15 best things to do in Portland, Oregon

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By David Em
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Portland is known as a hipster city that offers beautiful views of Mount Hood, the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

High-rise buildings, bridge, and mountain in Portland, Oregon.

1. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden

Waterfall and pond at Portland Japanese Garden.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Address: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205

Portland Japanese Garden is an iconic part of Portland, Oregon. It’s located in Washington Park and sits in the hills, which offers peaceful scenery overlooking the city.

It was designed in 1963, has 8 different garden styles, and covers 12 acres of land. The Japanese Tea House is a must-see because you’ll catch a beautiful view of Mount Hood.

2. Check out Powell’s City of Books

View of Powell's City of Books from the street.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209

Powell’s Books is a bookstore chain in Portland, and it’s also the largest independent bookstore in the world. Powell’s City of Books is the most famous location, as it covers an entire city block and has approximately one million books.

When you visit, plan on spending at least an hour there. You’ll find vintage and rare books while being able to enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe or find something from the gift shop.

3. Visit Pittock Mansion

Exterior of Pittock Mansion with trees surrounding it.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Address: 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR 97210

Pittock Mansion is a French Renaissance style chateau that was built in 1914 and saved by the citizens and city of Portland in 1962 after it was hit by the Columbus Day storm.

It’s a historic house museum that tells the story of Portland’s transition from a pioneer town to a modern, industrial city. You’ll also find panoramic views of Portland, the Willamette River, and the Cascade Mountains in the distance.

4. Smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden

Field of roses with trees in the background.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Address: 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205

Since Portland is known as The City of Roses or Rose City, you need to visit the International Rose Test Garden. It’s located in Washington Park and has more than 8,000 stunning roses.

It’s also the oldest official and continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. The garden is free to visit, and the perfect place to spend for great scenery and scents.

5. Hike to Witch’s Castle

An old stone building in a forest called Witch's Castle.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Address: Lower Macleay Trail, Portland, OR 97210

The official name for Witch’s Castle is Stone House. When you’re hiking there, that’s what the trail markers will read. It’s an old stone building surrounded by trees and sits on land that Danford Balch claimed in 1850.

Long story short, Danford Balch hired Mortimer Stump to help clear the area to build his home. Stump moved in with the Balch family and fell in love with Balch’s daughter, Anna.

Balch was against it, so Mortimer and Anna fled to Vancouver to get eloped. When they returned to Portland, Danford was waiting and shot Mortimer. Later, Balch was hung for committing murder.

6. Visit Lan Su Chinese Garden

Empty Pagoda Temple at Lan Se Chinese Garden in Portland.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Address: 239 NW Everett St, Portland, OR 97209

Lan Su Chinese Garden is a beautiful and tranquil botanical garden. The experience is based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition that melds art, architecture, design, and nature in perfect harmony.

Aside from the garden itself, be sure to check out the shop and Tao of Tea Teahouse.

7. Tour Willamette Valley

Field at Willamette Valley.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Willamette Valley is a 150-mile long valley in Oregon that’s home to two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards. It’s known for its world-class Pinot Noir.

Willamette Valley Tour offers a seven to eight-hour tour from Portland where you’ll visit four wineries in the Willamette Valley and taste the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

8. Have an elegant meal at Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar

Address: 1204 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Paley’s Place was established by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley, who left New York City for Portland. It’s an upscale and intimate spot located in a Victorian House and is perfect for a delicious blend of French and Pacific Northwest cuisine. Paley’s is a must-visit for a romantic or business dinner and wine.

9. Eat pastries at Maurice

Address: 921 SW Oak St, Portland, OR 97205

Maurice is a small French cafe in the heart of downtown Portland. Make sure you stop by late in the morning for wonderful pastries with excellent presentation.

10. Eat at Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai

Doughnuts on an oval plate at Pip's Original Doughnuts in Portland.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Address: 4759 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR 97213

Everyone knows about Voodoo, and you certainly should visit it if you have the desire. However, you also need to go to Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai because they offer a delicious donut and chai experience.

11. Go to the Portland Saturday Market

Group of people at the Portland Saturday Market.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Address: 2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204

The Portland Saturday Market is a large outdoor art and crafts market located in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. You’ll get great views of the water, plenty of food carts, unique products, and vendors.

12. Visit the Portland Art Museum

Address: 1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205

The Portland Art Museum has Asian and Native American art, along with modern and contemporary collections. It was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest art museums on the West Coast.

13. Go to the Oregon Zoo

Elephant in the water at Oregon Zoo.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Zoo.

Address: 4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221

On 64 acres in the West Hills of Portland is the Oregon Zoo. It’s a top-rated zoo that was founded in 1888 making it the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi River.

Each year, more than 1.5 million people visit the Oregon Zoo because of its focus on animal welfare, conservation, and excellent location.

14. Check out Breakside Brewery

People inside Breakside Brewery.
Photo courtesy of Breakside Brewery.

Address: 820 NE Dekum St, Portland, OR 97211

Breakside Brewery is an excellent and easygoing brewpub. You can enjoy a world-class beer while enjoying a great meal. The servers are friendly, giving it a good atmostphere.

15. Walk across Tilikum Crossing Bridge

People walking and a light rail on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Address: Tilikum Crossing, Portland, OR 97201

Tilikum Crossing Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge and the largest car-free bridge in the United States. Although it was designed for passengers of the MAX Orange Line light rail, it’s a fun walk over the Willamette River.

On a beautiful day, it’ll get busy. That’s why you should go as early as you can. You’ll have the space to take photos and enjoy the crisp morning air.

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Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Portrait of David Em.

About David Em

David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Travel, the destination for travel advice and inspiration. He launched Nola & Luna Travel to share expert advice, useful tips, unbiased reviews, and inspiration about destinations across the globe.