a city of

NEIGHBORHOODS

23865613266_c38fce7c3b_k.jpg

[Photo: Portland skyline. Credit: Maciek Lulko.]

 

Portland is known for a lot of things — a drizzly Pacific Northwest city at the confluence of two rivers with a snowcapped volcano puncturing its skyline, a free-spirited capital of West Coast cool, an urban-planning trendsetter with bikeable and walkable neighborhoods, and a basecamp for day-trippers exploring the wild nature right at the city’s doorstep.

But most of all, this is a city of neighborhoods, a colorful patchwork quilt of leafy communities that gradually reveal their character one block at a time. Looking to scope out a new corner of town or pinpoint the local hot spots near you? From a famous Russian restaurant in the Central Eastside to a sleek private-room karaoke bar in the Northwest District, this tour of town spotlights what you’ll love in 15 neighborhoods spread across the city’s five official quadrants.

 

jump to:

NORTHWEST / SOUTHWEST / SOUTHEAST / NORTHEAST / NORTH

 

NORTHWEST

39298473095_7a099a3786_k.jpg

[Photo: Townhouses in the Northwest District. Credit: Ian Sane.]

 [Photo: Courtesy of Breakside Brewery.]

[Photo: Courtesy of Breakside Brewery.]

Northwest District

Set the scene: Restored Victorian- and Craftsman-style homes, dense tree-lined streets and boutique shops by the dozen

What to do: Dedicate at least a couple of hours to exploring one of Portland’s most walkable areas on foot. Northwest comprises several loosely defined neighborhoods — “Nob Hill,” “Alphabet District,” “Slabtown” — but it’s best known for the distinct scenes clustered along the lush Northwest 21st and 23rd avenues. For some of the best shopping in the city, stroll upscale 23rd's mix of big-brand and independent stores — plus some of the finest restaurants in the city. Divey bars, stalwart cafes and an art-house cinema lend 21st a more laid-back vibe, perfect for a chilled-out evening.

Where to eat: Kick off the morning with small-batch espresso from Barista or Sterling Coffee Roasters, both darlings of the third-wave coffee scene. Fill up on brunch standbys and generous carafes of mimosas at 23Hoyt. Take in the aromas of fresh-baked bread at Ken's Artisan Bakery. Settle in for an award-winning dinner at Ataula, St. Jack or Paley’s Place.

After hours: Round up some friends and book a private room at the upscale Voicebox Karaoke lounge. A much-loved theater, Cinema 21’s marquee lights up a dynamic list of first-run and art-house films; next door, a classic ‘90s bar, Muu-Muu’s, cooks diner-inspired small plates into the wee hours. Breweries and cocktail bars — such as Breakside Brewery Slabtown and the Solo Club — round out the district’s after-hours scene.

Locals love: Escape the city without actually leaving it — trek some 70 miles of wild trails lacing Forest Park, arguably the largest urban forest reserve in the United States.

 [Photo: Courtesy of River Pig Saloon.]

[Photo: Courtesy of River Pig Saloon.]

Pearl District

Set the scene: Luxury sky-high condos, pioneering craft breweries and the world’s largest independent bookstore

What to do: Map out your own brewery crawl and browse a range of high-end shops in this reborn, formerly industrial district. Anchoring the dense shopping scene, Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire block and stocks more than one million tomes, like a modern-day Library of Alexandria. Half a dozen breweries — including the city’s oldest, Bridgeport Brewing — make it easy to take a self-guided tasting tour. Galleries dot the Pearl, a holdover from when artists moved into dilapidated warehouses and kick-started the district’s dramatic transformation. They keep their doors open late for the year-round First Thursday art walk, which features an open-air street market in warmer months.

Where to eat: Start the day with an Earl Grey latte at Tea Bar and a rose croissant at Nuvrei. On a lively corner with an army of Adirondack chairs outside, Lovejoy Bakers has a lunch menu of classic sandwiches on crusty house-made breads. For a fine dinner, the Peruvian fare at Andina Restaurant remains a favorite of local food writers.

