With beautiful historic Victorian homes, vintage shops, and stylish bistros, Northwest Portland is an alluring neighborhood with oodles of charm. Centered around the bustling 23rd Avenue, the affluent Northwest District is home to the University of Portland and a vibrant cultural scene.
Whether you love hiking or shopping, Northwest Portland has it all. Explore the vast, wooded Forest Park on foot or by bike, or wander around the exquisite gardens of the Pittock Mansion house museum. Delve into the weird world of ghosts and ghouls at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum. Journey to China and soak up its rich history at the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Whether exploring verdant parks and interesting museums to explore by day or trendy restaurants & bars at night, plan your Northwest Portland voyage with this complete guide for what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay!
What to see & do in Northwest Portland
Don your hiking boots or hop on a bike and explore Forest Park, the largest urban forest in the United States. The 5,000-acre Forest Park is an outdoor haven for adventure lovers, offering visitors an array of outdoor activities. From hiking and mountain biking to horseback riding, the park promises a few hours of healthy fun.
Stretching along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains, Forest Park has over 80 miles of marked trails to explore. Spectacular views of the Columbia River and Willamette River abound, and there are plenty of lovely spots for picnicking.
If you’re a birder, be sure to take your binoculars to spot one of the myriad of bird species that call the forest home. The forest is a critical refuge for hundreds of wildlife species.
Delve into the rich history of Portland with a visit to the Pittock Mansion. The beautifully preserved colonial-style mansion was built in 1914 for one of Portland’s most influential families. Today, this popular Portland museum offers a wonderful insight into how the city became what it is today.
One of Portland’s few accessible historic homes, Pittock Mansion offers a rare view into the life and times of the city’s early inhabitants. Take a guided tour through the home of Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock and admire the unique architectural design and richly decorated interiors.
Stroll through the hallowed halls and reflect upon what life must have been during the early 1900s. Explore the vast collection of family artifacts that tell the story of the family’s contributions to the development of Portland.
The Pittock Mansion is surrounded by exquisitely landscaped gardens; take a stroll around them after your visit or enjoy a picnic on the lawns and soak up the city views.
When you’re done exploring the mansion, hop into the car for the short drive down to Washington Park. Located on the northern edge of Southwest Portland, Washington Park is home to several unmissable Portland tourist attractions, including the Portland Japanese Garden, International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and Oregon Zoo.
The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum
It doesn’t get weirder than Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. The wacky, weird, and wonderful come alive at this one-of-a-kind museum and store and promises to both terrify and delight at the same time!
Established by Conrad Talmadge Elwood, this quirky museum boasts a collection of oddities, anomalies, peculiarities, and mysteries. (Think aliens and yetis, haunted dollhouses, and edible insects—you’ll find it all at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium!)
Dive into the dark store and explore the gruesome and ghoulish objects. Watch an alien autopsy and see a chimp with braces. Lay in a bathtub of plastic guts and brave a simulation of being buried alive. See the inside of a zombie’s brain and hug Big Foot.
Be sure to grab a few whacky gifts for friends and family at the gift shop on your way out!
Northwest 23rd Avenue
Head to the beating heart of NW Portland, Northwest 23rd Avenue, to enjoy some shopping and dining out. The centerpiece of the Nob Hill neighborhood, the street is lined with trendy boutiques, brand stores, charming cafés, and casual eateries. The best way to explore Northwest 23rd Avenue is on foot, so put on some comfy shoes and hit the streets.
Whether you’re shopping on a budget or looking for a special treat, Northwest 23rd Avenue has something for everyone. Start at the corner of 23rd and Glisan and work your way north.
Pop into Ritual Adornments for arts and crafts trinkets and stock up on treats for Fido from Hip Hound. Browse 3 Monkeys for vintage clothing and kitsch gifts, or treat yourself to a gorgeous leather bag at Will Leather Goods.
Has all that shopping made you hungry? Pop into the Dragonfly Coffee House for a coffee and sandwich or a deliciously unique ice cream at Salt & Straw. End the day with a movie at Cinema 21.
Powell’s City of Books
There are bookshops, and then there are bookshops. Powell’s City of Books is a Portland landmark and the world’s largest new & used bookstore. Spanning an entire city block on the edge of Downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is a bibliophile’s dream with 68,000 square feet, three floors, nine rooms, and 3,500 sections.
Located within the Pearl District, Powell’s City of Books has it all, from paperbacks and hardcovers to rare collectibles and first editions. Lose yourself in the vast store and browse the more than a million books stacked neatly on shelves. Pay a visit to the Rare Book Room to find something extra special.
When you need a break from browsing, enjoy coffee and a fresh pastry at the Guilder Café. You can also enjoy weekly author readings and special events in the Pearl Room’s Basil Hallward Gallery.
Visitor’s tip: grab a store map at the door to find your way around!
Another wonderful Northwest Portland destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the city is Macleay Park. Nestled in Portland’s northwest hills, Macleay Park is a wild oasis of dense fir and cedar forests and deep ravines. The 140-acre park offers fantastic hiking trails and lovely areas for picnicking.
Founded in 1897 by Donald Macleay, the park is home to large western red cedar trees and Douglas firs. Balch Creek winds its way through and has a small population of native cutthroat trout. Macleay Park is also home to the Witch’s Castle, old stone ruins that are steeped in legend.
Take the Aspen Trail to the ruins and learn the story of the haunted building, which is linked to murder and mystery. Today, the ruins are a popular spot for Friday night student gatherings.
Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary
Get out into the wild and explore Portland’s natural world at the Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. Located next to Forest Park, the 172-acre wildlife sanctuary is home to the region’s largest and busiest Wildlife Care Center. Miles of hiking trails wind through the park and are the perfect way to enjoy this beautiful part of Portland.
Make your first stop at the Interpretive Center to find out more about the sanctuary and get a map of the hiking trails. Then lace up those hiking boots and head into the park to discover a wealth of native fauna and flora. Remember to take your binoculars to spot some of the birds in the sanctuary.
After your hike, head to the Wildlife Care Center to meet rescued birds and learn about the splendid work done by the sanctuary. Browse the Nature Store on your way out, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of wildlife-related books, toys, gifts, and souvenirs.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Celebrate Chinese culture in a tranquil sanctuary at Lan Su Chinese Garden. This beautiful Suzhou-style garden is a stunning example of how a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition combines art, architecture, and nature. Journey across the world into China’s Ming Dynasty gardens as you wander through the sublimely peaceful garden.
Spanning an entire block in the heart of Portland’s Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, Lan Su Chinese Garden was created by Chinese artisans from Suzhou. Exquisitely landscaped courtyards, intricate stone mosaics, and delicately carved ginkgo panels reflect 16th-century Chinese design. Wander along pebbled paths past shimmering koi ponds and Taihu from Suzhou’s freshwater Lake Tai.
Enjoy a traditional Chinese-style tea in the authentic tearoom, the Tower of Cosmic Reflections, overlooking Lake Zither.
Where to eat & drink
Northwest Portland has a burgeoning culinary scene, and many award-winning chefs showcase their world-class skills in this cozy neighborhood.
Enjoy an all-American experience at the Skyline Restaurant roadside diner. One of Portland’s oldest family-friendly diners, this gem has been serving classic burgers and shakes since 1935 and is still going strong. Try a Hollywood Shirley Temple Soda Pop with your burger to really get that ‘Stayin’ Alive’ feeling.
Man has eaten meat cooked on a fire for centuries, and The Fireside takes this age-old custom to the next level. Inspired by fire-cooked cuisine, the friendly neighborhood bar & restaurant serve outdoor-inspired Pacific Northwest fare. Order the Blackened Steelhead with wilted chicories for a special treat.
Head to the Serratto Restaurant and Bar for classic Italian and Mediterranean fare in an elegant and lively setting. The seasonally changing menu has all the favorites, from pizza to pasta, as well as fresh seafood. An extensive wine list has an impressive selection of Italian wines to pair with your meal. Enjoy a drink in the lounge after dinner.
Tucked in the Silver Cloud Hotel, the Urban Stell Kitchen + Bar is a great spot for delicious farm-to-table food. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this contemporary restaurant is ideal for a casual meal with friends.
Cocktails and karaoke your thing? Pop into the Twenty First Ave Kitchen & Bar on NW 21st Avenue for a few drinks, casual food, and a whole lot of singing. You can sit inside or grab a table in the spacious beer garden at the back.
Another low-key spot for casual growlers and grub is Paymaster Lounge. This super-chilled bar has pinball and Pacman and a lovely patio for alfresco drinks.
If you prefer your cocktail in a sophisticated setting surrounded by beautiful people, then the Teardrop Lounge should be top of your list. Located in Portland’s Pearl District, the eponymously named Teardrop Lounge has a gorgeous teardrop-shaped bar and an equally impressive cocktail menu. Enjoy low-key elegance while you sip a Hell or High Water.
Inspired by the pub’s location on the 45th parallel, North 45 Pub is a traveler’s oasis. A covered year-round patio offers a cozy area for enjoying classic cocktails and craft beer. Resident DJs spin tunes on the patio every evening, and the vibe is laid-back and cool.
Where to stay
Home to some of the most popular hotels in Portland, the Northwest quadrant is a fantastic spot to base yourself on your trip to Oregon’s largest city. The neighborhood hosts a barrage of accommodation options, from hotels to vacation rentals.
Set on a tree-lined street in the heart of Northwest Portland, the Portland International Guesthouse offers a laid-back retreat within walking distance of the Portland Japanese Garden. Unpretentious and relaxed, the guest house has cozy rooms and an apartment if you prefer self-catering. Relax in a communal lounge next to the fireplace.
The all-suites Inn at Northrup Station is a good place to make your base in North Portland. Comfortable rooms have air-conditioning and private bathrooms, and you can connect to the world via free Wi-Fi. The hotel is located on the Portland Streetcar lines, and you’ll get free passes as a guest.
The Silver Cloud Hotel Portland is perfectly located if you plan on spending time in the Nob Hill shopping district. Comfortable guest rooms have modern décor and en-suite bathrooms, and you can enjoy great food and drinks at the Urban Steel Kitchen + Bar. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi throughout the building and laundry services.
Nestled in the heart of the trendy Pearl District, the Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton Portland-Pearl District is a casual hotel with great facilities. Tuck into a complimentary breakfast every morning before heading out and stay fit in the heated swimming pool and gym. The hotel is a short walk from the Portland Art Museum.
Located a short walk from Powell’s City of Books in the heart of the bustling Pearl District, the Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District is a hip hotel with cozy rooms. Enjoy beautiful views of the city from your room and tuck into casual food at the hotel restaurant. The hotel is a short stroll from the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Rose Garden Arena.