Referred to lovingly as both the “City of Roses” and the “Bridge City”, Portland has a lot of both. Sandwiched between the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, visitors will love the waterfront views of historic bridges while wandering along the well-maintained riverwalk. And when you’ve had your fill of city life, head to Washington Park, right outside of the city center where the International Rose Test Garden has hundreds of rose varietals on display.
The food and beer scene in Portland is second-to-none. While the food cart phenomenon didn’t actually originate in Portland, the sheer volume of street food vendors will likely have you believing that it did. Serving up culinary staples as well as bazaar combinations, you can find anything and everything being hawked out of truck-turned-kitchens in downtown Portland.
You’ll also find that Portlanders are snobs when it comes to coffee, donuts, and ice cream as the city prides itself in being innovative in all three delicacies.
- 1 Packing for Portland
- 2 What to Eat, See, and Do in Portland
- 3 Transportation in Portland
- 4 The 10 Best Unique Hotels in Portland
Best Boutique Hotels in Portland
Packing for Portland
Portland is the birthplace of the “hipster” which is defined as “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream”. But hipsters would think labels are too mainstream. Pack these staples if you want to fit in, but don’t try too hard.
A Well-Manicured Beard
A Spirited Dad Hat
A Vintage Boombox
What to Eat, See, and Do in Portland
Transportation in Portland
Downtown Portland is far more bike and pedestrian friendly than it is car friendly. So ditch the four wheels and borrow a bicycle from your hotel or do a walking tour of the city. It’s pretty compact and easy to navigate. If walking and bicycling isn’t your thing, try these convenient methods of transportation:
- The light rail service in Portland is called MAX. It’s always on time and avoids traffic but be sure to purchase a ticket prior to boarding.
- Uber and Lyft are both in Portland! Download the apps and avoid the hassle of taxis.
The 10 Best Unique Hotels in Portland
Located on the East Side of Portland near hip music venues and funky bars is a hotel that’s just about as “Portland” as you can get – Jupiter Hotel. It was once a two-story motor lodge but was renovated in 2004 and the parking lot turned into courtyard space which is perfect for hanging out and meeting new people.
Many of the 81 rooms are on the smaller side but are totally unique with colorful murals on the walls, chalkboard doors, and shag pillows.
Often referred to as a “party hotel” due to it’s close proximity to Doug Fir, a popular music venue and bar, it’s probably not recommended if you are looking for a relaxing hotel experience. But it’s perfect if you want to see a show and hang out with new friends until wee hours of the morning. If you want to get more shut-eye, be sure to request a “quiet room”.
Watch out for the new upscale hotel that will be adjacent to the original opening in June of 2018. It will contain the same vibrancy and creativity but with a focus on luxury. Jupiter NEXT will have 67 rooms and beautiful views of the city.
The Nines Hotel
Located right in the heart of downtown Portland (and right in the heart of some of the best shopping) is the quintessential city center luxury hotel – The Nines Hotel. Native Portlanders remember this location on SW Morrison as being Meier & Frank, the premier department store in Portland. Shoppers would often “dress to the nines” to visit the store as it was considered a place to see and be seen.
But the department store went out of business and in 2005 this iconic building was transformed into The Nines. Guests are treated like royalty in this lavishly decorated hotel with an old-school glamorous vibe. The large, comfortable suites are arranged around the seven-story light-filled atrium. Guests will love the lobby seating areas, the delectable upscale steakhouse, and the views from the popular after-work-watering-hole rooftop lounge.
The Nines also offers a state-of-the-art fitness center, a stocked library, a pet-friendly policy, and the building is LEED Silver Certified.
Centrally located in Downtown Portland, just a few blocks from the waterfront, is a stunning hotel boasting an impressive photography collection – Hotel Lucia. Contemporary decor and plenty of artwork fill this beautiful 1909 building that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
What really makes this hotel so classically “Portland” is their list of amenities available for guests: borrow one of their Shinola bicycles to cruise around the city, order a pint of the famous Salt & Straw ice cream directly to your room, or pick a treat for your pup from their pet-friendly room service menu. You can also choose from a range of specialty pillow types to find the one that’s just right.
You can’t get any closer to the spectacular downtown waterfront – unless you’re sleeping on a houseboat – than at the Hotel Rose. Both the interior and the exterior of this fun hotel are vibrantly colored and rooms are large and comfortable. Bring your pup, borrow a beach cruiser, and “sleep naked” with their Naked Experience.
Guests will love spending evenings hanging out by the fire at Bottle + Kitchen. This delicious restaurant with comfy, modern seating offers Kick-Ass Cocktails, and Big-Ass Desserts. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day spent exploring the city.
