Where to Stay in Portland: 8 Best Areas

Where to stay in Portland

The City of Roses is a fun and friendly destination in all seasons. However, before you arrive, you’ll want to find the best areas to stay in Portland. Fortunately, Portland is a fairly small city, which makes it easy to get acquainted. 

Several eclectic neighborhoods are available, each of which may boast a variety of accommodations. A few hostels are scattered throughout the city, but most of the hotels are well-known chains.

If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, then consider one of the independent hotels. You’ll find everything from grand old high rises to renovated retro-style properties that would make any hipster feel at home.

Before you explore the city’s brewpubs, headlining attractions, natural beauty and more, consider finding a place to stay in Portland in one of these neighborhoods.

Where to stay in Portland: 8 Best areas

1. Downtown, where to stay in Portland for first timers

Portland’s Downtown neighborhood is relatively compact and eminently walkable. Still, it’s nice to know that Tri-Met’s buses and the light rail train known as MAX are available when you’re feeling tired or looking to explore the larger area.

To get to know the city better, it’s a good idea to start with a stroll along the waterfront on the Willamette River. Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the perfect place for walking, riding a bike or playing in the water fountains.

You can walk to Pioneer Courthouse Square just a few blocks away. Known as Portland’s Living Room, this is where many annual festivities occur. Be sure to check out what’s going on so that you don’t miss out on the fun.

Nearby, you’ll find the Portland Art Museum, which features an array of touring exhibits, artifacts from Native American and Asian culture, modern art and much more. 

The museum is found along the South Park Blocks, which also are fun to explore with their towering trees, flowers and historical monuments.

Don’t forget to stop in at the Oregon Historical Society while you’re in the area. It’s the best place to learn all about the story of the state.

Portland is renowned for its arts scene, and many of its top venues are located in Downtown. 

These include the expansive Keller Auditorium and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Whether you’re interested in the national touring company of a Broadway musical or are hoping to hear a lecture or attend an opera, this is the place to be.

Downtown earns its spot as one of the best areas in which to stay in Portland because it’s so close to some of the city’s major attractions. 

Catch a ride to Washington Park where you can visit headlining attractions like the Hoyt Arboretum, the World Forestry Center, the Portland Japanese Garden, Pittock Mansion and the Oregon Zoo.

Called a living museum, Hoyt Arboretum was founded in 1928 as a center of conservation and education. It includes almost 200 acres of land at the top of a ridge. With more than 12 miles of trails, this is a favorite destination for hikers throughout the year.

The World Forestry Center is a fascinating museum that educates as it entertains. With all sorts of exhibits that highlight the forests of the Pacific Northwest, this institution is one that will delight all visitors.

At the Portland Japanese Garden, every season is worthy of celebration. In addition to a cultural village, guests can tour the Strolling Pond Garden, the Tea Garden, Natural Garden and much more. It’s a beautiful, soothing spot that also boasts unparalleled views of the Portland skyline.

Construction on Pittock Mansion began in 1912. Publisher of the Oregonian newspaper, Henry Pittock, wanted to build a grand home that would provide his family with extensive views of the city below. 

Today, the mansion is one of Portland’s top attractions. It’s open for tours all year long but is particularly festive in December when it’s decorated for the holidays.

Since 1888, the Oregon Zoo has delighted visitors of all ages. It is the home of nearly 2,600 animals, many of which are endangered or threatened. With five large areas to explore covering a range of ecosystems and continents, the Zoo is a fantastic place to spend the day.

Shopping opportunities in downtown are gloriously eclectic. Venture into Pioneer Place Mall where you’ll find all sorts of upscale fashion choices, then wander the nearby blocks to find a variety of unique shops. 

The dining experiences here are just as irresistible. From delectable food carts to familiar fast food and local, acclaimed spots, you’ll find it all in one compact area.

Portland’s Downtown is relatively safe, but like every metropolitan center, it’s wise to use care when venturing out at night. You’ll probably encounter many other locals and tourists, all of whom are enjoying Portland’s night clubs, taverns and brewpubs.

This is probably the best neighborhood in which to stay in Portland. While you will find a few familiar chain hotels in Downtown, the district has more independent, eclectic offerings that are definitely worthy of your attention. 

