Looking to get cultured? From a bookstore in a welcoming old house to the oldest art museum on the west coast, Portland has the goods. Here’s where to go to see art and grow your book collection.

Where To See An Art Show

Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park)
The Portland Art Museum is the oldest art museum on the west coast, and the city’s obligatory big fancy art space, with all of the varied collections that entails. The permanent collection is pretty, but it’s PAM’s touring shows and original programming that really shine, often incorporating a wonderful mix of local context and nationally recognized work. PAM’s well worth devoting an afternoon to, and be sure to check the schedule for the museum’s Whitsell Auditorium if you like your visual art with a side of cinema.

PICA (415 SW 10th, 15 NE Hancock)
Looking for something more contemporary? Then check out the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. PICA’s programming bridges genres and provides a steady mix of local and nationally recognized artists. While the organization’s year-round programming is consistently excellent, the best time to experience their eclectic curatorial inclinations is during the annual Time-Based Art Festival, a jam-packed performance festival that fills Portland with innovative work each fall.

10 More Places We Recommend:

Open Gallery (323 NW 6th), Elizabeth Leach Gallery (417 NW 9th), PDX Contemporary Art (925 NW Flanders), One Grand Gallery (1000 E Burnside), Nationale (3360 SE Division), Melanie Flood Projects (420 SW Washington), p:ear (338 NW 6th), Charles A. Hartman Fine Art (134 NW 8th), Blue Sky Gallery (122 NW 8th)

Where to Buy Books

Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside)
It’s obvious for a reason: Powell’s has (almost) everything, but I’m especially partial to their collection of art books and the true-crime aisle just outside the in-house coffee shop. As an added bonus, you can also see an author reading here almost any night of the week. Go on a weekday to avoid the weekend rush.

Mother Foucault’s (523 SE Morrison)
In a world of e-books and Amazon, Mother Foucault’s proudly clings to the old ways, with a dizzying selection of amazing literature in weird, old editions. (I have a copy of Georges Perec’s Things in French from here.) If you want a book-buying experience that’s as close as you can get to a Parisian flea market table, this is where you’ll find it.

Wallace Books (7241 SE Milwaukie)
Wallace Books is a little out of the way, but well worth the bus ride/drive/Lyft. Step into this delightful old house in Sellwood, and you’ll find books on every available surface. It reminds me of walking into the house of a beloved professor and discovering that (hooray!) they’ve never MariKonned their library. You’re sure to find something good to read here, and you won’t find a cozier browsing spot anywhere else.

10 More Places We Recommend:

Annie Bloom’s Books (7834 SW Capitol Hwy.), Broadway Books (1714 NE Broadway), Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne), Daedalus Books (2074 NW Flanders), Another Read Through (3932 N Mississippi), In Other Words (14 NE Killingsworth), Floating World Comics (400 NW Couch), Hawthorne Boulevard Books (3129 SE Hawthorne), Adelina Film & Art Books (902 SW Morrison)