This photo tour around Portland Downtown will take you through Central Eastside, Pearl District, and Downtown where you’ll enjoy the sights of Waterfront Park, several bridges, and historical buildings. Portland being Portland you’ll also come across a few weird tourist attractions, including the freshly designed carnivore street lamps.
This tour takes half to full day. Hop on/off at any location.
We took the tour in November. We started pretty late at 1PM. The first photo spot we noticed was the beautiful street art mural at Yamhill street you see above.
Coffee and Street Art at Central Eastside
Start with a good coffee at ‘Water Avenue Coffee’ (1028 SE Water Avenue 145, Portland OR, 97214) on the east side of the Willamette River – streetcar station SE M L King & Morrison just 3 blocks away, bus number 6.
Right next to the coffee shop is the first photo spot: with a beautiful purple street art mural where the railway crosses Yamhill Street. If you’re looking for more architectural black and white photos, look north at the railway and the bridges above.
Cross the SE Morrison Bridge heading west and head towards Waterfront Park – make sure to stay on the right (north) side of the bridge, with a view to the north east of Portland. The views are much nicer from that side of the bridge.
Taking Photos at Waterfront Park
From Tom McCall Waterfront Park you have a nice view of Hawthorne Bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1910 and is the oldest operating vertical lift bridge in the United States. Hawthorne Bridge is one of the busiest in Portland, but traffic stops when the bridge needs to make space for crossing ships – you have to wait 8 minutes on average before you can pass the bridge again. The location of Waterfront Park is great for taking black and white photos of the bridge, though it is also nice to pass it heading west during sunset.
Continue along Waterfront Park heading north, passing multiple picturesque spots for photos, including the Maritime Museum, the Saturday Market (on Saturdays and Sundays), and Steel Bridge, among others. The bridges are especially nice for structural/black and white photos. Portland’s Steel Bridge is only 2 years younger than Hawthorne Bridge and only because it replaced the former one which was built in 1888 – the first railroad bridge across the Willamette River in Portland. It was so unusual to use steel instead of wrought iron for a bridge that they just named it Steel Bridge.
Lunch and Carnivorous Street Lights in Perl District
When you hit Broadway Bridge, a big red construction, leave Waterfront Park and head west towards NW Broadway Bridge and NW Lovejoy Street. By now it should be time for lunch. Enjoy a nice sandwich at Lovejoy Bakers (939 NW 10th Ave). If you’re keen, look for photo opportunities inside the bakery. Don’t forget to stock up with bread and baked goodies for the road before you leave.
Going down NW 10th Ave you pass by Christopher David where you can pick up a nice coffee in case your caffeine level needs refreshment. It’s also a beautiful flower and home interior store with lots of photo opportunities inside and outside.
Wandering further down south you’ll pass by an old house facade which are the remains of the old Ecotrust Building, built in 1895. The wall now surrounds the parking lot for the new Ecotrust Building that features a few nice restaurants and a Patagonia store.
Continue down NW 10th Ave until you reach a few pillars on your left hand side, turn left and follow the street until you hit the North Park Blocks. Have a look around to see if something piques your interest. Right at the park there is also the US Custom House which was completed in 1901 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The architecture of the building is a good example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style which is most prominently visible in the ornamentation of the windows and doors.
Going down south on NW Broadway another just-built new tourist attraction awaits you: the giant, carnivorous street lights designed by Dan Corson. You can find them on NW Davis Street between NW Broadway and NW 5th Ave. Read more about the project on The Atlantic Cities.
Carnivorous street lights at day and night:
Going down SW Broadway leads to several great places and squares to take photos. Remember to always look up as this lets you discover the architecture and street art. The Benson Hotel is located at 309 SW Broadway and marks another entry in the National Register of Historic places. It was opened in 1913 as an addition to the adjacent Oregon Hotel.
After that, take a left on SW Stark Street and admire the Historic US National Bank. It was built back in 1917 and the awesome bronze doors were added in 1931. It was the first building built out of steel and the terra cotta columns, pilasters, and cornices are not only colorful and beautifully designed but also fireproof and durable. The building itself is designed in a Second Century Roman style.
If you’re not too tired, go further down south until you reach Southwest Main Street (if you are go directly to Pioneer Place). A beautiful gazebo in front of a high glass building is a perfect spot to test out a macro lens (to capture intricate carved details on the gazebo) as well as a wide angle lens. After that, go to the corner of Southwest Main and Southwest 5th Avenue and then look up and be amazed by Portlandia: a beautiful bronze statue on top of one of the buildings.
Following 5th Ave back up north will lead you to Portland’s ‘living room’ – Pioneer Place. From there, go back over Morrison Bridge (don’t forget to take a look behind you if it happens to be dusk) and finish the tour with a good meal and a beer flight at Hair of the Dog Brewing company at 61 Southeast Yamhill Street.