Portland, Oregon, is one of my favourite cities in the United States. I spent 4 days there discovering the best things to do in Portland, with insider advice from the friend I was staying with there.
I have to use ‘Oregon’ behind Portland as there are other Portlands’ in other parts of the US.
Powells City of Books
Huh? A bookstore at the top of this list of best things to do in Portland? I guess I should disclaimer this one: this list is in no real order, and oh, I love books! And what a bookstore Powells City of Books is.
It’s the largest independent bookstore in the world covering a whole city block and is worth popping in for that reason alone. If you love books then it’s even better! I spent hours in there browsing all the 3500, (yes 3500), different sections, and stocking up on some books to read.
Address: 1005 W Burnside St.
Living Room Theatres
This is a cute little theatre for films that doesn’t have that many seats and the room is quite small which makes it feel like watching a film at home, hence the name of the place. It’s located only a one-minute walk from Powells Books so you can do both in the same area.
But what makes Living Room Theatres cool? Well it’s only for those over 21 years of age in the evening, they often show mostly independent films, and they bring food and wine to your seating area. Cool little cinema!
They were showing Blade Runner 2049 when I went and I loved the experience.
Address: 341 SW 10th Ave.
Markets in Portland (Saturday Market)
Portland has a good market scene and markets can be found all over the place, even inside the Portland State University area.
One of the best of them is the Saturday Market which is a market for arts and crafts and has a very cool vibe to it. It’s outside near the waterfront so is really cool to browse around and then chill out by the river for a bit.
Walking Around Portland
Walking is the best way to get around in a city to really soak up the atmosphere of the streets and of course for some exercise as well.
I walked everywhere in Portland and found some cool places in Portland while doing so that I may have otherwise missed.
Go for a walk, take in the parks, the streets, relax for a coffee somewhere, people watch in the open spaces, have some street food at a food cart (see below), visit the markets, etc.
A good book that my friend showed me when I was there is: Walking Portland: 33 Tours of Stumptown’s Funky Neighborhoods, Historic Landmarks, Park Trails, Farmers Markets, and Brewpubs.
Cycling in Portland
As well as walking, cycling in Portland is the other great way to get around. Being mostly a flat city and cycle friendly in many places it makes for one of the best cities to cycle around. Trust me I know, I lived in Amsterdam for 13 years, which is the cycling capital of the world!
You can find places to rent bikes, ask at your hotel/hostel and they should be able to direct you to where you can find them.
Eating in Portland
Portland is a great foodie city with everything from food cart pods to fine dining. Personally, I stick to street food mostly when travelling, for the budget, and also as street food is normally very good as well.
One of the pleasures of Portland was the street food experience, be it at a market area, or special places for it, like the hundreds of the aforementioned food cart pods. I absolutely loved the food cart pods in Portland and the city is famous for them.
So when in Portland make sure you hit up some food cart pods when there. One great area for them is in downtown Portland at Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue. There are many other places all over the city you can find them.
The other thing Portland is known for is doughnuts! Voodoo Doughnut is the most popular place to try one of their many tasty doughnuts for a sweet treat. There’s even an underground donut tour you can do that takes you to 4 donut spots in Portland!
Eating in Portland is one of the best things to do in Portland.
Ghost Tour in Portland Downtown
Ah, I missed this one when there and heard about it after from some others who did it. I love ghost tours, especially in places like (for example) Edinburgh, Scotland with the old medieval history.
Although Portland doesn’t have the old history of other cities like Edinburgh, it does have some ghost stories to it which you can find out about on this tour. I’ll be doing it next time I go back!
You can book a ghost tour of downtown Portland in advance to make sure you get a ticket.
Portland State University Area
Wherever students are is a cool place to be! It’s a wide open area and has some great places just to relax and take it easy along with good food carts and the occasional market.
Portland Craft Beer Scene
There is a really good craft beer scene in Portland that goes perfectly along with the music scene mentioned below.
There are plenty of craft brewery places around the city with some of the best in the East Portland area where you can find the popular Cascade Brewing Barrel House.
Get a few in you and have fun!
Portland Music Scene
Portland has a fun music scene to go along with its beer scene. There’s lots of jazz places and indie rock and everything in-between.
In summer there are lots of good music festivals as well.
Coffee Shops in Portland Oregon
One of the first things I do in a new city/town is, after walking around a while, find a good coffee place to relax.
Portland has a great coffee shop scene with specialty roasters to be found all over the place. I didn’t get to try all the coffee shops in Portland as there were too many to visit in the time I had, but I got to a few and they were all good.
Case Study Coffee Roasters
Coava Coffee Roasters
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Hiking Near Portland Oregon
Portland has easy access to nature and you can get out hiking a bit if you feel like escaping the city. Sadly I didn’t manage to get out to the main hiking near Portland Oregon, again because of spending more time in the city with a friend and exploring there. Next time I will!
However, these are some hikes that my friend recommended for anyone visiting to do.
Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion.
Maple Trail Loop (Forest Park).
Marquam Trail to Council Crest.
Four T Trail.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.
Powell Butte Nature Park – Mountain View Trail.
Washington Park Loop Hike.
If you plan to do some hiking near Portland, which unfortunately timewise I didn’t get the chance to do, my friend in Oregon recommended me this book: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland: Including the Coast, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and the Santiam River.
Movies Filmed in Oregon
If you want a bit of fun watching to get in the mood for a visit to Portland and Oregon then have a watch of one of these movies filmed in Oregon before going. I’ve added links to Amazon where you can rent them to watch (or buy) and they are affiliate links.
The Goonies (1985) Classic family fun movie set in Astoria, Oregon. Watch on Amazon.
Stand By Me (1986) Adaptation of Stephen King’s novel set in Oregon. Watch on Amazon.
Wild (2014) Follows Cheryl Strayed as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail to discover herself. Parts are shot in Oregon. Watch on Amazon.
There are of course loads more movies filmed in Oregon but these 3 are my faves!
Things to Do in Portland Oregon
Like I said Portland in Oregon is one of my favourite cities in the US.
For a good guidebook to Portland check out Fodor’s Inside Portland.
I stayed with a friend when visiting Portland so can’t recommend any specific place but you can search for places to stay in Portland here.
If you are heading south into California after Oregon check out my post on the 21 best places to visit in San Francisco.
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