These range from undoubtedly upscale and expensive boutiques to a few value-minded properties where you get a great combination of location and price. A couple of hostels and guesthouses cater to guests who are especially budget-conscious.

2. Old Town Chinatown, good place to stay in Portland for nightlife

Portland’s Chinatown isn’t necessarily as large or as driven by tourism as similar neighborhoods in Vancouver, BC and San Francisco, but it still has some excellent spots to visit. Plus, this is the site of the city’s original Downtown district, so it’s a must-see if you’re interested in history.

While touring Old Town Chinatown, be certain to set aside time to explore the authentic Ming Dynasty-style garden called the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It was built by actual Suzhou artisans, offering a place to enjoy a peaceful, reflective hour in the midst of Portland’s bustle.

Old Town Chinatown also is the host of the famed Portland Saturday Market. Open Saturdays and Sundays from March through December, the Market is the perfect place to find a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir. Nearly everything is made in Portland by local artisans, ensuring unique finds on every trip.

When you visit the neighborhood, be certain to bring your sweet tooth. This is the home of the original Voodoo Doughnut. In operation since 2003, this 24-hour-a-day bakery is pretty nearly always busy thanks to its unique doughnuts.

Plenty of galleries are found in Old Town Chinatown. If you visit in time for a First Thursday event, be sure to schedule some time to view the free shows at dozens of stores and galleries. 

Nightlife thrives here as well, with hot spots like Harvey’s Comedy Club, Darcelle XV Showplace, Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade and Wilfs drawing in crowds every evening.

Old Town Chinatown also hosts numerous one-of-a-kind eateries like Old Town Pizza, which has been in business since 1974. Bijou Café has you covered for breakfast, and Dan & Louis’ Oyster Bar, a landmark that was established in 1907, is the place to enjoy fresh seafood.

Old Town Chinatown boasts just a few hotels, with most of these being familiar chains. The prices are relatively reasonable, but if you’re looking for more choices, Downtown is right next door and has some of the best places to stay in Portland. 

Plus, Old Town Chinatown tends to have a heavy population of homeless people. This, coupled with many late-night revelers, may make getting a good night’s sleep difficult, especially if you’re not interested in partying yourself.

3. Pearl District, lively and fashionable neighborhood

The lively, fashionable Pearl District is bordered by Old Town Chinatown on the east, Nob Hill on the west and Downtown to the south. 

A tiny neighborhood, the Pearl is where you’ll find all sorts of eclectic, upscale shops and eateries plus a wealth of high-rise condominiums where the living is easy.

On every street corner, you’ll have an opportunity to explore undeniably stylish bars and lounges, avant-garde art galleries and famous restaurants. Each one is housed in a former warehouse or industrial building. 

Like nearby Old Town Chinatown, many of the galleries in the Pearl participate in the First Thursday events, so this definitely needs to be on your itinerary.

The Pearl District also is where you’ll find Portland Center Stage, the city’s biggest theater troupe. They perform at the Gerding Theater at the Armory. If there’s a show on while you’re in town, be certain to get your tickets early.

In the Pearl sits one of Portland’s most notable landmarks: Powell’s City of Books. Occupying an entire city block and with five floors to explore, it’s easy to get lost in the stacks. 

While picking up a new favorite book, take a break in the coffee shop and browse through the locally made souvenirs and gifts to find a treasure to bring home.

Plenty of breweries and pubs call the Pearl home, and the best way to sample many of them is with a BrewCycle tour. With a capacity for up to 15 riders, the BrewCycle is powered by patrons’ feet. It’s the perfectly safe way to tie one on without taking any risks.

If you visit in the summer, spend a little time splashing in the fountain at Jamison Square.

If shopping is on your itinerary, then you’ll love the Pearl. You’ll find shops from Athleta, Lululemon Athletica, Filson, REI and the North Face to name a few. Fashion choices include Garnish Apparel, House of Lolo, Anthropologie and Madewell.

The Pearl District is a heavily residential area with the concentration of high-rise condominiums. Consequently, there are few hotels here

You will find a couple of chain hotels here, but you’re better off choosing a hotel in adjacent downtown if you want more options for your stay in Portland.

