Portland is a beautiful place, and many of the most iconic images of this gorgeous city come from Downtown Portland. From the tall downtown buildings to the waterfront of the Willamette River, the downtown area is really the heart of this city. There is great shopping, food and drinks, and amazing people watching. All of the action happens downtown, so hop on the Max or the streetcar and check out the sights!
Pioneer Courthouse Square
Pioneer Courthouse Square is often affectionately called "Portland's Living Room" and the name definitely fits. Located right in the heart of downtown, the square hosts tons of fun events and attractions year round. From Flicks on the Bricks in the summer, to the Christmas tree lighting in the winter, there is always something going on in the square. Pioneer Courthouse Mall is also right next door if the mood for shopping strikes!
Portland Art Museum
I've always loved art museums, and the Portland Art Museum is definitely one to check out, especially as the weather starts to turn and everyone is looking for indoor activities. The building itself is a work of art, and the space just expanded to include a new exhibition hall as well as a rooftop deck and sculpture garden. A dream day would be going to the cafe for brunch, grabbing a coffee and wandering the rooms of the museum, all while it rains outside and you are cozy inside with all of the gorgeous art.
Every weekend from early spring to Christmas Eve downtown Portland, right under the Burnside bridge, becomes alive with the Saturday Market. Also open on Sunday, the market consists of food carts, home-made crafts, art and clothing, and tons of other fun, local stalls. There is great music, art and people watching, and checking it out is a great way to spend a (free) Saturday or Sunday.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
The Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the West side of the Willamette River, is a hot spot of downtown Portland. It is always busy and bustling, no matter what the weather, and full of bikers, runners, walkers and people enjoying the views. In the summer there is a festival pretty much every weekend, ranging from carnivals to food festivals to the beer festival.
Pine Street Market
Pine Street Market is one of the first restaurants in Portland to embrace the food hall dining experience. The cafeteria style space is large and open concept, with communal seating in the middle of all of the restaurants. With 9 different dining options, including my favorites Shalom Y'all, Wiz Bang Bar (a spinoff of Salt & Straw) and Marukin Ramen, this is the perfect place to go with a group of friends that can never make up their minds. Get a little something at every restaurant and share some of the most delicious food that Portland has to offer.
For fast, friendly and delicious Vietnamese food downtown Luc Lac is a must visit. One of their most popular times is late night, when they get a huge rush of hungry bar-hoppers near the end of the night. On Friday and Saturday nights they are open until 4am, so it is no surprise they are packed!! Even for dinner the line is usually out of the door (you order at the counter and they bring you your food when it's ready) but the wait is never too crazy. My favorites are the spring rolls, veggie pho, and any of the curries. Go hungry because the portions are big and delicious!
Killer Burger is not fancy, upscale or all that classy, but the burgers are absolutely amazing. Their claims to fame include bacon on every burger (which I sadly can't indulge in) and bottomless fries, although the burgers are so big it is hard to even finish the fries you are first served! They also offer a special burger, beer and shot combo for $15 if you are starting here before a night on the town. You can get a veggie patty on any of their patties, just make sure to request no bacon and no onions, which are cooked in the bacon fat. My absolute favorite, and the only thing I have ever ordered, is the peanut butter pickle bacon burger. Try it before you judge, because the thai style peanut butter/sauce goes so well with the pickle and mayo on the burger.
Another amazing Asian cuisine restaurant in downtown Portland is the Thai restaurant Saucebox. I first visited the restaurant for happy hour a few years ago and it has been an absolute favorite ever since. To start with, the vibe of the restaurant and bar is very downtown cool, complete with dark moody lighting and fun music. The cocktails are amazing, which makes Saucebox the perfect place for after work drinks. All of the food is great, with lots of dim sum options and appetizers, perfect to share with a group.
Tasty N Alder
Some of the best brunch options in town are at Tasty N Alder in downtown Portland. They also offer lunch, dinner, dessert and cocktails, but I think brunch is the meal they truly shine at. Pretty much all of the options are meals that you probably haven't had, or even heard of, but the chefs at this restaurant know their stuff and make everything perfectly. Some of my favorite dishes have been the cast iron frittata, the bim bop, and the whole toad.
My love for Departure is no secret (check out my dedicated post here) and it is still one of my top spots in Portland. With one of the best views in the whole city, and definitely the best rooftop bar, it tops my recommendation list every time. As I've said, the atmosphere is absolutely gorgeous. The food, though, does not rely on views of Portland to make Departure a must visit. The Asian Fusion menu includes an entire dedicated vegan menu and includes sushi, curry and tasty small appetizers.
Portland City Grill
For great views, drinks and food, one of your best bets to head to is Portland City Grill. First of all, the food is fantastic, ranging from Asian cuisine such as sushi and spring rolls to traditional steak and burgers. The restaurant offers gorgeous views of the city, all from the indoor comfort of a cozy couch or booth. Their drink menu, though, is what really stands out, with tons of great cocktails, wine and beer. Go for their late night happy hour to enjoy city views, a few appetizers and a Champagne Supernova cocktail.
Huber's is an old Portland classic bar that seems to have been around forever. They offer a full restaurant, which I'm sure is delicious, but Huber's claim to fame is their Spanish Coffee. Not only is the drink delicious, it is prepared and served table-side with flair. Their service is incredibly impressive, and watching them make the flaming Spanish coffee makes it taste even better.
If you love beer, chances are you will love Bailey's Taproom. With 26 rotating taps, Bailey's is one of the first bars in Portland to offer a digital beer board full of information about the beer, including alcohol content, type of glass it is served in, and how much is left in the tap. The bartenders are knowledgable about the beer and helpful to beer newbies, and the bar offers lots of games to play while you enjoy a beer.
Jackknife is the bar at the Sentinel hotel and is run by the same company that manages The Bye and Bye and The Sweet Hereafter, both great vegan spots in Portland. Jackknife definitely has the most clubby vibe of the bunch, offering great dance music, lots of bar space and a fun photo booth. Come here for a wild night out in the city!
I love a good game of ping pong or bowling, so when Punchbowl Social opened up in Portland I was so excited to have a cool bar where I could also get my game on. I was expecting a cheesy bowling alley trying to be a hot nightclub sort of vibe, but Punchbowl actually manages to have a very cool vibe. Think lots of wood accents, dark lighting and antler wall art. I like Punchbowl Social because it is just as fun on a casual weekday afternoon or a wild Saturday night!