The Best Places to Stay in Portland – Tips and Advice
- Why visit Portland?: As you may have heard, Portland is one of the Northwest’s centers of third-wave coffee and live music, with a culinary scene that leans well toward the experimental. Here you’ll find a glimpse of what west coast living was like before our dependency on the internet replete with tons of outdoor activities and honest-to-goodness bookstores. Lots of them.
- How do you get around Portland?: The city’s incredible public transportation system, TriMet, combines light rail, trams, and busses, and can shuttle you to most parts of the city. Parking can be difficult in Portland, as many neighborhoods require a permit to park on the street; these are generally reserved for residents. And if you do bring your own car, don’t expect to pump your own gas. It was outlawed in 1951, and only a station attendant is legally allowed to operate a gas pump in most circumstances.
- What is the best time of year to go to Portland?: It’s true. Like its neighbor to the north, Seattle, Portland is rainy between October and June. Summers, on the other hand, are glorious even if they are short. You’ll find the weather is best here in July and August but be prepared as Portland occasionally endures a few days at a time that inch toward the 100º mark.
- Can you visit Portland on a budget? There are a couple of hostels in town, although they are more expensive than you might find in other parts of the world. Thankfully, Portland has a robust Couchsurfing community with many residents willing to offer travelers respite on their couch or in a spare room for a few days at a time.
Generally, when locals talk about places in Portland, they’ll likely describe them as being in one of Portland’s quadrants, casually relating that some spot or another is in NE or SW, rather than the individual neighborhood. Somewhat confusingly, there are five or six of these, depending on who you ask.
The city is divided into quarters by the Willamette river, and running perpendicularly to it, the artery of Portland streets, Burnside. The sections of town these two through lines create are colloquially called by where they fall on a compass.
Like a slice of pie wedged into the northern echelons of the city is North Portland, with South Portland reigning in the city at its outskirts.
Each part of town has its own character and flavor, but the rallying cry to “Keep Portland Weird” still rings true in all of them. This is a city deeply devoted to the practices of sustainable living, education, and creative practices of all kinds, and you will see these principles in action all over town.
There’s no one “cool” neighborhood here. While residents will all offer their own take on the best spot in Portland, which neighborhood you think is best is almost certainly dependent on your own personal interests.
Do you prefer a quiet, forested block, or the bustling streets of the inner city? Thankfully, Portland can cater to both of these preferences and more, as its neighborhoods are as diverse as its people.
Portland Neighborhood Guide
The typical Portland vibe is laid back and welcoming, so there’s not really a bad neighborhood to stay in Portland, but you may find that some spots suit you better than others. To the uninitiated, this city might seem somewhat homogenous, but the local color of each neighborhood really does differentiate them once you know more about what they have to uniquely offer.
Whether you’re a skateboarder or a business traveler, there’s a neighborhood just right for you in the city. Here’s a handy guide to the most popular neighborhoods for tourists if you’re planning on visiting Portland.
1. Downtown Portland
For those who want to be in the center of it all
Portland’s walkable downtown, while maybe not quite as “weird” as the rest of the city, still retains the same charm. While you’ll still see chains that you recognize, Downtown PDX isn’t as copy and paste as you might imagine.
Here, independent businesses flourish right alongside the major players, making Portland’s downtown much less sterile than some of its counterparts.
If you rarely spend much time shopping when you’re on vacation, make an exception while you’re here. Portland, and the entire state of Oregon, does not leverage tax against sales of any kind.
If you plan ahead, you can save any major purchases you had intended to make for when you arrive in Portland.
You’ll find many of the department stores you’re already familiar with Downtown, particularly toward its north end. And the Apple Store on Yamhill draws tourists looking to replace their devices, as the savings can be as much as $100-$200 on even a single item.
While there’s certainly ample shopping and dining, what’s truly incredible about Downtown is how green it is. Blocks are lined with trees and green spaces are scattered throughout. Most notable of these are the Park Blocks, the long, narrow lawn that runs through most of Downtown Portland.
At night, try to catch a show at Portland’s legendary Crystal Ballroom. They book both local and touring bands and have been since 1914.
Beginning its life as a jazz club, these days the ballroom doesn’t stick to a particular genre, though they’re known to have a knack for booking the best up-and-coming musical acts.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN DOWNTOWN PORTLAND
($$) • West End Loft • SW Morrison
($$) • The Heathman • SW Broadway
($) • British Style Bed & Breakfast • SW Colombia
2. Nob Hill
For fans of the eclectic and independent
If you’re actually from Portland, you almost certainly know this neighborhood by another name. Although Northwest Portland actually contains several neighborhoods, this one section just across the freeway from the Pearl is colloquially referred to as simply “NW.”
When you’re strolling through the neighborhood, you’ll likely notice the names of the streets are ordered alphabetically, beginning on the other side of Burnside with Ankeny and continuing all the way to York in the very northern end.
Unfortunately, “X” and “Z” streets were renamed Roosevelt and Reed respectively, thus breaking the pattern. Nonetheless, it has also been called the Alphabet District since 1865, though the nickname fell out of fashion in the late 90s.
