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Moving to Portland: Everything You Need to Know [Guide]

By: Justin Chaplin
July 31, 2019

Considering moving to Portland, Oregon? There's a reason why this Pacific Northwest gem has become so popular. The city is known for its gorgeous backdrop along the Columbia and Willamette rivers and an unusual quirkiness. Picturesque views are everywhere you turn, as the city is pleasantly nestled in the shadow of the white-capped Mount Hood.

Living in Portland brings awesome urban amenities, stunning nature, and a proud, friendly community. However, before packing up and moving here, there’s a lot to know.

Planning a Move to Portland? Rent Giveaway Details at the Bottom!

Portland Quick Facts

Moving to Portland gives newcomers endless amenities, but also commands a higher cost of living because of its desirability. However, there are a few areas, like utilities, that are surprisingly more cost-effective than most similar-sized cities. Here’s how Portland’s cost of living breaks down.

  • Cost of Living Index - According to Best Places Cost of Living Index, Portland ranks of 147.8 based on a U.S. average of 100. This means that Portland’s cost of living is well over the national average. 
  • Median Rent Prices - Portland’s median rents run $1,120 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,330 for a two-bedroom.
  • Median Annual Salary -  The median household salary in Portland is $53,230.
  • Utility Costs -  Portland renters can expect to pay $176.55 monthly for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage based on a 915 sq ft apartment in Portland. 
  • Grocery Shopping Costs - Depending on your age and location within Portland, annual groceries run $3,573 for one adult and $10,529 for two adults and two children. 

10 Things to Know Before Moving to Portland

The city has plenty to offer everyone, but there are some important things to know before packing your bags. Here’s what to know before you move to Portland. 

1. Portland is a Leader in the Remote Workforce

It’s not your imagination, there are a ton of people working remotely all over Portland in cafes and co-working spaces. With a thriving remote workforce, you don’t need to hold out for the perfect job before moving to Oregon’s largest city. Portland's workforce currently boasts the fourth-highest share of remote employees looking for a vibrant city to live in.

2. Locals Embrace the Weather

Yes, it rains a lot in Portland, but that doesn’t mean the locals don’t enjoy the weather. Residents layer up in wool hats and sweaters, plus a jacket, to stay warm in the winter months. But the city also sees relatively mild weather with year-round access to the mountains and coastline. Portland rarely gets too hot or too cold. Whether the sun is shining or it’s raining, locals still enjoy the city's walkable, bikeable streets.

3. Plan on Living Green

Living in Portland, Oregon means adopting a green-friendly culture and fierce sustainability practices. The city recycles, composts, reuses, up-cycles, and anything else you can think of to curb the waste. Just don’t be surprised that the “City of Roses” showcases brown grass and underwhelming landscaping in the summer. This is when locals do their best to conserve water and any other resources they can think of.

4. Portland’s Main Attraction is a Bookstore

Portland’s quirky, independent spirit makes it a prime location to house the world’s largest independent bookstore. Powell's was founded in 1971 and buys around 3,000 used books a day to keep their ever-growing inventory of over 2 million volumes well-stocked. And even if you're not an avid reader, you can still come for daily events ranging from Drag Queen Story Hour to author readings.

5. Portland Loves Its Craft

Music and art aren’t the only things trending in Portland. Craft beer and coffee, micro vineyards, fine dining, and food carts are also a really big deal in Portland. Portland locals take their craft seriously no matter what they’re creating (or consuming). Here you’ll find a community loyal to small businesses and local artisans.

6. You Can’t Pump Your Own Gas (yes, really)

Cruising up to a gas station and finding someone waiting to pump your gas often surprises newcomers. Oregon and New Jersey banned self-service gas stations years ago. That means people living in Portland can't pump their own gas, so kick your feet up and relax for a few minutes. You deserve it.

7. Portlanders Prefer to Bike

Instead of waiting around for gas to get pumped at local stations, most Portland locals prefer to bike everywhere instead. Bike parking spaces and valet are common, making it easy to leave your car at home. If you are living in Downtown, you can even get by without a car. The city embraces a bike-friendly culture. 

