Traveling to a new city for the first time can be incredibly fun and incredibly stressful. If you’re anything like me, I’m always nervous about making the wrong choice about where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. What if I book the wrong hotel and end up in a dumpy part of town? What if I spend all day driving to a trailhead I never end up finding? What if I waste my big splurge dinner on a crappy restaurant?
Hopefully you’re reading this in hopes of not making any of these mistakes as you plan your trip to Portland.
This post will focus solely on the biggest choice of all – where to stay in Portland, Oregon!
Where you stay can influence a lot of what you end up doing and what’s readily accessible to you. The good news is that there are several awesome neighborhoods in Portland that will give you more than enough to do while you’re here.
Furthermore, you’ve come to the right place! I grew up here and have lived in all five quadrants of the city (and you’re right, quad does mean four, but we’re “weird” out here and insist on doing things differently). Also, please note that in the last couple years people have actually added a sixth “quad”rant with the South Waterfront. I have yet to accept this into my vernacular.
I’ve helped friends and family throughout the years find great places to stay in Portland that fit their budget and their vibe, and I’m here today to help you, dear reader.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Where to Stay in Portland: The 8 Best Areas to Stay in Portland
Portland is a relatively big city, and like all cities there are a number of choices for where to stay and in what part of town.
I’m writing this post primarily for those of you who will either be visiting Portland for the first time, or have only been here a couple times before.
Not that you can’t use the information if you’re a seasoned Portland traveler, but usually after a few visits you’ll have a better idea about the neighborhoods you like best and where you want to be.
I recommend pulling up a map of the city as you search for lodging so you can start orienting yourself before you even get here.
Don’t have time to read the entire guide below? Here are the things you need to know to find the perfect place to stay in Portland (though you should definitely read the section for the neighborhood you choose!).
- If it’s your first time in Portland, stay centrally near the Willamette River in Downtown Portland, which is as central as it gets but less charming than other areas. Stay at the hip Ace Hotel or the reasonably priced Staypineapple Hotel Rose.
- If you’re in the mood for a bit more charm but still want to be central, look at the Central Eastside. Stay at either the Kex Hotel, a hip hotel/hostel hybrid with affordable rooms, or the Hotel Grand Stark, a very stylish hotel in a truly fantastic location.
- If you’ve been to Portland before and want to explore one of Portland’s more off-the-beaten-tourist-path neighborhoods, branch out to the area around Division Street and Hawthorne Blvd, or the Alberta Arts District. While they’re not as central, the neighborhoods on the east side of the river are home to some of the best food, drinks, and shopping in Portland.
Downtown Portland: The Best Place to Stay for First Timers in Portland
Downtown has a ton of stuff to do – food to eat, drinks to imbibe, and some of the best places to stay in Portland. It’s actually a pretty cool downtown (some downtowns can feel like a wasteland of high-rise office buildings and “business” people doing all their “business”).
Portland fights this stereotype with its walkable streets, communal spots like Pioneer Courthouse Square, and plethora of parks to enjoy.
Portland’s downtown sits right on the banks of the Willamette River, with the fantastic Tom McCall Waterfront Park that stretches from the I-5 bridge up past the Burnside Bridge.
An important note about the unhoused population: I understand this is a realistic concern for some travelers, especially those who haven’t had to confront this issue in their own backyards. Portland, like almost every big city across the country, is struggling to come up with adequate solutions to address the growing housing crisis. This is a population in need of services, but it doesn’t mean they lack community or humanity. The issue is not isolated to just downtown, but it is where it’s most visible. Please take this into account when thinking about where to stay.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Downtown Portland
- Killer location: Staying downtown puts you in the best location to access public transportation which makes it an ideal spot if you want a centralized hub to explore from.
- So many hotels: Downtown has the most hotel options of any part of the city, so you’re sure to find something you like.
- Great for the carless: This whole area is very walkable, or if it’s pouring down rain and you don’t feel like schlepping it, get a Hop pass for only $5 a day and you can hop on any bus, MAX, or streetcar to jaunt around.
- Food and drinks!: There are tons of restaurants and bars and shopping.
- Lacks that “Portland” character: Downtown can sometimes feel out of step with the vibrancy that other neighborhoods in Portland have. I’d venture to say that most locals who don’t live on the west side (or work here) don’t spend too much time downtown, so it will have more of a “touristy” vibe.
- More expensive: You can find expensive bars and restaurants anywhere in the city nowadays, but if you’re into dive bars and hole-in-the-wall type places, downtown’s not necessarily the best fit.
Downtown Portland Highlights
Arts and culture: If you’re craving an arts fix, visit the Portland Art Museum for a great variety of exhibits including fantastic displays of Native American arts and crafts. And, after you’ve fully immersed yourself into the art world, grab tea and a light snack at the conveniently located and named, Behind the Museum Cafe. And for you real nerds out there, right across the street is the Oregon Historical Society where you can learn all about Oregon history!
Parks, parks, parks!: If you’re looking to get out into nature, head up to Washington Park, home of the Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, International Rose Test Gardens, and the Japanese Gardens. Hike up to Council Crest, the highest point in the city for sweeping views of the valley and the Cascade Range. You can either drive there and stroll around the park, or take this 6 mile hike up to the top.
Food carts: Scout out the best restaurants for breakfast, make reservations for dinner, but for lunch hit up one of the city’s many food cart pods. You’ll find the biggest variety at the Fifth Ave. and Third Ave. pods. If you’re in town over the weekend, you can also find a great selection at the PSU Farmers Market.
