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Get Oriented in Portland

Learn About the Layout of the City


Because of natural landmarks and award-winning urban planning, Portland is an easy city to navigate. That is, once you know a few important facts about the city’s layout. These pointers will help you get acquainted with where everything is.

  • Portland is split into quadrants. The Willamette River splits the city between east and west. Burnside Street is the north-south divider.

  • There are many bridges that cross the Willamette River, and knowing where they are is a tremendous help when it comes to orienting yourself. Here are the bridges, going from south to north:
    • Sellwood
    • Ross-Island
    • Marquam (also known as the I-5 bridge)
    • Hawthorne
    • Morrison
    • Burnside
    • Steel
    • Broadway
    • Fremont (also known as the I-405 bridge)
    • St. John's

    See a map of the bridges.

  • In addition to the four quadrants: Southeast (SE), Southwest (SW), Northeast (NE), and Northwest (NW), there is a fifth area of town, North Portland (N).

  • Every address is proceeded by one of these five directionals so pay close attention to them. Because many of the street names appear on both sides of the river, you could potentially find the address you think you’re looking for and be on the wrong side of the river. That is, if you’re looking for the corner of 15th and Irving—it’s important to note whether it’s NE 15th/Irving or NW 15th/Irving. Both exist.

  • On the east side of the river, Martin Luther King Boulevard is a one-way road heading south (parts of the road are two-way, however). Grand Boulevard is a one-way road heading north. Both of these streets are also referred to as 99E.

  • Downtown in located in SW Portland, as is Oregon Health Sciences University, a teaching hospital perched in the West Hills.

  • SE Portland is known for its laid-back neighborhoods such as the one along SE Hawthorne Boulevard. Once a hippy-haven, the street is becoming more refined.

  • NE Portland is the city’s most culturally diverse neighborhood. It’s home to NE Alberta Street, which has great shopping, restaurants, and galleries that stay open late on the Last Thursday of every month. Another great NE neighborhood is historic Irvington, centered around the busy intersection of NE 15th/Broadway.

  • NW Portland is known for many things, including “Restaurant Row” along NW 21st Avenue, and some of the city’s best shopping along NW 23rd. The area around NW 21st and NW 23rd Avenues is also known as Uptown, Nob Hill and the Alphabet District.

  • The Alphabet District is so named because the street names (for east-west running streets) run alphabetically. Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett … all the way to Wilson. Be aware that many of the streets in the beginning of the alphabet also have counterparts in NE Portland.

  • The Pearl District is also located in NW.

  • The city’s public transportation is run by TriMet, and you can get just about anywhere using it. Learn about how to ride TriMet.
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