8. The City has a Laid-Back Vibe

Moving to Portland from big cities like San Francisco and Seattle can feel jarring. The city has a laid-back, slower vibe. The dress code is casual and people value their work-life balance. Sure, working is valuable and affords a nice lifestyle in Portland. However, the locals want time to enjoy the perks of the Pacific Northwest. 

9. Say Goodbye to Sales Tax

Moving to Portland, Oregon doesn’t exactly lend itself to rock bottom prices but does give you unique tax breaks. Oregon’s income taxes are actually higher than many other states but has no sales tax. The combination can help balance some of the costs of living in the City of Roses.

10. Say Hello to... Strip Clubs?

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the United States. Who would've thought Portland would beat out a city like Las Vegas for this esteemed honor?

Getting Around Portland

Portland is also easy to get around on the TriMet lines, which can get you to downtown and the surrounding suburbs. Locals have their choice of MAX light rail, WES commuter rail, streetcars, and buses. Traveling in and out of the city is also a breeze, with the Portland International Airport (PDX) is also ranked as the number 1 World's Best Airport by Travel & Leisure

However, the best form of transportation in the city is on foot. Portland is a walker's paradise with a walk score of 97, meaning daily life doesn't require a car. Walking and biking have become second nature to Portlanders.

Portland’s neighborhoods each have a unique vibe with a diverse mix of amenities. With each neighborhood offering something different, everyone can find what they’re looking for. 

To get an idea of the layout of the city; Portland is divided into four quadrants divided by Hwy-26, I-5, and I-84 with a mix of old homes, new constructions, and condos.  Here’s the breakdown of some of Portland’s popular, as well as up-and-coming, neighborhoods.


Culture lovers moving to Portland will love the bustle of downtown living. For a city that's only 145 square-miles, Portland packs in tons of museums, shops, galleries, and restaurants. Downtown Portland offers accessibility to just about anything you could ask for. Browse the shelves at Powell's, the world's largest independent bookstore. Or simply unwind in Pioneer Square for 40,000 square feet of open space. This urban park is known as the city’s living room.

Nob Hill / Northwest Portland

For sophisticated urban living, Nob Hill and the Northwest Portland area offers trendy shops and restaurants. Victorian homes and unique collectible shops line the streets. This trendy neighborhood is a prime spot to call home or to enjoy a lovely dinner out.

Pearl District

The vibrant Pearl District, or just affectionately known as "The Pearl" to locals, has long been hailed as one of the best hipster neighborhoods in the country. Long-time locals have seen the Pearl’s collection of warehouses repurposed into restaurants, bars, galleries, and businesses. Today, newcomers moving to Portland can live, work, and play in the Pearl without leaving the cozy confines of the neighborhood.


Situated in inner southeast Portland, Eastmoreland features tree-lined streets and lush landscaping. You’ll find ample public parks including the stunning Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. The area is popular among young professionals and families looking for a quiet vibe that blends urban amenities with suburban sensibilities. The neighborhood is also home to Reed College, shops, and restaurants.

Goose Hollow

Goose Hollow got its name when early residents moving to Portland, Oregon let their domestic geese run free, creating a dispute with other locals. Although you won't find wandering geese, you will find a lively neighborhood with bars, restaurants, and entertainment. The community is also home to Providence Park, where Portland's pro soccer teams play.

Old Chinatown

Living in Old Chinatown offers proximity to downtown Portland in a vibrant, historic neighborhood. Once popular among Portland's Chinese residents, the community is also home to an eclectic group of residents looking for all of the conveniences of urban living. Old Chinatown locals embrace the combination of Chinese restaurants, authentic markets, trendy galleries, bars, and bustling nightlife options.


Nestled across the Willamette River, Buckman welcomes a blend of stunning Craftsman and Victorian homes, as well as quirky shops and restaurants. Newcomers moving to Portland, Oregon love to walk, bike, and scooter their way around this stunning neighborhood with downtown views just across the river. Buckman's convenience to the rest of Portland make it an easy pick for professionals and young families looking for a friendly, laid-back vibe. 

Arlington Heights

Grand houses and tree-lined streets pepper the charming neighborhood of Arlington Heights, Portland. Residents enjoy strolling or biking through a number of awesome parks. Washington Park, the home of the city's celebrated Rose Gardens, Portland’s Japanese Gardens, and zoo can be found here. Although the neighborhood is short on an inventory of bars and restaurants, the upscale neighborhood attractions professionals and family looking for a quiet urban life in a residential setting.