Portland Saturday Market: Street performers, local handmade gifts, live music, elephant ears, and people watching! Held every Saturday from the beginning of March through Christmas Eve.
The Best Places to Stay in Downtown Portland
You’ll have the pick of the litter for hotels downtown, and many are surprisingly affordable!
The Ace Hotel
Located in a historic 1912 building, The Ace Hotel is probably in my favorite location right on Harvey Milk St. between 10th and 11th.
From here you can walk south into downtown, or pop across Burnside Ave. and explore the Pearl district (and Powell’s Books!).
The minimalist rooms are decked out with local art, and they even offer bunk rooms with shared bathrooms for budget travelers.
The hotel has a sleek vibe with a very hip, Op art inspired lobby. You can check out skateboards, bicycles, volleyballs and other “adventure gear” in their Gear Shed, which makes this a nice option for families.
The hotel hugs an inner courtyard for relaxing and snapping pics next to their lush, living wall, or chowing down at the Zags Restaurant & Patio.
The Hotel Vance is one of the newest hotels in Portland, opening in July of 2021.
Though it’s only been around a short time, it’s already garnered great reviews. The Vance has an uber-modern feel with spacious, sleek rooms that are perfect for those traveling for work.
They have an on-site fitness center and a Starbucks in the lobby for your morning coffee fix, and it’s just steps away from the South Park Blocks where you can catch the streetcar.
Moxy Hotel Portland
It would be hard to get more centrally located than the trendy Moxy Hotel, which also opened in early 2021.
Located at 10th & Alder you can walk anywhere from here or hop on a bus or streetcar. Instead of a traditional front desk, you’ll sidle up to their welcoming bar and be handed a complimentary “Got Moxy” cocktail—what a way to start out a trip!
The lobby is fun and cozy featuring a fireplace, puffy chairs, shared work spaces, and the rooms are clean and relaxing but not boring.
Buckman / the Central Eastside: Best Location to Explore Both Sides of the River
The Buckman neighborhood (also called the Central Eastside) is located just across the river from downtown, making it the best centrally-located eastside neighborhood to stay in.
I’m a big fan of the Buckman neighborhood and there always seems to be some restaurant/shop/bar on my bucket list that I want to visit here.
I’d recommend Portland’s Central Eastside as one of the best areas to stay in Portland.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Buckman
- Best of both worlds: If you’re torn between wanting to experience both the east and west sides of town, Buckman can make for a great choice since you’ll be close enough to the westside with an easy walk or ride across the Burnside, Morrison, or Hawthorne Bridge.
- Awesome food: Buckman is also home to plenty of fabulous eating and drinking options and it keeps growing.
- Access to public transport: A few years ago the city expanded the Streetcar line to run along MLK and Grand Ave. on the eastside, making carless-commuting even easier.
- The noise: Running through the central eastside are the busy streets of MLK and Grand. These streets can be loud if your hotel sits right on them and crossing can be a bear sometimes.
- Still growing: Though the area continues to gentrify, there are still parts that are a bit seedier and dirtier. You’ll also see evidence of the housing crisis around these parts, and you will see houseless folks on the streets.
Buckman / Central Eastside Highlights
Next Adventure: Outdoor gear enthusiasts will love wandering around Portland’s own competition to REI. For 25 years, Deek and Brian’s Next Adventure outdoor store has been keeping Portlanders supplied with everything from camping gear to snowboards to rock climbing shoes. Don’t leave without checking out their bargain basement!
Live music: If you’re a fan of live music be sure to check the upcoming shows at the Doug Fir (I still remember the mind-blowingly good Mountain Goats show I saw there like 15 years ago when they were newly opened). Or, head up to Revolution Hall, an event venue built in the old Washington High School. And, for you late-night dancers, be sure to hit up Holocene for killer DJs.
OMSI: I loved OMSI as a kid, and I love it just as much as an adult! You can easily spend a whole day here playing with the hands-on exhibits in their Science Playground, learn about the stars in the Kendal Planetarium, or maybe catch an OMSI After Dark event solely for those 21+ where you can experience the museum in a new light (and with alcohol!).
The Eastbank Esplanade: The esplanade is a 1.7 mile long path that stretches along the east bank of the Willamette River from the Steel Bridge to OMSI. This is a great way to get outside either walking, jogging, cycling, or any other mode of self-propelled transportation you’re fond of (rollerblades, anyone? I hear they’re making a comeback). I love making this a loop trip by crossing the Hawthorne Bridge then walking up the westside through Waterfront Park, and back over the Steel Bridge.
Distillery Row: If you’re interested in the burgeoning craft distillery movement, the central eastside is your spot! In the hood you’ll find New Deal Distillery, Westward Whiskey, and Wild Roots Spirits.
Places to Stay in Buckman
The Jupiter NEXT Hotel
The Jupiter NEXT is next door to the hip Doug Fir Lounge and Jupiter Hotel. The original Jupiter Hotel has its charm, but the rooms are motel-like and since they’re right next to a music venue, they can be quite loud.
Opt instead of the NEXT which is a great option for pretty affordable rooms in a hip part of town. You should definitely see a show at the Doug Fir and beforehand grab a swanky cocktail at Hey Love.
