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The Portland Aerial Tram approaching the station for docking | © Ian Sane / Flickr
The Portland Aerial Tram approaching the station for docking | © Ian Sane / Flickr

20 Must-Visit Attractions in Portland, Oregon

Picture of Alexia Wulff
Updated: 31 January 2017

Portland may be the city of weird. But it’s also an epicenter for craft beer, coffeehouses, theater, arts, and music. Plus, it’s home to one of the best culinary scenes in America – restaurants and food carts running the gamut from Guamanian to Indian cuisine. And thanks to its eco-friendly residents, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is preserved with verdant forests, rivers, and sprawling parks located across the city.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden is a lush green wonderland nestled in the heart of Portland. The garden – considered to be the most authentic of types outside of China – offers things like tea, “story time,” calligraphy demonstrations, and Tai Chi for those in search of some inner zen.

Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St, Portland, OR, USA+1 503 228 8131

Portland Saturday Market

Every weekend from March through Christmas Eve, over 350 local artisans, photographers, jewelry makers, vendors, and food carts take to the streets of historic Old Town for the largest continually operating outdoor arts and crafts market in America. Established in 1974, Portland Saturday Market highlights all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, including exotic foods, live music, and handmade wares.

Portland Saturday Market, 2 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 241 4188

Portland Art Museum

Founded in 1892, Portland Art Museum is the oldest museum in the Pacific Northwest (and the seventh oldest in the U.S.). The museum is known for its variety of collections, including Asian, American, Native American, and graphic art, and houses more than 42,000 objects across its 112,000 square feet (10,405 square meters) of space – with 90 percent of the gallery dedicated to its world-renowned permanent collection.

Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 226 2811

Powell’s City of Books

Powell’s is an iconic Portland landmark, with rows of new, used, eclectic, rare, and out-of-print books spanning a multi-level building that occupies an entire city block. And despite the downturn of brick-and-mortar bookstores, Powell’s has maintained its stature amongst Portlanders (thanks to the city’s burgeoning love for books).

Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR, USA, +1 800 878 7323

Voodoo Doughnut

There is no doubt that Portland loves its doughnuts. And while artisanal doughnut shops are aplenty, Voodoo must be visited at least once – that’s if you can look past the line that usually gathers outside its doors. Inside this quirky space, find creative doughnuts such as the Memphis Mafia – banana, cinnamon, chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips – or the Bubble Doughnut topped with bubble gum dust and a piece of bubble gum.

Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR, USA+1 503 241 4704

Portland Japanese Garden

Influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies, Portland Japanese Garden fuses stone, water, and plants to create a center for peace and tranquility. Venture into one of the five gardens – flat, strolling pond, tea, natural, and sand and stone – located on five and a half acres of land; the garden also features a teahouse, cultural festivals and events, workshops, and mountain views.

Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 223 1321

Portland Food Carts

You can’t say you’ve been to Portland without visiting the city’s famed food carts (locally known as “pods”). There are over 500 pods in the city dishing out everything from Texas-style barbecue to Hainanese-style poached chicken and rice. In the mood for Guam-style shrimp fritters? What about Nyonya-style curry soup? If you can dream it, Portland has it.

Washington Park

While most urban sprawls are wrought with cement and towering structures, this city sticks to its Pacific Northwest roots: trees, plant life, hiking trails, and vast stretches of natural scenery. And Washington Park, with 15 miles (24.1 kilometers) of trails, a zoo, rose garden, arboretum, museums, and Japanese garden, is Portland’s centerpiece for connecting with nature.

Washington Park, 4001 Southwest Canyon Road, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 2525

The Grotto

The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother – commonly referred to as The Grotto – is a Catholic outdoor shrine tucked into Portland’s Madison South hood. But this isn’t just a place for worship; The Grotto is frequently visited for its tranquil botanical gardens, a sanctuary for finding a piece of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. Also on the grounds: a monastery, Meditation Center, and a 1943 red chapel with several Madonna reproduction paintings from around the world.

The Grotto, 8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 254 7371

St. Johns Bridge

This bridge, which connects St. Johns and Linnton, is the oldest bridge in Portland, officially opening in 1931. And it’s also the tallest, rising over 400 feet (121.9 meters) into the air. Its teal color can be seen from miles away as it stretches 2,000 feet (609.6 meters) across the Willamette River – the perfect backdrop for a Portland photo op.

