Covering an entire city block, Powell’s City of Books is more than a great bookstore: It’s a microcosm of Portland, packed with smart and eclectic offerings, passionate people and, naturally, its own coffee shop. And, just like Portland, it’s open 365 days a year!
A storied beginning
Founded in 1971 in a former car dealership on a then-derelict corner, Powell’s has grown into a Portland landmark and the world’s largest new and used bookstore — and its location is now at the heart of the city, bridging the Pearl District, downtown and the West End.
Early on, founder Walter Powell made the revolutionary decision to comingle new, used, hardcover and paperback books. This egalitarian approach means you can easily see everything by a favorite author — and often score a great deal by choosing a well-loved edition over a brand-new one. And, in addition to shelves upon shelves of books, the store also stocks wonderful gifts and souvenirs.
Lost in the stacks
It can be easy to get lost in the City of Books’ 68,000 square feet, nine rooms, three floors and 3,500 sections. In fact, losing yourself in the sprawling store (or one of its more than 1 million books) can be half the fun. But for those who prefer navigating over perusing, Powell’s offers a detailed map to its color-coded rooms as well as a free app that offers turn-by-turn directions to specific books.
Good to know
- The main entrance is at the corner of 10th and Burnside. Grab a map at the info desk in the center of the Green Room. Need coffee, stat? Head to your left and pass through the Blue and Gold rooms to get to the café.
- Restrooms are on the second level in the Purple Room.
- Every room has staffed information desks and computers for customer searches.
- Cashiers are located near the two entrances, in the Green and Orange rooms.
- If you’re selling used books, you should use the entrance at 11th and Couch — this takes you right into the Orange Room, where books are bought 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Happening at Powell’s
Powell’s hosts frequent author readings and events in the Pearl Room’s Basil Hallward Gallery. Every Saturday at 11 a.m. is kids’ story time in the Rose Room, featuring a different book every week.
Serious book lovers should plan to visit the Rare Book Room, which houses several thousand valuable books and is open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m. or by appointment.
Beyond the “City”
There are two Powell’s outposts in a single block of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard: a general bookstore and one focused on volumes (and superb gifts) for gardeners and cooks. You’ll also find a location in Portland International Airport, in the Oregon Market pre-boarding area. There’s another location in Beaverton, southwest of Portland.