Matt and Alysha here! We stayed at the Jupiter NEXT recently and really liked it. Comfy rooms with amazing views of downtown Portland (ask for a room on the 9th Street side), super friendly staff, and an excellent location make it a great place to use as a home base for Portland.
Kex Portland is a great choice for a budget traveler who still enjoys the finer things in life. Advertised as a “social hotel,” Kex offers private rooms or bunk rooms with as many as 16 beds if you’re rolling deep with your family or crew.
It also has a cozy rooftop bar, The Lady of the Mountain, but it’s only opened seasonally (because, duh—this is Portland), and there’s a library in the lobby with leather chairs and occasional live music.
Bonus points for being right next door to Ranger Chocolate Cafe and across the street from authentic Japanese food at Wa Kitchen Kuu. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the tiny and adorable Stark’s Vacuum Museum—it’s free!
Lolo Pass is hostel living done right! And let me tell you, I’ve stayed in some pretty shady hostels so I know what I’m talking about.
The bunk rooms are super affordable (the shared dorm rooms are as low at $35 a night!), clean, and simply designed. Or you can opt for a private room with your own bathroom if you’ve craving a bit of privacy.
This place is perfect for the young, budget traveler who really just wants to get out in the city and needs a place to crash.
Spend some time at the hostel rooftop bar, or head next door and scarf down some delectable wings with your choice of 12 different house-made hot sauces (my favs are the spicy peanut and Jamaican jerk) in the Grateful Dead themed, Fire on the Mountain.
Grand Hotel Stark
This boutique hotel opened in May of 2021 in the old Shleifer Furniture building which was built in 1906.
The Grand Stark has done a great job of preserving the original architecture and has kept the décor simple yet tasteful.
The location is also top-notch, smack dab in between the Morrison and Burnside Bridge. Inside the hotel you can grab breakfast or lunch at the Grand Stark Deli or have dinner and a fancy cocktail at the classic hotel bar, Bar Chamberlin that’s open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Or, head three blocks toward the river and dine at the Produce Row Cafe, a staple of the eastside since 1974.
Pro tip: If you’re a light sleeper, try to get a room on the Stark side of the hotel to minimize traffic noise.
Okay, so the Tiny Digs Hotel is just a bit outside of the Buckman neighborhood, but I still consider it “central” and “eastside” enough to include it.
This “hotel” is actually 12 tiny, custom-built homes surrounding a shared courtyard. Each home has a unique theme (I like the vintage “Rock and Roll” house best), a tiny bathroom and shower, deck, and queen bed.
You’ll also be right off 28th Ave. which is teeming with things to do. Grab breakfast down the street at the City State Diner, catch a movie at the Laurelhurst Theater, then have some fabulous cornmeal-crust pizza at Dove Vivi.
The Pearl District: An Upscale Neighborhood near Downtown
Thirty years ago, the Pearl District would be unrecognizable compared to what you see today. What was once essentially a warehouse district that attracted the starving artist-types is now probably the trendiest neighborhood in the whole city.
The Pearl is the next-door neighbor of downtown and has been one of the fastest growing parts of town for the last 20 years. It’s home to restaurants, shops, and bars and is always bustling with foot traffic – tourists and locals alike.
Pros and Cons of Staying in the Pearl
- Access everywhere: Like staying downtown, the Pearl offers easy access to public transportation or bikes which make it ideal for travelers who want to go carless.
- Shops, restaurants, and bars: I’d be hard pressed to think of another neighborhood in the city with the density of shops and restaurants that the Pearl has, and it’s all just a short walk away.
- Fancy schmancy: Admittedly, I’m more comfortable in dive bars and though Portland is by no means a “fancy” city, many of the shops and restaurants around you will be on the higher end. So if you’re a budget traveler, the Pearl might not be your ideal location.
- Busy: All the reasons why some might love staying in the Pearl (big city feel, lots of people out and about all the time) could be the very reason you don’t want to stay here. If a bustling city vibe isn’t your thing then you should pick an eastside neighborhood.
- Lack of lodging: There aren’t a lot of places to stay in the Pearl, and you’ll find many more options crossing over Burnside in downtown.
Pearl District Highlights
Food: Portland is known as a foodie town, as the Pearl is a great place to walk up and down the streets and eat! Start your day by chomping on a signature la’ssant from NOLA Doughnuts. For dinner, get the Pearl pizza at Oven and Shaker, or get fancy with a luxurious dinner at the Peruvian restaurant, Andina.
Cocktails and beer: The Pearl is always lively on a Friday or Saturday night and this makes for some great bar hopping. Have a drink or two at the dimly lit and classy Vault Cocktail Lounge, or grab a pint at the Big Legrowlski. There are also a lot of local breweries in this part of town from Deschutes, Backwoods, Von Ebert, 10 Barrel, and Back Pedal—if you’re a beer connoisseur you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Powell’s City of Books: Spend your afternoon browsing the shelves at Powell’s City of Books, the largest new and used bookstore in the world!
Theater: Spend an evening supporting Portland’s live theater! Both the Artists Repertory Theater and Portland Center Stage put on world-class plays at the old Armory building (built in 1891), on 11th and Davis. I’ve seriously never seen a bad show here.
Art galleries: When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to semi-sketchy warehouse art galleries in the Pearl, and that tradition lives on today (minus the sketchy part). Some of the best are the Blue Sky for photography, or the Froelick Gallery and Augen Gallery for contemporary art.
Best Places to Stay in the Pearl District
The Pearl isn’t rife with hotels like downtown, but there are still good options!