After hours: Breweries steal the nightlife spotlight, with such hopping spots as the rooftop at 10 Barrel Brewing and the always-packed open bar at Deschutes Public House. For one of the best tap lists of local craft brews, check out River Pig Saloon, which buzzes with off-the-clock revelers on weekends.

Locals love: While new construction and lofty cranes dominate the skyline in the rapidly growing Pearl, residents looking to escape the glossier scene pop into Low Brow Lounge, a sticky dive that’s one of the last of its kind in the district.

 
 [Photo: Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden.]

[Photo: Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden.]

Old Town/Chinatown

Set the scene: 19th-century architecture, sticky top-40 dance clubs, and an open-air arts and crafts market

What to do: A cluster of Portland’s most iconic attractions pack into this rough-around-the-edges neighborhood, the original city center and once a hub for Asian-American life on the West Coast. Longtime Portlanders may roll their eyes at the lines that form outside Voodoo Doughnut, but this kooky sweets shop’s novelty treats have kept folks coming back for nearly two decades. Shop for local art and assorted oddities at the Portland Saturday Market (open March through December — on Sundays too), the largest continuously operated open-air market in the country. The walled Lan Su Chinese Garden encloses some 40,000 peaceful square feet of classical gardens — designed by Suzhou, China-based landscaper Kuang Zhen — into an entire city block.

Where to eat: Sneaker-themed cafe Deadstock Coffee crafts what it dubs “snob-free” coffee drinks to a dedicated crowd of regulars. Dan & Louis Oyster Bar has shucked and served fresh-from-the-Pacific oysters on the half shell since 1907. Enjoy a tea ceremony and a skim menu of Chinese lunch favorites at Red Robe Tea House & Cafe. Old Town Pizza slices rustic pies and pours pints of its own craft beer until midnight on the weekends.

After hours: On Fridays and Saturdays, the city closes off about four city blocks to car traffic, making the entertainment district pedestrian-only until 3 a.m. as revelers from the many clubs and bars pour into the streets. Old Town also has a number of LGBTQ-centric nightlife venues, including the rustic gay lounge STAG and old-school Darcelle XV Showplace, the longest-operating drag revue in America.

Locals love: Relive the golden age of video arcade games at Ground Kontrol (21-plus after 5 p.m.), a “barcade” that equips restored vintage games with drink holders so you can sip and shoot without spilling your craft beer.

 

SOUTHWEST

33586741366_20eeed4d1a_k.jpg

[Photo: Pioneer Courthouse Square. Credit: Courtesy of TriMet.]

 [Photo: Portland'5 Centers for the Arts. Credit:  dog97209 .]

[Photo: Portland'5 Centers for the Arts. Credit: dog97209.]

Downtown and West End

Set the scene: A compact commercial core, regional cultural institutions, and restaurants and bars that stay open late

What to do: Office towers may dominate Portland’s stump skyline, which is kept relatively flat due to the city’s building height restrictions, but it’s the eclectic variety of entertainment, a dense collection of shops and a constantly evolving culinary scene that steals downtown’s spotlight. The civic epicenter is Pioneer Courthouse Square, a brick plaza that hosts on-site food carts, a farmers market and festivals. Much of the city’s prime retail space extends several blocks in each direction from the square, where you’ll find flagship storefronts dedicated homegrown brands such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Pendleton Woolen Mills. Meanwhile, independent fashion retailers have set up shop in the hip West End, an on-trend chunk of downtown that’s centered along Southwest Stark Street near the Ace Hotel (once known as the Pink Triangle due to a concentration of now-shuttered LGBTQ bars and clubs). The bulk of Oregon’s cultural institutions sits along the South Park Blocks, including the Portland Art Museum (the oldest on the West Coast), the Oregon Historical Society museum and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts (comprising five distinct venues).

Where to eat: Get a jolt at the seemingly countless third-wave coffee shops scattered around downtown, including Coava Coffee Roasters, Heart Coffee Roasters and Courier Coffee Roasters, to name only a few. Sign your name on the waitlist for brunch at Tasty n Alder, the second location from inventive globe-trotting chef John Gorham. With some 50 mini-kitchens, the largest food-cart pod in the city sprawls out between Southwest Alder and Washington streets between Ninth and 10th avenues. With 140 tasty stalls, the year-round Portland Farmers Market takes over the South Park Blocks every Saturday morning.   

