With its green and progressive ideals and quirky outlook on life, the awesome Northwest city offers some of the best and most interesting shopping experiences in the US.
If you’re looking for what to buy on your city break, from vegan beauty products to the most colourful doughnuts you’re ever likely to see, here are some of the best things to buy in Portland, Oregon…
For a relatively small city, Portland is ripe with Donuts! Try weird and wonderful flavors at the famous Voodoo donuts, whose pink boxes are now iconic.
For a culinary delight of a donut head for hipster haunt Blue Star. For the tasty vegan equivalent of both of these institutions go for Doe Donuts.
These are just three of the fabulous places on offer… there’s Pips, Angels and NOLA’s, Donut Queen, Donut World, Donut Palace, Heavenly Donuts, Sesame Donuts, Coco’s….You can literally take a donut tour, that is how much pride the city takes in these fried treats!
2. Craft Beer
I think the craft beer movement may have started in Portland. This city just loves to ferment and has the microbreweries to prove it.
North, South East and West, Pale Ale, Porter and Belgian Style Farmhouse Ales, hoppy, poppy, heavy or light; whatever your tipple you’ll find somewhere that specializes in it!
Here’s a few to get you started; Engelberg Pilsner at Upright on Broadway, Punk Rock Time IPA at Baerlic on 11th Avenue or Hoppy Deliciousness with whimsical names at Breakside, Slabtown.
Get immersive with fancy graphics and fabulous ales at Gigantic, if you’re up for something diff try their Barley Wine and my personal favorite… just for the image it conjures in my mind….Wild Ales at Little Beast Brewpub and Beer Garden on SE Division.
3. Vintage Clothes
If you are a lover of vintage fashion I cannot stress enough how much you have to go to Portland! Never have I ever seen such a wonderful array of Vintage stores!
From small charismatic Portland institutions like Ray’s Ragtime Vintage, to great Cavernous warehouses full of joy like Hawthorne’s House of Vintage, you’ll need a big trunk to transport all your vintage buys home and they’ll be glorious one-of-a-kind delights that you will treasure forever!
4. Vegan and cruelty-free beauty products
Being the environmentally forward-thinking city that it is, Portland is a great place to pick up Cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics.
The best known home-grown brand is SPELA, founded by Maryam Behrouzi in 2016 with a humble range of lip glosses the brand has now expanded to other products and can be found in both boutique and mainstream retailers across the country.
The small Oregon-based Urban Oreganics (see what they did there) craft small batches of organic and cruelty-free elixirs in recyclable glass containers and you can find them in boutique beauty shops citywide, likewise Portland Bee Balm fuses the magic of beeswax into sustainable and multi-use balms.
Kensington Apothecary creates amazing skincare using wildcrafted, organic and raw materials and is stocked at Mills Pharmacy. You’ll also find a plethora of cruelty-free spa options with their own boutique lines such as Blooming Moon, Echo, and Grateful Heads!
For a city with a penchant for donuts it’s hardly surprising that there are plenty of coffee enthusiasts too! Like its rival Seattle, Portland is proud of its roasters and you’ll find some of the finest coffee in the world throughout the city. Start with Proud Mary on NE Alberta street and then go from there.
Try Moroccan Spiced Coffee at Ovation, Dutch-inspired Koffee and Stroopwafflen at Prince and of course the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters which can be found across the city along with other small Northwestern or Portland chains like Heart, Good Coffee and Coava.
6. A book (or a comic)
From the enormous, record-breaking Powell’s City of Books on Burnside to the cozy ambiance of Mother Foucault’s in the industrial district and the ultra-helpful staff at Broadway Books… literary lovers will have a field day in Portland.
If you’re more of a comic book fan, panic not, there’s plenty for you too…Bridge Street Comics, Cosmic Monkey, and Floating World Comics to name but a few, and Manga Lovers should head straight for quirky Kinokuniya downtown.
Make sure you pack light and make space for all the delicious printed word you’ll be hauling home with you.
7. Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley
Yes indeed The Willamette Valley has been growing this finicky grape and producing some delicious Pinot Noirs since the 60’s so be sure to look out for bottles of the local wine in stores, bars, and restaurants and have a taste.