The Society Hotel
Located in the historic, up-and-coming Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, The Society Hotel offers the perfect venue for socializing with other travelers. Catering to all budgets, visitors can choose to stay in a shared room, share just a bathroom, or opt for a private suite. Regardless of your choice, this hotel specializes in affordable luxury.
Clean, modestly decorated rooms and a lively rooftop bar make this the perfect place to make a few new connections over a delicious coffee or beer.
The Heathman Hotel
If you like history, fantasy, and ghost stories, then you’ll love a stay at The Heathman Hotel. This Portland landmark was built in the late 1920s and underwent a 16 million dollar renovation in 1984. The Heathman gained national notoriety when it was featured as a rendezvous spot in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.
There are also ghost stories surrounding this historic hotel. Rooms ending in “03” see the most paranormal activity as it is rumored that a guest once jumped or fell from a window in this row of rooms. Guests have reportedly awoken to someone standing at the foot of their bed or the sensation that someone has crawled into bed next to them. Others have found items in their rooms moved around even though there was no recorded activity by staff or anyone else!
But aside from the international fame and the spirits lurking inside, The Heathman Hotel takes luxury to a whole new level. As you approach the entrance you’ll be greeted by a traditional Beefeater doorman and step into the beautiful Tea Court lobby. The hotel decor is classic and elegant and guests will love the attentive and professional staff.
The Heathman also boasts one of the largest autographed libraries in the world with a collection of over 2,700 books signed by the authors, many of whom were guests of the hotel.
Where old Hollywood glamour meets modern day amenities, Hotel deLuxe strikes the perfect balance. Not only are the walls decorated with a curated collection of film shots from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but they also offer free movie screenings twice a month in the plush, private screening room. The furnishings are elegant and classic, the lighting dim, and you’ll feel like you are a celebrity escaping the limelight in a posh getaway.
Offering classic “Portland” amenities like Salt & Straw ice cream room service, access to a collection of bicycles, and an iconic lounge, the Hotel deLuxe takes it a step further. You can enjoy a traditional tea service on Thursday through Sunday afternoons with yummy snacks and custom-blended teas. You can also choose to upgrade your tea service and bring you pup along. The hotel also offers guests tastings from local food vendors, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and coffee roasters every Wednesday evening.
McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel
Can you imagine catching your child falling asleep in class or enjoying an ice cold beer while in detention? Of course not! But if you can imagine yourself doing those things, you’ll love spending a few nights in a historic elementary school in NE Portland – Kennedy School Hotel. Opened in 1915, this school was abandoned and then renovated into a beloved hotspot in Portland.
Sleep in one of the 57 guestrooms, some of which were once actual classrooms and still have original chalkboards! Not only is this a unique treat for out-of-towners, but local Portlanders love to visit the hot soaking pool, the quaint but lively bars, and the in-house (well, in-school) movie theater. Wander down the hallways to check out the unique artwork and wall murals, as well as the various things that were meant for very little people (just try to take a sip from the water fountain).
Located across the river from downtown, the Kennedy School is right near the funky and eclectic Alberta street where you’ll find delicious restaurants and cute boutiques. The street even has a strange street festival on the last Thursday of every month which is worth a visit just for the people watching alone.
Caravan – the Tiny House Hotel
Speaking of the Alberta Street neighborhood, you’ll find possibly the most unique hotel in all of Portland here – Caravan The Tiny House Hotel. Tiny houses are all the rage right now and if you want to know what it’s like to share 120-170 square feet with your loved ones, this is the place to give it a try.
Custom-built by local builders, each of these 6 tiny homes offer flushing toilets, hot showers, heat, a kitchen, a comfortable bed, and a small sitting area. And fun, funky decor adds to the charm of each.
The tiny homes form a circle around a central courtyard with a fire pit and plenty of chairs for hanging out. In the summertime there are weekly concerts held in the courtyard and year-round guests can help themselves to all-you-can-eat s’mores!
It doesn’t really get more “Portland hipster” than the Ace Hotel. Vintage furniture, in-room turntables, a classic photobooth, and local artwork will have anyone over the age of 30 feeling not quite hip enough to be here.
Millennials of all budget ranges can book small rooms with shared bathrooms, superior suites with clawfoot tubs, and everything in-between. You will love grooving to LPs while lounging in your room, sipping organic coffee, and mingling with the young and hip Portland locals in the comfortable public areas.
Want more tips on things to see and do in and around Portland? Check out our favorite guides!
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