Parts of Northwest Portland are almost considered part of downtown Portland because the boundary between the two – Burnside Street – isn’t quite like a major border crossing. Many of the neighborhoods in NW Portland are quite popular with both locals and tourists due to their retail and dining opportunities. The main interesting neighborhoods are listed below.
The Pearl District is the most recently redeveloped neighborhood in NW and has become a magnet for upscale shops as well as shoppers.
This transition is especially noteworthy to Portlanders who have lived in the city for a long time because the region that is now known as the Pearl District was originally an industrial and warehouse district that was dangerous at night and confusing during the day.
In addition to trendy stores, the area now has exquisite restaurants, art galleries, and some of the city’s most exclusive condos. The exterior of the buildings have preserved part of their industrial vibe, making it a beautiful neighborhood to stroll and shop in. The famed Powell’s City of Books has been a long-time resident of what is now known as the Pearl, but it has been there for years. There are a couple of public squares within the Pearl, notably the popular Jamison Square with its pool-like fountain (very popular with little ones in hot weather).
Chinatown and Old Town
Chinatown and Old Town are located by the river, across Burnside Street from downtown. Parts of it are intriguing, and as the name implies, it is historically significant as Portland’s oldest neighborhood – but much of it is run-down and not a place to spend much time. If you’re expecting something like San Francisco’s famous Chinatown, the Chinatown section will disappoint you, and there aren’t even many Chinese people living in the region anymore. The magnificent Classical Chinese Garden is now the showpiece of Chinatown. It’s simply one little city block in size, yet as soon as you walk in, you’ll feel transported.
Further west, you’ll find what Portlanders refer to as the “Northwest” – the area around NW 21st and NW 23rd Avenues. This small neighborhood is densely packed with intriguing shops, pubs, and restaurants, yet it is infamous for being difficult to find parking. Take the Portland Streetcar up from downtown if you can.
The lettered streets in alphabetical sequence make it easy to find your way around NW Portland. Couch, Davis, Everett, Flanders, and more streets follow Burnside. It’s worth noting that “Couch” isn’t pronounced as you may expect – it’s someone’s name and is pronounced like “kooch.” Yes, truly. Fans of the TV program “The Simpsons” may know several of the names; the show’s creator, Matt Groening, is from Portland and has memorialized the city in numerous of his characters, including Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy (the L street), and Mayor Quimby (the Q street).