Moving to Portland: Everything You Need to Know

Renowned for its foodie scene, arts and culture, craft beer (there are at least 50 breweries in town and the city is affectionately known as “Beervana"), liberal attitudes and famously “weird" counterculture, the Rose City has been a magnet for new residents in recent years. With a bustling jobs market and a wide range of neighborhoods offering price points to fit all manner of budgets, there's perhaps never been a better time to consider moving to Portland.

So, if you love good food, beer, nature, music, art, history and living in a city surrounded by funky, creative people, Portland could be the place for you. If you're considering moving to Portland in the near future, read on to learn more about this fascinating city of roses, bridges and beer to see if it's the right fit!

portland oregon

Portland overview

Sitting at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Portland was first founded as a port city, most notably for shipping high-quality Oregon timber. As a frontier town at the end of the Oregon Trail, early Portland was far from a progressive haven — it was a rough-edged, crime-ridden town where sailors were Shanghaied onto ships and organized crime ruled.

Now, Portland is the largest city in Oregon and one of the main cultural, culinary and commercial hubs of the Pacific Northwest. With new residents drawn to the Rose City by its offbeat atmosphere, natural surroundings and good quality of life, Portland has seen significant growth in recent years:

  • Population: 654,741
  • Population density (people per square mile): 4,375.3
  • Median income: $73,097
  • Average studio rent: $1,413
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $1,776
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $2,298
  • Cost of living index: 133.7

portland union station

Popular neighborhoods in Portland

With 95 official neighborhoods, Portland is divided into six different sections: North, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and the newly-recognized South district, which was created in May 2020.

From tree-lined streets of historic Craftsman-style homes in family-friendly neighborhoods to sleek condos near the heart of the city where hip young people have instant access to trendy eateries, shops and entertainment, each area has its own vibe and attributes.

  • Nob Hill: Located in the Northwest part of the city, Nob Hill is a constant hive of activity thanks to its abundance of top-notch dining options, eclectic shopping and robust arts and culture options. Surrounded by neighborhoods of quaint Victorian homes, it's just a short walk to buzzy streets like NW 21st and 23rd. Residents also enjoy easy access to the idyllic Forest Park, which boasts numerous trails that allow you to escape into the wilderness just steps from your front door.
  • Pearl: Having undergone a massive urban renewal from its origins as a warehouse and railyard district, the Pearl is now one of Portland's most sought-after living areas. Residents have the choice of living in ultra-modern condos or updated historic buildings, and many older warehouses have been repurposed into trendy boutiques, restaurants, cafes, breweries and a wide variety of art galleries.
  • St. Johns: Dating from the early 1900s, the North Portland enclave of St. Johns is one of Portland's most historic neighborhoods. As such, it still feels like a small town, offering a communal atmosphere for residents who enjoy its long-established family shops, restaurants and businesses. Sitting close to the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, it's also a wonderfully outdoorsy area, with access to nearby Sauvie Island and lush parks like Cathedral Park. St. Johns is also home to one of Portland's most iconic landmarks, the elegant St. Johns bridge.
  • Hawthorne District: This wonderfully bohemian area in Southeast Portland is chock-full of things to do, from shopping at vintage boutiques to living it up at late-night music venues and bars. It's also fantastic for strolling and people-watching. With SE Hawthorne Boulevard at the center of the action, you can simply walk from your home in the adjoining neighborhoods sample a range of dining and shopping options. And if you need a little bit of fresh air, head to the nearby Mt. Tabor Park to sit by its reservoir or chill on its grassy fields.
  • Alberta Arts District: Alive with art and culture, the Alberta Arts District calls to artists, dreamers and eccentrics. If you're seeking that classic “keep Portland weird" vibe, here's a good place to start. Abutted by historic neighborhoods of charming houses, the main drag along Alberta Street is filled with independent shops, art galleries, theaters and performance collectives and some of the best coffeehouses and restaurants in the city.

portland oregon

Pros of moving to Portland

When it comes to moving to Portland, there are many pros that instantly come to mind — amazing music, diverse art, a thriving scene for makers and independent creators, incredible food, the list goes on and on.