Much like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, PDX is obsessed with coffee. Whether you’re a casual or serious fan, NW is likely the best place to sample some of Portland’s finest brews.
While it’s hard to find a bad cup of joe in Portland, Good Coffee and Barista are both solid go-to’s for the serious connoisseur. Catering to a much more laid-back clientele, Anna Bannanas will welcome anyone looking for the last vestiges of the grunge-era Pac NW.
Bars are plentiful in NW and range from the upscale to the classic dive. McMenamins, a local chain of brewpubs and lodgings, is well represented here, with three locations of their uniquely styled bars, a bottle shop, and the Mission Theater, which enmeshes their bar offerings with a cinema.
You don’t have to be dressed to the nines to enjoy a night out in NW. While there are many options for fine dining and exquisite cocktails, a particularly “classy” outfit might actually make you stand out more.
Tennis shoes are more than appropriate for the quaint Bartini, which serves up precisely measured cocktails and small plates. Or you can eschew the Pac NW’s famous cocktail culture altogether and grab a PBR at the beloved Marathon Taverna.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN NOB HILL
($$$) • Inn at Northrup Station • NW Northrup
($$) • Sunny Nob Hill Bungalow • NW Glisan
($) • HI Portland Northwest Hostel • NW 18th Ave
3. Pearl District/Chinatown
For art lovers
Strolling through the Pearl District today, it’s hard to believe that it was once a neighborhood dominated by abandoned warehouses and factories.
The recipient of a 20+ year-long facelift, Portland’s Pearl is now home to art galleries, swanky bars, and some of the city’s most enviable loft apartments and condos.
The best time to experience the Pearl is on the first Thursday of every month when they hold their art walk. This is the night when galleries and studios throughout the Pearl welcomes visitors to preview their new exhibitions.
On this night you’ll find live music, drink specials, pop-ups, and buskers dispersed between the Pearl’s many galleries.
Just next door, the micro-neighborhood equally referred to as Old Town and Chinatown has seen a similar revivification since the turn of the century.
One of Portland’s quirkiest photo ops can be found here, right on the corner of 4th and Couch (pronounced like kootch.) Though the restaurant is closed for good, the iconic Hung Far Low sign still hangs where the Wong family restaurant was located from 1923 until 2005.
Make sure your trip wraps around a weekend so you’ll have the chance to visit Portland’s famed Saturday Market.
Open on Saturdays and Sundays right off Naito Pkwy, you’ll find stalls selling handmade crafts and goods right alongside food trucks and even live performances. Afterward, you can grab brunch at one of the Pearl’s swanky – but casual – eateries.
But possibly the most famous place in the entire neighborhood is the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s Books. This new and used bookstore fills an entire city block and has 9 separate rooms throughout all three stories. They carry in excess of a million titles at a time.
Just like most visitors to the Pearl, you’ll want to make the pilgrimage to the iconic original location of Voodoo Doughnut. While they now have several locations across Portland – and the rest of the United States – their funky flagship on NW 3rd is where they first created the signature offering that put them on the map: the Bacon Maple bar.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE PEARL DISTRICT
($$$) • 3 Bedroom Pearl Condo • NW Everett
($$) • The Society Hotel • NW 3rd Ave
($$) • The Hoxton • NW 4th Ave
4. E Burnside/Buckman
For lovers of all kinds of dining
If you’re looking for a serious dining experience, the north end of the Buckman neighborhood centered around E Burnside might be the best spot for you. From some of the finest takes on street food to quintessential fine dining, E Burnside has exploded in offerings for foodies in the last 15 years.
Possibly the most acclaimed restaurant in the city is on E Burnside behind an unassuming facade: Le Pigeon.
Helmed by head chef Gabriel Rucker, it has been delighting Portland palates since 2006, most famously with their chef’s tasting menu that you must book in advance. If you’re looking for something a little less formal, you can visit the sister restaurant down the street, Canard.
For a quick but extraordinary bite, cruise by Nong’s Khao Man Gai just south of Burnside on Ankeny. Along with a few other classic offerings, their signature khao man gai – or Thai chicken rice – is adored by locals, including Portland’s Thai community.
Though the menu might be small it can get very busy, so try going at an off-peak time to avoid a line.
If you’ve got a skateboard in tow, or just want to snap a few photos of the incredible graffiti here, check out Burnside Skate Park, the world’s first DIY concrete facility of its kind.
This space is entirely community-run and funded from donations, so consider donating to this 501(c)(3) charitable organization if you enjoyed your visit.
BEST PLACES TO STAY NEAR E BURNSIDE
($$$) • Luxe Home • SE 16th
($$) • Jupiter Hotel • E Burnside
($) • Lolo Pass • E Burnside
5. Lloyd Center
For business travelers
The Lloyd District is home to Portland’s busiest mall, the Lloyd Center, which famously has a year-round ice skating rink on its ground floor. But for tourists, the convention center, that draws business travelers from around the globe, is probably why you’re seeking to stay near here.
