When you’re traveling, time isn’t always a luxury you can afford. You can add more time onto a business trip or extend a layover—but inevitably, there will be occasions when you find yourself in a new city and you only have a limited window to take it all in. But two minutes might be all you need to take in that historic landmark. In 20 minutes, you can have lunch at that famous café. In 120 minutes, you can tour that iconic gallery. By shifting your sense of time, you can manage it, maximize it, and have a two-day journey that’s as full as it is fulfilling.
Thanks to Portlandia, you probably have some sense of the things that “keep Portland weird”—the show helped to solidify the city’s reputation as a hipster town filled with bikes, beers, and beards (much to the chagrin of locals). But true Portlanders know that beyond the kombucha tap rooms, naked bike rides, and pet goats lies a culturally rich, wellness-focused city that values peace of mind, body, and earth.
The key to experiencing it all in only a short time? Follow this minute-by-minute guide to the best restaurants, shops, and fitness studios in the city—and save the time-consuming tourist attractions for a longer visit. Trust me when I say that after spending 48 hours living like a (very relaxed) local, you’ll definitely plan to come back.
Northwest and Southwest Portland
Get nourished at Root Whole Body
Deciding where and what to eat can be a challenge. Fortunately, the menu at Root Whole Body’s cafe is as streamlined as it is delicious. Gluten- and dairy-free options abound, and any dish can be made vegan. Try the Hot Date smoothie—made with bananas, dates, milk, cinnamon and cayenne—or the Tea & 3 (your choice of tea and three small plates).
Zen out at the Japanese Gardens
From breakfast, take a 40 minute walk (or 10 minute Uber) down NW 23rd Street to the Japanese Garden located within the sprawling Washington Park. The koi pond, mossy trees, and quaint foot bridges encourage you to find peace of mind in the middle of the city. Remember to stop by the Umami Café for matcha tea and a light lunch on your way out.
“The koi pond, mossy trees, and quaint foot bridges encourage you to find peace of mind in the middle of the city.”
Stock up on beauty essentials at Echo Natural Beauty
Did you forget your cleanser, toothpaste, or chapstick at home? Skip the mainstream drugstore and support local business, Echo Natural Beauty. This green oasis is stocked with beauty essentials, including Portland-based brands like Alima Pure and Crosby Elements. Stick around for an extra 15 minutes and treat yourself to an Eye Mask or Foot Reflexology treatment.
Wander through the Pearl District art galleries
Skip the vast museums in favor of a self-directed tour. The Pearl District is home to many of the city’s best contemporary art galleries: the Blue Sky Gallery, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Blackfish Gallery, Froelick Gallery, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s 511 Gallery are must-sees. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to score a free glass of wine while wandering through the PNCA exhibits.
Taste vegan Japanese food at Ichiza Kitchen
Tucked in the quiet Goose Hollow neighborhood, Ichiza Kitchen, a non-GMO, plant-based sushi restaurant is loved by local vegans and non-vegans alike. Ichiza translates to “one sitting” and reflects the “zen principle of stopping to contemplate one’s path.” Here, you can do this over Chili Oil Wontons, vegan Adobo, and sparkling sake.
Sip cocktails at Pépé Le Moko
You can find tap beers at any bar in the city, but Pépé Le Moko is where you want to go for new twists on classic cocktails. Owned by the Ace Hotel, and located at the bottom of a narrow set of stairs, this 36-seat basement bar is as welcoming as it is cool. Sip an Amaretto Sour or Cynar Collins as you check out the many vintage Polaroids that cover its walls.
“You can find tap beers at any bar in the city, but Pépé Le Moko is where you want to go for new twists on classic cocktails.”
Northeast and Southeast Portland
Snag a healthy brunch at Fern Kitchen
Many guidebooks will suggest Screen Door and Tasty n Alder as the city’s prime brunch spots—but you’ll spend more time waiting in line than you will eating (best to save these for a longer visit). Fern Kitchen is usually less crowded, and they offer something for everyone: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and keto breakfast options are all available. Plus, the restaurant sources their all-organic produce from local farms.
Unwind at Yoga Union
Located next door to Fern Kitchen, Yoga Union offers a range of classes—Hatha Yoga to improve balance and flexibility; Restorative Yoga to calm the body and mind; Vinyasa to practice stillness in motion—in their bright and airy studio seven days a week.
Go on a Field Trip
Field Trip is a one-stop-shop for artisanal jewelry, home goods, clothing, skincare, and wellness products. You’ll find everything from CBD tinctures to Worry Dolls on the store’s shelves, which makes it the perfect place to pick up a small, one-of-a-kind gift, for others or yourself.
Cool down at Eb and Bean
You may have heard that Salt and Straw is the place to go for ice cream in Portland. It’s true—but the line-ups can be long. Head down the block to Eb and Bean, which has an ever-changing variety of frozen yogurt flavors to choose from. You can’t go wrong with classics like Madagascar Vanilla or Valrhona Chocolate, but they also have more adventurous flavors to try (think Earl Gray Caramel and dairy-free Salty Pistachio), all of which can be topped with extras like vegan cookie dough and local organic fruit.
Get steamy at Löyly
Relax in one of this Nordic-inspired spa’s many saunas (löyly is Finnish for “steam”) and treat yourself to a detoxifying Birch and Arnica Exfoliation or signature Cleanser package (includes a 30-minute massage, 30-minute Vital facial, and up to two hours in the sauna facility). The treatments are dreamy, but so is spending a few moments of silence in the minimalist cedar saunas.
“The treatments are dreamy, but so is spending a few moments of silence in the minimalist cedar saunas.”
Nosh at Providore Fine Foods
Once refreshed, you’re probably ready for some eats. You don’t need to stock up on groceries for such a short trip, so it’s a good thing that Providore Fine Foods is so much more than your average supermarket. Cozy up at the tiny Oregon cherry wood bar with a glass of local wine, poke, and some (or dozens of) oysters from the Flying Fish Company.
Jam to live music at the city’s top venues
You can’t leave Portland without experiencing some of the city’s best live music. Wonder Ballroom, Doug Fir Lounge, and Mississippi Studios are some of the greatest venues on the East Side; Valentines in Southwest Portland is tough to find, but well-worth the search.
“You can’t leave Portland without experiencing some of the city’s best live music.”
Two days—48 hours—doesn’t seem like a lot. But what if you change your mindset: what if you think about it as 2,880 minutes? You can’t alter the passage of time, but you can change how you calculate it, perceive it, and use it. Make the most of every minute in Portland with these local favorites, and check back for the next in our Local Time series.