Congress Street
Congress Street
4.5
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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4.5
122 reviews
Excellent
57
Very good
44
Average
17
Poor
3
Terrible
1

sharrongeg
Henderson, NV3,059 contributions
Sep 2021
We enjoyed our stroll down Congress Street. A bit less commercial than Commerce Street. Nicer (less touristy) shops with better pieces. We purchased some Maine sea salt at a reasonable price. Really enjoyed our stroll.

Note: parking garages are still over priced, but better than down by old town.
Written October 3, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Citizen_of_Amherst
Portland, ME197 contributions
Jun 2012 • Solo
Visiting Portland? Congress Street is the real Portland. In other words, this is not the somewhat sanitized Old Port. Congress Street is long. You could walk from the West End all the way up to Munjoy Hill and the East End. I'm going to limit my review to the part of Congress that is considered to be downtown Portland. Basically, from State Street to Franklin, or from Longfellow Square to Lincoln Park.

The good. There are wonderful art galleries, independent stores, restaurants, museums, and architectural/cultural attractions all along Congress Street.

On Congress Street you can buy paintings or sculptures or just look at them. On the first Friday of every month from 5-8 PM is the Portland Art Walk, much of which happens on Congress Street. Basically it's a self-guided, free tour of all the galleries, art studios, and museums in downtown Portland. It's a fun night full of people-watching and the occasional tipple. The Maine College of Art is also located on Congress Street, and its students and their artwork supply a youthful creative streak.

There's interesting shopping here too. Yes Books is a wonderful, cavernous used book store. It feels homey and disorganized, but you will find gems in the piles and piles of books. Encore is a fantastic consignment shop where you can buy clothing from the 19th century or the 1940s or the 1970s. It's all there. There are also hat shops, clothing stores, comic book shops, second-hand record shops, and ethnic markets and shops to explore. None of these places are particularly touristy. Go to the CVS pharmacy if you need a postcard.

If you want a quick bite to eat, try the delicious Otto's Pizza or Wild Burrito. But there are also great high-end restaurants, such as Five Fifty-Five or David's. For those looking for something priced somewhere in the middle, try the Green Elephant, a vegetarian restaurant with food so good even a meat-lover's mouth will water, or Nosh, where bacon-dusted fries anchor the menu, or perhaps Mesa Verde, where the margarita pitchers are half-price on Thursdays.

You'll find all sorts of restaurants in Monument Square too. The remnants of the Portland Public Market are in Monument Square. You can get sandwiches, pizza, wine, cheese, and desserts at the Portland Public Market. (Ignore the signs for Portland Public Market on Cumberland Ave. That building hasn't been in use for years. The city must have kept the signs to confuse people.) Monument Square is also home to the Portland Farmers' Market every Wednesday from 7AM-2PM, April through November. Buy yourself some flowers, honey, tomatoes, pepper, or whatever strikes you.

In Longfellow Square at State and Congress, I recommend the bohemian-chic Local 188. I hear that the French bistro Petite Jacqueline is good too.

Then there are the museums. At the Maine Historical Society you can tour the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or study museum exhibits on Maine's history. The bottom floor or basement floor of the Portland Public Library, also on Congress, often has free history exhibits that can be seen in a relatively brief period of time. The Portland Museum of Art is also located on Congress. Other museums, including the Children's Museum and the Museum of African Culture, are just off of Congress Street. I've never been to the International Cryptology Museum in the 600-block, but it looks like a hoot. (It's near another excellent used bookstore, The Green Hand, too.)

Outside of the geographic bounds that I set for my review, if you travel past Franklin towards India Street, there's also the Maine Jewish Museum on Congress. The independent shops and restaurants in this area are worth a visit.

In the way of history, art, and culture, Congress Street has some wonderful buildings. The City Hall is beautiful, especially as the sun goes down, and it's worth it to pop inside for a closer look. (It's also a good place if you need a restroom.) Congress Street is lined with 19th-century buildings that feature fascinating carvings and details. Take a close look at the building that houses the Maine Bible Society at 519 Congress to see what I mean. Be sure also to check out the Unitarian Church at Temple Street and Congress. Not only are the building and the grounds lovely, there's a free noon-time concert there every week.

Is music your thing? There are rock and pop shows at the Port City Music Hall and the State Theater. You'll find jazz music and Irish seisiun music at Blue. One Longfellow Square hosts folk and Irish music too. I'm only scratching the surface.

If you happen to be in Portland in December, Congress Street is decked out in lights of every color. It's really beautiful.

The bad. Odds are you will see someone being arrested for something like disorderly conduct. That person will likely be intoxicated and perhaps scantily clad. Don't worry too much. Whatever the hullabaloo is about, it's no threat to you unless the paddy wagon is blocking your car. The police know all the usual suspects and will refer to these folks by their first names as they take them into custody. They're old friends. Think of it as local color.

You will probably also see conservatively-dressed religious zealots at Congress Street and High Street telling anyone in earshot something about Jesus or describing the path to hell in excruciating detail and at the top of their lungs. If you don't harass them, they won't harass you. If you're looking to meet those guys, I'm sure they will be more than happy to talk with you for as long as you like. Again, more local color.

Someone will ask you for money. Handle that as you wish.

If you're not used to so much local color, you might be a little taken aback. Don't worry. Congress is a safe street. Maine may be "Vacationland," but most of its population is not well off. That's just how it is. The police steer the poor away from the Old Port as not to offend the tourists, which is probably why there is so much more visible poverty on Congress Street than there is in the Old Port.