Hampton Inn & Suites
Sitting on 9th Ave. between Everett and Flanders is the Hampton Inn & Suites.
This location couldn’t be better and the spacious rooftop bar is the icing on the cake. When you look it up online it’s only listed as a 2-star hotel, but this is incredibly misleading—this is a nice place to stay with clean rooms, an indoor pool, and fitness center!
Though they have a pretty decent breakfast bar, I recommend walking a block down the road to eat at the classic lunch-counter diner, Fullers Coffee Shop.
Canopy by Hilton
The Canopy is only a couple blocks away from the Hampton Suites but is a bit more upscale and modern.
However, you’ll still be right in the middle of the action and get great views of the city from your room.
Residence Inn by Marriott
Located a bit outside of the busiest sections of the Pearl (a plus for me) is the Residence Inn.
Here you’ll get super clean and quiet rooms (some have kitchens!), helpful staff, and it’s just a block away from one of my favorite city parks, Tanner Springs.
This is a great choice for families as they have options for a two-bedroom room. They also have an indoor pool and fitness center.
Hawthorne / Belmont: The Coolest Neighborhood in SE Portland
The Hawthorne District is one of the most established SE neighborhoods in all of Portland. Back when I was a budding hippie in high school, Hawthorne was the destination of choice for all the nag champa and flowy skirts a girl could want.
It still has a more hippie vibe than other areas of town, but it’s chock full of things to do, and you can easily spend a day walking up and down Hawthorne just people-watching.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Hawthorne/Belmont
- Great for families: It’s a super fun area of town with a good assortment of things to do for adults and kids alike, so if you’re traveling with your family, consider the Hawthorne area.
- Awesome vacation rentals: Hawthorne isn’t much of a hotel area, but there’s a great selection of non-hotel accommodations which is a great way to connect with the city and feel like a local!
- Parking: Parking and driving around Hawthorne sucks, so be wary if you’re bringing a car. You’ll probably end up ditching it and traveling by foot or bike if you do have one.
Hawthorne / Belmont Highlights
Vintage shopping: Hawthorne is known for its local shops, especially vintage clothing and furniture. If this is up your alley, spend some time in the sprawling House of Vintage, the wonderfully curated Vintage Pink, or Magpie where there’s always something I want to buy.
Food and drinks galore: In the morning grab a cup of single-origin coffee at Coava, then pop over the Slappy Cakes for a fun and interactive breakfast experience (great for kids). After that walk a couple blocks west and grab lunch (and a mojito) at Cubo de Cuba, or snag some of the best pizza in town at Apizza Scholls. At night, enjoy cocktails at Circa 33 on Belmont, or the Sapphire Hotel on Hawthorne.
Mount Tabor: If you keep walking up Hawthorne Ave., pretty soon you’ll run smack dab into Mount Tabor, a gorgeous city park featuring miles of trails, a dog park, playgrounds, and a nice hike up to the top of this extinct volcano.
For the kids (but really for everyone): Play skee-ball and other arcade games at Wunderland; catch a movie in a 1927 movie palace, the Bagdad Theater (and it does feel like a palace); take your board to the coolest indoor skate park ever, Commonwealth Skateboarding (that offers camps and a kids-only skate from 10:00 am to noon every Saturday); or, stock up on comics at Portland’s oldest comic book store, Excalibur.
Movie Madness: Film buffs should not pass up a visit to Movie Madness, a much beloved and locally supported non-profit video rental store (yes – video rental!). It’s been around for 30 years and also doubles as a costume and prop museum (including the knife from Psycho, and Julie Andrews’ dress from The Sound of Music!).
Where to Stay near Hawthorne
Your choices for lodging will mostly be Airbnb, but there are a lot of good options and frankly staying in a residential neighborhood can give you a unique sense of the city that you can’t get from a hotel.
Plus, it’s soooo nice to have a kitchen! Here are three vacation rentals you should check out:
PEACEFUL! Walk to Hawthorne Food, Drinks, Shopping
If you’re looking for a calm oasis to return to after a day of city exploration, this garden cottage is it! Just two blocks from Hawthorne on 35th Place, you’ll be ideally situated to explore up and down the main drag but never be too far from home.
The adorably yellow kitchen is warm and inviting, and throughout the house you’ll find work from local artists including a record player with albums from Portland artists! You’ll also have your own entrance, and a private garden patio reserved for guests only.
Modern Luxe Loft on the Hawthorne Strip
This super modern and stylish loft is in an awesome location! It’s light and airy, comes with a kitchenette, a bidet (yes—this is exciting for me), rain showerhead, and a 100 inch projector screen with surround sound for a movie night!
Perfect for a couple spending the weekend in town who still wants to be close to all the fun stuff, but is ready to skip the hotels.
Freshly Renovated 2BD in Classic Portland Bungalow
This two-bedroom guest suite is half a block away from Hawthorne on 33rd Ave and will have you feeling instantly relaxed.
Inside there’s a full kitchen (with heated tile floors!), two bedrooms that are accessed through some very cool and artsy sliding barn doors, plush linens for a comfy night’s sleep, private entrance, and patio.
There’s also a futon in the living room letting you accommodate up to 6 people, making it great for small groups or families.
The Northwest District / Slabtown: Charming, Convenient, and Fun
Confession: No one I know calls this the “Northwest District” though that’s what you’ll see on maps. You’ll most likely hear “Slabtown,” “Nob Hill,” “Alphabet District,” so called because the streets are alphabetical, or just “NW Portland.”
