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How to spend 48 hours in Portland, Oregon

Itinerary for 48 hours in Portland, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon is a fantastic destination for weekend trips and longer adventures! In the city you’ll find amazing food, fun adventures, and fantastic access to urban nature right at your fingertips. Wondering how to spend 48 hours in Portland? Below is a perfect 2 day weekend itinerary for foodies and adventure lovers visiting Portland. Fun fact: you can tackle this itinerary even if you don’t have access to a vehicle or rental car!

You might be wondering why we’re the right people to tell toy how to spend 48 hours in Portland. Between the two of us (Gwyn and Ami), we lived in Portland for over 12 years, and we visit frequently to see family and friends. We’re local experts, and we know all the best places to eat and adventure in Portland, Oregon. We’re here to share our knowledge with you so you can plan the perfect 48 hours in Portland.

48 hours in Portland, Oregon – the perfect 2 day itinerary

Getting to Portland, and navigating around town

No matter what your method of transportation, getting to Portland is a breeze! Portland has a phenomenal public transit system, a great airport, and the city is pretty easy to drive in. See below for some notes on the major methods of transport to, and around, the city.

First, I want to give a plug for the Portland airport (“PDX”). After flying extensively around the US and the world, PDX remains one of my favorite airports. Why do I love it? First, it’s full of local food establishments, and they enforce “street pricing,” which means things cost the same at the airport as in town (no inflated food prices!). Second, the airport is famous for its carpet, which is SO Portland! I also find the airport to be pleasantly modern and small enough that it’s super easy to navigate. Additionally, the MAX Light Rail services the airport. 

I find Portland to be a relatively easy city to drive in, and parking isn’t too much of a hassle. Note that the city is bisected north to south by the I5 corridor and east to west by Route 26, and they’re good markers for orienting yourself in the city. You will encounter some traffic during rush hour but, overall, Portland has much less traffic than bigger cities like Seattle, WA. 

If you don’t want to rent a car during your time in Portland it’s very easy to navigate the city via bus, light rail, the Nike bikeshare, and even an aerial tram! Take it from a former urban bike commuter in downtown Portland: the bike infrastructure is fantastic. I also used to ride the light rail every day when I was a master’s student at Portland State University. It’s a great way to get around the city! Lastly, If you don’t want to drive and aren’t up for a flight you can also take Amtrak to the city. The station is conveniently located downtown.

Where to stay in Portland

I highly recommend the Inn at Northrup Station. Located in Nobb Hill and near the Pearl District, this quirky hotel has great room design, free parking, and A+ staff. It’s within walking distance of downtown, but far enough removed that it’s quiet. It’s also centrally located in relation to this entire itinerary, making this a great jumping off point for local adventures in and around the city!

Day 1: explore downtown Portland – books, breweries, and more!

For your first day in Portland I recommend you stay downtown and explore some of the city’s famous destinations, including Powell’s Books, the massive downtown farmers market and craft market, and some of the charming downtown neighborhoods, coffee houses, and eateries. See below for the perfect itinerary, including some of my FAVORITE food and coffee spots in the city!

Note: If you aren’t up for tons of walking and don’t want to deal with downtown parking then the Portland Street Car and the MAX Light Rail are great options for navigating downtown!

Breakfast at The Dragonfly Coffee House

Located near the Inn at Northrup Station, The Dragonfly Coffee House has delicious pastries, tea, and coffee to fuel your morning. The Dragonfly is a cute and artsy coffee shop, and a longtime staple of the neighborhood. If you’re looking for a more filling sit down meal I’ve heard great things about Urban Steel Kitchen + Bar, which is also located nearby.

PSU Farmers Market and/or Portland Saturday Market

Now it’s time to head south to the Park Blocks for the farmers market! Held every Saturday, the year-round Portland State University (PSU) Farmers Market is an impressive sight. You’ll find over 100 vendors selling amazing local vegetables, cheeses, mushrooms, tortillas, hazelnuts (aka ‘filberts’ in the local lingo…), and flowers. You’ll also find lots of delicious prepared foods. This is a great place to pick up gifts for family and friends, and is a quintessential ‘Portland’ experience.