You'll find homeless people, but if you'll also find lots of great people watching. There are restaurants where you can sit outside on the sidewalks or in Monument Square and take in all in. Carve out some space for yourself and embrace it. There's room for everyone.

Congress Street is a mix of people. Poor, rich, and those in between. The artist, the entrepreneur, the student, the panhandler, the chef, and the tourist. If you're visiting Portland you can stick to the Old Port, but go to Congress is you want to see what most Portlanders experience on a daily basis.

Most important, if you get tired of tripping on cobblestones in the Old Port, rest assured that Congress Street is full-on pavement.
Written June 17, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

kmk415
Gorham, ME131 contributions
Jun 2014 • Friends
I would suggest starting a visit along Congress St. at the quintessential Maine institution, Reny's department store which is mid-town between Oak and Casco Sts. There are endless bargains to be had and you might want to pick up a few packaged snacks for picnicking when you reach the East End terminus of Congress. On the same block as Reny's, check out the Maine College of Art, where there frequently are exhibits and events of interest to the public.
Next, continue heading eastward a couple of blocks and cross the street to reach the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Maine Historical Society with its excellent museum store and library collections. On the same side of the street, you will come to the Portland Public Library in two more blocks. Be sure to check out their lower level art gallery as well as other art features scattered throughout as part of their fairly recent renovations. Just another block down, wander into the historically significant First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church where there is a free series of concerts on some Thursdays at noon. Also in front of the church you will discover one of more than a dozen markers for the Portland Freedom Trail (www.portlandfreedomtrail.org) that recognize people associated with the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movement in Portland.
As long as you have the time and energy to head from mid-town toward the East End, I'd next suggest heading 4/10 mile eastward to reach the Maine Jewish Museum near the intersection with India St. While the museum is small, it offers lovely art exhibits in a historically restored building.
Your next stop might well be the Portland Observatory. Please note that access does require extensive stair-climbing, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views and a deepened appreciation for Portland's maritime heritage.
Afterwards, continue your trudge up Munjoy Hill for a few more blocks and reward yourself with a liquid refreshment and/or local snack from the Hilltop Coffee Shop. From there, it's just another 1/2 dozen blocks till you're treated to the grand finale of the Eastern Prom/East End Beach where you can enjoy viewing grand old homes, numerous boats a-sailing, and even enjoy a dip in the bay at the free sandy beach (at least in the summer!). Hope you have a blast and that at least a few of my suggestions help make your visit a fun one:)
Written June 10, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

pky_pook
hpt536 contributions
Mar 2022
Driving around any city, one typically opts to drop by some of the MUST SEE spots. This is one of them. As you twist and turn about on some of the side city streets, they are cobblestone - so be forewarned. A lot of places can be found off of this busy thoroughfare
Written March 17, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

bestfamilyadventures
Canada1,092 contributions
Aug 2018 • Family
Lots of great shops, vintage and new! The area sadly has many drug addicts wondering around, so be aware.
Written August 15, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

NeedPivo
Gaithersburg, MD1,721 contributions
Nov 2013 • Solo
My recent trip to Portland began simply: a walk down the entire length of the city's main thoroughfare. It is the history and heart of Portland. Starting from the Inn at St. John (See My Reveiw), I passed Longfellow Square, Baxter Building (the former Public Library), Longfellow House - adjacent to the Maine Historical Society, Congress Square along with Portland version of the Flatiron Building, the Art Museum, Monument Square and the tribute to the Civil War dead, City Hall, Eastern Cemetary, then up Munjoy Hill, past the Observatory to the Eastern Promenade. Whew! If you are too tired to walk back, the No. 1 Bus runs the length of Congress Street.

Check out the photos below:
Written November 18, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

wikkedme
West Buxton, ME45 contributions
Had a great time taking tweens and teens for a tour of the shops,, loved the Merchant Company and all the other shops that had eccentric trinkets and clothes.. comic book stores and local artistry everywhere.. Good food in multiple places.
Written December 26, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dakota
West Caldwell, NJ592 contributions
Sep 2020
This is the street to walk and where most of the good food is located. There are streets off of Congress where the traffic is not allowed and you can walk and shop or eat.
Written September 11, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Alex B
Providence, RI728 contributions
May 2019 • Solo
Congress St is one of Portland’s main thoroughfares, but it can take on a whole different vibe in each neighborhood. Farthest out on the peninsula, in the East End/Munjoy Hill neighborhood, Congress St has a very local, almost hippie feel – it’s one of my favorite parts of Portland. Between State St and Franklin St, you get the downtown core; Portland’s tallest buildings line the street, and events like the First Friday Art Walk take place here. Heading into the West End, Congress St hosts a lot of grand historic houses and eventually takes on a more suburban feel, especially after you get to the other side of 295. If you like exploring, check out the whole street, but my favorite stretches are in the East End and the Arts District.
Written August 27, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

bob b
Tampa, FL69 contributions
May 2018
We only had a short time to tour Portland. What a wonderful city. We did walk in the Congress Street area. We were able to visit the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We noticed a few museums and the Longfellow House but did not visit.
My wife was interested in shopping and headed down Exchange Street which runs off of Congress St. It is loaded with local shops and places to eat. While my wife shopped I had a chance to determine whether "The Holy Donut," located at 7 Exchange, was as good as advertised. Fodor's Travel ranks them in the top 10 American donut destinations. I am not qualified to rank, but I wish I had one close to my home!
Written May 16, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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