After hours: When the sun peeks through the clouds, Portlanders leave the office early for happy hour on a patio or rooftop. Two favorite rooftop bars crown downtown hotels, namely the brand-new The Porter Portland Hotel’s rooftop and Departure Restaurant + Lounge atop The Nines Hotel.

Locals love: Run or bike the paved promenade, skip through public fountains, or lounge on the expansive tree-lined green at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

 [Photo: Portland Aerial Tram. Credit:  Ian Sane .]

[Photo: Portland Aerial Tram. Credit: Ian Sane.]

South Waterfront

Set the scene: Brand-new high-rises, riverfront green spaces and a futuristic gondola lift

What to do: Lounge in a park next to the river or soar through the sky in a cable car that offers views of Mount Hood in the distance. This fast-growing, made-from-scratch neighborhood — wedged alongside the Willamette River just south of downtown — shows off Portland’s polished side with its newly sprouted high-end development. Stroll paved trails along the river in the South Waterfront Greenway, which connects to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The retrofuturistic Portland Aerial Tram hoists commuters up 500 feet from the waterfront to the Oregon Health & Sciences University campus, offering panoramic views of the city. The Portland Streetcar connects to downtown as well as Southeast Portland via the recently christened Tilikum Crossing, the first long-span bridge in the United States reserved only for public transit, cyclists and pedestrian — a symbol of Portland’s forward-looking urban vision.

Where to eat: A handful of restaurants and cafes — notably, upscale seafood chain McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside — set up tables on the waterfront promenade, which overlooks the marina on the Willamette River. Farther south, amid the newer development, you’ll find outposts of Little Big Burger, Cha Cha Cha, Green Leaf Juicing Company and Flying Elephants.

After hours: There’s not much late-night action here. Have a pint and fill a to-go jug at The Growler Guys, a chain pub with 59 taps of mostly Pacific Northwest craft beer.

Locals love: Cool off in the summer at the splash pad at Elizabeth Caruthers Park, a lived-in outdoor space with plenty of spots to sit on a bench or lounge in the grass with a picnic.

SOUTHEAST

IMG_9978.jpg

[Photo: Bagdad Theater & Pub. Credit: Jason Kaplan.]

 [Photo: Jackpot Records. Credit:  dog97209 .]

[Photo: Jackpot Records. Credit: dog97209.]

Hawthorne

Set the scene: Scenesters walking cats on leashes, old-school Portland restaurants and more vintage shops than anywhere else in the city

What to do: Experience Southeast Portland’s most iconic neighborhood on foot, browsing second-hand shops by day and bouncing between bars after dark. Once a working class neighborhood, Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard saw hippies move in during the ‘70s and define a bohemian spirit that lives on today, even as the neighborhood transforms with new bars and restaurants cropping up. The scene can feel a little too consciously hip at times, but this sanctuary to eccentricity is big enough to accommodate cool kids of all stripes. While it stretches east about 50 blocks from an industrial enclave near the Willamette River, Hawthorne packs in most of its famous charms into a dense stretch between Southeast 31st and 39th avenues, including the neon glow of the Bagdad Theater & Pub and cluster of second-hand shops (namely, House of VintageRed Light Clothing Exchange, and new and used vinyl store Jackpot Records).

Where to eat: While brunch-goers may huddle for hours outside of the city’s most popular spots, a low-key breakfast favorite in Southeast Portland is the unassuming Waffle Window, which serves honest-to-god Liege waffles with savory and sweet toppings. For artisanal breakfast treats, look no further than Blue Star Donuts, which makes its signature blueberry-bourbon-basil doughnut with a classic French brioche base. Vegans and vegetarians alike swear by the faux meat at the East Side Delicatessen, a no-frills sandwich shop. Any list of West Coast pizzerias would be incomplete without Apizza Scholls, a legendary Hawthorne favorite that regularly sells out of dough in the height of summer.  