I really love some of the neighborhoods around here. I think they strike a good balance of the gritty Portland feel that I grew up with while incorporating fashionable new restaurants and bars.
Pros and Cons of Staying in the NW District
- Access to Forest Park: Forest Park is big and you can access it from many parts of the city, but NW gives you the most direct access to great trailheads.
- Close to everything: The NW District has a lot of the same benefits as the Pearl or downtown – easy access to streetcar and MAX lines, and lots of dining and drinking.
- Affordable lodging choices: Though not as many choices as downtown (but really, who can compete?) NW has a surprising amount of budget-friendly lodging options, so you can save your money to splurge on a night out!
- Parking: Finding a parking spot in this neighborhood can be a real bear, especially around 23rd Ave. So, if you simply must have a car, know that you’ll probably have to park several blocks away from your destination.
NW District / Slabtown Highlights
Forest Park: The NW District gives you easy access to the expansive Forest Park, with nearby Lower Macleay Park (try this outstanding hike up to Pittock Mansion and be sure to take a mid-hike break at the Audubon Society).
Gorgeous Victorian houses: NW Portland is the best place to tour the city’s Victorian houses, some of which have been turned into businesses (like the fantastic Pope House Bourbon Lounge). Wend your way up and down the streets and marvel at these masterpieces.
23rd Ave. (and 21st): 23rd Ave. (and to an only slightly lesser extent, 21st Ave.) are two poppin’ streets jam-packed with shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries. 23rd especially has attracted some high-end retailers, but there are still enough local, cheaper options to still feel Portlandy.
The Swifts: Okay, so this only applies for a few weeks out of the year, but if you’re lucky enough to visit Portland in September (which btw, is like the best month to visit), you simply must spend an evening watching the swifts (a type of bird, for those who don’t know) at Chapman School. This is the world’s largest roost of Vaux swifts and it just can’t be put into words how awesome it is to see them.
Entertainment: NW is home to one of my favorite art movie theaters, Cinema 21 that has both first-run blockbusters but also lesser known foreign or arthouse films. There’s also the (truly good) improv comedy shows at ComedySportz, or the small but excellent Coho Productions for live theater.
Best Places to Stay in the NW District / Slabtown
Inn at Northrup Station
The Inn at Northrup Station’s décor kinda looks like a Saved by the Bell set, but most rooms have balconies and come with a kitchenette, so if you can look past the 90’s furnishings you’ll be left with one of the best places in NW to stay.
The MAX literally stops right in front of the hotel, so popping around town is a breeze, and the hotel is half a block away from a great Moroccan restaurant, Marrakesh, where you sit on ornate pillows while belly dancers gyrate from table to table.
NW Portland Hostel
If you’re looking for affordable, no-frills lodging, the NW Portland Hostel is for you! Offering traditional bunk hostel rooms, private rooms, family rooms, and full-on apartments, you’re sure to find something to fit your budget and your needs.
They also have bike storage, a cute café, and an outdoor courtyard for BBQing when you don’t feel like going out.
Plus, the location is ideally situated right between NW and the Pearl so you’ll be able to explore the city with ease.
The Silver Cloud is at the far end of the neighborhood but has nice, clean rooms at a good value. And there’s free parking!
It’s also walking distance to the Lower Macleay entrance to Forest Park and two blocks aways from the The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum which is kinda silly, but it’s great for kids or kid-like adults, only costs $5 to get in and I bet you’ll get some good photos out of it!
Portland International Guesthouse
Another great option for those on a budget! The Portland International Guesthouse is European-style lodging (read: shared bathrooms) and is quite small so book early.
It only has four rooms (from a very small room with a twin bed to a larger room with a queen and a twin), and one apartment that’s available for longer stays. All rooms are private but share three bathrooms.
This is best for individuals or couples, and children under five aren’t allowed so not such a great choice for families.
You’ll only be one block away from the trendy 23rd Ave. shopping and dining.
Division (the Richmond Neighborhood): A Foodie’s Paradise
In the last 10 to 15 years, Division Street has exploded. Pre 2000’s Division was kind of a sleepy thoroughfare with a bar and restaurant here and there and mostly residential neighborhoods.
Now it’s a coveted place to live in and visit, and is home to some of the best dining in Portland. Division is even referred to as “restaurant row” these days because there are so many good options.
Pros and Cons of Staying on Division
- THE FOOD!: Foodies will love it here, and you really won’t need to leave the neighborhood to experience some of the best dining in Portland.
- More laid back: Though there’s a several block stretch of Division and Clinton St. that’s bustling with activity, you’ll still enjoy a quieter and more neighborhood-y stay in this part of town.
- No hotel options: If you want to stay out here, you’ll have to book an Airbnb or Vrbo, which I understand is not necessarily a “con,” but it will require a bit more planning ahead.
- Farther out from the city center: The Richmond neighborhood is definitely farther from the other neighborhoods we’ve outlined here, so if you’re looking for a centrally located spot, this isn’t it. That said, it’s still accessible; it will just take you a little longer to get to other places.
- Buses are your only option: Neither the MAX nor the Streetcar run out here, so if you’re reliant on public transport it’s the bus or Lyft for you.
It’s not all about the food on Division, but it is mostly about the food so I’m dedicating extra attention to it here.