Most of the lodging offerings near Lloyd center cater to this demographic, so don’t expect to find the same boutique hotels and guesthouses as you might around town.
Hotels around here aren’t known for their design or aesthetic, but rather focus on clean, comfortable facilities and a proper business center. This is also a great place to stay if you’re traveling by car, as many of these hotels offer a garage.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE LLOYD DISTRICT
($$$) • Hotel Eastlund • NE Grand
($$) • PDX Central Convention Studio • NE Holladay
($$) • Shilo Inn • NE 2nd Ave
6. SE Portland
For a truly local experience
Almost completely devoid of traditional hotels, SE Portland has long been the home of folks seeking simple living and a tight-knit community. Residents in SE Portland have long resisted many of the developments seen across the river, and to this day you’re likely to find a cafe or a small coffee shop housed within a hundred-year-old, often vividly painted house.
There are several pockets of activity encompassed within this vast corner of the city, but as a visitor, you’ll likely want to focus on three main thoroughfares: Belmont, Hawthorn, and Division streets.
Hawthorne will likely be your first stop in the neighborhood. With a decidedly DIY, 90s vibe, this cross-town drag is lined with music stores, vintage shops, vegan restaurants, and international cuisine. of the latter, you’ll want to visit the Hawthorne outpost of DarSalam, an adored local chain that serves traditional Iraqi fare.
Even if you’re not much of a vinyl collector, Tomorrow Records is still worth a visit.
This seemingly sparse shop actually contains a treasure trove of classic and contemporary music, especially by local acts. And operating on a level somewhere between a boutique and a behemoth, the massive House of Vintage has over 13,000 square feet of authentic vintage clothing and goods from over 50 different sellers.
Just a few blocks north of Hawthorne lies Belmont, a hub for experimental and progressive dining. You’ll find all things smoked, pickled, and fermented at Fermenter, where traditional preparations are used to create modern fare.
Farm Spirit, billed as the quintessential plant-based “dinner party” is the best way to experience all the phenomenal local produce and wines.
If you continue on Belmont all the way to the east, you’ll eventually run into the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, and its namesake forest park. Here is where you’ll find the farm-to-table restaurant and hub for the slow food movement, Coquine.
Head chef Katy Millard has developed an exquisite menu designed around her commitment to sourcing local ingredients and implementing sustainable practices. You can grab dinner here, or, if you’ll be in town for a little while, stop by to pick up your pre-ordered CSA produce box.
Along Division is where you’ll find some of Portland’s best bakeries. Standouts include St. Honoré Boulangerie, Little T Baker, and New Cascadia, the latter of which offers exclusively gluten-free goods.
Down on nearby Clinton street is the Clinton Street Theater, which still shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show on most Saturday nights at midnight.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SE PORTLAND
($$$) • Eco-Friendly House • Hawthorne
($$) • Evermore Guesthouse • SE Clinton
($) • Bluebird Guesthouse • SE Division
7. NE Portland
For artists, musicians, and everyone’s inner hipster
For many tourists, there’s but one reason to visit NE Portland, and that’s for the shockingly cool arts district that runs along Alberta. Dripping with galleries, studios, and independent cafes, the Alberta Arts District has transformed NE Portland into an outsider art mecca, even though its beginnings were decidedly ad-hoc.
The last Thursday of every month is when they hold their raucous Art Walk. On these auspicious nights, thousands of people pour into the neighborhood to troll open studios, enjoy excellent street food, and attend live performances.
During the day, you can visit one of Alberta’s homespun restaurants or coffee shops. Conveniently, the Tin Shed restaurant and Case Study Coffee share a patio, so you can kill two birds with one stone here.
Ensuring you don’t spend all of your time in NE on Alberta street is McMenamins famous Kennedy School: a brewpub, restaurant, and boutique hotel all rolled into one.
The highlight of this former elementary school is definitely the saltwater soaking pool in the basement. Even if you’d rather stay somewhere else, you’re still welcome to visit their on-site restaurant and use the pool by purchasing a day pass.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN NE PORTLAND
($$$) • Kennedy School • NE 33rd Ave
($$) • Tiny Farmhouse on Alberta • Alberta Arts District
($) • Bali Hotel • King
Now that you’re a little more familiar with a few of Portland’s many neighborhoods, you likely have a better idea of where you’d like to stay and what your plans are during your visit. But if you’re planning a trip for a special occasion, like a business trip or a city-break honeymoon, here are some suggestions to help you pick the very best place to stay.
Best Luxury Hotel in Portland: ($$$) • Inn at Northrup Station • Nob Hill
Best Boutique Hotel in Portland: ($$) • The Society Hotel • The Pearl
Best Cheap Hotels in Portland: ($) • Lolo Pass • E Burnside
Best Family Hotel in Portland: ($$$) • Eco-Friendly House • SE Portland
Best Romantic Hotel in Portland: ($$$) • Kennedy School • NE Portland