Visit One Of The Largest Bookstores In The World At This West Coast Destination

Book lovers, rejoice: there's a place in Oregon where you can visit a city of books. In reality, it's more like a city within the city of Portland. However, it takes up one entire block in the downtown area and bills itself as the world's largest independent used and new bookstore.

The name of the place is Powell's City of Books, and it's been a Portland institution since 1971. When you walk in off the street in Portland's Pearl District, you'll be entering a bookstore so massive that it has its own map like an actual city. The elevators at Powell's will carry you up through three levels of books spread out across 10 big color-coded rooms.

Start with literature and different genres of fiction on the first floor, then work your way up to the travel section on the second floor. Maybe there you can read up on some of the other attractions Oregon has to offer, like a national park that's home to the deepest lake in America. The store is open 365 days a year, so if you're in Portland over the holidays searching for a literary oasis, you don't have to worry about this one being closed, either.

Powell's City of Books in Portland

In 1999 Guinness World Records recognized the Barnes & Noble at 105 Fifth Ave. in New York City as the world's largest bookshop. However, that store closed in 2014, when the same fate befell another store called the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto. Yet even as the retail apocalypse claimed these stores and entire chains like Borders, Powell's City of Books managed to keep doing business in Portland.

Powell's has a few things going for it that help set it apart from bigger bookstore chains. One is its reputation as a family-owned business that's still going strong after 52 years and counting. Another is just the fact that this is a place where you can still trade in used books for store credit on certain days. If you finished that airplane novel you were reading on the way to Portland, you can offload it here for credit toward another book to read on your return trip.

The store prides itself on having true bibliophiles as employees who can offer up staff picks as recommendations. In terms of selection, this is one brick-and-mortar bookshop that could give Amazon a run for its money, too. Powell's actually makes good on the Books-A-Million number and offers about a million books. It has over 3,500 sections spanning 68,000 square feet. It also hosts frequent author events and has a Rare Book Room, accessible to 14 customers at a time with a special pass from the information counter.

The Portland Streetcar and Powell's on Hawthorne

As mentioned, Powell's City of Books occupies a whole block, so it's surrounded by four different streets: Burnside, Couch, and 10th and 11th Street. However, for the purposes of Google Maps, you'll find it at 1005 W Burnside St. One way to get there is by the Portland Streetcar, which has stops going both directions at NW 10th and Couch or NW 11th and Couch. The streetcar's modern design was the first of its kind in the U.S. It's been operating since 2001, and if you're not accustomed to streetcar transportation, it can be a fun way to get around town.

The streetcar's A and B Loop each make a stop across the river on the edge of Hawthorne Blvd. as well. About an 8-minute cab ride down the street from there is Powell's one other Portland location. While not as expansive, Powell's Books on Hawthorne still carries over 200,000 new and used books. It's also right across the street from the historic Bagdad Theater, a single-screen movie palace built in 1927. Now operated by McMenamins, this is one of Portland's theater pubs, where you can drink beer as you watch a movie (maybe one adapted from your favorite book).

It's just one of the many things to do outside the bookstore in Portland. However, if you're looking to get lost in the aisles of a sprawling bookstore with its own guide map, Powell's City of Books is the place to visit.