After hours: Catch a first-run film at McMenamins’ original Bagdad Theater & Pub — get a post-flick cocktail at the seemingly secret Backstage Bar, which rises a lofty seven stories from floor to ceiling. Hawthorne Theatre & Lounge regularly hosts all-ages shows of all kinds. Upper Hawthorne claims cool dives such as the outer-space-themed Space Room as well as the new-but-still-retro “barcade” QuarterWorld.

Locals love: Trails wind up Mt. Tabor Park, a volcanic cinder cone that gives hikers and picnickers views of the city’s stump skyline.  

 [Photo: Salt & Straw. Credit: Leela Cyd.]

[Photo: Salt & Straw. Credit: Leela Cyd.]

Division and Clinton

Set the scene: Farm-to-cone ice cream, Michelin-recognized Thai food and blocks upon blocks of sleek, look-alike condos

What to do: Bring your growling stomach to Southeast Division Street, often dubbed Portland’s  “restaurant row,” where an outsized appetite makes the best tour guide. Galleries and fashion boutiques pepper the scene, but the noteworthy headliner is a prime collection of trendsetting eateries that helped put Portland’s food scene on the map. Third-wave coffee shops, a sweet scoop shop (Salt & Straw), specialty tea houses (such as Tea Bar’s original location), urban wine bars and craft beer tap houses satisfy almost any craving. You don’t need a reservation — come hungry, stroll a few blocks and tuck into any eatery that suits your fancy. The lines out front highlight the most hyped spots. Division’s scene spills one block south to the quieter, more residential Southeast Clinton Street.

Where to eat: Michelin has yet to publish a guide to the City of Roses, but it’s already recognized the New York City outpost of Andy Ricker’s original Pok Pok, a Portland-based Thai restaurant that sees many parties huddling outside as they endure the wait for tables. Another pioneer on Division, Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder Duane Sorenson opened his first coffee shop here — as well as the vegetable-forward Roman eatery Ava Gene’s. Breakfast and lunch standouts include Little T American Baker, picked by Travel + Leisure as one of the world’s best, and Monocle Magazine-endorsed Scandinavian brunch spot Broder.

After hours: Anchoring Portland’s urban wine scene, Southeast Wine Collective provides crush services to around a dozen vintners who share the space; you can sip their vintages in the on-site tasting room and restaurant.

Locals love: A neighborhood institution, the Clinton Street Theater has screened “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” since 1978, making it one of the longest-running movies in the world; attending a showing has become a rite of passage.  

 
 [Photo: Southeast Belmont Street. Credit:  kerosene rose .]

[Photo: Southeast Belmont Street. Credit: kerosene rose.]

Belmont and Stark

Set the scene: A short-but-sweet stretch of hip bars, a playfully pessimistic coffee shop and a late-night vegan bar that even carnivores love

What to do: Hawthorne and Division tend to take the top spot in Southeast Portland’s marquee, but Southeast Belmont Street’s quieter scene (aka Sunnyside) attracts locals to its trendy strip, tightly packed into blocks roughly between Southeast 25th and 45th avenues. A handful of funky boutique shops dot the landscape, but bars, restaurants and cafes dominate the scene. The best time to experience Belmont is from happy hour onward, when it seems as if the entire city crams into a few heat-lamp-lit covered patios (especially the tiny outdoor space behind Aalto Lounge, a design-forward bar that mixes $3 cocktails until 7 p.m. nightly).

Where to eat: A demitasse-size cafe, the artsy and colorful Never Coffee Lab goes beyond standard specialty espresso drinks with a signature drinks menu that creatively incorporates a range of local ingredients plus gluten-free baked goods. Even the most stubborn meat eater loves chowing down on the soy-curl buffalo sub at Sweet Hereafter, an open-late vegan institution with a sprawling covered patio out back.

After hours: Across the street from Sweet Hereafter, the Liquor Store has a low-key bar upstairs and a cavernous venue below ground, which hosts a wide range of bouncing DJ nights and alternative bands. An historic high school turned music venue, Revolution Hall welcomes touring acts to its state-of-the-art stage; in the summer, locals pack its sprawling rooftop patio.

Locals love: Not far from Belmont’s compact strip of fun bars, Laurelhurst Park is one of the prettiest in the city, a favorite place to run or lounge in the sun with a picnic.

