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4.9
238 votes

Powell's City of Books

1005 W Burnside St, Portland, Oregon 97209 USA

$
$$$$
Budget
Open Now
Wed 9a-11p
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Wifi
Add to Trip

“The largest Independent Bookstore”

From humble storefront beginnings in 1971 on a derelict corner of northwest Portland, Oregon, Powell's Books has grown into one of the world's great bookstores, with five locations in the Portland metropolitan area, and one of the book world's most successful dot-coms, serving customers worldwide.

Powell's roots began in Chicago, where Michael Powell, as a University of Chicago graduate student, opened his first bookstore in 1970. Encouraged by friends and professors, including novelist Saul Bellow, Michael borrowed $3,000 to assume a lease on a bookstore. The venture proved so successful that he managed to repay the loan within two months. Michael's father Walter, a retired painting contractor, worked one summer with Michael in the Chicago store. He so enjoyed his experience that upon returning to Portland he opened his own used bookstore. Walter swamped his original location by buying every marketable used book that came through the door, finally pushing the whole operation into a former car dealership. The old car dealership has undergone many transformations, and Powell's today looks little as it did when Walter opened his shop in the early '70s. Michael joined Walter in 1979, creating a bookstore with a unique recipe that, though viewed as unorthodox, worked: Used and new, hardcover and paperback, all on the same shelf, open 365 days a year and staffed by knowledgeable and dedicated book lovers. Michael says, "In the used book world, mixing paperbacks and hardbacks was not so much of a stretch, but when my dad had the idea of bringing in new books too, I had no sympathy. Used and new on the same shelf? It seemed crazy." However, Michael concludes, combining books "had synergy way beyond what we expected. If you put all the new books in one store and all the used books in another, each wouldn't get half the total business — they drive each other." Six stores and several expansions later, Powell's went online in 1994, and experienced immediate success. Within two years, Powell's entire inventory was listed on the web.

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Reviewed by
Joshua Smibert

  • Road Warrior
  • 119 Reviews
  • 166 Helpful
July 5, 2014

Its no secret that I am a huge book nerd. With that said, Powell's City of Books is like my Shangri-La. There are literally 4 stories of this book store that encompasses a whole city block and bleeds over the street to a separate building. Each floor is dedicated to a section. History, Children's, Fantasy, Art, Travel.... the list goes on. New and old books are placed together as a way to keep the focus on the whats inside them. The top floor has a great rare book section. The bottom floor has a great coffee shop and comic book section. It is officially the largest independent bookstore in the world - and that - if nothing else should be enough to get you in its doors. That and the smell - that old book smell.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Travel Oregon

  • Expert
  • 5,389 Reviews
  • 2,135 Helpful
June 17, 2015

Flagship location with over one million books, including an excellent selection of cookbooks!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
pastor.ari

  • 73 Reviews
  • 29 Helpful
September 23, 2014

The greatest bookstore in the world. Period. Book lovers could spend days browsing in here.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Todd Mowbray

  • Road Warrior
  • 190 Reviews
  • 144 Helpful
April 5, 2014

Powell's rules. So enormous you can easily get lost. Perfectly located on Burnside taking up an entire city block! Not a heavy reader? Doesn't matter! You'll for sure be able to find something up your alley at this place!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Derek Neuland

  • Photographer
  • 297 Reviews
  • 123 Helpful
March 14, 2014

This is easily the best book store i've ever been to! It's so big, they have maps available to help you navigate the 4 stories/city block! My favorite thing is they shelve the used books right next to the new ones so you can pick based on condition and price.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
gordoandfriends

  • 4 Reviews
  • 6 Helpful
February 24, 2014

They had a dizzying amount of books. The building took up pretty much a whole square block. Definitely worth checking out on a rainy Portland day!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
jodimichelle

  • 28 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
July 18, 2016

Wow, wish we had a whole day to spend at Powell's. Amazing book store - can't wait to come back and spend more time browsing.

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Reviewed by
Dakota

  • Blogger
  • 131 Reviews
  • 20 Helpful
November 13, 2015

There's a reason "city" is in the name. This place is giant, has an amazing collection and some pretty cool swag to boot.

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Reviewed by
ChrissyEdwards

  • 9 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
September 30, 2015

Large and in charge!

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Reviewed by
EleanorRowles

  • 5 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
June 10, 2015

One of the best book stores I've visited!

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Powell's City of Books

1005 W Burnside St
Portland, Oregon
97209 USA

Hours

Open now until 11:00 pm
  • Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 11:00 pm

Is there a problem with this listing? Let us know.

  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Street Parking

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