If Portland, Oregon, is the homeland of hipsters everywhere, Downtown Portland is the capital. Filled with artsy boutiques, galleries, and eateries, Portland’s city center offers a quintessential Portlandia experience. Whether you’re in town for the day, the weekend, or even longer, there are plenty of great things to see, do, and eat in Downtown Portland.
From the gorgeous green and blue of South Waterfront Park to sipping new favorites at Multnomah Whiskey Library to getting your fill of culture at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, any stay in Downtown Portland will be special.
Not sure where to start with your adventure in Downtown Portland? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered with this complete guide to all the best places to visit, eat, and stay. Read on and get excited to plan your trip!
What to see & do in Downtown Portland
Portland Art Museum
Art and culture run deep in Portland, especially Downtown. Open since 1892, Portland Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums on the whole West Coast. Filled with a mix of cultural exhibits, mixed media, and film, the Portland Art Museum is a diverse place to spend a few hours.
With a ton of touring temporary exhibits as well as some classic, permanent favorites to explore, each visit to the Portland Art Museum offers something new and exciting. This popular Portland museum is dedicated to educating its visitors while also opening up and offering perspectives from different cultures; it’s an enlightening and poignant experience.
It’s worth mentioning that the Portland Art Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays; tailor your Portland itinerary accordingly.
Pioneer Courthouse Square
If you’re looking for a spot to sit and soak up the unique atmosphere of Downtown Portland, Pioneer Courthouse Square should be top of your list. Known as the “Living Room of Portland,” the square gets its name from the courthouse flanking its side. Pioneer Courthouse Square has welcomed visitors and locals alike since 1984 and is a staple of Downtown Portland and one of Portland’s must-visit attractions.
Spanning a massive 40,000 square feet and featuring open-air auditorium-style seating, Pioneer Courthouse Square is the ideal place to people-watch or enjoy a spot of lunch. It’s pretty common to find people chowing down in the square after visiting one of the many popular food trucks that set up shop in this area.
Pioneer Courthouse Square also plays host to events throughout the year, including concerts, peaceful protests and rallies, educational fairs, and dance classes. Have a look at the events calendar here to see what’s on during your visit.
Mill Ends Park
When you say the word park, you normally think of an expansive green lawn, maybe a lake, or possibly a jungle gym for the kiddos. Not in Downtown Portland. Here, you can find Mill Ends Park, a park that spans 452 square inches. That’s right: Not feet, inches.
This tiny park has fast become a favorite tourist attraction, with many people wandering the streets in search of it. Featuring just one tree and being located in the middle of the SW Naito Parkway, Mill Ends Park is not easy to spot. In fact, it’s billed as the world’s smallest park. (They sure do like to keep things weird in Portland!)
You can now cycle to Mills End Park, as it’s been moved a couple of inches to make way for a new cycle path that flows through much of Downtown Portland. Be sure to take time to bike, walk, or rollerblade to the tiniest landmark in the whole city!
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
If you love music, historic buildings, or architecture and design, then a visit to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall should be on your Downtown Portland itinerary. As one of the last remaining theatres on Broadway, it’s a hub of culture. From the Italian Rococo style architecture to the ornate orchestra pit, the building is a work of art.
Showcasing everything from classical music to film to jazz to conferences and even weddings, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is a versatile and welcoming events space. Whatever your eclectic music preference, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is bound to have a performance that’ll inspire, educate, or excite you.
You can peruse their full calendar of events here to see what’s on while you’re in Downtown Portland.
Keller Fountain Park
Need to spend some time out in nature but don’t want to leave the Downtown area? On Third Avenue, you’ll find the oasis that is Keller Fountain Park. Despite spanning less than an acre, this city park is hugely popular with both visitors and locals.
Especially on hot days, the many fountains that give Keller Fountain Park its name offer a respite from the summer sun. Dip your toe, or wade on in, as some areas are deep enough to swim in. If you want to stay dry, sit on the side and watch the goings-on with a cup of coffee.
The architecture of the fountains was designed to bring to mind the natural waterfalls that are prevalent all over Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a curious spot that’s simultaneously relaxing and exciting, with friends gathering around the water and playing music.
South Waterfront Park
If you want to check out a slightly bigger park, wander down to the riverfront. Here, you’ll find the beautiful South Waterfront Park, combining both green and blue calming spaces. Spanning 4.52 acres, the park offers visitors plenty of room to roam, spread out, and enjoy the panoramic Willamette River views.
On the plethora of well-maintained trails at South Waterfront Park, you can stroll, jog, or even walk with your furry friend. Take in the public art that runs the length of the linear park, leading down to the Marquam Bridge all the way from the River Forum Building. It’s a great place to get fresh air, experience different points of the city, or just stretch your legs.
Open from 6 am until midnight every day, it’s a perfect place to get your day started or to take a nice wander after your evening meal. What a way to end a day in Downtown Portland!
Where to eat & drink
It’s hard to ignore the thriving street food and food truck culture present all across Downtown Portland. It’s quick, it’s tasty, it’s local—and we love it!
If you want street food and food truck-style cuisine indoors with a fully stocked bar, visit Pine Street Market. Located on 2nd Avenue, this popular food hall has a rotating set of vendors, communal seating, and an all-around good vibe.
If you’re looking for a sustainable and local take on classic dishes, make a reservation at Higgins. It’s a popular spot, so it’s always best to book in advance. The local vibe doesn’t stop with the produce: Higgins also specializes in local Oregon beers and wines.
A Vietnamese spot with an unparalleled ambiance is Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen, just a couple of streets away from Mill End Park. Serving up favorites like pho, crispy pork rolls, noodle bowls, and papaya salads, Luc Lac is a feast for all the senses.
Honestly, a lot of spots in Downtown Portland can feel a little hipster and pretentious. Go back to basics with Momo’s, a down-to-earth pub serving up great drinks, with pool tables and a jukebox. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: That’s why Momo’s continues to be so popular.
If you know your scotches from your bourbons from your blends, you might just fall in love with Multnomah Whiskey Library. At this smokey, all-wood bar featuring over 1,500 different whiskeys, you might think you’ve died and gone to whiskey heaven. Settle in with a few small plates and a few wee drams, and have an amazing time.
No list of the best places to eat and drink in Downtown Portland is complete without a themed bar. Our choice? Raven’s Manor. This haunted cocktail bar, located on the edge of Old Town Chinatown, brings spooky vibes all year long.
Where to stay
Looking for accommodations with a classic design but with a fun twist? Stay at The Paramount Hotel Portland with its beautifully designed foyers, complete with a balcony and reading chairs. When you want a little fresh air and friendly competition, make your way over to the terrace, where you’ll find lawn games, including life-sized chess!
Contemporary design lovers, look no further. With its sleek black walls and pops of accent colors, the Hotel Lucia, a Provenance Hotel, is a modern and elegant choice for when you’re in Portland. Its artsy twist perfectly suits the vibe of the neighborhood and will make you feel like you’re staying in a stylish apartment rather than a hotel.
If you’re looking for somewhere quirky to stay, the Hotel Vance, Portland, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, has personality in spades. From lobster tile motifs to stereo decals and bright red features at every turn, this is a bold hotel for travelers who don’t like to do anything the ordinary way. Classic Portland.