 [Photo: Le Pigeon. Credit: Carly Diaz.]

[Photo: Le Pigeon. Credit: Carly Diaz.]

Central Eastside

Set the scene: A gritty warehouse district brimming with craftspeople, culinary hot spots, and thumping clubs and bars

What to do: Trains rumble beneath graffitied overpasses in this still-industrial close-in area, which increasingly houses buzzing nightlife spots, food and drink artisans, and some of the most enterprising craftspeople in Portland. Pop into a co-op makerspace for a public tour to get a sense of what creations come to life behind sliding doors: At the center of the scene, ADX (Art Design Portland) provides shared space and tools to both professional and amateur makers; ADX offers totally free public tours twice weekly. A nationally regarded epicenter for small-run publishing, Portland’s zinesters have long crafted and tinkered at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, a progressive space that offers public workshops and literary events. Keep your eyes peeled for the many contemporary murals painted on walls in the Central Eastside, many of which get splashed on walls each August during the citywide Forest For The Trees NW mural project.

Where to eat: Home to some of the most celebrated restaurants and culinary artisans on the West Coast, the Central Eastside is the spiritual center of the city’s food scene. Critics have fawned over the playful Russian fare at Kachka, expansive and upscale Italian joint Renata, Tokyo-born ramen and sushi bar Afuri, reservation-only weekend dinner series Holdfast, and snug French eatery Le Pigeon, to name only a few. A concentration of craft operations like Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Coava Coffee Roasters and craft spirits on Distillery Row have earned it the nickname “artisan corridor.”

After hours: Portland’s most compelling nightlife venues dot the Central Eastside. The horror-themed Lovecraft Bar, DJ-driven alternative dance club Holocene and low-key lounge White Owl Social Club all see lines form on Friday and Saturday nights. Bossanova Ballroom hosts the city’s signature monthly gay dance night — the body-positive, sex-positive and wildly inclusive Blow Pony.

Locals love: Industrial- and mid-century-themed, Rontoms hosts a free Sunday Sessions concert series, which presents local and touring acts year-round.

 
 [Photo: Johnson Creek Park. Credit:  marissa anderson .]

[Photo: Johnson Creek Park. Credit: marissa anderson.]

Sellwood

Set the scene: A quiet, family-friendly neighborhood chock-full of antique shops, under-the-radar eateries and a riverfront park for sunny picnics

What to do: See a low-key side of Portland in the Sellwood-Moreland area of Southeast Portland, a neighborhood with the idyllic spirit of small towns from a bygone era — with a few white picket fences to boot. Sometimes dubbed Portland’s “antique row,” a range of vintage shops — such as the sprawling Stars Antique Mall and the more intimate Unique Antique — complete Sellwood’s main-street Americana vibes. Nicknamed the “Coney Island of the Northwest,” the carnival-like Oaks Amusement Park is one of the oldest theme parks in the United States; the park opens seasonally (check the calendar here). Bring binoculars to spot wildlife as you hike trails in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, a 141-acre city park home to great blue herons, mallard ducks, woodpeckers, quail, pintails and many other bird species.

Where to eat: Crowds spill out into the street at Saburo’s, a no-frills sushi bar famous for its extra-large rolls.

After hours: Carefully sourced early 20th-century antiques adorn the Bible Club, a Southern revival speakeasy that’s hands-down one of the coolest cocktail bars in the city.

Locals love: Pack a picnic and play fetch with the pooch on the banks of the Willamette at the Sellwood Riverfront Park or creekside at Johnson Creek Park.

 [Photo: Hà VL. Credit:  Ron Dollete .]

[Photo: Hà VL. Credit: Ron Dollete.]

Jade District

Set the scene: A contemporary hub for Asian-American life, first-generation restaurants and family-owned businesses

What to do: While Portland’s official Chinatown may reside across the Willamette River on the city’s west side, modern-day life for many Asian-American families centers around the Jade District, a multicultural and majority people-of-color neighborhood. Come here for the dozens of international restaurants, community centers and places of worship that emanate from the intersection of Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street.

