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3 Best Gardens in Portland, Oregon – Must-See Portland Gardens

Portland, Oregon is home to more than 200 parks and gardens. In this travel guide, we’re featuring three of the must-see beautiful gardens in Portland, which are the best things to do in the city!

When I visited Seattle for the first time, we also did a short two-day trip to Oregon as part of our road trip. In Oregon, we checked out both Portland and Cannon Beach, one of the World’s Best Beaches.

Aside from going on a food trip in Portland’s popular restaurants, we also visited some of the popular gardens there. I enjoy city gardens because it’s actually a great nature getaway without driving too far unlike a national park.

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The Grotto Cave in Portland, Oregon

Once you’re inside the garden, you feel you are transported outside the hustle and bustle of the city. I kind of wish Toronto had more of these.

In one day, we visited three beautiful gardens out of more than 200 parks and gardens in the city. They are definitely must-see attractions and some of the best things to do in Portland.

Also Read: Best Nature Attractions in Washington State

3 Beautiful Gardens You Must-Visit in Portland, Oregon including International Rose Test Garden, The Grotto, and Portland Japanese Garden.

Watch the full YouTube video of the best garden attractions in Portland here.

Best Gardens in Portland

International Rose Test Garden

One of the best free attractions in Portland is the International Rose Test Garden.

Located in downtown Portland in Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden is the United States’ oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden with over 10,000 rose in a 4.5 acres of parkland.

Travelling Foodie Tip: Go after 5pm when parking becomes free and the crowds have died down! Also, the free Explore Washington Park shuttle stops here from April through October.

Pink Rose at International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon
Over 650+ rose varieties can be seen

I’m not too familiar with flowers, but I definitely admired the many varieties we saw at the International Rose Test Garden. We actually saw a lot of people doing photoshoots here.

There was also a very interesting area called the Shakespeare Garden which features herbs, trees, and flowers found in William Shakespeare’s plays.

Red Rose at International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon
Did you know? Even some of the roses are named after characters from his plays. This makes sense since he actually quoted, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”

At the edge of the garden, you can find amazing panoramic views of the city. You should also check out the gift shop where you can find a beautiful view of the garden.

View of International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon

Also Read: Things To Do in Southern California

Price: Free
Website / Address: 400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, Oregon 97205, USA

The Grotto

In 62 acres of gardens, The Grotto is a national Catholic shrine and an internationally renowned Catholic sanctuary dedicated to Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother.

This was my most favourite out of the three gardens we visited, and definitely one of the best things to do in Portland! Don’t worry – you don’t need to be Catholic to visit this place, and, yes, you will enjoy this even if you’re not Catholic.

The garden is so beautifully done. It really feels like you are not in the city anymore but in a peaceful sanctuary and oasis.

Mother Mary sculpture at The Grotto Visitors Center in Portland, Oregon
A very realistic life-size statue of Mary cradling baby Jesus at the Visitors Center

There are actually two levels to the Grotto. The Plaza Level (ground) is free to public and has the visitors center, The Grotto Gift Shop, The Grotto itself, The Chapel of Mary (closed for renovation during our visit), and the Stations of the Cross, a walking trail near the parking lot where you’ll find bronze bas-relief sculptures depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Our Lady's Grotto in Portland, Oregon
The Grotto rock cave is carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff. A replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà is featured in its center.
Pillar of Mary at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
This pillar, located on the upper level, can be seen from The Grotto on the lower level, on the previous photo

Though you have to pay to see the upper level of The Grotto, I highly recommend you to go.

You buy the tokens at the Gift Shop and take an elevator 110-feet up to the upper level. It’s worth more than the $6 you’re paying.

When you exit the elevator, on your left, you will see the Meditation Chapel, a 1,500-square feet chapel built of granite in 1991.

Meditation Chapel at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
Meditation Chapel has glass windows on the cliff-side

Take a seat on the comfortable meditation chairs and admire the view.

Panoramic vista from Meditation Chapel at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
The Grotto Meditation Chapel provides a beautiful panorama of the Columbia River and Mt. St. Helens

The Peace Garden comprises the majority of the upper level, featuring a large pond and flowing stream, and the individual bronze plaques depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries.

This is where you feel like you’re in a sanctuary in a secluded forest. It is so quiet and peaceful, and you are surrounded by just nature.

Peace Garden at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
Sections of the Peace Garden have different landscaping to depict the mystery it’s representing
The Monastery at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
Built in 1936, The Monastery is home to the Servite Friars

As you explore, you will find hundreds of intricately carved statues using different materials like bronze, marble and wood.

St. Francis of Assisi statue at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
Bronze image of St. Francis of Assisi

This scene sort of reminds me of the Little Red Riding Hood. What you see here is the St. Anne’s Chapel, built in 1934 to honor St. Anne, the mother of Mary.

St. Anne's Chapel at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
St. Anne’s Chapel now houses reproductions of Madonna paintings from around the world.
The Labyrinth at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
The Labyrinth is a replica of the medieval labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France

One of the most popular sections for Catholic visitors is the Shrines, where you will see various shrines of Mary, Our Lady, from different parts of the world.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

Coming from the Philippines, we were very excited to see the shrine from the Philippines: The Dambana, Filipino Faith Shrine, designed by Hermes Mallari.

The Dambana, Filipino Faith Shrine at The Grotto in Portland, Oregon
The Dambana, or altar, has a traditional Filipino woman’s head gear (salakot) on top and the capiz (flat seashell) walls which are commonly used on windows in Filipino homes.

Price: Lower Level Grounds: Free, Upper Level: $6/Adult, Parking: Free
Website / Address: 8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, Oregon 97220, USA

Also Read: Best Gaudi Attractions in Barcelona

Portland Japanese Garden

Across the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden takes you to a 12-acre nature haven with eight separate garden styles, including an authentic Japanese Tea House.

The Natural Garden at Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
The Natural Garden encourages you to relax and reflect on the essence and brevity of life

If you haven’t been to a Japanese garden before, then this is a must-see attraction in Portland. Apparenty, it is “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” according to His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States.

Flat Garden at Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
The Flat Garden has dry landscape style of the karesansui, composed of raked gravel and sand

Travelling Foodie Tip: Parking is not free, but you can get to the Portland Japanese Garden via the free Explore Washington Park shuttle as well.

Aside from the gardens, you will get immersed in Japanese arts, culture and food here since they also have a cultural village, the learning centre, umami cafe and the gift shop.

Sand and Stone Garden at Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
Sand and Stone Garden is designed based on the 2,000 year old Indian tale about a previous incarnation of Buddha called Jataka Sutra. The design depicts Buddha sacrificing his life to feed the starving tigers.

There is a free guided tour included with admission. I highly recommend you do it as that’s the best way to learn about the garden and the Japanese culture and elements behind them.

Stone Lantern at Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
Did you know? There are 5 boxes on the stone lantern to represent Japan’s 5 directions: North, South, East, West and Center.
Strolling Pond Garden at Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
Strolling Pond Garden has Japanese symbolisms of Hide and Reveal. The mini waterfalls can be heard along the pond, but can only be seen (revealed) at a certain part of the pond.

Price: $14.95 – Adult
Website / Address: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, Oregon 97205, USA

MAP: Best Portland Gardens

Hope this travel guide gives you an idea on the best gardens in Portland. These are really some of the best things to do in PDX.

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