Explore Portland’s West End
While Portland’s East End bustles with restaurants and outdoor fun along the popular Eastern Promenade, the West End neighborhood presents a quieter, but no less enjoyable experience. Located adjacent to the Western Promenade and lined with large, old oak and maple trees shading Victorian-era homes, this neighborhood is rich in history, serenely scenic and has its own unique collection of attractions, restaurants and shops.
A walk around the West End may have you pausing every couple of steps to take in historic home after historic home. As you stroll the brick sidewalks, you’ll come across unique and eye-catching architecture – column-lined facades, gothic-era windows and charming homes decked out in gingerbread trim. This historic district encompasses dozens of landmarked residences to explore – the very oldest, built by successful merchant William Vaughan, dates back to 1799. You can also purchase tickets to tour the 19th-century Victoria Mansion, a National Historic Landmark known for its distinguished architecture and extraordinary original interiors.
For additional history appreciation and reflection, be sure to take a walk through the historic landmark that is the Western Cemetery – dating from the late 1700s, today it encompasses 12 acres of land in an enclosed, wooded space.
Make your way over to the Western Promenade, where a scenic park and meandering walking path offer panoramic sunset views over the cityscape. Beyond that, on a clear day, you can see the stretch of the White Mountains rolling through the landscape. An ideal picnic spot, you are perfectly set up to watch the sun sink into the hillsides, or listen to local entertainment during the summer months. Take advantage of Greater Portland Landmark’s self-guided tour of the Western Prom so you don’t miss a thing.
With its proximity to Portland’s Arts District, it’s no wonder that artistic talent has made its way into the West End. If you have kids in-tow, be sure to stop by Love Lab Studio – this child-centric art studio is as fun and welcoming as its colorful, bright interior suggests – offering art workshops and camps, in addition to a thoughtfully curated shop that is a must-visit for gifts. Or, make your way over to the Portland Museum of Art, where you can spend a couple of hours meandering the spacious galleries featuring artists ranging from Andy Warhol and Winslow Homer to Louise Nevelson and Claude Monet.
Eat & Drink
You won’t need to stray far for a great meal or treat in the West End. Pop into the sunny Ugly Duckling for a variety of sit-down or to-go options including tempting breakfast and lunch sandwiches, a selection of coffee and beverages, and delightfully over-the-top baked goods. OhNo Café is a great spot for picking up breakfast and lunch to-go, while Smalls may have you lingering for awhile (if not over the coffee and egg sandwiches, then in its picture-perfect, colorful little home goods and gourmet shop).
For casual dinner and drinks, well-loved and long-established neighborhood pub and grill Ruski’s Tavern delivers with classic bar food favorites and a variety of beer, wine and spirits. Just around the corner, Chaval will impress with its Spanish and French-inspired cuisine. It offers a magical al-fresco dining experience during the milder months.
If it’s a treat you seek, Chocolats Passion, led by a French-trained chocolatier, offers delectable and beautiful chocolate creations, from gourmet ganache chocolates to seasonal hot cocoa. Bite into one of micro-boulangerie ZuBakery’s handmade croissants, scones or baguettes and you may find yourself transported to the streets of Paris. On a warm day, stop by Zephyr Ice for scrumptiously fluffy shaved ice and homemade ice cream.
Places to Stay
If you’re spending more than a day in Portland, the West End is a wonderful spot to come home to, walkable to both Portland’s Arts District and Old Port. When you stay at one of these inns in the West End, you’ll feel the history all around you, alongside modern comforts.
- West End Inn: Three floors of uniquely designed bedrooms with plentiful natural light await, plus cooked to-order breakfasts.
- The Francis: This elegant, historic mansion has enough room for a small spa, and is owned and operated by proud Mainers.
- The Blind Tiger: This stately mansion house combines a sumptuously historic setting with modern luxuries, like kimono robes and smart TVs.
- Pomegranate Inn: As enticing and vibrant as its name, this boutique hotel is an artful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The best part about staying in the West End is that it sets you up to easily experience all Portland has to offer – from award-winning restaurants, craft breweries and plentiful shopping, to getting out on the waters of Casco Bay.