4. Nob Hill – Northwest District, residential area with great shopping

Immediately to the west of the Pearl District is Nob Hill. Sometimes also referred to as Northwest, this neighborhood is the site of Northwest 23rd Avenue, which is widely regarded as a favorite shopping thoroughfare for locals

Don’t expect to find much in the way of parking on 23rd or on the surrounding blocks. This is a heavily residential area with apartments and historic single-family homes. 

Add to this all of the shops, restaurants and more along 23rd, and parking is always at a premium. It’s wise to walk here, take a taxi or find an Uber.

If you can get to Northwest 23rd, the experience is definitely worth it. You’ll find national retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn, Lucky Brand and Restoration Hardware. 

For apparel, the choices include Oddball Shoes, Sloan Boutique and Lena Medoyeff. Specialty stores abound as well.

Dining in Nob Hill is nothing short of fantastic. Vitaly Paley, a James Beard Award-winning chef, spotlights sustainable cuisine at Paley’s Place while St. Jack is the place to find delectable classic French dishes.

If you arrive in time for happy Hour, consider a visit to 23Hoyt. When you’re in the mood for Italian, there’s no better choice than Caffe Mingo. Don’t forget to save room for dessert at Salt and Straw with its farm-to-cone ice cream.

Nob Hill Northwest is a really busy and congested district with narrow streets and difficult parking. Crime rates are low, but there aren’t many hotel choices because there simply isn’t room. 

If you plan ahead for your stay in Portland, you may be able to get a room at one of the two hotels in the neighborhood.

5. Central Eastside, good area to stay in Portland for entertainment and nightlife

On the other side of the Willamette River from neighborhoods like Downtown and Old Town Chinatown, you’ll find the Central Eastside neighborhood. Once an exclusively industrial area, the region has been largely retrofitted to host restaurants, lofts, bars and more.

If you aren’t staying on the Central Eastside, you can easily get there via the streetcar or the orange line on MAX. 

One of the major attractions of the district is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Usually called OMSI, this facility is a crowd-pleaser with its interactive exhibits, IMAX theater and traveling exhibits.

Art lovers will want to be certain to visit Yale Union. It used to be a laundry warehouse. Today, it hosts contemporary art exhibits and events. 

Central Eastside also is where you will find Distillery Row, which boasts a collection of micro-distilleries where you can sample options such as barrel-aged bourbon and cherry brandy.

Plenty of nighttime dining and entertainment venues are available in this neighborhood. 

Venture into White Owl Social Club where you can enjoy shoestring fries and incredible burgers made of beets. Or, for something really different, head out to the patio to make your own s’mores on a tabletop campfire.

Set aside a bit of time to sample the drafts at nearby Cascade Brewing Barrel House. Sour ales and beers made from coffee, apricots and berries are all on tap.

Revolution Hall, a popular concert venue, is located in Central Eastside as is Helium Comedy Club, offering many options for people who are looking to be entertained. 

However, this also is the place to be if you want to be active. At Pips & Bounce, you’ll find 10 ping-pong tables while Grand Central Restaurant & Bowling Lounge is a great place to knock down some pins while enjoying classic B movies and music videos.

In addition to boasting many galleries, theaters, entertainment venues, restaurants and bars, Central Eastside is a heavily residential district. Between condominiums and single-family dwellings, there are not many hotel options. 

However, visitors may choose from a couple of super-economical motels or a handful of unique, independent inns. For the right traveler, these could offer the perfect night’s sleep.

6. Lloyd District – Convention Center, one of the best neighborhoods where to stay in Portland

This is a bustling corner of Portland because it includes the Oregon Convention Center, Moda Center and the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

This is where sports fans will want to stay in Portland because the city’s NBA team, the Trailblazers, play at the Moda Center while the city’s junior ice hockey team, the Portland Winterhawks, play at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

Plus, Moda Center regularly hosts national tours of major music artists and other headlining events.

At the Oregon Convention Center, a wide array of events is regularly held. These include conventions for professions and industries as well as holiday festivals, competitions and much more.

Lloyd Center is the main shopping center in the neighborhood, and it also includes an ice rink where anyone can strap on a pair of skates.

