The Pacific Northwest’s cool climate, beautiful mountain ranges, and serene bodies of water are local favorites and a draw for many outdoor enthusiasts. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, Portland, OR and Seattle, WA are home to strong jobs sectors, livable neighborhoods, and a melting pot of personalities and styles. Both metros are seeing an influx of new residents, and as a result, Portland and Seattle recently ranked in Trulia’s top five fastest-moving real estate markets.
From a jobs perspective, Seattle continues to see up-and-coming tech companies like Zillow and established companies such as Microsoft and Amazon settle down in Emerald City. Now with a healthy unemployment rate of 3.3, Seattle offers great opportunities for transplants looking for a great blend of industries, affordable real estate and of course, good coffee.
Portland’s economy, although less robust, still boasts an impressive unemployment rate of 4.4, and like Seattle, is seeing a tech boom, as well as a growing construction industry. For young families looking for starter homes in Portland, you’ll find plenty of affordable options, as well as great neighborhoods to raise a family with world-class parks and bike paths.
Besides a fast-paced real estate market in the PNW, these towns have a lot in common, and a lot of differences that set them apart. Check out what these Portlanders and Seattleites have to say about what makes their cities great!
What is your city’s source of pride? Why is it the superior Northwest city?
“Portland is known for having amazing green spaces, public spaces, and cart food. The parks in Portland are outstanding, with something for everyone. We also have lots of public art and fountains. The cart scene here is on fire with tons of yummy food options throughout the city. Portland is the superior NW city because it is beautiful, somewhat affordable, and there is something here for everyone!” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“Nested between the towering mountain ranges to the east and the Puget Sound to the west, Seattle is a city that welcomes newcomers with our stunning geographical features. A hub of artists, foodie culture, tech, research, and aerospace, the city blends commerce, recreation, and style into a seamless, highly livable urban oasis for recent grads, young families, and those headed toward their golden years. Interesting and diverse neighborhoods with their own culture and history come together to form a beautiful, cohesive city.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
“Portland is a very livable city: Water, parks, the beach, farms, opera, art museums, theater, etc. are all a short drive. Portland is huge on health [and] wellness, which is right up my alley, being the CSO at ACHS.edu. As a mum of three (including 20-month-old twins), I also love that we are the home of crunchy mamas — you can ask half the people at your coffee shop for breast-feeding and baby-wearing tips!” — Erika Yigzaw, ACHS Chief Strategy Officer
“Seattle is known as the most livable city. We have mountains, the Puget Sound. People love being outdoors. Seattle has great access to the outdoors. We have great companies that people love to work for: Zillow, Microsoft, Expedia, Amazon, etc.” — Brooks Powell of Powell Custom Homes & Renovations
If you’re a transplant, what brought you to your city? If you’re native to the area, why do you stay?
“I am a third-generation Oregonian. I have lived in Portland and its suburbs my entire life. I love living here as it is close to the mountain, the beach, and has lots to offer everyone.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“I am a native to the Seattle area. I have stayed in the area because I believe there really is no place like the PNW. The greenery, lakes, and scenic views provide opportunities for fun hikes or camping trips, but we are also provided the luxury of being surrounded by fun and lively cities like Seattle and Bellevue. It is the best of both worlds.” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“As a local Seattle native, I have lived on both coasts in many cities. But I keep coming back for the fantastic people, scenery, and comfort of Seattle. On my morning ride to work from Ballard to Downtown, I see the city skyline waking up with Mount Rainier on the horizon and the water of Elliott Bay to my right. There is simply nothing more beautiful and grounding than a morning that begins like this. I continue to love to travel and explore new destinations. But I know Seattle will always be home.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
“We’re a mixed group of Portland lovers here at Brewvana. What unites us is our shared love for the unparalleled craft brew scene and the great community it is built upon. Those who moved here were seduced by the siren’s song boasting great beer and great vibes. For our natives, well, why leave paradise?” — Zak Schroerlucke of Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours
What do Seattle and Portland have in common, and what sets them apart?
“Portland and Seattle are both larger cities in the Pacific NW. Other than that, I believe that they are extremely different. Portland is a much prettier city, with clear vistas and bike/skateboard paths downtown. Although Seattle has a fabulous market and city center at Pike Place Market. Portland feels more comfortable and laid-back than Seattle, in my opinion. I think you see more people walking and biking in PDX.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“The obvious thing they have in common is the weather, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. They are surrounded by beautiful trees and lakes and provide many fun outdoor activities, while being able to enjoy a fun nightlife in the city. I have only been to Portland a few times, but the differences I noticed were, it is a smaller city and its vibe is a little more hipster than Seattle. It’s a little quieter.” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“The thrill for adventure! And rain. Lots of rain. We’re not some big corporate mecca with a football team; we keep it small and personal with futbol and city pride. I mean, what other city boasts more naked people on bikes than us?” – Zak Schroerlucke of Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours
“Both Seattle and Portland share that PNW vibe: outdoorsy, great coffee, hiking, with an educated twist. But Portland is a very livable city: not nearly as much traffic (yet!) and the housing is cheaper (although probably not for long). And it doesn’t rain as much as Seattle. Just sayin’.…” — Erika Yigzaw, ACHS Chief Strategy Officer
Would you consider your city an affordable place to live?
