search Buscar

    How to visit Portland, the "City of Bridges" in Oregon

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans

    Item Feedback:

    content warning

    Portland is the largest city in Oregon, which among the fifty American states is certainly not the most visited, but not for this reason to be underestimated. A median state among the three on the Pacific coast, nestled between Washington State and California, it attracts above all for its pristine natural beauty, but also its small towns they can be an interesting experience.

    Portland has emerged recently as a tourist destination and its being a middle way between the most inflated cities and those still completely unknown, makes it a good destination for those who want to discover that lively and varied America, but moving away from the most traveled tourist routes.

    Stage to be considered for a on the road along the Pacific coastAlthough more than 100 kilometers from the ocean, Portland is also the ideal home base for an itinerary to the discovery of some naturalistic beauties of the Pacific North West. So let's try to give some ideas on what to see in the city, where to eat, where to sleep and other aspects that can help organize a visit.


    • Where is Portland located?
    • What to see in Portland + map of attractions
      • Downtown Portland
      • Portland Museums
      • Portland Parks
    • Getting around Portland
    • Events in Portland
    • Where to eat in Portland
    • Where sleeping in Portland
    • Shopping tips
    • Excursions in the surroundings

    Where is Portland located?

    The city is located in the Multnomah County, crossed by the Columbia River, which descends from Canada, crosses the State of Washington and flows into the Pacific Ocean. The name of the city, taken from the homonymous Portland located in the state of Maine, says a lot about its characteristics. Despite not facing the sea, in fact, Portland has had an important history of a port city, thanks to its geographical position, straddling the confluence of the river Willamette and the river Columbia.

    The latter separates it from the state of Washington and the city of Vancouver (not to be confused with the Canadian metropolis), with which Portland constitutes a single large urban agglomeration. River waters have always been the strong point of the city, which has grown by exploiting them for commercial traffic and which today makes it a tourist attraction thanks to the numerous bridges in its historic center. City of Bridges is one of the nicknames attributed to Portland and visiting it one is certainly not surprised by this nickname.

    La distance from Seattle is approximately 280 km, which can be reached in just under 3 hours by car along Interstate 5.

    What to see in Portland + map of attractions

    Downtown Portland

    Pioneer Courthouse Square

    On the western bank of the Willamette River it develops the hub of the city, which is also the best place to start a visit. Here we find in fact the Visitor Information Center (701 SW 6th Ave) where one can be found city ​​map and all the information you may need.

    The tourist office is located in the Pioneer Courthouse Square: if you are already used to wandering around American cities, you can imagine that this is not a square as we understand it in Europe, but don't expect a meager widening as it happens elsewhere in America. Here an entire block is devoid of buildings and dedicated to meeting people and organizing events in the open-air theater that characterizes the square.

    Not sure what the weather awaits you for your visit to Portland? Right in this square you will find the Weather Machine: a "time machine" that every day at 12 reveals the image of a sun with golden leaves, a silver heron or a dragon depending on whether sun, clouds or bad weather are expected.

    One of the most representative buildings of the city overlooks Pioneer Courthouse Square, to which the square owes its name: the Pioneer Courhouse. In addition to being more beautiful to photograph than the other buildings that surround it, this one has a historical value to emphasize: it is the oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest.

    Portland City Hall
    Portland Building

    A few minutes walk away we find two other buildings of interest, both in SW 5th Ave and side by side: the Portland Building and City Hall. The first is a symbolic construction of postmodernism, a 15-storey building characterized by the statue it represents Portlandia, the goddess of commerce. Over 10 meters tall, she is the second largest wrought copper statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty. The second is the town hall building, characterized by a double entrance colonnade: rectangular on the facade of SW 5th Ave and circular on that of SW 4th Ave.

    City Hall, on the SW 5th Ave side, overlooks one of the beautiful downtown gardens. But the neighbor is undoubtedly more characteristic Keller Fountain Park (SW 3rd Ave. & Clay St.), which houses a large fountain made up of large boulders that should represent the neighbors Columbia River Gorge Falls.

    Another characteristic building is that ofOregon Historical Society, located in the South Park Blocks area. The walls of the building are covered in murals that recount highlights of Oregon history, such as the expedition of explorers Lewis and Clarke.

