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Exploring Portland, Oregon’s top tourist neighbourhoods
Read time: 4 mins
A haven for both creative-creatures and nature-lovers, Oregon’s largest city, Portland, is split in five quadrants: the trendy and diverse Northeast; the colourful, brewery-bursting Southeast; the gallery-abounding Northwest; the food-cart filled Southwest; and the beautifully landscaped North Portland.
Trendy travellers will love all five of these fashionable quadrants, where at every corner turned and street traversed there is a neighbourhood overflowing with vibrant culture combined with effortless charm. Explore countless galleries, home-grown breweries, picturesque parks, irresistible restaurants, bustling bars, edgy clubs and enchanting theatres, all on foot, or via the city’s notoriously accessible public transport systems.
Portland is undoubtably an urban oasis and with eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable schemes, the locals intend to keep it that way. Of the 600 food-carts and eateries dotted around Portland’s many neighbourhoods, at least 50 of these are vegan, whilst further fresh and local produce is provided at numerous food markets. All of this combines to give Portland a status wherein it boasts some of the best street-food in the world, rivalling even the finest of restaurants.
Though Autumn through to Spring the weather may be overcast and wet, with so many galleries and eateries to escape to across Portland, the weather is no issue. From May, however, when the weather turns warm and dry, Portland’s array of parks, food-carts and festivals are hot-spots you don’t want to miss. So, whether you are travelling solo or in a group, you can guarantee that in this ever-evolving city there are always new things to be seen and new foods to be tried. With so much to choose from, we have picked out some of the best opportunities to ensure you make the most out of your time in this thriving city.
The Five Quadrants
A merging of the modern and vintage, Lloyd District is an urban hub of commercial opportunities where everything you need is at your fingertips.
Recently remodelled, the Lloyd Center is Oregon’s largest mall, boasting more than just shops, with an ice-skating rink, ten cinemas and numerous eateries. Unlike the majority of Portland, which is made up of unique boutiques and one-off restaurants and food-carts, the Lloyd Center is home to all your favourite American go-tos.
If contemporary art is your thing you won’t want to miss a visit to the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), where performances, exhibitions, lectures, workshops and festivals combine to create a central hub for the best modern art.
Whilst Lloyd is bursting with dining options, for local and organic food we recommend lunching at Blooming Lotus. This is your best bet for flavoursome gluten and soy-free dishes that are a fusion of cuisines from across the world, along with locally sourced beers.
Alberta Arts District
As its name suggests, this Portland neighbourhood is renowned for all things arty, that includes galleries, street fairs, curiosity shops, and innovative eateries. However, it is best famed for Last Thursday, its colourful monthly street fair. This traffic-stopping summertime showcase features local musicians, artists, dancers and acrobats, culminating in a truly electric feast for the eyes, and ears.
For something truly unique, visit Guardino Gallery where new exhibitions are curated every month. Paintings, sculptures and illustrations from local artists are sure to inspire your creative side.
If you are on the search for a souvenir to mark your travels, you are sure to find something whacky in one of Alberta’s many unique shops. Stop in at Frock for one-off clothing and accessories, or Ampersand Gallery for distinctive pieces of art and must-have design books.
All this cultural enrichment is sure to whet your appetite, so why not take a gentle stroll over to Back to Eden Bakery where you will find yourself in a patisserie paradise with gluten-free and vegan delicacies including chocolate root beer doughnuts and passion fruit cardamom cupcakes.
The rugged, industrialised atmosphere that used to overwhelm Central Eastside is slowly wearing away as more and more craftspeople bring colour and culture to the district with its now muralled walls, buzzing breweries and world’s first all vegan mini-mall.
Portland is said to be the city with the most craft breweries in the whole world, and eight of them are here in Central Eastside. For a sweet s’more inspired beverage visit Base Camp Brewing Company; for a sensationally sour stout check out Cascade Brewing Barrel House; or for a gluten-free revelation, head to Ground Breaker Brewing where barley, wheat and rye are replaced with chestnuts and lentils.
If you are looking for some top-class live entertainment, Revolution Hall, previously a landmark High School, has recently become one of Portland’s most highly-esteemed venues. Boasting 830-seats, this charming venue guarantees an exceptional viewing of music, comedy and lectures alike.
For a more intimate evening of entertainment, bag yourself one of the 275-seats at Helium Comedy Club where popular comedians from across the world will have you laughing the night away.
The art-scene is especially rich in Pearl District with the most galleries in the city. With so many to choose from, we recommend Froelick Gallery for an array of contemporary art that spans a variety of forms, genres and styles. Alternatively, visit Augen Gallery where you may spot prints and paintings you know from well-known creators. Or, if photography is your thing, Blue Sky Gallery, also known as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts, is the place to go. For a gallery experience that is a bit different, head to Northwest 13th Avenue in the evening of the first Thursday of the month for an enchanting walk through three blocks worth of art exhibitions.
Pearl District is also home to the world’s largest bookstore, Powell’s City of Books. This iconic establishment that spans an entire city block is brimming with new and used books.
Portland is renowned for its unbeatable food-carts, and Downtown’s Alder food-cart pod is a particularly prime location for those instant street-food snacks.
Traversing a whole block, you will be undeniably spoilt for choice with the many tantalising options abounding here from Asian, Indian, Thai and even Egyptian flavours. Once you have made the impossible choice, we recommend heading to Waterfront Park for a serene picnic or Pioneer Courthouse Square, a popular location where you will find flowing fountains, stunning flower displays, and up to 300 events a year including concerts and film-nights.
For more culinary treasures, visit the Saturday Famers’ Market, where 140 stalls overflowing with fresh produce make up the city’s largest outdoor grocery market.
5. North Portland
Along with the plethora of shops, restaurants, bars and galleries making Portland an unlimited urban hub, you may be surprised to learn that this city is also home to the largest quantity of parks in the country. One of the best is in North Portland, in the quietly flourishing neighbourhood, St Johns. Underneath the suspension bridge that spans St Johns you will find Cathedral Park where momentous stone cathedral arches surrounded by verdant trees and expansive greenspace make for a heavenly walk and even a popular outdoor venue for weddings. Every summer since 1981 locals and tourists alike have come together here to enjoy the free Cathedral Park Jazz Festival.
When hunger strikes, a visit to Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ will satisfy any cravings for those classic meaty flavours that you may love but struggle to justify eating. Vegan or not, this eatery offers hearty meals for all, with plant-based versions of stakes, ribs, macaroni cheese, fish and chips and more.