Where to eat: You can’t go wrong dining out in the Jade District, with the greatest concentration of Asian-American eateries anywhere in the city. Perhaps the best known is James Beard Award-nominated Hà VL, which is famous for its daily selection of Vietnamese soups that often sell out by midday.

After hours: Each summer, residents come out to celebrate at the Jade District Night Market; modeled after night markets found throughout Asia, the evening air fills with the steamy aromas from food stalls and the sounds of performers resonating from two stages.

Locals love: The Good Neighbor Market doubles as a grocer and a neighborhood center for Portland’s Russian-speaking community. They bake their own bread in the store, but the real treat is the glass case loaded with smoked fishes.

NORTHEAST

Marquee-Daughters of the Dust.JPG

[Photo: Courtesy of the Hollywood Theatre.]

 [Photo: Kennedy School. Credit:  James Carnes .]

[Photo: Kennedy School. Credit: James Carnes.]

Alberta and Killingsworth

Set the scene: Blocks upon blocks of independent shops, galleries and cafes

What to do: Dubbed the Alberta Arts District, this long stretch of locally owned businesses is the cultural heart of Northeast Portland. It’s a longtime hub for the local African-American community that has experienced rapid gentrification in recent years, though it remains one of most diverse neighborhoods in the city. Revelers come out in full force for the carnival-like Last Thursday street fair, which sees galleries and studios stay open late. In summer, a section of the street even closes as pedestrians and performers of all kinds hit the pavement. You can experience Alberta any day of the month by browsing its many storefronts and dipping into any spot that suits your fancy. The street is also lined with eateries and watering holes, making it both a popular brunch and bar-hopping locale. Northeast Alberta Street parallels Northeast Killingsworth Street, and they share an independent spirit; it’s about a 10-minute walk from one to the other.

Where to eat: This is one of Portland’s most noshable and sippable neighborhoods; in fact, it seems restaurants and bars fill almost every block along Northeast Alberta. Portland institutions such as Barista, Salt & Straw and Pine State Biscuits have storefronts here. Off Northeast Killingsworth, James Beard Award-winner Naomi Pomeroy runs the show at Beast, a reservations-needed, French-accented restaurant that feels more like an elaborate dinner party where you’re the guest of honor.

After hours: DJs spin everything from J-pop to queer hip hop at Killingsworth Dynasty, known for monthly dance nights such as the inclusive LGBTQ- and people-of-color-centric CAKE.

Locals love: McMenamins’ Kennedy School is no secret, but this circa 1915 elementary school turned sprawling bar campus still charms. It’s a local institution complete with a cinema, several distinct bars and restaurants, soaking pools and even a 57-room hotel.

 [Photo: Courtesy of the Oregon Convention Center.]

[Photo: Courtesy of the Oregon Convention Center.]

Lloyd and Hollywood

Set the scene: Big-ticket arena events, hotel bars and the Northwest’s largest convention center

What to do: If you’re in the Lloyd or Hollywood districts, chances are you’re here for an event: The MAX light-rail train strings together these two Northeast neighborhoods, where Trailblazers fans cheer in the Moda Center for NBA games, conference attendees gaze at the world’s largest Foucault Pendulum in the Oregon Convention Center and cinephiles line up to see first-run flicks at the historic Hollywood Theatre. Hotels and the state’s biggest shopping mall, the Lloyd Center, define the commercial-oriented Lloyd District, where large-scale development projects seem set on transforming the area into the city’s second downtown. In addition to its signature cinema, the more residential Hollywood District lays claim to a few old-school vintage shops, Ray’s Ragtime and Hollywood Vintage.  

Where to eat: Chain restaurants and fast-food joints seem to dominate the Lloyd District, but look a little closer and you’ll find a few notable spots worth a MAX ride from another part of town. A sure bet is thin-crust pizza and craft beer at Altabira City Tavern, a rooftop restaurant and bar crowning the Hotel Eastlund — it has one of the best happy hours in the city. Nearby but out of the district, Toro Bravo and Ox rank among the most celebrated restaurants in the city.

After hours: Beyond the massive concerts and sporting events that happen here year-round, the Lloyd District isn’t a spot known for its nightlife. The local scene in Hollywood, a MAX stop away, is a better bet for a cluster of divey bars and The Know, an edgy venue that hosts punk and metal bands most nights of the week.     

