by Santorini Dave • Updated: February 24, 2019
• Affiliate Disclosure: Booking.com is my favorite website for booking hotels (and yes, it’s the site I always use when reserving a room). It’s safe, easy to use, and consistently has great rates. All links to Booking on my site are affiliate links meaning I earn a small fee when you book a hotel. (There is never any extra cost to you for using these links). I use some of these earnings for my monthly donation to the wonderful non-profit GiveDirectly. Read more about my charitable giving here.
Best Hotels in the Central Downtown/Retail Core
- Hotel Sentinel
(Hotel phone: 503-224-3400)
Gorgeous historic luxury hotel with contemporary appeal. High ceilings, stylish decor, and vintage touches like leather wing chairs create an air of approachable opulence, and the hotel’s lovely restaurant and bar are destinations for locals and travelers alike. Sixth floor executive rooms have skylights and jetted tubs. Great central location, with plenty of food trucks nearby and the Pearl District an easy walk away.
- Hotel Lucia
(Hotel phone: 503-225-1717)
An artsy and eclectic modern luxury boutique hotel, featuring both house-curated and traveling exhibits. Rooms are on the small side, but lovely and well-appointed. Not great for families, but foodies and art-lovers will swoon: the lobby is a museum in itself, and both hotel restaurants are run by James Beard Award-winning chef Vitaly Paley. Location is great, in the heart of downtown Portland, surrounded by restaurants and close to shopping. An easy walk to the Pearl.
- The Nines
(Hotel phone: 877-229-9995)
Stylish and stunning luxury hotel in the heart of downtown. Guest rooms are spacious, quiet, and well-appointed, done up in old-school glamour and arranged around a central open-concept atrium. The modern lobby atrium houses many private (and cool) seating areas, and a phenomenal upscale steakhouse/gastropub. Adjacent lobby/billiard room. The rooftop bar has space-age architecture and sweeping views. This can’t-be-beat location is central to just about everything.
- Hotel Vintage
(Hotel phone: 503-228-1212)
Family-friendly luxury boutique hotel with a wine theme. Adults will love the cool lobby wine bar with live music on weekends. Kids will appreciate the gaming room with shuffleboard and XBox. Decor is tasteful and modern, and guest rooms are spacious – splurge a bit for distinctive upgrades: Sky Loft rooms have huge, angled windows with great views, King Studio Suites feature enormous soaking tubs, and Garden Spa Rooms boast balconies and hot tubs. Great central location.
- Hotel Monaco
(Hotel phone: 503-222-0001)
Chic and vibrant luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by shops and restaurants. Bold colors and patterns dominate the decor, creating a vibe that’s both elegant and fresh. Rooms are as spacious as they are stylish, and double-queen suites can accommodate up to six people. Great for families, with kid-friendly wine hour nightly, child-sized robes, and bikes to loan. Excellent on-site restaurant and full-service Aveda salon. Pet friendly.
Best Hotels in the Cultural/Arts District
- The Heathman
(Hotel phone: 503-241-4100)
Portland’s premiere historic hotel. Classic sophistication at every turn: from the traditional beefeater doorman to the gorgeous wood-paneled Tea Court lobby, to the hotel’s impressive skylit library of over 27,000 author-signed books. Guest rooms are tastefully elegant, bathrooms are small but beautifully appointed. The Heathman’s restaurant is currently under renovation, re-opening in October 2017 under James Beard Award-winning chef Vitaly Paley. Fantastic location for the arts: adjacent to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and near Portland’s museums and leafy south park blocks.
- The Paramount
(Hotel phone: 503-223-9900)
Mid-range sophistication on the edge of the Arts District. Guest rooms are sizable and traditionally decorated, many with Juliet (or larger) balconies. Lobby is spacious and elegant, adjacent to fantastic bar/eateries. The Paramount’s location can’t be beat: overlooking Director Park (with illuminated fountain and life-size chess board), near concert halls, museums, and the south park blocks. Easy access to downtown shopping and the Pearl. A great choice for an affordable downtown stay, just outside of the grittier retail core.
- Hotel Modera
(Hotel phone: 503-484-1070)
Modern mid-range hotel in a fantastic location. While the guest rooms won’t wow you (they’re cramped, but have comfortable beds and well-appointed bathrooms), the spotlight here is on the common spaces: the Modera’s lobby is vibrant and artsy, and the restaurant’s fantastic outdoor patio seating (with fire pits and modern, lush landscaping) is a draw for locals and travelers alike – especially during happy hour. Great location near Portland State University, walkable to museums, concert halls, the waterfront, and the retail core.