If agritourism isn’t your thing then you can visit the Portland Saturday Market, which is held on weekends March through December. Located along the waterfront area, this huge arts and crafts market is a lot of fun! While you visit I also recommend strolling along the waterfront and checking out the city’s many famous bridges. The famous Voodoo Donut can also be found relatively nearby. If you’re feeling ambitious you can visit both the farmers market and the craft market in a single morning.

Grab a coffee at Case Study Coffee or Stumptown

Need a pick-me-up after all that walking and shopping? Grab a coffee at Case Study Coffee Roasters (802 SW 10th Ave) or Stumptown Coffee Roasters (1140 SW Washington St.). Both of these coffee shops are beloved local establishments with fantastic brews and beans.

Portland’s many delicious coffee shops are a must-visit!

Visit Pioneer Courthouse Square

This is usually a quick stop, but kind of fun. Known as “Portland’s Living Room,” Pioneer Courthouse Square is an urban park primarily composed of hardscape. They often host pop-up events here, and there are several art pieces in the square.

My favorite attraction nearby is the ‘Animals in Pools’ artwork, which are located along SW Yamhill and Morrison between SW 5th and 6th Avenues. This art features 10 fountains with 25 bronze sculptures of Pacific Northwest animals. The art, installed in 1986, was designed by Georgia Gerber.

Explore Powell’s City of Books

One of the city’s most iconic institutions, Powell’s Books is the world’s largest independent bookstore. The store occupies a full city block and includes both new and used books. Bibliophiles could easily spend a whole day here! Don’t be afraid to ask an employee to help you find your way to your favorite section. Even if you don’t love books it’s worth popping in to marvel at the scale of the store!

Grab lunch at Verde Cocina or Screen Door

Now it’s time to grab lunch Portland’s Pearl District. There are lots of good food options here, but Verde Cucina and Screen Door are true standouts. Verde Cucina uses lots of fresh local ingredients and is known for their fusion of Mexican and Pacific Northwest flavors. Screen Door is known for their delicious southern food. Honestly, I love both restaurants. They both have several locations in the city, but I recommend the Pearl District locations based on their proximity to the day’s adventures!

Stroll around the Pearl District

The Pearl District is a bustling neighborhood in downtown that has lots of shops, breweries, and restaurants. After lunch take a stroll along the streets of the Pearl taking in the sights. I also recommend checking out the sustainable urban design and greenspace at Tanner Springs Park. It’s one of my favorite parks in the city!

Get cultured at the Portland Art Museum 

Next, visit the Portland Art Museum to enjoy their permanent collections and rotating exhibits. Adult tickets are the most expensive, at $25 apiece. More information on admission prices and hours can be found here.

Grab a brew along the Brewery Blocks

Portland is famous for its many breweries, and you can visit several great options downtown in an area known as the ‘Brewery Blocks.’ My favorites include 10 Barrel Brewing Portland, Backwoods Brewing Company, and Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House. Several of these breweries also have good non-alcoholic beer options.

Have dinner at Papa Hayden

This Portland staple is well known for their pastries and desserts, but Papa Hayden is also a great spot for a relaxed but elevated dinner! The floor to ceiling windows and patio seating make this a great place for people watching, and the menu has hints of French flair. Other nearby restaurants worth a mention include Grassa (italian) and Fireside (seasonal pacific northwest cuisine).

Explore NW 23rd Ave

Northwest 23rd Ave (and its cousin, NW 21st Ave) are great areas to walk around and window shop. The older neighborhood homes are super charming, and there are an abundance of cute boutique shops and restaurants. 

End the night with Salt & Straw

If you still have room for more food then you’ll want to end the night with some ice cream from Salt & Straw on NW 23rd Ave! This local institution has both vegan and fully dairy ice cream, and is known for their quirky flavors. You can try as many of their flavors as you want before deciding what to order, so don’t hold back! Amiana and I usually share a double scoop on a waffle cone, but be warned: it’s a lot of ice cream.

Day 2: Enjoy good food and nature in the city

For your second day in Portland I recommend you spend your morning exploring Mississippi Street (a quirky neighborhood just over the river in Northwest Portland), followed by some time spent strolling through some of Portland’s amazing urban nature areas. These include Hoyt Arboretum, the Japanese Garden, and the East Bank Esplanade. You’ll want to wear your walking shoes, and be ready for more delicious food and coffee! 