Breakfast foods: Good Coffee, it’s not just a clever name; Lauretta Jean’s, her pies taste like kittens and puppies frolicking in the clouds; Broder Cafe, aebleskiver with lingonberry jam – cue Homer Simpson mouth watering mraughruaghraughraugh sound.
Dinner foods: Malka, which is so hard to pin down but just go and you won’t be sorry; Nuestra Cocina, holding down the fort on Division for 18 years and it has definitely earned its place; Dot’s Cafe for legit, old-school Portland vibe. Burger and fries then off to Rocky Horror at the Clinton Theater . . . ahh to be 18 again.
What? People do more than just eat and drink all day when they visit a new city???
Where to Stay near Division
Guesthouse Among The Trees
This light-filled guesthouse sits in the back of a cozy, tree-filled yard, four blocks south of Division.
The house is all new construction with modern design elements, has large window and skylights, full kitchen, A/C and heat, one and a ¼ bath, backyard seating area, and two bedrooms.
Plenty of space for two couples traveling together to relax, cook meals, or hit the restaurants and bars just a few minutes from your door.
Perfectly Portland Clinton St Guesthouse
This immaculate guesthouse sits above a garage, and the vaulted ceilings and large windows make the space feel huge and inviting.
You’ll have your own separate entrance (with a custom tile inlay that reads “Clinton St.” in the foyer floor), a private patio with BBQ, and the whole space can sleep four with a pull-out sectional couch.
Zen Loft as seen in NY Times!
It’s hard to believe that this incredible studio was once a garage. The Zen Loft is indeed a tranquil place that’s perfect for the solo traveler or a couple looking for a quiet retreat at the end of the day.
My favorite features about this space are the huge, glass accordion doors that open completely bringing the outside in for those glorious sunny Portland afternoons, and the outdoor hot tub for those not-so-glorious days.
Everything is sleek, modern, and simple, yet has everything you need. Only two blocks from Division and the incomparable Ava Gene’s.
The Alberta Arts District: Best for Your 2nd or 3rd Trip to Portland
This was my neighborhood for eight years before I migrated to the northern lands of St. Johns, and it holds a special place in my heart.
I still think it’s one of the best neighborhoods in Portland to live in and visit. I love that it’s kinda far away from downtown and all the easily accessible “inner Portland” stuff. You have to intentionally make your way out here.
Pros and Cons of Staying in the Alberta Arts District
- Diversity: It’s often hailed as one of the most artsy, quirky, “weird,” and diverse neighborhoods in Portland and rightly so. It’s just fun to hang out around here and can feel more authentic than some westside neighborhoods.
- Unique lodging: Unlike other non-downtown neighborhoods, Alberta actually has some really awesome lodging options that aren’t your typical hotel experience.
- Far away: If it’s your first time visiting the town and you’ve read through this entire post and you’re totally feeling Alberta, then by all means – do it! I support you fully. That said, I find travelers who choose to stay in Alberta have already been to Portland a couple times and have done the whole downtown thing and are ready to experience something a little different. There’s also no MAX or streetcar lines that run up here, so if you’re depending on public transportation, the bus is your only option.
Alberta Arts District Highlights
There’s so much to do and eat in the Alberta Arts area.
Food: I recommend coffee at Extracto (which is actually on Killingsworth just a couple blocks north), breakfast at Pine State Biscuits (I can’t not order the Chatfield), with a close second coming in with The Tin Shed. Enjoy a spectacular BBQ lunch at Podnah’s Pit, then have dinner at the tastiest Thai in town, Hat Yai.
Last Thursday: Last Thursday might be the biggest, regularly occurring arts and culture walk in Portland. This event happens year-round, but it gets especially crazy in the summer and can feel like you’re in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show which is a good thing (and I realize I’m outing myself in this post as a recovering hippie). It’s like a huge street party.
Bar hopping: There are a ton of bars around here which make it a popular spot for bar hoppers from around the city. My particular favorites are the Bye and Bye (which also has great vegan food), Expatriate for cocktails and an ambiance that makes you feel cooler than you actually are, and the Cruzroom for drinks and live music.
McMenamins Kennedy School: Another stunning achievement by McMenamins. Grab a drink in one of their four bars, dinner at their lovely courtyard restaurant, a movie in their living-room style theater, or schedule a time to enjoy their outdoor soaking pool. More on their lodging options below.
The Best Places to Stay in the Alberta Arts District
McMenamins Kennedy School
First on the list is the Kennedy School, a renovated 1915 elementary school turned hotel/restaurant/bar/movie theater that adults and kids will love. McMenamins has done some pretty spectacular things around Oregon and Washington, and while I can’t speak highly of their beer and food (it’s fine), they do an exceptional job with their spaces.
The rooms all have hand-painted murals, and you can relax in the soaking pool late at night, or grab a drink in one of the on-site bars—will you go to Detention, Honors, or the Boiler Room???
Alberta Petite Hotel
If you want a quieter stay, try the simple and sophisticated Alberta Petite Hotel.
Everything is locally sourced and sustainable and their rooms are like a tranquil oasis.
They enforce quiet hours from 9:00 pm to 8:00 am making this an ideal choice for someone who’s passed by their party days and can appreciate coming home to a calm and welcoming space.
The Bike Shed Portland Guest House
This place is dope! Just two blocks off Alberta on 21st Avenue, the location can’t be beat. The Bike Shed has its own private back patio with a three-panel glass door that fully extends your living space into the yard.
