The Benson Hotel, Portland: Old-World Style in a Hipster City

Old-fashioned phone, The Benson Hotel, Portland, OregonBefore Portland was all about flannel-shirt-wearing hipsters sipping cold-brew coffee and craft beer, there was The Benson, a grand European-style hotel that opened in 1913.

With its lobby crafted from polished woods and Italian marble, lit from above by massive Austrian crystal chandeliers, The Benson was one of the city’s first luxury lodgings. Even as newer, and yes, hipper, hotels have opened, this stately property has retained its glamor, adding modern amenities and continuing to polish its ever-so-polished service.

Channeling James Bond, there’s a hidden room, concealed behind a secret panel, too.

Here’s the scoop.

Lobby, The Benson Hotel, Portland, Oregon

Location and Facilities

Located in downtown Portland, The Benson is just a short walk from the city’s shops, museums, and (most importantly) food cart pods, and the handy Max light rail trains stop two blocks away.

When you walk into the lobby of The Benson, it’s like you’re walking into the last century, but in a good way. The doorman is quick to welcome you, and the concierge stands at the ready (in fact, the hotel’s chief concierge has been with the property for four decades).

The elegant Palm Court Restaurant and Lounge, just to the right of the front door, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks, with live music several evenings a week.

A second restaurant, El Gaucho, is a classic steakhouse with a retro cigar room.

Guest Room, The Benson Hotel, Portland, Oregon

Benson Hotel Guest Rooms and Amenities

In the 287 guest rooms, the dark wood furnishings are traditional, and the bedding is classic white with red and gold accents. The comfortable beds have either Tempur-Pedic or pillowtop mattresses. In a handy modern upgrade, the bedside lamps are each outfitted with outlets to plug in your phone or other devices.

Flat-screen TVs, coffee makers, and minibars stocked with all manner of (expensive) temptations are standard. Complimentary wi-fi is available throughout the hotel.

As in many older hotels, the bathrooms are on the small side, but they’ve been updated with modern fixtures, Gilchrist & Soames bath products, and fluffy bathrobes made from organic bamboo.

The 48 junior suites, while still one (large) room, have separate sitting areas, where you can sit and read or sip a cocktail. Room service is available from 6am to 11pm.

Guest suite, The Benson Hotel, Portland, Oregon


High-season double-room rates at The Benson typically range from $229-374/night. While standard rates don’t include meals, check the hotel website for packages that include breakfast. You can also compare rates and make a reservation through the standard booking sites such as Expedia or Priceline.

You don’t really need a car in Portland, but if you’ve brought yours, The Benson valet will park it for you — for $33 a day.

And That Secret Room?

In a function room on the lower level, a sliding panel hidden in the wall opens to reveal a wine cellar and private dining room that’s completely invisible when the panel is closed.

Just the place to trade your flannel shirt for a tux and your cold brew for a martini. How 007!

Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Travel Portland hosted my stay at The Benson Hotel.

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