The trendy neighborhood of Richmond boasts the "Hawthorne District" with destination dining eateries, funky art galleries, and vintage boutiques. Defined by the bustling streets of Division and Clinton, Richmond is known for its unique, independent spirit. Here you’ll find colorful craftsman houses lining the streets with newly transformed duplexes welcoming Portland’s growing population.

West End

Nestled in Portland's downtown area near West Burnside and Southwest Morrison Street lies West End. Locals gather at the food carts, small shops, and galleries. The neighborhood shuns big-box retailers in favor of quirky Portland weirdness the city is celebrated for. Locals choose from broad entertainment offerings in West End with Port City Music Hall and dance on the city's floating floor at the Crystal Ballroom. 

Sellwood - Moreland 

Families and city dwellers desiring a mix of laid-back and urban love the area of Sellwood-Moreland. The neighborhood is home to the old-school Oaks Amusement Park and Westmoreland Park. Residents also enjoy antique malls, a growing restaurant base, and funky flea markets. For a break from the city, try the 168-acre Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge for a stroll through wetlands, meadows, and forests for ample bird watching opportunities.

Central Eastside

Once a crumbling warehouse district, Portland's Central Eastside is now a thriving hub for Portland's art and design scene. Stroll the neighborhood and discover mix-use buildings and rehabilitated warehouses. Pop into area cafes like the sustainable specialty coffee shop, Nossa Familia Coffee, to mingle with locals and catch up on work. Locals sip on brews at Cascades Brewing taproom and gather at the hip Dig a Pony where DJs play nightly. 


Lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars, Alberta Street is home to a monthly street fair and vibrant lifestyle. Fashionistas flock to the unique shops to discover new style, and up and coming designers. Galleries and independent boutiques abound, as well as exceptional amenities like the Alberta Cooperative Grocery for vegan and local options. Locals shop the galleries for reasonably priced artwork and sculptures from local and global artists. 

Things to do in Portland

There’s no lack of things to do in Portland. From bars and nightlife to day trips and culture, you’ll never go bored. You can live here for years and never run out of fun and “only in Portland” things to do. Make it your mission to explore some of the best things Portland has to offer. 

Sip on Craft Beer and Cocktails

Portland’s nightlife scene is always evolving with new venues and iconic local-favorite haunts. Start your evening with cocktails and oysters at Jake's Famous Crawfish, a Portland institution. For karaoke, locals gather at the former horse and buggy stop in the 1800s turned tavern and eventual party bar at Alibi

Portlanders love whiskey, and the Multnomah Whiskey Library delivers on upscale libations sipped from cozy, leather sofas. Binge on highballs and other specialty cocktails at the charming Solo Club, or rum from the Rum Club dive bar. 

Don’t forget to venture out to sip on cocktails where Portland's craft cocktail scene first thrived at Teardrop Lounge. There are more bars and watering holes than you could possibly mention, making moving to Portland an easy choice for endless nightlife. 

Discover Portland’s Live Music Scene

Music has long been a staple in the Portland nightlife scene, with spots like the Aladdin for everything from metal to folk. The Jupiter Hotel’s Doug Fir showcases top-notch cocktails and a cozy basement venue for intimate performances. 

Over at Laurelthirst Public House, locals tap their feet along to the bluegrass and Americana beat with local and regional acts. For a mainstay venue, try Wilfs Restaurant for live jazz and tantalizing food, or garage rock at The Liquor Store

There's something for every music lover in Portland, including dancing and funk music at Goodfoot. And for anyone who wants to “keep Portland weird,” head to the Clinton Street Theater at midnight on Saturdays for an interactive performance that draws you into the show. For a more upscale evening, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall attracts symphony lovers to its opulent Italian Rococo Revival architecture and grand staircase. Moving to Portland, Oregon also comes with the pleasure of discovering iconic nightlife spots for the first time like the century-old Crystal Ballroom with a mechanical floating floor. Needless to say, this is a city for live music lovers. 

