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Why Portland, ME, Is a Best Place to Live

Full of classic New England charm, the freshest seafood and a thriving startup culture, Portland combines the best bits of past and present. 

By Emma Smith on November 22, 2022

If a city with ocean views, lighthouses and world-class dining sounds like the ideal vacation destination, imagine living in a place with unlimited access to those attractions.

In recent years, Portland has emerged as an attractive option for families and young professionals eager to take a step back from the frenzied lifestyle of large East Coast cities without sacrificing the culture and conveniences of metropolitan living. And while Portland’s cost of living may be slightly higher than the national average, it’s a bona fide bargain compared to many of its New England counterparts.

With a thriving art scene, year-round recreation, a robust health-care marketplace and more restaurants per capita (230 total) than most other U.S. cities, it’s clear why Portland is one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Portland is a historic city and the economic center of northern New England, offering a rare combination of arts and cultural venues, award-winning local food establishments, outdoor recreation and business and economic opportunities.

Today’s Portland is a delightful study in contrasts, boasting the ever-present charms of its New England roots, right alongside the chic art galleries and an up-and-coming startup scene, which boasts nearly 70 of these innovative business ventures. In addition, Portland is home to Startup Maine, a conference and network for startups in the state, founded in 2014. 

But entrepreneurs aren’t the only visionaries in Portland, where culinary creators work their magic on the region’s trademark bounty (we’re looking at you, lobster, clams, maple syrup and blueberries), but also in consistently serving up the sort of inventive and unexpected cuisine more commonly associated with larger cities. Many of Portland’s beloved culinary institutions participate in the annual Maine Restaurant Week, celebrating the variety of good food the city offers. From authentically crafted Vietnamese standards to classic French cuisine, Portland’s restaurant scene covers nearly every possible base. Factor in the city’s seafood markets and specialty grocery stores, and Portland translates to the ideal foodie hometown. 

Meanwhile, Portlanders are some of the country’s healthiest residents, spending 10.3 percent less on health care than the national average. Even better, when Portland residents need health care, it’s in ample supply, thanks to its three acute care hospitals and more than 1,600 doctors practicing within the city limits (more than twice the national number of physicians per capita).

Fortunately, opportunities to get active and stay fit are easy to find in Portland. Whether hiking, biking, kayaking or paddleboarding, the area is rife with people who value a healthy lifestyle. And when the notoriously bitter Maine winters become too frightful for outdoor recreation, the city’s avid yoga and Pilates communities are the perfect indoor fitness options. Even then, plenty of natives aren’t deterred by Portland’s yearly snowdrifts and subfreezing temperatures, opting instead to embrace the weather on skis or snowshoes. For cross-country skiing, Portland Nordic is a local non-profit that encourages the sport and provides lessons for all ages. In addition, several ski areas are located in the Portland area and beyond. 

Coastal New England towns often have a certain aesthetic appeal that has long charmed history lovers and travelers alike. Portland prides itself as the home of the Maine Historical Society and the location of historical landmarks such as the Wadsworth-Longfellow HouseFort Gorges, and Portland Head Light. While Portland certainly shines in that capacity, it also has the well-established amenities and infrastructure necessary for any truly livable city. Charm and efficiency, all in one.

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