If you prefer to shop along a scenic street, stroll over to Northeast Broadway where you can browse through Broadway Books or find all sorts of useful gadgets at Kitchen Kaboodle. 

Other Northeast Broadway shops include Sweet Jayne with its collection of women’s clothing while vintage and consignment items are waiting to be discovered at Here We Go Again.

The Lloyd District is a wonderful place to find breakfast at local favorites like Milo’s City Café, Cadillac Café and Pine State Biscuits

Recommended lunch spots include the Blossoming Lotus for delicious vegan options and Burgerville, a local chain that serves up dishes made from ingredients that are sourced in Oregon and Washington.

Dinner is casual in this neighborhood. Enjoy a big plate of spaghetti at Pastini Pastaria or pick up a pizza, burger or rice bowl at McMenamins on Broadway. Sports fans will want to crowd into the Spirit of 77 to get in all of the excitement of a Blazers’ game.

The Lloyd District is well connected with the city’s many mass transit options, making it a good option for those who are eager to explore other areas of Portland. 

Avid walkers will love this area because of the many streets lined with historic homes, many of which are still residences but others of which have been converted into stores, restaurants, spas and other businesses.

Next to Downtown, this is probably the best neighborhood in which to stay in Portland. Thanks to the presence of the Convention Center, Moda Center and Coliseum, there are plenty of options for accommodations. 

Many of them are very reasonably priced and represent well-known national chains. Some local, independent hotels are located here as well.

7. Hawthorne – Southeast Portland, eclectic and a bit bohemian

If you like your surroundings to be eclectic and just a bit bohemian, then you’ll feel right at home in Hawthorne. 

Centered around Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, this is the neighborhood in which you can discover one-of-a-kind bookshops, plenty of thrift shopping and fine dining right next door.

One of the favorite landmarks in the neighborhood is the Bagdad Theater and Pub, an example of Moorish architecture that was originally built in 1927. 

Restored and reopened by the McMenamin brothers, this is one of the best places in Portland to catch a first-run movie from a comfortable rocker seat. 

Have beer and dinner served to you while you enjoy the show or kick back in the pub or at the Backstage Bar.

Set aside a bit of time to explore Mt. Tabor, one of the only extinct volcanoes to be found within the limits of an American city. Climb to the top to get panoramic views. Many trails, an amphitheater and a playground make this a favorite destination.

Opportunities to enjoy theater abound in Hawthorne. One of the more unusual experiences can be found at Do Jump! 

Extremely Physical Theater with its unique blend of acrobatics and dance. This also is the home of the Hawthorne Theatre where musicians and comedians regularly perform.

If you arrive at the right time of year, you may be able to attend the Hawthorne Street Fair or the Portland Adult Soap Box Derby in August.

The Hawthorne neighborhood is mainly geared toward residences, shopping, dining and entertainment. Nonetheless, you will find a couple of unique guest houses located in converted historic homes. 

With superb atmosphere and accommodations, these are excellent choices for the discerning traveler who’s looking for something a little different.

8. Airport Area, convenient area where to stay in Portland

Portland’s airport is widely recognized as one of the best in the U.S. It also can provide you with a great place to stay in Portland.

While there isn’t a great deal of attractions or activities in the region of the airport, you can still find things to do. The airport is practically adjacent to the mighty Columbia River, affording spectacular views of the state of Washington to the north.

The main activity in the neighborhood is shopping. Cascade Station is the main shopping area. It’s a sprawling outdoor complex with a wide variety of stores like Nordstrom Rack, Home Goods, Banana Republic Factory, Loft Outlet, Best Buy, Marshalls and many others. 

Several well-known chain eateries are on-site as well, and you can also find a few local favorites.

Many big box stores like Target, Ikea, Home Depot and Michael’s are found here as well, and the whole region is connected via the MAX light rail system to other Portland neighborhoods.

Given the proximity to the airport, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the best places to stay in Portland. You’ll have many options, most of which are recognizable national chains. While some are budget options others are quite upscale, offering a good mix of pricing to suit anyone’s wallet.

With little crime in the area and several options for eating and drinking, this is definitely a great place to stay in Portland even if it’s just for the night before your flight home.

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