St. Johns Bridge, 8600 NW Bridge Ave, Portland, OR, USA

Forest Park

At 5,151 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the nation. Just west of downtown Portland, this wooded area is intersected by trails for hiking and biking – some even run as long as 30 miles (48.2 kilometers). And with its residents predominantly advocates for the preservation of nature, it’s no surprise that this little gem exists.

Forest Park, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 4492

Public Domain/Pixabay

Forested area in Portland | Pixabay

Portland Breweries

Portland is as much of an epicenter for food enthusiasts as it is a city for beer lovers. Going strong since the 1980s, Portland’s craft beer scene has gained so much traction that it’s earned itself the nickname “Beervana.” In Portland alone, there are over 70 breweries – and counting – with local brewers pioneering the movement with Oregon-grown hops and Pacific Northwest water. A slew of brewpubs can be found around the city alongside year-round beer events.

Portland Aerial Tram

There’s no better way to see Portland and all of its splendors than on the Portland Aerial Tram. Jump on the gondola in South Waterfront, and revel in the panoramic city views as the tramway ascends into the clouds on Marquam Hill. On a clear day, views can stretch as far as Mount St. Helens.

Portland Aerial Tram, 3303 SW Bond Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 494 8283

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Running along the banks of the Willamette River are 30 acres of grassy knolls, paved paths, and prime parklands known as the Waterfront Park. A popular route for bikers and runners, the riverfront provides ample opportunities for riverside walks and picnicking – there are even fountains for the kids to play in.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, NW Glisan St, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 7529

International Rose Test Garden

The City of Roses is the official moniker for Portland, and for good reason. Out of love for the pulchritudinous flower, Portland Rose Society was born; a few years later, in 1905, Portland held its first Festival of Roses. The International Rose Test Garden has been upholding the city’s reputation since 1917, with more than 10,000 manicured rose plants of over 550 varieties.

International Rose Test Garden, 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 3636

Keep Portland Weird Sign

Keep Portland Weird. Although the city is known for its quirky residents and oddball culture, Portlanders have embraced it – some locals would say this is the unofficial city motto. Find the sign on 3rd Street between Burnside and Ankeny.

Keep Portland Weird Sign, Portland, OR, USA

Columbia River Gorge

A short drive from Portland, discover one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: the Columbia River Gorge. Marked by massive, steep canyon walls that contain the Columbia River, panoramic views are unparalleled, stretching as far as Washington. Along the Historic Columbia River Highway, find dozens of waterfalls and life-altering nature hikes: Multnomah Falls, Horsetail, Ponytail, and Bridal Veil.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Cascade Locks, OR, USA, +1 541 308 1700

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Affectionately known as the city’s “living room,” Pioneer Courthouse Square is a public space that plays host to year-round events for the community, such as the Portland Brain Tumor Walk and Food Truck February. The space occupies an entire city block (40,000 square feet or 3,716 square meters), opening in 1984; its history, however, is deeply rooted in Portland’s beginnings, with the block first purchased in 1849 by a shoemaker for 24 dollars and a pair of boots.

Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 223 1613

Pioneer Courthouse Square | © Shutterstock

Pioneer Courthouse Square | © Shutterstock

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Get into science at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – one of the best science centers in America. OMSI has 200 interactive exhibits and activities for all ages, eight labs, rotating shows, submarine tours, a theater, a motion simulator, a planetarium, and a museum with more than 20 events monthly.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 797 4000

OMSI | © Shutterstock

OMSI | © Shutterstock

Pittock Mansion

Pittock Mansion is filled with a wealth of history, built in 1914 for one of Oregon’s richest families, publisher Henry Pittock and his wife Georgiana Pittock – the founder of the Portland Rose Society. Take a tour of the 46-acre estate and inside the century-old home. But don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the city below – this is considered one of the best views in all of Portland.

Pittock Mansion, 3229 NW Pittock Dr, Portland, OR, USA, +1 503 823 3623

Pittock Mansion | © Shutterstock

Pittock Mansion | © Shutterstock