There’s one small bedroom perfect for a kid, and a larger bedroom with a queen size bed and a couch in the loft.
This backyard cottage is decked out with built-in speakers, air-play, and Sonos and has unique personal touches like a hand-painted book-spine staircase and bike spokes and chains in the staircase railing.
Mississippi Avenue: A Fun Alternative Neighborhood up North
The Mississippi neighborhood is the closest in of the North Portland neighborhoods, and jumping over to the Pearl or downtown is super easy.
Mississippi, like a number of inner-Portland neighborhoods, has seen a surge in growth over the last 20 years. Overall, it’s a really cool spot to make your home base and explore from.
Pros and Cons of Staying in Mississippi
- Jam packed with fun: Though the whole street extends up through the city, most of the shops and restaurants are found between N Fremont on the south end and N Skidmore on the north. In just five blocks Mississippi Ave. feels like its own city.
- Incredibly convenient: It’s very easy to pop over to downtown, the Pearl, Rose Quarter or explore to the north or northeast. And, although only buses service Mississippi Ave., it’s only a 7 minute walk west to Interstate Ave. to jump on the MAX.
- Not a lot of lodging: There aren’t a ton of lodging options right around here, though there are some good Airbnb possibilities.
- Very popular (and growing): Since Mississippi is so close to downtown, it’s kind of become a hotspot for bar hopping. If you’re crowd-avoidant or if you’re staying right on the main drag it can get very noisy at night.
- The effects of gentrification are everywhere: No Portland neighborhood is immune to gentrification (and no major city in the whole country, really), but it can feel most apparent here. Mississippi was historically one of the most affordable neighborhoods in the city, but many of its original denizens have all been priced out and in their place are expensive condos and fancy pour-over coffee shops. This isn’t really a reason to avoid the area, but something to keep in mind as you explore.
Mississippi Ave. Highlights
Unique shopping: Paxton Gate, because where else can you get a cured raccoon foot and a praying mantis encased in acrylic? The Meadow for craft salts and chocolate bars you’ve never seen before. Sock Dreams for all you novelty-sock lovers.
Maybe the best food cart pod in town?: On the corner of Mississippi and Skidmore next to Prost! is an always-busy, always-delicious food cart pod. Many of the carts here have brick and mortar locations elsewhere in the city, and they’ve all made a name for themselves. Standouts are Matt’s BBQ, Teppanyaki Hut, and Native Bowl.
Sunlan Lighting: I acknowledge you’re probably not lightbulb shopping on your vacation, but I SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS STORE and its whole vibe and Kay the lady who owns it is such a gem and she draws these cartoon lightbulb people that you can color and bring back to her and she’ll tape them up around her cash register. Pop in for five minutes and thank me later. The world needs more Kays.
Mississippi Studios: THE best small venue to see live music in Portland. Dubbed a “musician’s music venue,” this place sees big names come through and the ticket prices remain reasonable. Owned and operated by local musicians, do not miss an opportunity to visit.
Super close to Williams Ave.: A quick ten-minute walk east will get you to N Williams, another thriving neighborhood in North Portland. I recommend Box Social for cocktails and happy hour snacks, Eem for dinner (prepare for a wait—this place continues to be one of the best restaurants in Portland for the last four years and doesn’t show signs of slowing down), and grabbing a unique Portland keepsake from Reclamation (and say hello to their store mascot, Eliot the turtle!).
Mississippi Street Fair: Mississippi is home to one of the biggest street fairs in Portland which is usually the second weekend of July. Five stages with live music, local vendors, plenty of shenanigans.
Best Places to Stay Near Mississippi
Japanese Carpentry – Mississippi Ave – Portland
This place is stunning! If you’re a fan of handcrafted natural wood architecture, look no further.
This beautiful apartment is done in a Japanese style using the traditional joinery method including handmade doors and windows. The warm wood floors and ceiling invite you into this relaxing oasis, just steps away from Mississippi on the south end of the street.
Wes Anderson inspired historical private apt.
This charming and impeccably decorated basement apartment has plenty of natural light and yes—everything is so well curated it does feel like the set of a Wes Anderson movie.
You’ll have a private entrance, two bedrooms, kitchen (with one caveat that they only have a countertop induction stove, so don’t plan on cooking Thanksgiving dinner here), game shelf, two TVs, and a record player with vintage records.
One block from Mississippi and the fabulous Broder Nord for breakfast!
★ Magic Caravan★
If you’ve ever been curious about tiny living, now’s your chance to try it out! This tiny home is so cute and so lovingly designed you’ll feel instantly welcome.
Inside the small but mighty space you’ll get a kitchenette, bathroom with a shower and toilet, queen size bed, and A/C (which is becoming more and more necessary these days), décor from local artists, and the wood for the shelves and table were sourced on site!
The Magic Caravan is located right in between Mississippi and Williams so you can explore both neighborhoods with ease!
Looking to explore Portland? We have plenty of other Portland travel guides (written by a Portland local) to help you discover something new and exciting.
- The Best Things to Do in Portland: A Complete Portland City Guide
- How to Spend a Weekend in Portland (Complete 3 Day Itinerary)
- Where to Stay in Portland, Oregon: A Complete Guide to 8 Neighborhoods
- The 13 Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon: Complete Portland Hiking Guide
- How to Spend One Amazing Day in Portland
- 16 Amazing Day Trips from Portland, Oregon
- 12 Perfect Weekend Getaways from Portland, Oregon
- The Best Parks in Portland: A Local’s Take on Portland’s Parks
A Quick (ish) Portland Geography Overview
Portland is an easy city to get around in for the most part, and I believe this to be true even for the directionally-challenged. Once you get to know a few key landmarks you can start making your way around town like a real local.
