’s. Almost nothing has changed in St John’s in the last century and that’s why it holds a special place in the heart of Portlandians. It’s a really cool place where you’ll find Cathedral Park and some of Portland’s original farmer’s markets and food carts. If you’re looking to buy an affordable house but also want to be able to walk to tons of entertainment, check out North Portland.
Living in North Portland Information
Living in North Portland Information
PROs of living in North Portland: it’s close to downtown. Many people here take great pride in their front yards. North Portland is home to the Portland International Raceway. You get a real feeling of community here. And there’s often live music at Cathedral Park during the warmer months.
CONs of living in North Portland: While physically close to downtown, the traffic and the railway often make for long commutes.
North Portland is best for: families, gardeners, homesteaders, and those looking for a more laid-back vibe.
Housing style: Mostly detached homes.
Average price range: $300k+
Shoutout to Vancouver, WA
We can’t leave this without talking about our neighbor to the north, Vancouver Washington. There are a lot of great real estate opportunities just across the state line. When you’re looking at the map, you might think that Vancouver is part of Portland as it’s literally just over the river.
Why might people want to live in Vancouver, WA instead of Portland, OR?
Firstly, the cost of living is way more affordable in Vancouver and you get considerably more for your dollar.
Secondly, Vancouver has no State Income Tax. They do, however, have sales tax whereas Oregon does not.
The ultimate scenario would be for you to live in Oregon and work in Washington, getting the best of both worlds.
That was a quick overview of the five different quadrants you’ll find in the Portland Metro. If you have a better idea about where you’d like to live in Portland but are still confused, we’ve got your back.
You can contact us – Jackson Wilkey or Jesse Dau – and we’ll make you your own video of an area you’re looking into.
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