Explore the Outdoors on a Day Trip

Residents living in Portland love the music and brewery scene, but also embrace the great outdoors. With plenty of options for a lovely day trip, Portlanders spend lots of time outdoors.

The views of Mount Hood from several of Portland's neighborhoods entice locals to venture out for snow-capped skiing, hiking, and fishing. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area also attracts visitors to its gorgeous vistas, hiking trails, waterfalls, and windsurfing opportunities. Living in the Pacific Northwest means endless outdoor opportunities. 

Although the Rose City is known for its breweries, the region is also home to the serene Willamette Valley wine country. Head out on a day trip to sample the local wines and fresh food. And for locals who want an extended day trip or overnight, the Oregon Coast awaits with rocky vistas and public beaches where people fish, stroll and surf on the Pacific Ocean.

Family-friendly Activities

Moving to Portland, Oregon provides a vibrant backdrop to raise kids where the spirit of the city meets ambitious professionals. Families can pick and choose neighborhoods known for their excellent education opportunities, as well as kid-friendly attractions. Weekends are filled with trips to the tranquil Washington Park to explore the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and the Oregon Zoo. 

Kids ages 12 and under love PlayDate PDX for indoor fun in a 3-story play structure. Parents gather over a beer or coffee in the on-site cafe, or open up their laptops and get some work done while kids spend hours climbing and playing.

Tucked between the Willamette River and Sellwood area, Oaks Amusement Park is one of the oldest, continuously operating amusement parks in the country with old-school rides. And on those rainy Portland days, the Portland Children's Museum encourages hands-on interactive fun.  Or try the Mt. Scott Community Center and Indoor Pool, featuring indoor skating rink and pool with lots of water features. 

Portland’s Job Market

It’s not always the case that a higher cost of living means better-paying jobs. However, those moving to Portland will enjoy a growing job market with diverse opportunities. Portland welcomes corporate giants like Intel and Nike. 

The food services industry is also a big job market in Portland, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 104,900 in total employment. The diversity of the job market makes the city welcoming to both executives and entry-level professionals.

Portland’s Food Scene

Moving to Portland, Oregon opens the door to a foodie paradise. Locals are loyal to their favorite spots, but are always down to try the newest eateries. 

Taste the Thai fusions at Hat Yai, and foie gras bonbons at Beast. Locals craving a taste of back home (only better) head to Mothers Bistro for heavenly breakfast, lunch or dinner. For an incredible sandwich with a twist, Lardo sells pork drenched burgers and sandwiches designed with excess in mind.

Portland’s food trucks and carts are also ingrained into the fabric of the city’s foodie scene. You’ll find elaborate dishes you would never think could be thrown together and savored on the go. 

Gumba serves up delicious pappardelle in braised short ribs, and the Texas-style food cart Matt's BBQ features mouth-watering brisket and ribs. Wherever you eat, the food carts are usually a knockout.

Portland’s discerning chefs rely on the freshest, seasonal ingredients right out of Willamette Valley, as well as a mix of fun and flavorful treats like the iconic Voodoo Donuts.

Giveaway Contest

Always thought about moving to Portland? Maybe you already live here and you've been trying to convince your best friend or a family member to move closer to you for years?

We teamed up with our friends over at @ourtempleton and the @Woodlark_Hotel. We'll fly you and a friend out to Portland, and our friends will put you up for two nights at the Woodlark Hotel and take you on a personal tour of the Templeton communities. Pick your dream apartment and get you 2 months free rent! 

How To Enter:

Tag a friend in this post and follow us @apartmentlist, and our friends over at @ourtempleton, @woodlark_hotel and @aliviafields.

Extra credit if you share this post in your stories! Good luck to all! 

Giveaway Details:

  • Giveaway will end February 29th, 2020 at midnight PST.
  • Must sign a 12-month lease to redeem 2 months free rent.
  • US Only.
  • This giveaway is not endorsed by or associated with Instagram. 
  • Must be 18.
  • Must be a public account so we can verify entries
  • Participants must follow Apartment List, Templeton, Woodlark, and Alivia Fields Instagram accounts to enter. 
  • Tag a friend under the post.
  • Winner must partake in video/photo coverage of their journey.

Screen Rules Apply:

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