Between the Willamette River and the Interstate 405 Freeway, lays a land of shopping that makes every credit card shiver with delight and each purse do the happy dance. From a Banana Republic the size of a real republic to quaint shops like Finnegan's toys, downtown Portland's hundreds of stores could entertain visitors for days.
What better place to start shopping in downtown Portland, the city of bicycles, than one of its bicycle shops? Family-owned and operated, Waterfront Bicycles is one of Portland's most famous, attracting such distinguished customers as John Kerry and musician James Taylor. This Portland favorite offers a variety of bikes and gear, and will help you plan a shopping tour of the town via bike, if you feel like getting around local style.
Should you prefer four wheels to two, however, there are plenty of parking options. While selecting where to shop, you may realize that it's more convenient, and cheaper, to select one of the many safe and affordable parking garages. Just walk the downtown area, or drive to a few different garages throughout the day, and walk those areas too. Designed with wide sidewalks and short square blocks so more stores could have corner spaces, downtown was literally built for walking and shopping. Should you get hungry during your shopping endeavors, restaurants with food from all over the world are happy to oblige. For the shopper on the run, Fifth Avenue offers its own kiosk village, with everything from Greek gyros to Chinese chop suey to-go.
Walking north from the Waterfront Bicycle Shop, you will quickly run into Old Town. While Old Town may live up to the "old" part of its name due to its disrepair and a few unsavory characters, the historic area is still sprinkled with shopping gems. For example, Made In Oregon, which carries everything locally made from food to jewelry to blankets (marionberry jam anyone?), and Apple Music, the store of a thousand guitars, make a trip to the area worthwhile. Almost intertwined with Old Town is the historic Chinatown area. Here two-story shops, like Dragon Art, offer everything from priceless Chinese antiques and nicely priced Chinese Fine art, to an endless variety of cheap Chinese trinkets. The store's exotic birds and box turtles (not for sale) add to the shopping experience. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is also located within the area and has its own take on what a Chinese shop should be.
Walking west past the giant gates of Chinatown, you can gain a good idea of the north east part of the downtown shopping area, and continue into the Pearl District from there, or head south to the posh Pioneer Center area where the stores seem to be on steroids. Who knows what is in that cement, but whatever it is, it grows a block-wide Nordstrom Rack, a two-story Ross Dress for Less, and a Banana Republic that could almost fit a small Latin American country. Of course, if you'd rather get lost in a maze of stores rather than a maze of racks, there is always the Pioneer Mall at 700 Fifth Avenue, offering almost every "finer retailer" one can imagine. Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue tax-free…need one say more?
If home grown, one-of-a-kind stores are more your taste, however, just head for the Augen gallery, where you can take home a piece of the creativity that defines Portland by purchasing master prints of different renowned local artists. Meanwhile, Finnegan's Toys and Gifts offers the rare—toys made elsewhere than China. Here wooden tomahawks, dyed Indian feathers, and stick-on mustaches encourage creative play, while wooden puppet theaters hearken back to favorite toys of old.
For a good combination of both mom and pop original stores and franchise favorites, Broadway, Yamhill and Morrison streets are other favorite shopping thoroughfares.
The shops mentioned here, of course, are just a sliver of downtown Portland's offerings. Hand-crafted clothing, jewelry boutiques, the latest in home décor, and so much more await the wide-eyed shopper. And don't miss the architecture, sculptures, and sprouting fountains. For, whether you spend a million dollars or none, downtown shopping is as much about enjoying the creative window displays, friendly shop owners, street performers and ambience as it is about what you may (or may not) purchase.
In the words of Petula Clark:
"Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city. /Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty…The lights are much brighter there./You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares,/and go downtown, …, no finer place for sure./…downtown, everything's waiting for you."
- Hours vary by shop. However, it is worth noting that many smaller shops close on Monday and are open for limited times on Sunday. It is always wise to check schedules of particular shops you wish to visit before planning the trip. The shops listed in the following directories usually display hours or offer a phone number for contact.
- Note: Address and/or contact information are listed below for numerous different stores by three directories. Please note there are many more stores not listed in directories.
- Chinatown/Oldtown shopping directory: www.oldtownchinatown.net
- Pioneer Place Mall Directory: www.pioneerplace.com
- Directory of various other stores in downtown Portland: www.downtownportland.org
- Directory of bicycle shops in Portland: www.portlandonline.com/transportation
- By Bicycle: Contact Waterfront Bicycle Rentals for shopping tours: www.waterfrontbikes.com
- Also visit: www.portlandonline.com for more information on shopping by bike
- By Public Transportation: www.trimet.org
- By Car: Take the I5 to the I405 towards Portland, exit 2A, 1D, or 2B. Many streets are one way, and it is extremely easy to get lost if you are not familiar with the area. Bring a map of the area if you are not sure where you are going. Here is one that you may find helpful: www.carolmendelmaps.com/mapor/downtown-Portland-map-enlarged.html
- Another invaluable resource is: www.downtownportland.org/getting-around/map/Shop#Shopping which shows up to the minute available street parking. Smart Park: www.portlandonline.com/smartpark maps the closest parking garages, should you wish to park.
- On Foot: www.artofgeography.com/maps/pdfs/downtown-portland.pdf