Portland instantly became one of my favorite cities in the U.S., even just from the decent into the airport. It’s surrounded by so much greenery, snow-capped mountains, and has a huge river flowing through the middle of it. The city itself is small, meaning it’s very walkable, and each street is lined with trees, amazing restaurants and food stands, artsy murals/displays, and cute boutiques. Every time someone asks me to describe it I tell them it reminds me of a smaller, greener, quainter NYC. No matter who you are and what your interests are, Portland has so much to offer everyone!!
Culture: In order to describe Portland culture, it’s necessary to first describe the people. Walking around you’ll find vegans/vegetarians, nature junkies (as well as regular junkies lol), artists, hipsters, and just overall laid-back, friendly people. By looking around the landscape of the city, you’ll see it has a big emphasis on art, health, nature/the environment, sustainability, and a type of lifestyle that offers an escape from “the system” and corporate life. Even though it is a city with skyscrapers and a buzz of people and cars, it still has a slow-paced, unconventional feel to it.
Transportation: I walked nearly everywhere while in Portland because everything in the downtown area is usually within 30 minutes of you (but usually 5-15 minutes), plus it was a nice way to see the scenic city. For longer distances, we took Ubers, as we realized it was cheaper than taking cabs. If you’re staying there for a while, I would recommend getting to know their bus system because it appeared very accessible, convenient, clean, and easy to use.
Hotel: My family and I stayed at the Hotel Monaco, which was right in the center of downtown and all the action. We were walking distance (usually no more than 7 minutes) from all the best restaurants and shopping, so I highly recommend it to anyone that can afford it (I definitely wouldn’t be able to with my own money. It was ~$200-400/ night depending on when you visit and what type of room you want). The staff was super helpful, always giving us recommendations and directions, and during the day they have free ice cream and snacks (from 2-4 pm) and happy hour, which was FREE wine from 5-7pm. As for the decor of the hotel, it was exactly how I pictured my Portland experience to be with artsy and eclectic furniture and designs.
Food: OK, this section may be long because Portland has the BEST food…it’s a foodie’s paradise. They have everything you would ever want, the best of all cuisines, both healthy and gluttonous. I did a lot of restaurant research before and got a lot of help from the concierge, so I guarantee you will want to remember these recommendations if you plan to visit one day!! :
- Shigezo– Amazing ramen and sushi (Ramen is very popular in Portland and the concierge said this was one of the best) with a cool Japanese atmosphere.
- Mother’s Bistro & Bar– THE BEST breakfast you’ll ever have (We got the gluten-free french toast, Greek frittata, and portobello scramble and all were incredible). Plus, the decor is really cute with vintage and elegant looking chandeliers and mirrors everywhere.
- Salt & Straw– The best ice cream in Portland (hand-churned, made fresh daily with made-to-order waffle cones). No surprise it’s rated #1 Portland restaurant on TripAdvisor.
- Bijou Cafe– French restaurant with amazing omelets. You can really tell they use local, fresh ingredients.
- Luc Lac Kitchen– INCREDIBLE Thai/Vietnamese food. Probably the best I’ve ever had in my life. Also has great cocktails! Be prepared to wait in line if you go during busy lunch/dinner times.
- Voodoo Doughnut– Known as the best donuts in Portland and if you go you’ll see why. The outside of the store is made of gold sparkly bricks and the inside is decorated with crazy chandeliers and pink walls covered in crazy posters and frames. Be prepared to wait in a line that goes out the door (but the wait is so worth it).
- Food Stands- You’ll find these lining many streets in the downtown area. You can find any type of food you want for very cheap. I didn’t get to try one of the stands myself but heard a lot them were great (just do your research!).
Mother’s Bistro and Bar
Salt & Straw’s Coconut and Carmel Candy Bar Ice Cream
Bijou Cafe’s Tomato, Basil & Feta Omelet
Luc Lac Kitchen
Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Shrimp Curry, Pork Wontons, Chicken Bahn Mi, Shrimp Peanut Skewers & Green Papaya Salad with “Hello & Goodbye” Cocktails (Rum+Coconut Water+Lime+Carbonation- amazing)
- You MUST visit the International Rose Test Garden (it’s free and Portland isn’t called the “City of Roses” for no reason!!) as well as the Portland Japanese Garden which is right next to it ($10 entrance fee). Both are so beautiful!
- Shop in 23rd street’s cute boutiques or in Pioneer Place for more mainstream department stores.
- Visit the farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoon to try Oregon’s amazing fresh produce! I also heard there is a big market that takes place every Saturday.
- Simply walk around the city to see its beautiful bridges, various parks, and artsy displays.
International Rose Test Garden
Portland Japanese Garden
- Portland has ZERO sales tax, making it a great place for shopping!
- I didn’t get the chance to myself, but I recommend venturing outside of the main downtown area, especially to see Alberta Street, Portland’s art district, and Multnomah Falls (waterfalls+more greenery+hiking).