Rated by CNN as one of the coolest bookstores in the world, Powell’s Books, dubbed City of Books, is the largest independently owned bookstore in the world – selling both new and used titles for visitors and locals to enjoy.
Just how large is Powell’s Books? Well, for starters, it covers an entire city block. What’s more, it’s home to more than one million books. Book worms, rejoice!
Needless to say, if you’re visiting Portland you MUST swing by Powell’s Books. This quick post will make your visit more informed and enjoyable.
Where is Powell’s Book Store?
- Powell’s Books is right on the border of the Pearl District and Downtown. There are two entrances: Couch & 11th (pictured below) and Burnside & 10th.
- The entrance on Burnside & 10th is considered the main entrance (the first photo).
- Official address: 1005 W Burnside St.
City of Books Hours
- Powell’s City of Books is open daily from 9am to 10pm.
- The store is surprisingly open 365 days a year (yes, really), which means you can visit Christmas day.
Parking at Powell’s Books
Street parking reigns supreme but is tough to find in this popular area.
- Street parking is $2 per hour, 2 hour max.
- Parking enforced Monday through Saturday from 8am to 7pm and Sunday from 1pm to 7pm.
SmartPark Garage | SW 10th & Yamhill
This is my preferred option but it’s a little further away.
- $1.80 per hour, up to 4 hours
- $14 daily max
- $5 max Saturday & Sunday
Powell’s Café (Word Cup Coffee & Tea)
- World Cup Coffee & Tea is located on the first floor. Enjoy a hot cup of tea (or coffee) while scanning through a book — An interview, or sorts, to determine the fit is right.
- The café offers a full drink menu in addition to pastries and light meals (salads and sandwiches).
- The cafe is open daily from 9am to 10:45pm.
Good to know before visiting
- There is NO seating at Powell’s — visitors are encourage to peruse the aisles but not to sit and read.
- Restrooms are located on the second floor, a code is required (ask a store associate).
- Registers are located at both ends of the bookstore, by the entrances.
With about 3,000 customers every day, the bookstore gets busy. What’s more, that number doesn’t even include the additional 3,000 visitors per day that simply peruse the shelves.
With over 68,000 square feet and 3,500 sections to peruse, Powell’s Books offers a very handy map for visitors (available for pickup throughout the store).
Breakdown of rooms by category
There’s 9 color-coded rooms at Powell’s Books. Here’s a list of sections found in each room.
- Orange Room: agriculture, cooking, film + tv, gardening, humor, music
- Rose Room: child care, children’s, education, games, kids’ graphic novels, parenting, pets, trivia, young adult
- Gold Room: fantasy, fiction, games, graphic novels, horror, manga, mystery + thrillers, role playing games, science fiction, true crimes,
- Blue Room: classics, drama, fiction, literature, poetry, small press, westerns
- Green Room: new arrivals, souvenirs.
- Red Room : Americana, animals, anthropology, archaeology, atlases, audio books, automotive, aviation, birds, botany, economics, environmental studies, ethnic studies, feminist studies, gender studies, geology, hiking, history, languages, LGBTQ, maps, meteorology, military, native American studies, nature, nautical, outdoors, pacific northwest, politics, reference, sociology, transportation, travel
- Purple Room: business, careers, child psychology, dance, health, investing, law, management, martial arts, metaphysics, mythology, philosophy, recovery, religions, self-help, sports, test guides, yoga
- Pearl Room: architecture, art, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computing, crafts, engineering, home construction, interior design, math, photography, physics, science, weddings
- Rare Book Room
Must Do: Visit the Rare Book Room
- The Rare Book Room houses approximately 9,000 valuable books –ranging from autographed books, first editions and other collectable volumes. This is my favorite area to explore.
- The Rare Book Room is open daily from 11am to 7pm.
Fun fact: The most expensive book in the Rare Book Room is $350,000, it’s the two volume History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark to the Sources of the Missouri.
Events at Powell’s Books
- Kids story time occurs every Saturday at 11am in the Rose Room.
- Powell’s hosts frequent readings and events in the Pearl Room — click here for the event calendar.
- I once met President Jimmy Carter at a book signing event at Powell’s – so cool!
How to sell books at Powell’s
Powell’s is happy to purchase used books based on the needs of the store at time of purchase.
- To sell your books, use the entrance at Couch and 11th.
- Valid photo ID is required.
- Books are bought daily from 9am to 8pm.
- Powell’s does not accept outdated textbooks or old encyclopedia sets.
- Powell’s offers approximately 50% more in Powell’s credit (redeemable in store or online) than in cash.
Fun fact: Powell’s buys around 3,000 books a day.
Location, location, location
In addition to the flagship store on Burnside, Powell’s has 3 satellite locations:
- Southeast Hawthorne Blvd: General bookstore plus focus on garden and cookbooks.
- Beaverton: Large bookstore offering a wide selection of books.
- Portland International Airport (PDX): Before security, close to Blue Star Donuts.
History of Powell’s Books
Started in 1971 by a man named Walter Powell who was inspired by his son’s success opening and managing a profitable bookstore in Chicago. Powell’s established an internet presence in 1993 and created a website in 1994 (before Amazon!).
Afterward, in 1999, Powell’s expanded to include the entrance facing the Pearl District. A Pillar of Books was also added that depicts the eight greatest books in the world with a Latin inscription that reads, “Buy the book, read the book, enjoy the book, sell the book.”
- 2002 | USA Today cited Powell’s as one of America’s 10 best bookstores.
- 2015 | CNN dubs Powell’s as one of the best bookstores in the world.
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. We currently reside 6 blocks from the bookstore and swing by every chance we get.
Finally, Powell’s Books and then Powell’s book store, as a result Powell’s City of Books.
Until next time,