Essential Travel Guide to Portland, Oregon

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Portland really is exactly how you imagine it. It’s a sort of idyllic city with a bustling town center and peaceful surrounding neighborhoods, where environmentally locals hang out on the weekends, lots of independent shops and tons of coffee bars. It has a big city appeal, with a small city feel.

Portland Oregon
Portland Oregon

You won’t want to miss a chance to try Voodoo Doughnuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, and Pok Pok, one of the best Thai restaurants around.

Click to jump down to the bottom to see the infographic.

How to Get Around in Portland

It’s really very easy to get around in Portland, especially downtown, with the MAX light rail system.

It’s also a very walkable city, so you can get most places within the downtown core on foot.

When to Visit Portland

The best time to visit Portland, Oregon, is anytime the mood strikes you! It’s a great all-weather destination, without vast weather fluctuations.

It does rain quite often in the Pacific Northwest, so come prepared for a few sprinkles, no matter what time of year. Portland does occasionally get snow, as well.

What to Do in Portland

You can easily spend a full week or more hanging out in Portland and taking day trips to the surrounding areas, like the Willamette Valley wine region, Hood River area, and the Oregon coast. However, you can tackle the city itself in one to three days.

Expect to spend lots of time wandering around, stopping in to coffee shops, walking through beautiful parks, and gorging on incredible, fresh, seasonable food.

International Rose Test Garden
International Rose Test Garden

You’ll want to visit the International Rose Test Garden, the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. There are over 10,000 rose bushes and about 650 varieties. The roses bloom from April through October with the peak usually in June.

Portland is also home to the largest independent book store in the world. You may have heard about it. It’s called Powell’s Books and you can easily get lost in there for hours, even days. There are multiple locations throughout the city.

Powell's Books

OMSI (Oregon State Museum of Science & Industry) is another favorite among visitors with kids. The museum focuses on making science fun and often has hands-on exhibits and interesting traveling exhibits that the kids will love.

In the city, there is also a Japanese Garden and a Chinese Garden that are lovely.

Just outside the city, you’ll want to save time for these destinations:

  • Multnomah Falls
  • Columbia Gorge
  • Mount Hood
  • Hiking in Forest Park

Foodie Things to Do

Portland is well known as a foodie hot spot, for many reasons. The coffee shops (Stumptown Coffee) are pretty amazing, as is the much loved VooDoo Doughnuts, where you’ll find a plethora of unique and interesting doughnuts.

And don’t forget that Portland is a major craft beer epicenter for the Northwest. Deschutes Brewery is one of our favorite places to eat and drink in Portland. Ninkasi and Full Sail, plus Rogue, Gigantic Brewing, Back Pedal Brewing, and Base Camp Brewing. Okay, listen, there are TONS of great breweries in Portland.

Deschutes Brewing tasting tray
Deschutes Brewing tasting tray (photo via Flickr by Demis Gallisto)

Where to Eat in Portland

There are so many amazing restaurants in Portland. Each neighborhood has its own plethora of good eats. It’s impossible to give just a short list. But we’ve managed to cull our list to the essential must eats when visiting Portland. I hope your stomach is ready for this!

  • Pok Pok for Vietnamese chicken wings
  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai
  • Ox for Bone Marrow Clam Chowder
  • Hat Yai for Shallot Fried Chicken
  • Lardo for sandwiches
  • Matt’s BBQ or Bark City BBQ
  • Maurice for French/Scandinavian
  • Nacheaux for huge brunch wraps
  • Salt & Straw Ice Cream
  • Voodoo Doughtnuts & Blue Star Donuts
Voodoo Doughnuts

Recommended Tours in Portland

Here are a few of our favorite tours to take when in Portland. These tours are sort of a “done-for-you” option that can be a great way to see a lot without having to do all that planning yourself. It’s always a good idea to pre-book the popular tours. They sell out fast.

Where to Stay in Portland, Oregon

Because it’s so easy to walk around in the downtown core in Portland, we recommend staying near by, so you don’t need to have a car. Portland is best explored by foot. Staying downtown also allows you to easily get on the MAX light rail to get to other parts of the city, in case you want to explore further afield.

There is no lack of restaurants, bars, street food vendors, etc… what ever you’re looking for, you’ll find it downtown.

Affordable Luxury Hotels

Kimpton Hotel Monaco

4.5-star luxury hotel in downtown Portland, with unique and creative decor.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

Kimpton Hotel Vintage

Creatively designed 4.5-star hotel with a restaurant, just a block from Pioneer Square.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

The Nines Hotel

5-star luxury hotel with 2 restaurants, a billiards room and 24-hour fitness center.