Locals love: While it’s in an unlikely location near car dealerships and chain restaurants, the Black Water Bar serves vegan and vegetarian food and hosts touring punk bands — it’s one of the best small rock ‘n’ roll venues in the city.

NORTH PORTLAND

34792759505_5657412d63_k.jpg

[Photo: View of the Fremont Bridge from Overlook Park. Credit: Don Barrett.]

 [Photo: St. Johns Bridge. Credit: Nickie Bournias.]

[Photo: St. Johns Bridge. Credit: Nickie Bournias.]

St. Johns

Set the scene: A small town in the city, unpretentious cafes and bars, and Portland’s most photogenic bridge

What to do: Spend a day way up in this North Portland neighborhood for a slice of old-school cool. Sitting at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, St. Johns feels like a village on the fringes of the city. Its relative isolation means it retains its own character, even as a new wave of restaurants and bars open. Lombard Street serves as the neighborhood’s compact “town center,” laying claim to a surprising variety of shops such as a cult camera gallery (Blue Moon Camera and Machine), consignment and second-hand boutiques (Hound & Hare Vintage, Consign Couture), and a purveyor of gourmet salts and olive oils (The Olive & Vine). Limited lodging options and less-convenient transit connections keep many tourists at bay, so the scene feels markedly local.

Where to eat: It’s easy to get your morning caffeine fix in St. Johns, home to many small-batch roasters such as the motorcycle-themed Two Stroke Coffee Co. and the neighborhoody St. Johns Coffee Roasters. Homegrown Smoker has earned headlines as Portland’s first-ever all-vegan barbecue shack. Belly up to the bar for a few pints at Royale Brewing Co. and dig into a woodfired sandwich from the on-site Gumba food cart.

After hours: The Southern-inspired, taxidermy-adorned The Fixin’ To dubs itself a honky tonk, hosting live music and DJs almost every night. Portland’s StormBreaker Brewing opened their second location here in St. Johns, where beer-sippers cram the covered patio year-round. The first-run St. Johns Twin Cinema serves craft beer and Pacific Northwest wine with pizza.

Locals love: The defining landmark is the Gothic St. Johns Bridge, which towers over the idyllic Cathedral Park, one of the city’s favorite public spaces to lounge with a book or unfold a picnic blanket.

 [Photo: Phantogram at Mississippi Studios. Credit:  Cameron Yee .]

[Photo: Phantogram at Mississippi Studios. Credit: Cameron Yee.]

Mississippi and Williams/Vancouver

Set the scene: A church turned indie rock venue, breweries with sunny patios and a gallery where “Portlandia” famously “put a bird on it”

What to do: From mid-morning brunch to afternoon window shopping to late-night live bands, North Mississippi Avenue packs a lot of around-the-clock action into roughly seven twee blocks. Budget time to browse the stellar selection of shops, which range from handmade jewelry (Backtalk) and trendy Western wares (Animal Traffic) to obscure vinyl records (Beacon Sound) and vintage synthesizers (Control Vintage). And whether you love or hate “Portlandia,” stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen filmed the “put a bird on it” sketch here in the Land Gallery. With similar on-trend vibes, Mississippi and North Williams Avenue — a half-mile walk to the east — have undergone two decades of gentrification and today demonstrate how much Portland has transformed.

Where to eat: You won’t go hungry on North Mississippi or North Williams, both avenues meant for grazing. Line up for one of the city’s most popular brunches at Tasty n Sons. Smelling the marinating, smoked meats at the People’s Pig is a spiritual experience for carnivores. Wood-fired pizza verges on perfection at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty. For a quick bite, hit up one of the food carts like vegetarian Middle Eastern joint Wolf and Bear’s.

After hours: One of the top mid-size venues in Portland, Mississippi Studios is a former church converted into a concert hall, where trending hometown acts share the compact stage with top independent musicians.

Locals love: As its name implies, the 11-acre Overlook Park has city views, grassy areas for picnics and an off-leash section for the pup — it’s one of the most popular summer hangouts in the neighborhood.