The city is also served by Portland International Airport, which was voted the best airport in the U.S. for seven years in a row. But here are some of the top stand-out reasons to consider a move to the Rose City:

Amazing food scene

It's one of the most enthused-about of Portland's attributes, but that's because it's absolutely true. Portland has one of the best foodie scenes in the U.S. There's an incredible variety to choose from, spanning international cuisines, fun multicultural cross-over creations and reliable classics, available at hip dining rooms or outdoor food carts.

You want ramen so good it tastes like it came straight from Tokyo? You got it. How about the crispiest, crunchiest fried chicken outside of the South? We've got that, too. The dining options are endless, with new ones opening every day. There's also the lauded craft beer scene and a growing number of excellent distilleries.

A thriving and diverse job market

Portland is famously known as being the home of Nike, Intel and other major corporations, so its reputation as having a great job market is well-warranted. The city is even home to so many tech industry businesses that it's been given the nickname Silicon Forest.

But on top of these established giants of industry, which offer competitive rates and excellent benefits packages, Portland also has an exciting start-up sector, which is attracting new and diverse talent to the city. With such a broad playing field, workers here have the chance to bring their talents to world-class brands or launch their own ventures.

Outdoorsy fun mixed with cosmopolitan delights

Fancy going for a hike right after a delicious brunch, followed by post-hike cocktails and a world-class dinner? In Portland, that's easy. The city's convenient location offers the perfect combination of wilderness access and urban amenities, making it perfect for both city slickers and nature lovers.

In addition to hiking and exploring large urban parks like Washington Park and Forest Park right near downtown, the Oregon coast, Mount Hood and the Willamette Valley are just short drives away, providing access to hiking, swimming, surfing, cycling and skiing. Then, it's easy to head back into the city at the end of the day for drinks, dinner and even catching a show or musical act.

portland rain

Cons of moving to Portland

It's not all delicious vegan eats, hoppy beer and living that "Portlandia" life. With the growth that Portland has seen in recent years, there are some cons to consider before moving here, as it could affect your decision of what neighborhood or area to live in.

Increasing traffic

As Portland has grown, so has its traffic. In 2019, Portland ranked 10th in the nation for having the worst traffic. As a city built along two rivers and surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, expanding existing infrastructure like roads and bridges to help combat the congestion is difficult, causing long traffic backups along Portland's many bridges.

One upside? Portland also boasts an excellent public transit system, offering buses, streetcars and light rail, as well as bike-friendly roads and paths, so there are alternative options for getting around.


As with many other growing cities, Portland is definitely struggling with gentrification, as lower-income and minority residents, especially Black residents, are forced out of their historic neighborhoods around the city center to outlying areas due to rising prices and urban revitalization.

But this isn't a new problem. Due to its history with racism, gentrification has been an issue in Portland almost since the city was created. Portland is widely remarked to be the whitest city in America, and the data back up that it's one of the least racially-diverse cities in the United States. But steps are being taken to address the issue and create more fair and equitable affordable housing options.

Gray winters and lots of rain

It's just rain, you may think. What's so bad about a few months of gray skies and rain? A lot, it can turn out. Even locals struggle with the months-long gray, cold and rainy weather that dominates the winter months. You can go weeks without seeing blue skies, and people here are encouraged to take Vitamin D and calcium supplements to cope with the lack of sunlight.

On the one hand, the constant rain and overcast skies can make for a dreary mood, but on the other, it's perfect for snuggling up indoors with a good cup of coffee and a book.

How to get started on moving to Portland

Even with its flaws, Portland still shines as one of the most exciting cities to call your home, with plenty to offer all kinds of residents, from families to young couples, in its almost 100 unique neighborhoods.

To help you plan your move to Portland, head on over to our Moving Center, where you'll find plenty of useful information and resources about moving, as well as free quotes. You can also check out the apartments for rent and homes for sale in the city to find exactly what best suits your needs.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and's multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in November 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Population and income numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Cost of living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
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Zoe BaillargeonZoe Baillargeon is an award-winning writer and journalist based in Portland, Oregon, where she covers a variety of beats including travel, food and drink, lifestyle and culture for outlets like Apartment Guide,,, Fodor's, The Manual, Matador Network and more. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, reading and spoiling her cat.

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