Work it: Portland is paradise for digital nomads

Mar 26, 22
Work it: Portland is paradise for digital nomads

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The term ‘digital nomad’ is everywhere these days – there’s a cottage industry of advice on how to work full-time while traveling wherever and whenever you want. But even if you’re just trying to get a few projects done while on vacation, it’s nice to have a reliable place to work, with good wi-fi and a vibe that doesn’t wreck your productivity.

Two women sit at a cafe in Portland with coffee and laptops open.
The vibe in Portland is perfectly calibrated for the digital nomad lifestyle © Reza Estakhrian / Getty Images

Portland is great for this. The city’s abundance of cafes and coffee shops, plus its appreciation for unconventional workdays and lifestyles, make it a welcoming base for travelers who work remotely. There’s something for just about every style, whether you prefer your makeshift office to be minimalist-industrial or more like a kitsch-filled living room.

Here are some of the best places to set up your laptop and get some work done while you’re in town.

Coffeeshops

This is the obvious choice – especially here in Portland, where the baristas making your coffee are probably more serious about it than you are about the project you’re working on. There are endless options for work-friendly coffee shops in Portland, but we do have a few favorites, depending on your mood and the neighborhood you’re in.

Coava is all cool-industrial chic, and baristas who make your pour-over coffee experience feel a little bit like a religious one. There are three locations, all good, but the one on Southeast Grand Ave has the best atmosphere, and it's spacious without being officelike. Smaller and usually more densely packed, Heart on E Burnside St has excellent coffee, lots of laptop-size tables and a huge roasting machine in the corner.

Rows of scones, biscuits and bagels are lined up under a glass display case at a cafe in Portland
The pastry display at Crema might be the most popular part of this always-packed shop © Becky Ohlsen / Lonely Planet

If you can’t work without a decadent pastry to fuel your creativity, head to Crema, where the hardest part of your day might be choosing just one thing from the display case of baked treats. Be sure to get there early, as it’s a popular spot and fills up fast.

Or maybe what you really need to finish that spreadsheet is a slice of pie and some political memorabilia. In that case, head to Bipartisan Café in the scrappy little neighborhood of Montavilla, where big ideas are hatched at small tables and the walls are plastered with episodes from US history.

Albina Press is another local favorite, with a couple of locations – we like the one at 5012 SE Hawthorne Blvd as a quiet oasis at one end of the busy commercial corridor, within easy reach of the tree-shrouded trails of Mount Tabor Park.

Similarly focused on excellent coffee and an attractively no-nonsense atmosphere, Good Coffee has two locations in southeast Portland, one downtown and one in the Pearl District. In case you’re coffee’d out by now, they make a pretty lavender matcha latte and have a wide selection of tea.

A wall of motorcycle helmets frames a cafe counter in Portland
Coffee, motorcycle gear and your laptop make a great combination at See See Motor Coffee Company in Portland © Becky Ohlsen / Lonely Planet

If you like a little two-wheeled eye candy while you work or the smell of two-stroke oil in the morning, visit See See Motor Coffee Company, which doubles as a motorcycle apparel and gear shop. There are usually a handful of interesting vintage bikes parked out front; grab a window seat for the best view.

In North Portland, the Stacks coffeehouse sports a library theme, with card-catalogue tables and walls lined with 10-foot-high bookshelves. Not only is it inspiring to be surrounded by books as you work, but you can also pick out something to read during your breaks, and if you love it, you can sign up for a Stacks library card and take it home for a while.

Then again, if what you’re after is the feeling of working from home, maybe even in your pajamas, check out Khora Coffeehouse – a coffeeshop inside a beautifully renovated Craftsman home, with a mellow, southeast Portland feel. Try the cardamom-flavored citrus spice latte for a change of pace.

Rows of diner tables are seen in a cozy brick-walled cafe
Beulahland is a triple threat – part cafe, part bar, part workplace © Becky Ohlsen / Lonely Planet

Cafes and work-friendly pubs

Ready to make that all-important switch from coffee time to happy hour? Portland has you covered. An old-school mainstay, Beulahland shifts seamlessly from breakfast joint to comfy neighborhood pub; it has big tables you can spread out on, great music, local art, pinball machines, and craft beer and cider on tap. Tiny’s Coffee buzzes with talkative locals all day and serves Stumptown coffee from 6am, but the availability of beer and wine (plus pinball) make it a fun place for later in the afternoon.

There’s also the lovably grungy My Father’s Place, with all-day breakfast, plenty of booze and large, cushy booths you can settle into. Don’t miss the grown-up food court known as The Zipper, where you can start your day in a coffee shop, move to the central dining area for a lunch of fancy ramen or a spicy chicken sandwich, and then ease into happy hour when the Paydirt bar opens at 4pm – all in a day’s work.

The rest: libraries, co-working spaces, and hotel lobbies

If all you need is a place to sit and work, most branches of the Multnomah County Library in Portland have a handful of quiet nooks to hide in. Wi-fi is free, and you don’t need a library card to use it (although you will generally need a card to use one of the library’s computers). There’s a branch in every neighborhood (check the website to find the one closest to you); Central Library downtown has the most seating.

A man walks out of the Central Library in downtown Portland.
In addition to being a great place to get some work done, the Multnomah County system is one of the nation's most active libraries © andipantz / Getty Images

They’ll cost you more than a $3 latte, but co-working spaces are another option if you’re seriously trying to work while traveling. WeWork is an international company with two locations in Portland and a range of monthly fees that include all the perks of a traditional office – plus coffee and beer. Hatch Labs, a local co-working company, offers $20 day passes that include coffee, wi-fi and access to one of its adorably designed workspaces; if you’re in town for a while, longer memberships have additional benefits, including discounts at neighborhood businesses.

As a traveler, maybe the most obvious choice is to work from your hotel. But you don't have to be cooped up in your room – Portland has some fantastic hotel lobbies, ideal for working while people-watching and coffee- or cocktail-sipping. Park yourself at the old-school industrial Ace, the stylish Society Hotel in Old Town, or the brand-new Hoxton, part of a London-based boutique chain, which explicitly invites people to hang out in its plush communal spaces.

No more excuses! Get out and about and back to work at the same time.

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