With the city’s reputation as a hip low-fi hang out it’s hardly surprising there’s tons of fantastic record stores to browse through!
A good place to start is the 800sqft Music Millennium on Burnside; opened in 1969 it is the oldest existing record store in the Pacific Northwest, well worth a visit!
Jackpot on Hawthorne has a great selection of new and used Vinyl and for Punk and Metal head for Green Noise.
If you really want to support rising stars then try Mississippi Records or Tender Loving Empire, both of which have their own labels. Get your jazz at Vinyl Resting Place, your Electronic, Indie, and modern classical at Beacon and if you fancy browsing with a beer Record Store – Cum – Bar Turn!Turn!Turn may be the place for you.
I haven’t even scratched the surface here, with more record shops per capita than anywhere else in the US, Portland is a Vinyl Lovers Paradise!
9. A whiskey tumbler
It’s not just beer that Portland brews, the city also has an impressive distillery scene and its own ‘distillery row’.
To enjoy the fine homegrown whiskey you really need the perfect tumbler, head for Made Here for gorgeous artisanal glassware or PDX whiskey for the perfect souvenir tumbler.
For something extra fancy check out Vitrelux, who specialize in beautiful glassware molded on actual oak. Look out for gorgeous locally blown Mazama glass too, which is stocked at Tanner Goods on Burnside.
10. Fresh Veggies from the Farmer’s Market
‘Portland Farmers Markets’ have been going strong since the early 90’s and operate 7 farmers markets through the week in different locations. You’ll find the freshest Seasonal veggies from local growers as well as other Portland delicacies.
They are joined by a plethora of other farmer’s markets, especially through the summer months. There’s Hollywood, Beaverton, Gresham, Cedar Mill, Lake Oswego…the list goes on, make sure you take advantage of the amazing local produce this city has to offer!
11. A beanie
From Mountain Meadow Wool to Flipside there’s a beanie store for everyone in Portland. The city has quite unpredictable weather so a good beanie is a staple to any Portlander wardrobe, head to Portland Gear on Burnside for all your beanie needs!
12. Upcycled Furniture
Being an eco-minded city upcycling is everything in Portland. You can pick up some amazing pieces at Sherri Bees, a local artist who specializes in giving lost treasures a new lease of life, pick up refurbed vintage pieces at The Good Mod, Lounge Lizard or Vintage Pink and for bigger remodels use Hammer and Hand.
13. A House Plant
Every hip household needs plants and Portland is full of them! It used to be all about the succulents but the weather conditions in Portland aren’t actually that conducive to those plants, not giving them the warmth and light that they require!
Sensible city folk have moved on to Aroids, which prefer cooler, shady climes.
We’re talking Snake Plants, Spider Plants, philodendron and Monstera Deliciosa. Pick up yours at one of Portland’s many nurseries such as Hammer and Vine, Birds & Bees or the beautifully named Joy Creek Nursery and Wild Ginger Farm.
14. Any Artisan Goods
From food to furniture Portland is all about keeping it local and keeping it fresh in all senses of the word!
Head to the farmer’s markets for homemade sauces, fresh-baked bread, gourmet food, and coffee or the Saturday Market for forest-infused soaps, local art, crafts and jewelry or hit one of the city’s many boutiques like Wolf for artisan ceramics.
Then head to PDX Madehere for basically everything you can think of; backpacks, glassware, clothes, Cosmetics & Skincare, tea, mixers, snacks…the works!
15. A Raincoat!
Much like here in the UK Portland weather is unpredictable and rain is frequent! To enjoy your time in the city you’ll need to dress for it; whether you go for a sleek designer like RAINS, a quirky vintage Mac from one of the numerous vintage stores or a sustainable fashion staple from local designers like Nau and Hillary Day, you’ll be spoilt for choice and enviably stylish if you buy your raincoat here!
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Beth Pinches – writer and photographer
Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. Other places she loves include Croatia, Finland, Japan and India. In between adventures, travel writing and performing she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele. Find Beth on Linkedin or Facebook.