The ultimate hotel guide to Portland, Oregon
Never afraid to do things differently, the Oregon city is a cradle of American counterculture. Its quirky spirit is no clearer than in its eclectic hotel offerings, from a former school to a reputedly haunted pub.
Portland flies its freak flag high: a kilt-clad, bagpipe-playing unicyclist in a Darth Vader mask regularly cruises the city; the World Naked Bike Ride is held here annually; and local ice cream brand Salt & Straw turned heads with its bone marrow flavour. Some might argue, however, that the droves moving here for the left-of-centre lifestyle are unwittingly changing the city’s identity: cranes now dot the skyline and glass buildings sit beside historic gems. But the truth is that visitors after Portland’s alternative edge needn’t look too hard. Fresh dining areas have popped up, cheerful murals grace the streets and hotels have reopened to brisk business. The best are found west of the Willamette River, in and around bustling downtown. Central Eastside, meanwhile, has an array of up-and-coming bars, restaurants and craft breweries, and Northeast Portland offers good options, too, mostly around the bohemian Alberta Arts District and family-friendly parks.
Best for night owls
The Hoxton: Located at the ornate gates of Chinatown, one of the city’s most exciting neighbourhoods, the Oregon outpost of the London group is an oasis of 1960s calm. Even the largest ‘Roomy’ rooms are small by American standards, but if you’re catching a gig at nearby Dante’s or cabaret at Darcelle XV, the comfy bed, stylish bathroom, custom-made furniture and local art on the walls make a cosy space to sleep it off. Start the night at the onsite Tope rooftop bar for tacos and cocktails with sunset views over Mount Hood. There’s excellent coffee downstairs in the morning and you’re just a few bus stops away from Washington Park and Forest Park. Alternatively, relax with a book from the in-house selection, curated by local creatives.
Rooms: From $158 (£114).
Best for the eco-conscious
Kex: Bringing the Iceland-based brand’s ethos to Portland, Kex will have keen upcyclers oohing and aahing in awe. The herringbone floor of Nordic-style restaurant Dóttir is made from reclaimed wood, while the overhead lights were salvaged from an old Belgian cinema. Spaces are styled with a quirky but classy mix of knick-knacks. Don’t miss the rooftop bar, surrounded by the modern high-rises of Central Eastside, a neighbourhood that feels as youthful and stylish as the hotel itself.
Rooms: From $152 (£110).
Best for social butterflies
The Society Hotel: With the reception housed in a lively cafe and bar, the scene is set: come in to meet and mingle. Spacious dorm rooms have three-level bunks with all the creature comforts, including memory foam mattresses, heavy-duty privacy curtains and power outlets. Private rooms (with shared bathrooms) and suites are minimalist yet elegant, with plush white bedding, exposed brick walls and fluffy guest robes. It’s in one of the grittier parts of town, but you’re in the thick of the nightlife here, with downtown’s attractions in easy reach.
Rooms: From $88 (£64).
Best for creative types
Hotel Grand Stark: This four-storey, 1906 brick beauty was once a furniture store, its upper floors shuttered for decades until the Hotel Grand Stark opened in 2021. Original floors and a grand, forest-green staircase pair off against misty, blue-green and white walls adorned with works by local artists. Rooms have well-thought-out details, including throws from a store down the road and wooden stools sourced on Etsy. Order a breakfast of avocado toast or hash brown chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican dish of fried tortillas) from the retro-style Grand Stark Deli downstairs, and while away an evening at Bar Chamberlain, a cosy ground-floor spot that’s popular with creative professionals from the neighbourhood.
Rooms: $168 (£122).
Best for beer buffs
White Eagle Saloon & Hotel: If walls could talk... This fun pub with rooms has seen it all since opening in 1905. It’s packed with tall tales of Portland’s rowdy past, from spooky stories of resident spirits to raucous rock ’n’ roll sessions. Guests can still be sure of a rockin’ good time today; whether it’s hip hop or country, there’s live music every night and the occasional blues legend even turns up for a jam. There’s also a beer garden and American-style pub fare on offer. Pass out in simple, comfortable rooms (with shared bathrooms) that are peaceful once the bar closes. You’re within stumbling distance of some of the city’s best craft breweries, and it’s just a short hop over the river to downtown.
Rooms: From $99 (£72).
Best for homebirds
Tiny Digs: Choose from 11 ‘tiny homes’, each with a unique theme, from barn house to beach house. The owners have sourced materials from building sites and antique shops, nailing each style aesthetically and using trompe-l’oeil techniques to maximise lighting and space. Each 16ft-long building has a lounge area, bathroom and cooking facilities. The surrounding Kerns neighbourhood is a hoot, with a cinema and great restaurants. Travelling as a family? Go for the cabin, train car or Finnish-themed house, which sleep four to five.
Rooms: From $174 (£126).
Best for fans of kitsch
Inn at Northrup Station: The electric hues of this retro-chic hotel are the perfect antidote to Portland’s moody skies. The salmon-pink, lime-green and lilac walls mixed with multi-coloured upholstery and 1970s-inspired paintings are more joyful than jarring. Plus, every room is a spacious suite that comes with its own kitchenette, desk and seating area, and the breakfast room and lounge area and rooftop bar are equally design-led. Getting around the inner city is a breeze thanks to the streetcar line that runs past the hotel, and tickets are included with your stay.
Rooms: From $167 (£121).
Best for students of life
Kennedy School Hotel: If only real school were this much fun. This destination property, set within a former school, has the lot: a cinema, courtyard restaurant, soaking pool, music venue, craft brewery and three bars, as well as 57 classrooms-turned-bedrooms. A bohemian rock-and-roll style, troves of antiques and bespoke artworks tell the story of the property; strolling the hallways and picking out the symbolism in the paintings is all part of the experience. It’s in the Northeast neighbourhood, with downtown just 15 minutes away by car. Rooms: From $179 (£130).
Best for bookworms
The Heathman Hotel: Arts-lovers have chosen to lay their heads at this entertainment district grande dame since it opened in the 1920s. The hotel was remodelled in 2018 with a heady mix of original wood panels and modern art. Guests are offered a local IPA at check-in to sip in their large, bright rooms, but it’s the library of more than 2,700 books (many first editions) that’s the showstopper. Grab a coffee from the lobby cafe and unwind in a space that glows with words and history. When you’re ready for action, the teal-clad doormen can usher you next door to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall for a show or symphony.
Rooms: From $203 (£147).
Best for fashionistas
The Nines: Join the in-crowd at Portland’s most luxurious, most beautiful hotel, located in the heart of downtown’s shopping district. Commissioned works by local artists adorn the walls and mannequins line the way to the seven storey-high atrium, which houses the Urban Farmer Restaurant. Head to the 15th floor to find Departure Restaurant, a chic space serving up modern Asian cuisine and the best views in town. Guest rooms have a modern-meets-Versailles style, all neutral tones with flashes of bright turquoise, and come with views over the city or the inner atrium. And as you’d expect from a top-tier hotel like this, the staff are exceptional.
Rooms: From $319 (£231).
Published in the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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