Best Hotels in the Pearl District
- Hotel DeLuxe
(Hotel phone: 503-208-7306)
Vintage luxury boutique hotel outside of downtown. Fans of old Hollywood glamour and art deco design will swoon: elegant furnishings and period details everywhere you look. The opulent in-house restaurant boasts a grand piano and serves afternoon tea, and the dim-lit lounge is straight out of Mad Men. Guest rooms are small, but smartly furnished and quiet. Location is ideal for those who prefer an escape: outside the bustle of downtown, but an easy walk to the Pearl, Nob Hill, Arts District, and Retail Core.
- The Mark Spencer
(Hotel phone: 503-224-3293)
Mid-range historic hotel on the south edge of the Pearl. The oldest continually-operating hotel in Portland is recently renovated, with spacious guest rooms featuring stylish furnishings, exposed brick and beams, and large windows. All double rooms have comfortable sitting rooms and kitchenettes. There’s no in-house restaurant or bar, but there are loads nearby, and continental breakfast is offered in the lobby. Great central location, one block from Powell’s Books and the Brewery Blocks of the Pearl, an easy walk into downtown.
- McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel
(Hotel phone: 503-972-2670)
Cool and quirky mid-range property adjacent to the popular Crystal Ballroom concert venue. King suites have en-suite bathrooms, but most rooms are single queens, with Euro-style shared (but individual) baths that are clean and plentiful. All rooms feature original artwork and murals, inspired by past Ballroom performances. Four cool bars and restaurants on property, all serving McMenamin’s signature beers, wine, & spirits. Amazing underground soaking pool/grotto. Fantastic central location near Powell’s and the Pearl. Great for young, music-loving, hit-the-pubs types, not so much for families or light sleepers.
- Ace Hotel
(Hotel phone: 503-228-2277)
Mid-range/budget hipster chic between downtown and the Pearl. Room types range from single twin Euro-stlye shared-bath rooms to deluxe kings with bathrooms en-suite. All feature funky architectural details, original artwork, and an eclectic, industrial/bohemian vibe. A nice continental breakfast is offered (though it’s not free) and the hotel sits between two great eateries/cafes. Great in-the-middle-of-it-all location, though light sleepers will want to request a back room, as street noise can be a problem.
- Residence Inn Downtown/Pearl District
(Hotel phone: 503-220-1339)
Newer mid-range hotel on the Pearl’s quiet northern edge. Modern, spacious suites all feature fully-equipped kitchens and large bathrooms, some have Willamette River views. Contemporary indoor/outdoor lobby with Market grocery, free continental breakfast, pool and fitness center, large laundry room for guest use. Quiet neighborhood location, near the Willamette River walking path, walkable to the shops, restaurants, and groceries in the Pearl, and one block from the streetcar line into downtown.
Best Hotels on the Waterfront
- Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel
(Hotel phone: 503-228-3233)
Gorgeous luxury boutique hotel on the banks of the Willamette River. Guest rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated, suites have fireplaces and jetted tubs. The Grand Suite offers panoramic river views, and Marina View Suites are essentially riverfront condos, equipped with washer/dryer, full kitchen, wood-burning fireplaces, and balconies. Lovely communal spaces: the inviting lobby has a grand piano and cozy fireplace, and the back porch has rocking chairs and a fantastic river view. Great on-site restaurant, afternoon wine tasting, and bikes available for rides along the river. Serene location, outside of the busy downtown core.
- Portland Marriott Downtown Riverfront
(Hotel phone: 503-226-7600)
Modern mid-range hotel with great river views. Newly-renovated guest rooms and suites have are stylish and well-appointed, though standard rooms can feel a bit cramped. “M Club” level rooms feature free breakfast, coffee, snacks, and bar service in the Club Lounge. On-site restaurant/lounge has cool bookshelf booths and cozy fireplace nooks. Fantastic location across from the Willamette riverwalk, just blocks from the Cultural District and Portland’s retail core.
Best Hotel in Nob Hill
- Inn at Northrup Station
(Hotel phone: 503-224-0543)
Mid-range suite hotel in a quiet neighborhood, great for families. Suites sleep 4-6 people: ground floor suites have patios with small tables, upper floor suites have standing balconies. All guests have access to 2nd floor terrace with BBQ grills. Vibrant, contemporary decor, free parking and continental breakfast. Located in the quieter Nob Hill/Alphabet District neighborhood of trendy shops and eateries, directly on the streetcar line into downtown (ask the front desk for free passes).
Best Hotel in the Alberta Arts District
- McMenamins Kennedy School
(Hotel phone: 503-249-3983)
Unique and charming historic boutique hotel complex. In this converted 1916 elementary school, old classrooms are now guest rooms, complete with chalkboards and cloakrooms. There are 5 themed bars/restaurants (including Honors and Detention Bars), a movie theater (free for guests), and a gorgeous soaking pool on-site. Guest rooms feature original mural artwork and period furnishings, but no TVs. Located in NE Portland, a short walk from the restaurants, boutiques, and galleries of Alberta Street.
