Portland has many unique and interesting neighborhoods to explore. One of the most exciting aspects of visiting Portland is constant possibly of discovery. Rather than containing most places of interest to a few busy streets, Portland has food, shopping, parks, and other activities sprinkled all throughout the city. There is always Here are just a few notable neighborhoods:
Downtown Portland is the heart of the city, centered around Pioneer Square and home to modern commercial towers, new condominiums, and converted lofts, along with several museums and urban parks of interest to tourists, including Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the river. To the immediate south of Downtown is the campus of Portland State University and South Waterfront, an urban revitalization area at the southern end of the streetcar line with newly built glass residential towers.
Just to the north of Downtown is Old Town, which is where Portland was first settled and which has some historic buildings and is a nightlife center, but also contains a fair amount of social services for homeless and mentally ill. The neighborhood also holds the remnants of Chinatown which, despite a lovely archway entry at Burnside and 4th Avenue and some Chinese-inspired street decorations, is rather desolate and may prove a disappointment for visitors expecting the bustle of San Francisco's or New York City's Chinatown.
Just to the northwest of Downtown is the Pearl District, a very hip and trendy neighborhood on the streetcar line which was not long ago derelict warehouses and empty industrial space. The economic success of the Pearl has made it a frequently cited urban planning model, and it is an excellent place to hang out and people watch, eat in fine restaurants, and visit the famous Powell's Bookstore. Perhaps the best spot to people watch is Jamison Square, a city park at the heart of the Pearl that includes a popular fountain which fills a pool during the summer months that's popular with little kids. For a slightly more quiet retreat, Tanner Springs Park is just a couple of blocks north and built to resemble a piece of reclaimed wetland, with tall grasses and a nice pond. On the First Thursday of every month, all art galleries in the Pearl district open their doors for casual viewing, and many serve wine and cheese.
To the north of the Pearl, at the northern end of the streetcar line is the Northwest District, also known as Nob Hill and also on the trendy side and with a variety of retail shops, bars, and restaurants along with plenty of lovely Victorians and tree-lined streets. West of this is the West Hills, where the well-to-do of Portland have traditionally lived. Because of the geography, the streets in the West Hills are a bit of a maze, but they still make for an interesting trek; you'll find lavish mansions, ornate public staircases, and good views of Downtown.
Hawthorne Blvd, which runs east-west across the river from Downtown, has a broad selection of shops including a menagerie of vintage goods at the House of Vintage and the ornate Bagdad Theater Pub, and is a center of the counter-culture/bohemian community which is dissipating to make way for a variety of upscale businesses. The nearby Belmont Street is also worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood, with a similar - if smaller - array of shops and attractions.
Located along Broadway and Sandy Blvd northeast of downtown, Hollywood is a commercial district for the nearby neighborhoods and home to the Hollywood Theater, a historic non-profit theater with an ornate facade showing a variety of independent, second run, and classic films as well as original programming and interactive events. There is also a popular Saturday farmers market in the neighborhood during the warm months.
To the north of downtown between MLK Blvd and 30th Avenue, Alberta Street has much the same feel as Hawthorne Blvd; a counter-culture/bohemian community that's becoming popular with yuppies. Alberta is home to Last Thursday, said by many locals to be the alternative to First Thursday in the Pearl District and also featuring wine tasting and gallery openings, along with street vending and performance artists. The Neighborhood between Alberta Street and Broadway is known as Irvington, and contains many historic Craftsman homes.
Other neighborhoods to explore include: St. Johns in North Portland featuring the gorgeous St. Johns Bridge, Mississippi Avenue, quaint Sellwood, Inner Southeast a loosely defined neighborhood where bars and music venues have been cropping up amidst the industrial landscape, Foster-Powell, East Burnside and Stark, Division and Clinton Street, and North Williams.