    Portland Museums

    Pittock Mansion

    From an artistic point of view, the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park Ave.) is the main museum to consider in the city, as well as being the oldest museum in the Pacific North West. Inside we find a very varied permanent collection, ranging from Native American art to some of the most famous European artists, passing through curious examples of Asian art. Temporary exhibitions dedicated to specific themes alternate throughout the year and the cinema hall hosted by the museum shows niche films. On the official website, timetables, prices and the calendar of exhibitions.

    THEOregon Museum of Science and Industry (1945 SE Water Ave.) is instead a museum complex where mainly interactive activities related to the world of science are proposed in all its facets. We move from a chemical laboratory to a planetarium, to physics experiments and internal technologies of a submarine. On the official website you can see updated prices and timetables, as well as any temporary activities that take place there.

    Portland Art Museum

    If you are traveling with children you may be interested in the Portland Children’s Museum (415 SW Canyon Rd.). Here children see their creativity and imagination involved, highlighting their predispositions. On the official website the timetables and the proposed activities.

    La Pittock Mansion (3229 NW Pittock Dr.) is a historic residence dating back to 1914, in the French Renaissance style. In addition to the historical value of the building, from here you can enjoy an excellent view of the city and the mountains. On the official website the updated timetables for visits.

    Portland Parks

    Lan Su Garden

    Portland is quite a green city and there are several interesting city parks. The green protagonist is the Forest Park, located northwest of the city. The name suggests that it is a wooded area, in which it is possible to take a nice walk or go by bicycle or on horseback. In this park, despite being a stone's throw from the urban area, there is no shortage of wild animals such as lynxes, coyotes or raccoons.

    A little further south is the Washington park. Compared to the Forest Park, this is less wild and is a suitable place for a walk or a picnic. Here there are also sports fields and the city zoo, as well as a small gem: the Rose Garden. In summer, do not miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the thousands of roses in this garden, of all types and colors.

    But in this area we also find theHoyt Arboretum, a naturalistic area with 19 kilometers of paths among trees ranging from sequoia to yucca, from bamboo to magnolia. Here there is also a naturalistic center where it is possible to learn some curiosities about the environment.

    Forest Park
    Portland Japanese Garden

    In the northeastern area of ​​Portland it is located instead The Grotto. Immersed in the trees we find a sort of reproduction of the Grotto of Lourdes, which it welcomes a copy of the Pietà by Michelangelo. A spiritual place, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which can intrigue even those who do not have a religious interest. A few steps away is the The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights, a place to visit in the evening, when immersed in millions of colored lights it always feels like Christmas.

    In oriental style it is instead the Lan Su Garden, created to honor the twinning between Portland and the Chinese city Suzhou (the words Lan and Su refer to the names of the two cities and also mean respectively "orchid" and "rise" in Chinese). Orchids and lotus flowers, chrysanthemums and bamboo are some of the plants in this garden, where you can have tea in a Chinese-style teahouse.

    Another green area that recalls the East is the Japanese garden, which encompasses five different styles of Japanese gardens. A real gem where you can walk among streams and waterfalls. It also recalls the very central to Japan Tom McCall Waterfront Park: overlooking the river, it is ideal for a nice walk, especially in spring, when the cherry trees in bloom make it one of the most attractive places in the city. Portland is in fact also twinned with the Japanese city Sapporo and has a strong link with the Japanese archipelago.

    Getting around Portland

    If you are on a road trip, your car will take you almost anywhere in the city. But if you want to avoid traffic, or if you are without a car (Portland is perhaps the first or last stop of your trip and you don't have a rental car during your stay here), the By public transport they are not missing. The Metro company has a dense network of buses and trams to move around the city and its surroundings.

    But if you can, use your bicycle! Portland has won the title of most suitable city for two wheels in the whole of the United States. It is no coincidence that the service works very well here bike sharing and, especially in the summer, renting a bike to get around is a great idea.

    A means of transport to be taken also to make the visit to the city more complete is theAerial tram. This cable car connects the Southern Waterfront to Marquam Hill with a one kilometer ride and 150 meters of elevation gain. The ride is short (only three minutes), but it will allow you to have a good view of the city and to quickly climb the hill. Prices and timetables updated on the official website.

    Events in Portland

    If you are in Portland at a certain time of the year, your vacation can be enhanced by some event that takes place in those days. Here are some examples.

