Portland's popular Saturday Market, for decades a fixture under and near the Burnside Bridge, was mostly forced to leave its longtime home due to redevelopment plans for the area directly south of the Burnside Bridge. 2009 was the first year to visit the market in its new location, with a new structure to allow vendors to use Waterfront Park as their "home" of operations. Therefore, any VirtualTourist or other travel tip that hasn't been updated in a while about Portland Saturday Market has a little bit of inaccuracy to it.
While the new location promises to be as good as the old (at least, the politicians promosed as much), the new location means a new operating environment and having busy Front Avenue / Natio Parkway cut the market in half, and makes the entire environment a somewhat different experience than the tight easy to access way the market used to be. The movement of a number of the booths to that new shelter inside Waterfront Park does mean that Saturday Market now interchanges pedestrian traffic with Portland's longtime recreational center along the river, the fact is that the wonderful local flavor of Saturday Market is now split into two sections: the group in Waterfront Park and another group of booths and some permanent stores around the old location of Saturday Market, with the horrifically busy Natio Parkway (formerly Front Avenue) separating the two sections of the market. The "Portland Saturday Market" sign at the MAX station under the Burnside Bridge now marks a parking lot for the building next door. While it is true that there are frequent crossings of Natio Parkway, the old logical grouping no longer flows quite as well, and you now need to go one block south of Burnside to cross Natio Parkway and visit those vendors with booths in Waterfront Park.
Photo 4 shows the new location of many of the booths looking back towards downtown Portland. The vehicles that you see (the utility truck and the bluish green car) are driving right between these two sections of the market on Natio Parkway. This is the location where there are walk signs to cross Natio Parkway, but the more logical location under the Burnside Bridge has no such crossing any more.
Keep an eye on the market's web site, below. As Saturday Market has been a Portland institution since the 1960s, and this change has only been instituted in 2009, I'm quite certain that adjustments will be made as time goes on.
The outdoor market runs weekends (Sundays too!) from March until December, for people to find those unique Christmas gifts. After that, vendors are tired of selling their things in the rain!
However, Saturday Market has attracted a number of full-time stores to the area surrounding the market, and many of those are open even when the open air market is not operating (the rest of the week, and the rest of the year).
About the photos:
The Main Photo: This is the new shelter in Waterfront Park. During the week, this building has an animated fountain in the floor that shoots water up, but on the weekends it is the new home of many vendors from Saturday Market. This view is looking north, with the Burnside Bridge and the top of the lifting towers for the Steel Bridge in the background.
Photo 1: This winds up being the first photo in the viewer because it was long the foundation of my original Saturday Market tip. This gives a reasonably good flavor of Saturday Market and the eccentric characters and vendors that hang out here. However, today the parking lot is now required by the building to the right in the photo on the weekends, and therefore the tight-knit group of vendors you see here have been forced to relocate.
Photo 2: Yes, MAX trains still run right through the market, just as they did when I uploaded this photo in 2007. While it means you need to watch your kids closely, it also means since 1983 there has been no auto traffic on 1st Avenue through here, which actually makes it a lot easier to connect the entire market together as one tight knit group. It also means you can get to the market quite easily, as even on weekends finding parking in downtown Portland can be a real pain.
Photo 4: From waterfront Park looking west towards the Skidmore Fountain, it is possible to see the busy Natio Parkway that now splits Saturday Market.
Photo 5: From waterfront park, this is the street crossing of busy Natio Parkway. The red trailer is a public information booth, and they have internet access so that any item you ask about and they don't know, they can look up on the internet. The boths in the background may look boarded up, but they are actually sheltered from the rain, and are open on the other side.
What to buy: There are many local crafts on sale here, as well as many unusual manufactured items that are hard to find elsewhere, and international handcrafts.
It is really hard to describe because of the sheer number of vendors that come, and because sometimes vendors that can't come to the market have other vendors that are friends come, and they have a completely different set of items to sell.
Pay particular attention to any myrtlewood carving, as that particular wood is beautiful, only grows in Israel and Oregon, and a skilled woodworker can create some wonderful things with it. You may also be able to find a myrtlewood perfume, which is somewhat rare to find but does occasionally turn up. Most of the artists that work with myrtlewood are located on the coast, but sometimes their efforts do show up at Saturday Market.
Naturally, since Saturday Market has its roots firmly planted in its founding in the 1960s, you will find tie-dye and hemp clothing for sale here.
What to pay: Generally you can get some decent (not necessarily great) deals at about 4:30 or 5 in the evening as the vendors start to pack up their things and head home. Each thing they sell is something they don't have to pack.
Saturday Market is a great little weekend market where you can mingle with the locals, people watch, listen to local musicians [and wanna-be’s], buy goods from local artisans and even grab a bite to eat. It only runs from March to Christmas Eve. Saturday 10-5pm and Sunday 11-4:30pm. Check out their website for more information.
What to buy: I like Doug’s stuff [circlesofsteel.net]. He does these really cute dog and cat garden things. Check that out. I also like the After Dinner Fish Windchime by Spoonman [spoonman.com]. It’s very cute and original. They also have some crazy glasses that would work well for an industrial masquerade party. You can also get some wonderful photos from Tweten Photography. There’s a great panoramic one of Portland. There’s another gal who does these lights out of tin cans. They are really beautiful, overpriced, but great. It I can I will try to get a picture of one just so you can see how nice they are.
What to pay: It really depends on what you buy. There are vendors that have things for a dollar and others that go up to $600. Just make sure you check out all of the booths and tents. It really is worth it.
Every Saturday (AND Sunday) in Oldtown Portland for 9 months of the year (not winter) the Saturday Market is held.
While some may list this as a local custom or a must see, this is just a bunch of shops outdoors.
Ranging from flea market quality to local artists - you'll see handmade soaps, art, pottery, and a lot of crap.
Essentially everything here has to be made in Oregon, or so they say.
Not a must see, but for the right group of people it is a fun reason to get outdoors.
Remember, they may dress like hippies, but they charge a high price for their goods.
What to buy: I like the hand made soaps, but that is about it.
What to pay: Items from $1 to $500