A Guide to Portland’s Downtown Neighborhoods

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A Guide to Portland’s Downtown Neighborhoods

Surrounded by mountains and shaped by the natural flow of the Willamette River, Portland is a historic city and a center for cultural exploration. The city is known as a counterculture capital and a hub for independent breweries, up-and-coming designers and artisan cafes. A city commended for its pedestrian-friendly planning, Portland's downtown neighborhoods combine the best of innovative design, historic preservation and scenic greenspace. Visit Portland's unique downtown neighborhoods and discover why this city is a hit with foodies, nature lovers, history buffs and culture appreciators alike.

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A Guide to Portland’s Downtown Neighborhoods

The Pearl District

Nestled on the Willamette River near Broadway Bridge, the Pearl District was once a warehouse district for storing goods coming to the city by ship. It is now renown as a stylish downtown neighborhood with some of the best shopping and dining opportunities in the city. The cobbled streets give the neighborhood a distinctive European flair, and many of the old warehouse buildings have been converted into art galleries, craft breweries, artisan shops and cafes. Home to homegrown institutions like Powell's City of Books and the historic Augen Gallery, the Pearl District is one of Portland's top shopping, dining and culture destinations and a must-see while visiting the city.

Northwest Portland

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Northwest Portland is just west of the Pearl District and the Willamette River, with the sprawling Forest Park, ideal for daytime hikes and nature walks, on the opposite side. Aside from enjoying nature and the great outdoors, this district is known for its may cultural and historic attractions, including the secluded Pittock Mansion, the Roarin' Twenties arthouse theater Cinema 21 and the unusual Peculiarium, which specializes in exhibiting artwork, sculpture and artifacts relating to the paranormal. Northwest Portland is the best place to find antique lodgings in the city, such as Slabtown Village, and is serviced by the MAX Green Line light rail service.

Old Town Chinatown

Portland's oldest neighborhood and the original downtown core, the historic Old Town Chinatown is now the city's top entertainment district and located just north of the new Downtown. This waterfront neighborhood is also host to some of the city's most-visited attractions, including the Shanghai Tunnels, Lan Su Chinese Garden and the bustling Portland Saturday Market. Voodoo Doughnut, a Portland icon and 24-hour bakeshop trading in over-sized and adventurous donut flavors, has their flagship here. On weekend nights, the streets are closed to cars, allowing the Old Town's vibrant nightlife scene to thrive.


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Portland's new Downtown district centers around Pioneer Courthouse Square to the north and Portland State University to the south. With plenty of parks, a pleasant waterfront and compact design, this neighborhood offers a wide range of cultural activities and historic sites as well as diverse shopping and dining. Some of the top attractions include the scenic Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Portland Art Museum and the esteemed Oregon Historical Society. For shopping, be sure to check out the Union Way Shopping Arcade, a European-inspired shopping street connecting West End with the Pearl District.

Central Eastside

Another of the city's charming historic neighborhoods is the Central Eastside, situated directly across the Willamette River from Downtown Portland. This neighborhood is home to reclaimed factories and industrial spaces as well as pleasant riverside promenades and cultural institutions, including the unique Stark's Vacuum Museum, the Oregon Rail Heritage Center and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Central Eastside has a burgeoning reputation as a craft brewery district and is home to eight of Portland's reputed microbreweries. The neighborhood is also one of the top destinations for nightlife in the city, with several comedy clubs, indie music venues, bars, nightclubs and lounges keeping locals and visitors alike entertained after dark.

In Conclusion

The sprawling, historic city of Portland is quickly becoming one of the top travel destinations in the US. This counter-culture hub has been called a 'hipster haven' for its huge selection of craft breweries, independent coffee roasters, offbeat fashion labels and stubborn affinity for old luxuries like bricks and mortar bookshops. Take a tour of Oregon's most livable city and its happening downtown neighborhoods.