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24 hours in… Portland

The west coast city is a hub of hip eateries, fashionable thrift stores and enough coffee to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. Resident and travel expert Samantha Bakall puts us through our Portland paces for a memorable day’s stay in the eclectic city


Bernstein’s basil schmear and tomato. Opening image: Portland panorama (Michael Foushee)

8am to 8.30am: Grab breakfast to go 

When you think of Portland, the first thing that comes to mind likely isn’t bagels. Bernstein’s Bagels will fix that. Stacked with reinvented classic schmears like the ‘holy chiver’, a chive cream cheese infused with garlic and lemon zest, and even more creative specials, such as the recent ‘Bagelhalla’, with nori, black sesame and citrus tamari, these slow-rise boiled bagels made daily will make you wish you’d ordered more than one.

Possibly the finest Mexican coffee comes courtesy of La Perlita (Celeste Noche)

8.30am to 9am: Get your caffeine fix 

Grab a Lyft, an electric scooter or rent a Biketown bike and head across the river to sample a cup of some of Mexico’s finest coffee from La Perlita, the tiny, counter-sized coffee shop in Northwest Portland’s Ecotrust building. Drinks on the mostly Spanish menu infuse cups with traditional flavours such as café de olla, alongside traditional pour-overs, espresso and seasonal specials. A bonus: alternative milk doesn’t cost extra and, on weekends, airy pan dulce beckons by the counter. 

Hitting the trail at Forest Park (Justin Katigbak)

9am to 11am: Get a bird’s eye view 

Once you’ve scarfed down breakfast and had your morning boost, head up into the famous trails of Forest Park, one of the largest urban forest reserves in the country and source of the city’s most accessible hiking. Start at Lower Macleay Park for both short and long routes. The former winds along a lovely creek through lush forest, mossy, old-growth Douglas firs and the country’s tallest urban fir, ending at the popular Stone House built in 1936. The longer trail continues on past the structure, lacing through more prehistoric ferns and forest ending at Pittock Mansion, a French Renaissance-style château once home to London-born Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock that boasts one of the best views of downtown Portland and Mount Hood in the city.

Powell’s Books is the largest preloved and new bookstore in the world (Celeste Noche)

11am to 12pm: Buy a book 

On your way to lunch, make a pit stop at Powell’s, the city’s flagship independent bookstore, which occupies a square block. Reluctant readers and bibliophiles alike will find something to take home from here, where visitors wind endlessly through aisles and floors of books include graphic novels, cookbooks and literally every other genre out there.  

Seriously good salads and more at Cafe Olli (Dustin Edwards)

12pm to 1.30pm: Re-carb over lunch 

After a morning on the go, settle into a casual lunch at Cafe Olli, the all-day bakery, café, brunch counter and pizza spot, where anything on bread is the way to go. Soak in the bright white and natural wood space over seasonal soups, salads fresh from the market, tinned fish and fantastic toasts made in house with wood-fired breads. A glass or two of natural wine or an espresso tonic to keep you going is worth the treat (you’re on holiday!). 

Mural at the Community Cycling Center, Alberta Arts District (Alamy)

1.30pm to 4pm: Window shop 

Stroll along Northeast Alberta Street, often referred to as the Alberta Arts District, and see what catches your eye. In addition to numerous art galleries, including the Alberta Street, Nucleus Portland and Antler galleries, which host some of the city’s best independent, upcoming and affordable artwork to take home with you, you’ll find hip clothes boutiques – Tumbleweed sells locally made dresses and vintage slips – restaurants, food carts, craft stores, music halls, dive bars, beer bars, coffee shops and more, lining the street for nearly two straight miles. Tired feet? Head over to the McMenamins Kennedy School hotel to grab a glass of something and soak in the balmy, outdoor salt pool for an hour.

Subterranean wine bar Les Caves

4pm to 5.30pm: Raise a toast 

After digging into the Alberta Arts District, grab a stool – or, if you’re lucky, the semi-hidden sofa sitting atop the half-height wall – at subterranean wine bar Les Caves. The wine list here is fantastic, a mix of tried and true classics with a heavy hand of funky and fresh. The space, with its heavy stone walls, feels like the interior of a cellar, making the experience all the more special.

Ping-pong and a pint at Pips & Bounce

5.30pm to 7pm: Bounce around 

Get in a set or two before dinner at Pips & Bounce, the city’s casual ping-pong bar, which features five tables, an easy handheld and snacky menu, and a host of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic to pair before dinner.

Soulful, slow-cooked flavours at Kann (Carly E Diaz)

7pm to 9.30pm: Grab a fireside table 

Kann, Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet’s wood-fired Haitian restaurant, is arguably the hottest foodie opening of the year. Aiming to open in July, this personal restaurant got its start during the pandemic as a parking lot pop-up hosted in private yurts. This summer, it’ll make its bricks-and-mortar debut with lavish whole fish entrées, Peking duck, beautiful, herb-dusted plates and more. Best of all, the project is a two-in-one, with pan-Caribbean Bar Sousòl underneath. 

Time for a nightcap at Scotch Lodge (Jordan Hughes)

9.30pm to 12am: One last basement bar 

Walk a few blocks up to Scotch Lodge, unintentionally the third basement bar on this list, for some of the finest cocktails in town and a nightcap. The drink list is reflected in the name, as it’s heavy on whiskies from around the world, shaken and stirred into lovely creations that pair beautifully with an upscale bar menu.

Rooftop relaxation at Lolo Pass (Josh Chang)

12am to 8am: Head to bed 

Floating high above central downtown Portland and decked out in stylish and modern fixtures, The Nines is a luxe, centrally located stay. Its lobby sits nine floors above street level, with a wide, open air-style bar, restaurant and seating areas filling the heart of the space. On fine days, head to the sleek rooftop bar and Departure restaurant for Asian-inspired cuisine.   

Lolo Pass, one of the newest hotels in town, takes a page out of the hotel-meets-hostel book, with private and shared rooms. Private rooms are petite, but functional, offering a twin- or queen-sized bed with a small ensuite bathroom for those who plan to spend most of their time out rather than in. Maybe best of all, a rooftop deck serves after-dark cityscapes.   

Tex-Mex brekky at Matt’s BBQ Tacos (Celeste Noche)

8am to 9.30am: One last bite 

Have your farewell breakfast at Matt’s BBQ Tacos. Tucked into the back of the new Hinterland food cart pod, it’s home to the city’s best version of the Tex-Mex favourite: breakfast tacos. Here, find Portland’s finest Texas BBQ – think perfect chopped brisket, snappy jalapeño cheddar sausages and pulled pork – folded into handmade tortillas with zippy salsas, scrambled eggs, refried beans and potatoes. Order with caution here. They’re all fantastic and painfully filling.