The best towns and small cities in the US: Portland, Maine

This buzzing city on the New England coast has a strong community spirit running through its art and music scene, as well as food and drink that’s big on local flavours

In this series: Eugene, Oregon | Chapel Hill, North Carolina

At the junction of Danforth and Pleasant Street, a place once known as Gorham’s Corner, a stone monument commemorates ordinary folk who used to live in the neighbourhood. There’s the shopkeeper, after whom the corner was named, and the local priest “who was often called by the police to halt street fights”. As if to prove the point, the next name listed is that of a man who died in a brawl with local toughs, the Connelly Brothers: “His death sparked a riot.”

Some older locals can recall the days when Portland was still a rough-and-ready port town, with alcohol-fuelled punch-ups downtown and areas you didn’t walk in after dark. A transformation over the past two decades means it’s now often described as one of the best US towns to live in. From the Old Port to a lively arts district and up-and-coming bayside areas, this town of 66,000 has incubated a creative and foodie scene that can hold its own against anywhere.

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