Portland has a problem: It has no landmark. No landmark that characterizes the skyline – like the other big players on the American West Coast.
Seattle has the Space Needle, San Francisco the Golden Gate Bridge, Los Angeles the Hollywood sign, and even little Santa Monica has a distinctive postcard motif with its amusement park on the beach promenade. But Portland…
Portland has – apart from the twelve bridges spanning the Willamette River – no landmark. But, all clear: It doesn’t need one. It gets along without this symbolism.
Because the largest city in the US state of Oregon is as alive, and even if it doesn’t have THAT one highlight, there are still many beautiful corners to discover in Portland, which makes the city unique and lovable.
My 11 favorite places and many more Portland tips are presented in this article.
There are more books at Powell’s than in any other independent bookstore in the world. The book giant covers an entire block in the Pearl District – on several floors.
Bookworms can find both new and used books from a selection of about one million books. There’s Powell’s merchandise, magazines, souvenirs, notebooks, postcards, the world’s best-salted caramels, and much more.
Also, there is the Rare Book Room, which offers collectibles, the Espresso Book Machine for self-publishers, and regular readings and events with authors, artists, and philosophers.
Japanese Garden & Rose Test Garden
Its reputation precedes it: the Japanese Garden of Portland is known as one of the most authentic gardens outside Japan. One thing is sure: the park is worth a visit at any time of the year, and even in winter, it exudes exceptional magic when its mossy tree trunks and stones give it a mystical atmosphere.
There is a Japanese teahouse, winding waterways and paths, Zen gardens, and a good view of Portland’s local mountain, Mount Hood.
Next door, the International Rose Test Garden attracts flower lovers. About 550 different varieties and more than 8000 plants can be admired on the grounds. The best time to visit the Rosarium is from May to September.
Forest Park & Pittock Mansion
Forest Park in the northwest of the city is not only Portland’s most beautiful park but also one of the most extensive city forests in the USA. Nature lovers will find almost 130 kilometers of hiking trails on the more than 2000 hectare large area as well as viewpoints over the city and the Willamette River.
The view from Pittock Mansion, a Renaissance-style castle open to visitors, is uniquely beautiful.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
In Portland, people value coffee – preferably fairly and directly traded and roasted on-site.
There are roasting plants in every part of town; 40 in all. Pioneers of this coffee culture are the Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which have expanded and can also be found in New York, Seattle, or Los Angeles.
Salt & Straw
Salt and straw – huh? Well, they’re not all that crazy, but Portland’s favorite ice cream goes beyond the boundaries of traditional ice cream flavor. At Salt & Straw, you’ll find varieties like honey-lavender, pear-blue cheese, strawberry-honey-balsamic with black pepper, olive oil, or chocolate-lemongrass curry.
It is always possible to try before. Responsible for the creations are founder Kim and her cousin Tyler, who now run three stores in Portland. But the ice cream from Oregon is also available in Los Angeles – and soon, a branch will open in San Francisco.
People eat what comes onto the street – and preferably on food carts. More than 500 of them are in the entire city area, and the residents prefer to get their lunch there.
In almost every district, there is a collection of trucks in which people cut, roll, grill, bake, fry, deep-fry, or serve. They take on the role of superior food courts and help just about anything you can imagine – from vegan and gluten-free muffins to quesadillas, burgers, ramen, and pho, to wine, beer and green smoothies.
Multnomah Whiskey Library
From the outside, the Multnomah Whiskey Library appears inconspicuous. No lettering or sign indicates that there is a bar on the first floor of the building at 1124 SW Alder Street, which offers an almost endless collection of high-proof whiskey and whiskey.
A total of more than 1500 different varieties from all over the world are on the ceiling-high shelves. If you don’t want to try them straight, cocktails are also available. These are mixed – very stylishly and with a skilled hand – on the bar trolley directly at the table.
Teutonic Wine Company
Black Sabbath with Pinot, The Wipers with Riesling: Barnaby Tuttle doesn’t serve his wines with a suitable meal but to music. “There’s something so intimidating about wine. No one feels intimidated when they order a beer. With wine, unfortunately, things are often different,” he says.
He wants to counteract this. The Moselle and mature inspire his wines in wooden barrels behind the small shop in Portland, where heavy metal is always played as background music. “The music also attracts hard rockers who might not have come otherwise,” says the former punk musician.
Holy yeast pastry! Voodoo Doughnut is just a typical donut shop – with a strikingly shrill interior and a slightly creepy display. The voodoo doll donut is famous: a dough man, covered with chocolate, filled with raspberry jam, and a piece of salt stuck in the magnificent doll body instead of a needle.
Whether this is meant as a damage spell, to heal diseases, or to eat, it remains to be seen. Hardcore fans can even legally marry under the holy donut at Voodoo Doughnut. Instead of a wedding cake, there are then – how could it be otherwise – donuts.
With the Portland Museum of Art, the city houses the oldest art museum in the Northwest of the USA.
Eighteen thousand works from Warhol to Monet can be admired in the worth seeing the permanent exhibition.
The tremendous creative potential of Portland is evident in the museums and galleries, but already on the streets. Large-format murals can be found in every part of the city – in backyards, parking lots, or on the fronts of private houses.
Most street art is located in the Alberta, Belmont, Hawthorne, Central Eastside, and Mississippi districts. The Portland Street Art Alliance lists the best murals.
Crystal Ballroom & Mississippi Studios
Portland has a very vibrant music scene – if you’re looking for live music, you’ll find it, whether it’s during the week or on weekends. There is a wide selection of venues to choose from.
McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom and the Mississippi Studios are among the most popular.
Talents, bands, and solo artists from Oregon are regular guests there. The live music guide helps visitors find their way around.
Many musicians are at home in Portland, including The Decemberists, Blind Pilot, Modest Mouse, and Pink Martini.
Another one is currently causing quite a stir in the USA: Joseph is the name of the three sisters from Oregon, who surprise with intelligent lyrics and a mixture of folk and indie, and who will appear at the Coachella Festival for the first time in 2017.
I met two of them, the twins Meegan and Allison, in Portland for an interview and talked to them about brotherly love, honesty, and gas station food.