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Crystal Hotel 3.5

Downtown Portland, Portland, Oregon

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Convenient downtown Portland location near Powell's Books
  • Funky, colorful rooms, each themed after a famous song
  • On-site Zeus Cafe with fresh Northwest cuisine and lots of beer on tap
  • Gorgeous subterranean saltwater soaking pool
  • Al's Den in the basement with drinks and frequent live performances
  • Pet-friendly property with no size or weight restriction
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • All Queen Rooms share bathrooms with other guest rooms
  • Breakfast is not included
  • Parking is not private and can be expensive

Bottom Line

The 51 small, song-themed rooms at the upper-middle-range Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland embody the quirkiness that defines this city. The hotel is owned by the McMenamin brothers, who helm a string of converted historic hotels and microbreweries throughout Oregon, and this hotel packs in the hallmarks of their brand: colorful murals, a laid-back vibe, hearty pub fare, and quintessentially Oregonian craft beer on-site. The hotel also features a small indoor saltwater soaking pool, but guests should keep in mind that only King Rooms have en-suite bathrooms, which can contribute to noise in the hallways. For an equally funky experience with more privacy, try the McMenamin's Kennedy School, a converted schoolhouse a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown in Northeast Portland. 

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Scene

Laid-back hotel with funky vibe, popular with music-loving travelers and hip couples

From the outside, the Crystal Hotel -- which sits above the sprawling Zeus Cafe, owned by the same company -- looks like many of the apartment buildings peppered throughout downtown Portland. Built in 1911, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has lived many lives over the years -- from hotel to bathhouse and back again, and the hotel has been given an inviting overhaul in recent years. There's not much of a lobby beyond the big wood front desk, but roaming the brightly painted hallways and stairwells is an adventure, as the walls are adorned with funky oil paintings that range from fantastical to a little spooky. The property is popular with young couples and music fans in town for the weekend, while live music and popular on-site Zeus Cafe --a bright, homey restaurant -- attract plenty of locals as well. 

Location

Convenient downtown Portland location near Powell's Bookstore

On a sliver of land surrounded by three relatively busy streets, The Crystal Hotel is located at the edge of the trendy Pearl district in downtown Portland, a two-minute walk from legendary Powell's City of Books and surrounded by plenty of galleries, trendy boutiques, bars, and food trucks. The Crystal Ballroom, one of the city's top venues for live music that's run by the same owners as the hotel, is also just across the street. Most of the city's major bus lines have stops a five-minute walk east of the hotel, and the airport is a 20-minute drive away (much longer during rush hour), though it can also be reached on the MAX -- Portland's light-rail train, which stops three blocks away -- in about 45 minutes. 

Rooms

Colorful song-themed rooms, most with shared bathrooms

The hotel's quirky vibe extends to its 51 small but charming guest rooms, each of which are themed on songs that have been performed at the historic Crystal Ballroom across the road. Hand-painted, colorful murals on onion-dome headboards represent the work of musicians from James Brown to Sonic Youth, while dark curtains and bespoke chandeliers up the DIY, rock-and-roll factor. (There are a couple inspired by the Grateful Dead -- no surprise considering the McMennamins brothers are unabashed Deadheads.) Rooms include towels, iPod dock alarm clocks, telephones, individually controlled air-conditioning, and -- of course -- mason jars for any drinks guests might bring back to the room, while bright throw pillows add some character to good beds with white comforters. Queen Rooms have in-room sinks, but share a clean bathroom with tiled stand-up shower with other guests. Nine King Rooms have a bit more space and small seating areas overlooking the street below, as well as private, en-suite bathrooms. Walls are thin in this old building and noise from other rooms and even the street can be an issue, though the hotel does provide ear plugs.

Features

Beautiful underground saltwater pool and Northwest cuisine at on-site Zeus Cafe

One of the highlights here is the freeform saltwater soaking pool in the hotel's basement, which feels like a secret and is only available for guest usage. The heated pool with hot tub jets is surrounded by bamboo walls and brick floors, while soft lighting gives it a romantic allure. Next to the pool, Al's Den has regular live music performances and a full selection of the McMenamins' signature microbrews. Zeus Cafe, on the hotel's ground floor, is open for breakfast (not included), lunch, and dinner and serves eggs, sandwiches, burgers and steaks with an emphasis on local flavors. Zeus also offers a decent selection of cocktails along with McMenamins' beers, and there's dog-friendly outdoor seating available when the weather permits. Wi-Fi is free throughout the property and parking is available for a daily fee in an adjacent public lot. 

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Address

303 SW 12th Ave., Portland, Oregon, United States

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