The river that runs through the city is the Willamette River (pronounced will-am-it, not will-a-met-ee – don’t laugh, I’ve heard it way too many times).
This river bisects the city into its west and east sections. The north/south divide is Burnside Street which also conveniently has a bridge of the same name (it may help you remember it as the bridge with the big light-up “Portland, Oregon” sign on it).
With the exception of North Portland (which is somewhere you probably won’t want to stay as a first-time tourist), these quadrants are how the city’s streets and neighborhoods are split up – NW, SW, NE, and SE Portland. Get familiar with it because you’ll hear it a lot and it will be helpful when deciding where to stay in Portland.
Also, if you get lost, at the very least you can look at the street signs to know what quadrant you’re in (for example, “NW Flanders and NW 23rd Ave”). If cardinal directions aren’t your forte, just look for Mount Hood and you’ll know you’re facing east and then use the old trick, “Never Eat Shredded Wheat”.
Oh yeah, Portland also has an absurd number of bridges, so don’t freak out if you’re driving somewhere and you accidentally cross a bridge. It’s pretty easy to find another one to get yourself back to the right side of town.
Crystal clear, right?
Here’s a quick summary of each of the main areas:
- Southwest Portland: Southwest Portland consists of basically Downtown Portland, along with lots of windy, hilly neighborhoods that branch off behind it and to the south of it. I don’t recommend getting deep into the southwest. There are some nice greenspaces, but it’s mostly residential and there’s not a ton of stuff for tourists to do.
- Northwest Portland: Northwest Portland is home to some of the best places to stay in Portland, like the Pearl, Nob Hill, Slabtown, and the Northwest District. Downtown and NW both have tons to do as far as bars, restaurants, museums, and entertainment. The westside is also generally trendier, fancier, and spendier than neighborhoods on the eastside, but can be one of the best places to stay in Portland especially if it’s your first time.
- Southeast Portland: Sitting south of Burnside and east of the river is Southeast Portland with its many established neighborhoods that have more of the Portlandia vibe than those on the westside. It also has more tree-lined residential neighborhoods and is generally very bikeable and walkable. This makes it a great part of town to stay in if you prefer to get around on two wheels instead of four. Prices for everything are generally cheaper, though that doesn’t mean you can’t find superb fine dining and high-end shopping mixed in with tiny local shops and oddities on streets like Hawthorne, Division, and Belmont. The eastside in general feels more spunky, young, and scrappy.
- Northeast Portland: This huge area encompasses everything east and north of the river and north of Burnside. The only North Portland neighborhood we’ll highlight here is Mississippi St., though there are many other awesome parts of town up north like my stomping grounds of St. Johns (holla!). The N and NE neighborhoods like the Alberta Arts District are bike friendly, dynamic, and the most diverse (though getting less so due to widespread gentrification). Here you’ll also find bigger venues for events like the Convention Center and the Rose Garden if you wanna take in a Blazers’ game while in town.
MORE TO EXPLORE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.
- Seattle: Find the perfect place to stay in Seattle, use our itinerary and complete Seattle city guide to plan your weekend in Seattle (we also have a guide to one day in Seattle for shorter trips), find a new hike near Seattle to tackle, and plan your next day trip or weekend getaway.
- Portland: Get a local’s take on what to do in Portland and where to stay in Portland, plan your weekend itinerary (we also have a guide to one day in Portland for shorter trips), find the best hikes in and around Portland, and discover the best day trip and weekend getaway destinations.
- Road Trips: Explore the best of the Pacific Northwest on a 14 day Pacific Northwest road trip. Plan an amazing Washington road trip or Oregon road trip with our detailed guides, including a couple of itineraries that you can copy/paste.
- The Oregon Coast: Explore the best of the Oregon Coast on a 7 day Oregon Coast road trip. Discover the best hikes on the Oregon Coast, and figure out what to do in Cannon Beach and Astoria.
- Hiking in Oregon: Get a local’s take on the best hikes in Oregon, the most spectacular Oregon waterfalls, and dive deeper into each region with our guides to the best hikes at Mt. Hood, in the Columbia River Gorge, and more.
- Hiking in Washington: Add to your Washington hiking bucket list with our guide to the best hikes in Washington. Then dive into our regional hiking guides to discover the best hikes near Seattle, hiking at Mount Rainier, in Olympic National Park, in the North Cascades, and at Mount Baker.
- Mount Rainier National Park: Plan the perfect trip to Mount Rainier with our guides to the best things to do, the best hikes, and how to plan a perfect day trip to Rainier.
- Olympic National Park: Explore the best that Olympic National Park has to offer – the best hikes, a complete itinerary, and exactly where to stay in Olympic National Park.
- North Cascades National Park: The least visited of the National Parks in Washington, learn how to plan a perfect itinerary, and figure out the best hikes to add to your list.
- Crater Lake National Park: Discover the best that Oregon’s only national park (isn’t that crazy?) has to offer with our guide to planning your Crater Lake itinerary, and our guide to the best hikes in Crater Lake. Plus, a guide to planning an amazing Seattle to Crater Lake road trip.