Getting To Know Northwest Portland

April 16, 2022

If there is an area of Portland that is most responsible for the city’s ascension as a great place to live, it is NW Portland. This area was once mainly an industrial district serving the needs of a growing city. Now, Northwest Portland has blossomed into a world-renowned center of the elusive live-work balance. 

Full of condos, lofts, and hybrid workspaces, the Pearl District and surrounding areas are home to some of Oregon’s most sophisticated living. Are you ready to buy or sell in the Northwest section of the city? Julia Monaghan Real Estate has you covered. Connect with our team today to get started.

The Pearl District’s Industrial Roots

NW Portland was originally an industrial area serving the railways and the trucking industry. It was full of warehouses and freight yards. Now, however, it’s one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest.

This transformation began in the 1980s when artists started to use old warehouses as their studios and galleries. A magazine article by journalist Terry Hammond referred to the area as The Pearl District in reference to these artists and their work: they were a hidden pearl in the area. The name stuck, and the neighborhood remains a Portland icon to this day.

Building conversions created live-work spaces in the area over the years. Eventually, Northwest Portland grew to be the hub of high-end shops, restaurants, homes, and galleries it is now.

One of Portland’s most famous landmarks, Powell’s City of Books, is in The Pearl. And it truly is a treasure for visitors and residents. 

The Alphabet District

Named for its alphabetically arranged streets, the Alphabet District overlaps with The Pearl and is a long-standing destination for those seeking a unique urban environment. Also called Nob Hill, this neighborhood houses its famous calling card, NW 23rd Ave. With an almost overwhelming assortment of shopping and dining choices, this highly walkable stretch of the city is a treasure.

This area is also just a few blocks from Providence Park, home to the MLS Portland Timbers. Thousands of fans pour off the city’s MAX trains on game days to catch a match in this great stadium.

This section of town also has Good Samaritan Hospital, a world-class medical facility in the heart of the city. And here’s a fun fact about the Alphabet District. The “Q” street, Quimby, became the name of a famous children’s book character: Beverly Clearly’s iconic character, Ramona Quimby! And if a famous yellow cartoon family is more your style, you might also recognize Quimby as the name of the mayor on The Simpsons. Portland native Matt Groening used a lot of references to his home state when creating this long-standing show.

Chinatown and Oldtown

The Chinatown area of NW Portland is exceptional. You’ll find authentic Chinese cuisine and the world-renowned Lan Su Chinese Garden here. Great shopping and gallery options abound in this part of the neighborhood as well.

This area, also called Oldtown, is home to some of the city’s most recognizable brands and destinations. You can head to Voodoo Doughnut to sample their over-the-top creations or visit the long-standing Portland Saturday MarketPortland’s Union Station is another great stop when you’re in Oldtown. With its striking clock tower and stunning interior, it’s a wonderful place to explore. And you can even enjoy some great jazz at Wilfs Restaurant and Bar, located in Union Station.

If you are feeling adventurous, consider a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels located under the streets of Oldtown and then enjoy the offerings at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar

For those who want to enjoy the quintessential Portland weirdness, Chinatown is the place to be. This section of Portland is home to some of the most beloved places in town. For live music, Portlanders love to head to the Roseland Theater. For adult beverages and throwback arcade games, Ground Kontrol is the place to be.  

And nothing is more Portland than the iconic Darcelle’s. Officially called Darcelle XV & Co., this spot hosts the longest-running drag show on the west coast. This glamorous cabaret-style show is an absolute must-see!   

Northwest Portland Is Tiny but Mighty

NW PDX is one of the smallest areas of the city’s six main geographic sections. It makes up for its lack of size by packing in more people per capita than any other part of Oregon. In many ways, it has the feel of an East Coast neighborhood. Strolling among the shops while sipping your coffee, you can pick up a bit of a Brooklyn vibe.

NW Portland is more than just cool shops and apartments. These neighborhoods boast some of Portland’s most exquisite homes. Nestled right into the hillside above the trendy stores, you will find gorgeous Victorian homes from a bygone era. The winding drive through this area makes for a fun outing all on its own.

And as you move a bit farther north, you find incredible industrial-style lofts and condos. These homes are often atop trendy shops, bars, and restaurants, adding to the young and energetic feel of the neighborhood.

This part of Portland has all kinds of charm and personality. And its size makes Northwest Portland perfect for those who want to walk or bike. You can easily get from one end to the other as you window shop or eat your way through the day. And the Portland Streetcar offers another way to get around town as you wander from spot to spot.

Bethany Joins the NW Portland Scene

One of the newest sections of Northwest Portland is the Bethany area. Situated just north of Highway 26, Bethany is thoroughly suburban and sits adjacent to the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro. Although this area feeds into the Beaverton School District, not Portland Public Schools, it is technically part of NW Portland.

Bethany has the wealthiest zip code in Oregon and draws many Silicon Forest and Nike employees and their families. This area has excellent schools and libraries, newer homes, and plenty of parks and green spaces. It also draws many workers from other countries, creating beautiful diversity not always found in the suburbs.

Where Trendy Meets the Northwest

For decades, NW Portland has been a destination for residents and visitors alike. Over the years, it has grown into one of the city’s best examples of the Portland vibe.

From the groundbreaking farm-to-table restaurants of the Pearl district to the uniquely Portland experience of walking down NW 23rd in the Alphabet District, NW Portland is a special place. Young and vibrant while also family-friendly and community-based, Northwest Portland is a treasured part of town.

When Portland residents have visitors in town, the Pearl District is one of the top spots to enjoy because it has everything that makes PDX so special. 

Ready To Find Your NW PDX Home?

With so many different neighborhoods and home options available, buying and selling in the Pearl District and surrounding areas takes expertise. At Julia Monaghan Real Estate, our team understands this unique micro-market and is ready to serve you. Whether you’re buying, selling, or both, we are here to help. Let’s connect and get started today!


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I’d truly like to see how I can help you attain your real estate goals. It is my passion to help people whether it’s meeting an immediate need or helping create a long-term plan. Contact me today. I’ll be in touch right away. I’d love to grab a coffee or a beer and talk about your goals.