Breakfast at Gravy on Mississippi 

For breakfast you’ll want to catch the bus or take a short drive over the river to Gravy on Mississippi Street. Gravy is home to the most memorable breakfast I ever had in Portland, and is worth the trek!

Stroll along Mississippi Street in the “Boise Neighborhood”

After breakfast take a stroll along Mississippi Street. This charming neighborhood (I used to live one block away!) is full of sun and quirky independent shops, and is more relaxed than NW 23rd Ave.

Grab a picnic lunch at Grand Central

Next, grab a picnic lunch to-go at Grand Central Bakery. You’ll be taking this to-go for your next adventure! Grand Central is a bakery known for their fantastic breads and pastries. You can go wrong with their soup, salad, or sandwiches. Their “jammer” pastries are my favorites! If you want something a little simpler than you can grab a baguette at Grand Central and then go to New Seasons Market on Williams Street to pick up some veggies and cheese.

Enjoy a picnic in the International Rose Test Garden

Next, head to Washington Park! Your first destination is the International Rose Test Garden. Best visited in summer or fall, the garden has over 600 varieties of roses on display! It’s free to visit, and a great place for a picnic. 

Visit the Hoyt Arboretum and or the Portland Japanese Garden

After lunch head to Hoyt Arboretum (free) or the Portland Japanese Garden (requires paid tickets). Both locations are also in Washington Park.

Free to visit, the Hoyt Arboretum has a spectacular network of trees and trails to explore. It’s especially nice on hot days! You can go for either short or long hikes/walks here.

The spectacular Portland Japanese Garden provides a beautiful and relaxing experience of their curated gardens. Adult admission is $22 per person – you can learn more about their hours and prices here. Most visitors spend 1.5-2 hours here.

Grab coffee at Water Avenue

After spending some time amongst the trees head back across the river to Portland’s industrial district! Here your first stop should be Water Avenue Coffee, located at 1028 SE Water Ave #145. This is my favorite coffee shop in the city! Grab some caffeine to go, and then head a block away to your next stop…

Stroll along the Eastbank Esplanade

With your coffee in hand I recommend taking a stroll along Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade. This urban park takes you along the east side of the waterfront, offering great views of the city and its bridges. 

Dinner and drinks at Ruse Brewing 

It’s been a busy two days! End your day with drinks and Detroit-style pizza (served Fridays-Sundays) at Ruse Brewing in Southeast Portland, located at 4784 SE 17th Ave. Their Greektown pizza is the best pizza I’ve ever had, and their rotating smoothie beer is truly unique, delicious, and memorable. They also have a location in Vancouver, Washington

Additional adventures in Portland:

Portland is massive, and there’s so much to do and see! You need far more than just 48 in Portland, Oregon to truly experience the city. 

  • Explore the Alberta Arts District: this is a fun and funky artsy district with restaurants and smaller independent shops. There are lots of murals, and evening street fairs throughout the summer.
  • Ride the aerial tram: From downtown you can take an “aerial tram” up the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). The tram is a fun experience (it does cost money), and there are some great views of the city, Mt. Hood, and the river from the hospital viewing decks.
  • Take a walk in Forest Park: Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and is great for a short or long hike/walk! Mt. Tabor is also a great option for urban hiking/walking. The nearby streets of Division and Hawthorne both have lovely shops and restaurants. 
  • Visit the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: Located near the Reed College campus (which I hear is lovely, but haven’t explored), the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is very pretty in spring, summer, and fall. Admission is $9.

Nearby destinations to check out

Do you enjoy our 48 hours in Portland itinerary? If so, you can find more Pacific Northwest adventure guides here! Some of our favorites near Portland: how to spend 48 hours in Astoria, an itinerary for 48 hours in Vancouver, Washington, and wildflower hikes in the Columbia River Gorge

We love hearing about the adventures and travels we help inspire! Let us know about your trip by sending us an email at gwynandami [at] gmail.com or shooting us a DM on instagram @gwynandami.

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