Travel provides an incredible opportunity to discover new cultures, whether it be traditional practices, local cuisine, historical landmarks, or the people that make the place. Two cities that come to mind that hold the beating heart of their destination’s culture are Kyoto, Japan and Portland, Oregon. These fabulous destinations offer so much to explore, and whilst the cherry blossoms bud in both cities, there is no place prettier to visit. So how do they differ when comparing the two?
Scenery / Activities
Portland is named the ‘City of Roses’, home to thousands of rose bushes, whilst Kyoto is known for its iconic cherry blossoms and zen gardens, so a visit to either city is guaranteed to make your love for travel bloom. What’s more, both cities boast striking surroundings, with Mount Fuji visible from the highest points of Kyoto, and Mt Hood standing tall in the backdrop of Portland.
Whilst Kyoto is well-known for being the cultural and historical heart of Japan, Portland is somewhat lesser-known to tourists and is often overlooked in favour of Seattle to the North. This makes Portland something of a hidden gem, and one of the must-see cities in the US.
Explore the Portland Art Museum, the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, and marvel at over 40,000 Native and Modern works.
Book lovers must visit Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, to browse the impressive collection.
Both Kyoto and Portland are in full bloom at this time of year. Thousands of plump pink cherry trees line streets and parks, whilst the gardens and green spaces come to life.
Visit the Japanese Gardens in Portland, known as the best outside of Japan, and stroll through walkways lined with waterfalls, traditional gazebos, and tranquil ponds. Nearby lies the Rose Test Garden, where thousands of roses, an incredible amphitheatre and a dedicated Shakespeare Garden make for a romantic setting.
In Portland, Washington Park is a perfect place to spend an afternoon, whilst Forest Park is one of the nation’s largest urban parks. Look out for the Witch’s Castle hidden amongst the trees!
Meanwhile, in Kyoto, visit the Daitoku-ji temple and walk through the network of lanes connecting zen gardens and temples, or head to Ginkaku-ji temple surrounded by lush and leafy gardens. The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are a picturesque place for a picnic.
Kyoto Gyoen (Imperial Palace Park) is a vast and stunning park, right in the middle of the city, and the famous Bamboo Grove is not to be missed.
Experience the splendour of Kyoto’s famed ‘Golden Pavilion’ Kinkaku-ji, or stroll through the atmospheric streets of Gion, Kyoto’s Geisha district. The famous Kiyomizu-dera is an incredible Buddhist Temple providing panoramic views over Kyoto.
Kyoto is full of hidden beauty!
Kyoto wins this round with 9.5/10 for its iconic cherry blossoms and historic beauty, and Portland just behind with 8.5/10, as a unique must-see metropolis.
Food and Restaurants
Kyoto and Portland both have incredible dining scenes, known as havens for food lovers with an array of options for every hungry traveller.
In Portland, the food truck scene is incredible with hundreds of ‘carts’ and few permanent ‘pods’ all over the city. The Alder Pod is one of the city’s largest, home to hundreds of trucks selling every kind of cuisine. Taste your way through the trucks or take a walking food tour to really get a sense of Portland’s flavour.
Portland’s food trucks brighten those grey days!
St Jacks is a fabulous French café serving French dishes made from regional produce, or Grassa is best for handmade pasta.
Indulge in a famous Portland doughnut from Voodoo Donut or Blue Star.
In Kyoto, the Nishiki Market is one of the city’s highlights for discovering the weird and wonderful foods that go into Kyoto cuisine, as well as being the main market for high-end restaurateurs and chefs. Kyoto is famous for kaiseki dining – where seasonal small courses are served separately. The best kaiseki dining is found at Hyotei, where each artful dish is worthy of its three Michelin stars. Shigetsu is best for traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine or enjoy a casual udon lunch at Omen.
Portland wins this round with 9.5/10 for a food scene that steals the show, and Kyoto comes just behind with 9/10 with everything from Japanese markets to Michelin star restaurants.
Book your spring city break to Kyoto or Portland with JourneyHero!
Nightlife Kyoto and Portland
Both Portland and Kyoto are known for their breweries, but whilst in Portland, it is beer, in Kyoto it is sake. Take a tour of Kyoto’s sake breweries or experience the vastness of Portland’s beer scene at the home of the craft beer movement.
Both cities have exciting nightlife scenes with plenty to experience after-hours, but while Kyoto is a city of sake bars and nightclubs, Portland’s nightlife scene is about open mic nights, karaoke spots, and late-night eateries.
In Kyoto, Bar Rocking Chair is a cool hidden away haunt serving fiery cocktails amongst opulent interiors. Sip sake from the source at Masuya Saketen or Sake Bar Wadachi. Bar Hopseed is the spot for Japanese whiskey and local craft beer. Dance the night away to electronic music in the two-storey World club or kick it with the creative crowd at Club Metro.
Mississippi Studios is an intimate venue in a renovated church, while The Aladdin Theatre is another popular spot. Ringlers Pub is best for live music and bar games. If you are seeking some more excitement head to the Entertainment District to find cocktail bars and late-night DJ sets.
Portland is a great place for a stag!
They come out equal in this round with a score of 8.5/10.
Accommodation Kyoto and Portland
Both Kyoto and Portland have a number of accommodation options across each city, that provide everything from laid back comfort to modern luxury.
In Kyoto, the Ryokans and traditional Japanese B&Bs offer an authentic experience. Tawaraya is an exquisite sanctuary, offering beautiful rooms, quiet gardens, and exemplary service. For something special, book a room at the Aman, and enjoy elegant rooms, a serene spa, and two fantastic restaurants, hidden amongst the gardens.
Quaint streets in Kyoto!
For luxurious rooms and a prime central downtown location, The Nines is a fabulous and eco-conscious hotel. Book a unique stay at the Caravan Tiny House Hotel or enjoy swish and stylish rooms at the Woodlark.
Kyoto has authentic and traditional options alongside luxury hotels, and Portland has plenty of stylish options, with something for everyone. They come out equal in this round with 8.5/10.
So how do these two vibrant cities compare? When it comes to numbers, Kyoto wins with a final score of 8.9/10, and Portland is just behind with 8.7/10. Both cities offer creative cultures, incredible cuisines, and beautiful gardens and green spaces to explore. Kyoto’s cherry blossoms and temples are world-renowned, and Portland lives up to its cool and quirky reputation. Visit both and you are sure to leave feeling invigorated, enamoured, and well-fed!