    • January. In the first month of the year you can choose between the Chocolate Fest, an event focused on cocoa and its derivatives, and the Portland International Auto Show, the great automobile exhibition that ranges from vintage to contemporary and futuristic models.
    • July. In the height of summer the Waterfront Blues Festival animates Tom McCall Waterfront Park with his music. The musical rhythms of the southern states flood the riverside, accompanied by numerous collateral events. Also in July the Portland Craft Beer Festival for craft beer lovers.
    • September. In Feast Portland Smoked numerous chefs from all over the world gather here to cook meat, fish and vegetables: all obviously smoked. Your palates will be spoiled for choice.
    • December. Since 1954 along the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the Christmas Ships Parades. Numerous illuminated boats parade along the two rivers, making the cold winter evenings truly suggestive. Many of these boats are also floating restaurants that you can dine on.

    Where to eat in Portland

    There is no shortage of restaurants in Portland and there is something for all tastes and budgets. But let's try to give some suggestions.

    • Voodoo donut (1501 NE Davis St. & 22 NW 3rd Ave.). Ever since you landed on American soil, do you feel a bit Homer Simpson and can't help but eat donuts for breakfast? Try one of the many varieties proposed or ask for your personalized donut!
    • Pine State Biscuit (2204 NE Alberta St.). For a quick but tasty lunch, with original sandwiches and different from the usual American burgers, try this place. The prices are affordable and you will have a different lunch than usual.
    • Portland Ciyou grill (111 5th Ave.). Located on the XNUMXth floor, this restaurant deserves not only for the good food, but also for the view it offers to diners. If the location is as important to you as the cuisine, this is the restaurant for you.

    Where sleeping in Portland

    Even for overnight stays the choice is vast, let's try to suggest some particular places and below the complete list.

    • McMenamin’s Kennedy School. What was once a school is now a hotel complete with restaurant, bar, swimming pool and even a cinema. On the walls you can see historical photos, the hotel also has a bicycle rental, ideal for visiting the city in all serenity.
    • Kimpton Riverplace Hotel. In the center, overlooking the river, this four-star hotel is not only very nice and welcoming, but also has a low environmental impact. Among other things, you can also rent bicycles here, immediately entering the riverside cycle path.
    • Lion and The Rose Victorian Guest House. Staying in a 1906 Victorian mansion certainly has its charm. Here you can breathe the classy air of the last century.

    All accommodations in Portland

    Shopping tips

    Portland is a very lively city and there is also an abundance of commercial activities, accompanied by side attractions. If you are looking for a large shopping center in the center, just to take a tour and buy something, go to the Pioneer Place (700 SW 5th Ave.) o al Washington Square Mall (9585 SW Washington Square Rd.). If you want to do something different, the Lloyd Center (2201 Lloyd Center) also houses an ice rink on which you can have fun.

    But you know, when visiting a city it is much more interesting to get lost among the little shops that make certain neighborhoods characteristic. This is the case with the North West / Nob Hill: Head to 23rd & 21st Ave. to stroll past Victorian-style homes lined with quirky boutiques. Or opt for the Pearl District, where shops alternate with art galleries.

    Excursions in the surroundings

    If you are in Portland for several days, you may be interested in doing one or more excursions in the surrounding area. So here are some tips for getting around in a short distance.

    • Willamette Valley. The valley, of which Portland occupies the northern end, is the most populated area in the state. There are numerous towns and two other major cities: Salem and Eugene. In particular, Salem is the capital of the state of Oregon and its main attraction is the capitol. A drive between these centers will allow you to cross a lush area full of waterways.
    • Multnomah Falls. Located about half an hour's drive from Portland, these Columbia River Falls have a drop of 189 meters and their location inside a gorge makes them particularly impressive. They are clearly visible from the Banson Bridge, which can be taken as a reference.
    • Mount Hood National Forest. Mount Hood, at 3429 meters, is the highest peak in Oregon. Around it develops a thick forest full of possibilities for outdoor activities. The reference point is Sandy, an hour and a half from Portland.
    • Mount St Helens. Also an hour and a half from Portland is this volcano, still active, full of panoramic points, some of which are easily accessible. It is now 2550 meters high, but its summit was higher before a strong explosive eruption caused it to lose the summit in 1980.
    • Costa dell’Oregon. There are many coastal locations to consider, both for a round trip from Portland, and as stops on an extended road trip. For this I recommend you read our article dedicated to the Oregon coast.
    add a comment from How to visit Portland, the "City of Bridges" in Oregon
    Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.