Read Reviews | Book a Stay

Essential Travel Guide to Portland, Oregon

Portland Essential Travel Guide

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Portland Oregon travel guide

Check out this great 3-day Portland weekend itinerary.

Essential Travel Guide to Portland, Oregon

29 thoughts on “Essential Travel Guide to Portland, Oregon

  1. Janna says:

    Love all the suggestions especially on the food and beverage side of things as that’s my main attraction to cities, triple D and you gotta eat here are my addiction, and Portland has been on my list for a while. I think I just found my next road trip to the states once the dollar gets better.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      That’s my main attraction to a city too, so I’m always on the lookout for great places. I think you’ll love it in Portland if you make it there.

  2. Erica says:

    Ahhh this is great! I wanna go on a trip here when we go home to California possibly the end of this year. I’ve heard so much great things about Portland!! The food! The culture! I CAN’T not go.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Very true, you can’t NOT! The city is great and has so much to offer, but so does the surrounding area. Wineries, great hikes, beautiful scenery!

  3. Sabine says:

    Great infographic!! I’m amazing of how many foodtrucks there are in Portland, wow, over 600!! I need to go there 🙂

  4. Dannielle Lily says:

    Really great infographic, you’ve managed to include so much info. Will come back to this if I ever get to Oregon 🙂

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Dannielle – you should definitely make it to Oregon. So many great things here – the coast, the mountains, Portland…

  5. Natasha Amar says:

    I have heard about the food trucks in Portland- whenever I make it there, that is what I’d most look forward to!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      The best part is that they congregate in pods around the city so you don’t have to chase them down and you can try a bunch at once.

  6. Elena says:

    I’ve been meeting so many travallers from Portland lately and they all always say you have to visit it, it is so different! I lived and travelled in the US for almost 2 years but never made it there…regret it now..so much to see and do!

  7. Anne | Girl Chasing Sunshine says:

    This goes into my Bookmarks! Looks like you had a grand time putting together this very informative travel guide about Portland. What exactly is a voodoo doughnut?! *Off to Google!*

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Anne, did you find out about the Voodoo Doughnuts? They have quite a cult following in Portland – especially the maple bar with bacon.

  8. Nic from Roaming Renegades says:

    This is so great, I never really knew much about Portland but an couple of american girls we recently shared a dorm with were raving about it. Looks like a cool place to explore! Love how we can just save this info graphic too and take it with us if we go!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      It’s a fun city because of it’s alternative nature. If you watch Portlandia, they pretty much nail it.

  9. Courtney Sambuceto says:

    WOW! I was honestly really happy to find this very well put together post! I have traveled all over the country and Oregon in general is one of my favorite places…thank goodness I live here :)~ For those that haven’t been through Portland, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?? Thank you for posting this, I truly appreciated it. FYI – I, like you, LOVE sharing this beautiful state, and everything there is to enjoy about Oregon. I have created a really awesome Resource Guide that took me quite a bit of effort and thought to put together. I am sharing it with anyone that wants to either get “Discover” or simply “Broaden” their Oregon Horizons!! I would love it if you could continue to share this with YOUR followers 😉 I am always looking to expand my own blog, and if you would like to share more of your postings with MY followers, please don’t hesitate to contact me. courtneysambuceto@gmail.com | 503-381-7868 | DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE RESOURCE GUIDE BY CLICKING HERE —> http://www.courtneysambucetorealestate.com/free-portland-resource-guide

  10. Melody Goad says:

    Hello! I am from the Portland area and this is a cool shortlist of places to do and see in the Portland area, love it! One quick thing, it is OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), not OMNI. Also, not that I don’t love Voodoo doughnuts but if you want a better doughnut, in my humble opinion, and want to avoid the LONG lines, go to a Blue Star Doughnut, really amazing doughnuts and when it is not peak hours there is rarely a line. If you do go to Voodoo doughnuts bring cash, they are CASH ONLY! Also, Ruby Jewel Ice Cream is a must! If you are looking for some amazing Italian go to Piazza Italia but make reservations, even for lunch! Also, Portland is the city of Roses, so the International Rose Test Garden is a must see! I hope your audience finds this little expansion helpful!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Oh, thank you Melody! You’re absolutely right, I typoed OMSI! Great recommendations. Thank you for adding to the wonderful things to do in Portland.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes. M. OMSI! And the other VooDoo is quicker.(Except the wait in the heart of the homeless district is part of the fun I guess.) Cute list!

  11. Kathleen Tracy says:

    A must try food cart – on 10th and SW Alder – Caspian Kabob! It was voted one of the best in the city. Delicious meat or veggie kabobs, saffron rice, tomato & cuke salad with a fresh oil and lemon dressing. Food is fabulous and so are the prices. I go to Portland a couple times a year and always stop to say hi to Victor and have some of his delicious food!

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