With its quirky charm and natural beauty, this thriving city 3 hours to the south is a great choice for an easy trip out of Seattle. Situated along the banks of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Portland boasts historic bridges, riverfront promenades, and leafy neighborhood parks perfect for outdoor recreation like running and biking. The Pearl and Cultural Arts Districts are particularly popular with tourists, who enjoy exploring the art galleries and tony boutiques of the former and the museums and concert halls of the latter. A haven for hipsters and extremely LGBTQ-friendly, Portland is known for being both socially and environmentally progressive – often considered one of the nation’s “greenest” cities due to its commitment to sustainability.
Portland is a paradise for food lovers. With over 700 licensed food carts – hawking nosh that ranges from the expected (think tacos and tamales) to the extraordinary (grilled PB&J, anyone?) – the city is widely considered to be the street food capital of the United States. If you prefer a more traditional dining-out experience, this city’s still got you covered: James Beard Award-winning local chefs Vitaly Paley (Paley’s Place, Imperial), Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge) and Naomi Pomeroy (Beast, Expatriate) are only a few of the culinary masters responsible for Portland’s recent rise to the top of the national restaurant scene.
Well known for beer production (it houses more local breweries than any other city in the world), Portland is also home to a burgeoning craft distillery scene, with local producers creating phenomenal small-batch whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, and specialty liqueurs. If you prefer a pinot, the nearby Willamette Valley wine growing region produces exceptional ones (both gris and noir), which can be found at restaurants and wine-sellers across the city. Portland’s local roastery, Stumptown, has been creating what many consider to be the nation’s best coffee since 1999.
Getting to Portland
Portland sits about 175 miles south of Seattle. Flying between the two cities takes only 40 minutes, but the airport hassle and added expense are hardly justified by any travel time you might be saving up in the air – if you save any at all. Here are the three best ways to get to to Portland from Seattle:
- By Train
Amtrak runs multiple daily trains between the two cities. Each trip runs about four hours, and depending on the time of day you travel will cost somewhere between $30 and $50 each way. If you’re able to, travel on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. This train runs between Seattle and Los Angeles, and features larger seats with more legroom, a dining car with sit-down table service, and great views from the Sightseer lounge car. (Tip: snag a seat on the west side of the train for the best scenery.)
- By Car
It’s a straight shot down the interstate from Seattle to Portland, and if you’ve got a car, it’s an easy, if not terribly scenic, drive. At three hours and one tank of gas, this can be the quickest and cheapest way to go, with a few caveats: Traffic can get extremely heavy on some sections of the interstate, especially during morning/evening commute hours and on weekends. This can easily add an hour or more to your trip. And while you won’t spend much on gas getting down there, parking in Portland can be expensive.
- By Bus
The Bolt Bus runs multiple daily trips between Seattle and Portland, and can be a great option if you’re looking to save a few bucks and want someone else to do the driving. Tickets generally cost between $15 and $30 each way, with some trips being offered for a mere $1. The Bolt Bus has wi-fi and outlets to charge your devices, and while it’s not luxurious, it’s comfortable and clean. Just like traveling by car, though, taking the bus leaves you vulnerable to delays caused by heavy traffic.
Getting Around Portland
No need to rent a car – Portland is an extremely pedestrian-friendly city, with a great transit system to help you get around when it’s too far (or rainy) to walk. This system is called TriMet, and it comprises three main branches: MAX light rail, the Portland Streetcar, and the bus, though you can get most places downtown by utilizing the MAX and streetcar alone.
- MAX Light Rail consists of five separate lines, all of which run into/through downtown. Trains run daily, every every 15 minutes or less.
- The Portland Streetcar has three lines: A North/South line runs through downtown, from the Pearl District to the Waterfront. The A and B Loops run clockwise and counterclockwise, respectively, through downtown Portland and neighborhoods located east across the Willamette River. Cars run every 15-20 minutes.
- Portland’s bus service has almost 80 active lines, which run throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Frequent Service bus lines run daily, every 15 minutes or less.
Before you board, buy a validated ticket at a TriMet ticket machine, which can be found at all MAX and streetcar stations, as well as many grocery stores. These are good for all TriMet transit (light rail, street car, and bus) and cost $2.50 for a 2 1/2 hour pass, or $5 for all day. Kids 7-17 and senior citizens pay half fare, kids under 7 ride free. You can also purchase tickets on the bus (exact change only, please), online, or via the TriMet Tickets smartphone app.