“Suburbs of Portland are affordable and very accessible to Downtown Portland. Inner SE/NE/SW/NW Portland have become very expensive, although there are certain pockets that are still affordable. As always, there are exceptions to everything.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“Seattle continues to work out how to embrace the growth of our incredible city while ensuring that the key factors that made our town great to begin with are not lost. Such as artists, live music, affordable housing, and accessible opportunity. We are doing OK, but we have more work to do.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
“Transplant? Why: good cost of housing, good livability, good walk scores, etc. Native? Why: born here, love the city, love access to the outdoors.” — Brooks Powell of Powell Custom Homes & Renovations
What advice would you give to for those moving to your city? What are ways to keep your cost of living down?
“I would make a list of what is most important to you. Is it the commute time to and from work? Is it the convenience to your must-have amenities or what school district your kids will be in? With all of the tech industries swarming into Seattle, it is getting more expensive to live in the city. If you do not mind a longer commute, you can find great neighborhoods in Issaquah, Kirkland, Renton, etc. and great opportunities for fixer-uppers. You have to be quick on these opportunities, though, because homes are going fast!” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“Find a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city that is undiscovered. And ditch your car and parking expenses for an ORCA pass [metro and light-rail pass] and a bicycle.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
“In Seattle: a) Live close to your work, b) Know the commute times, c) Know your school districts if you have kids, d) Check the walk score.” — Brooks Powell of Powell Custom Homes & Renovations
“As a Portland tour company, we LOVE when people come and visit … but it’s also our job to make sure everyone GOES HOME with amazing experiences. But if you fall in love with the city hard enough … make sure you move here with a plan. Don’t just show up expecting paradise … contribute to our economy by having a job lined up; contribute to our culture by supporting our arts; contribute to the feel by bringing your happiest self and leaving the stress behind you. If you want to save money while living here, find some friends and share a house. Otherwise, you may be stuck with that high-rent thing everyone is talking about.” — Zak Schroerlucke of Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours
What, in your opinion, is the most up-and-coming neighborhood in your city?
“Inner SE Portland is the most up-and-coming area in Portland. There are lots of cute little bungalows, local shops, coffeehouses, and restaurants to explore.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“It is definitely the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. You can’t walk more than 10 feet without wanting to check out the newest restaurant/bar or boutique. Ballard Ave has become the greatest place for barhopping. It is also close to Golden Gardens, which is one of my favorite summer hangout beaches in Seattle (bonus is, you can have bonfires there)!” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“Well, I’m biased because I live in Sherwood, Portland, but Sherwood! Just far enough out of town to be the ‘country’ but still just a short drive to all Portland has to offer.” — Erika Yigzaw, ACHS Chief Strategy Officer
“I think the next Seattle neighborhood to really see big change and growth will be Othello, just south of Columbia City. I think in the next five years, Othello will see new restaurants and development as residents take more advantage of the lower-cost real estate and the ease of access via the light rail.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
What’s your go-to restaurant? What do you order?
“Endolyne Joe’s and Smarty Pants in Seattle. Order the Veggie Roast.” — Brooks Powell of Powell Custom Homes & Renovations
“The RingSide Steakhouse in Portland. Happy hour onion rings with house dressing and steak bites.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“Just between Fremont and Ballard in Seattle is Drunky’s Two Shoe BBQ. From the outside, it looks like this awesome Western shack, and when you walk inside, the funky decor continues with chainsaw chandeliers, antique knickknacks and taxidermy. Not to mention they just added an area by the entry that is now home to two goats! I would recommend Drunky’s Deluxe Sandwich, Farmers Mac with a side of Burnt Ends, and during happy hour they have the best deviled eggs!” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“My all-time fave was Da Mimmos in Sherwood — farm to table, real Italian, but they just closed down (boo-hoo), so now my favorite is Pacific Pie on NW 23rd — where else can I go to get classic Kiwi and Aussie pies and lamingtons! Yum!” — Erika Yigzaw, ACHS Chief Strategy Officer
Where are the best places to avoid tourists in your city?
“The East Side. SW and NW Portland are crawling with tourists as there are tons of things to do and places to stay. There are daily walking tours of the SW and NW areas.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“Downtown Seattle is surrounded by fun communities such as Queen Anne, Fremont, Wallingford, and Ballard. You may see a Ride the Duck driving through with tourists, but on the streets you will find the best local coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques. These areas have a more laid-back vibe than downtown and you will get an authentic taste of local Seattle businesses.” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes
“Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood is amazing. See nesting eagles, and it has good enough trails to take a stroller. The guides are wonderful and really get the kids engaged. Free and often empty!” — Erika Yigzaw, ACHS Chief Strategy Officer
“I don’t avoid visitors to Seattle, I embrace them! Check out the Pike Place Market to rub elbows with locals, merchants, artists, and visitors. Take a Savor Seattle Food Tour and get a behind-the-scenes look at the history, culture, and food that makes the Pike Place Market the gateway to Seattle.” — Terry Rice, Senior Manager of Savor Seattle Food Tours
What’s the best free activity in your city?
“Portland’s parks are pretty outstanding. There are parks everywhere in our city that are great for picnics, families to play, and dogs to run, and they are all free to use.” — Amanda Folkestad of the Brian Porter team
“Easy answer. GO OUTSIDE.” — Zak Schroerlucke of Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours
“Urban hiking.” — Brooks Powell of Powell Custom Homes & Renovations
“All of the great hiking trails of Seattle. You can drive north, east, south, or west and will run into a good time. I also would recommend checking out Alki Beach in West Seattle.” — Alexa Upper, Marketing Manager of JayMarc Homes