Looking for places like Portland outside the US.
July 19, 2012 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Looking for places like Portland outside the US.

Can you help me think of other liberal minded, nature-focused communities around the world?

Bonus points for paradises with beautiful sandy beaches.
posted by BigBrownBear to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (28 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Sydney in Australia, where I live, has:

- some really just outstanding beaches
- one of the world's largest and oldest gay and lesbian events (the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras)
- a strong post-war history of immigration and an extremely diverse, multi-ethnic and multicultural population
- suburbs which stretch into bushland and national parkland in every direction but the Pacific Ocean.

That said, it's quite a bit bigger than Portland.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:50 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vancouver, BC, in certain respects.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hear Sydney, as described by someone who lived there and is originally from Portland, more like Beaverton with a touch of Gresham. Yes, lovely beaches and the gay festivity but the same person told me Melbourne is much more cosmopolitan and less like the unflattering description of Australia in general like being "Arkansas with beaches". I've been told this is an apt and humorous description. Seems to be that Sydney lacks the more progressive and quirky streak Portland has.
posted by loquat at 11:16 PM on July 19, 2012

Byron bay might fit better than Sydney I think.
posted by jojobobo at 12:01 AM on July 20, 2012

Wellington, New Zealand.
posted by dydecker at 12:08 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sydney is nothing like Portland. It's a sprawling conurbation of 3-4 million people, home to many major corporate headquarters and choked with roads. Melbourne is traditionally held to be more arty and cosmopolitan, with a strong public radio presence and lots of music (a musician friend told me that bands move to Melbourne to be discovered), but it's also 3-4 million people. They're big, built-up cities. Nature-focused? No.

If we're talking about Australia, Byron Bay is a good choice (heavily associated with alternative and green lifestyles although inevitably becoming more built up) with beaches and nature. Nimbin doesn't the beaches but comes from that heritage. In ways of bigger places, Adelaide has that progressive, arty-vibe with city beaches, low-key development and arguably was gay-friendly and cosmopolitan when the rest of Australia regarded such things with suspicion.

In the UK, Brighton and certain places in Wales are possible: seaside, progressive politics, lots of people doing their own thing. But then you have the UK weather.

Queenstown in New Zealand, might be a tourist trap in season. But out of season a lot of locals use the money they make to do what they want. No beaches, but a stunning landscape. Actually, there's probably a lot of places like that in NZ.
posted by outlier at 12:30 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add: while the Sunshine (northern) Coast of Queensland in Australia used to have a bit of an alternative, off-the-track reputation, it's now thoroughly developed and urbanized. However inland from there are several communities and towns - Maleny, Montville, etc. - with thriving independent art scenes, permaculture, alternative schooling and other other quirky things going on. Overall Queensland politics isn't what I'd call progressive, but it's fairly tolerant of people going off and doing their own thing.
posted by outlier at 12:36 AM on July 20, 2012

I lived in Melbourne, Australia for two years, and I kind of feel that the SF Bay Area (where I live now) and Portland (where I've visited) could be kindred spirits. There's a fantastic food culture, lots of art and music, thriving independent bookstores and an up and coming startup scene. Admittedly, the beaches aren't as beautiful as Sydney's (plus it's a lot colder in winter), but they're easily accessible. I think Australia could work on being a skosh more PC, but Melbourne is ethnically diverse and generally tolerant, though seeing a window full of golliwog dolls for sale in the CBD really threw me into a tizzy. I would move back in a heartbeat if I could.
posted by peripathetic at 12:48 AM on July 20, 2012

Victoria, BC. It's the cycling capital of Canada (and motorists are more tolerant of cyclists here than in Vancouver), plus there must be the highest per capita concentration of independent coffee shops in North America here.

It's the bookstore capital of Canada, with the largest used bookstore in the country and plenty of other independent bookshops.

We're also the fittest city in Canada, with lots of runners and Olympic athletes.

The downtown is surrounded by a giant park which runs for several kilometers along a grassy headland.

There's a vibrant theatre scene, and a low-key but strong indie music scene. There are three universities and colleges here, which means plenty of students. Travel for 45 minutes up West Coast Road, and you're on the West Coast with plenty of beaches.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:40 AM on July 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I only know Portland from the show and your description! But I live in Melbourne and I don't think it sounds, as a whole, as scenestery as Portland appears to be. I'm not sure how big Portland is.....but Melbourne has about 4 mill and this, perhaps plus the fact that it is one of a few major urban hubs means, I think that it is more diverse than Portland, according to the stereotype at least, is.

North fitzroy, Melbourne sounds like Portland. But it's little and not beachside,
posted by jojobobo at 2:27 AM on July 20, 2012

And apologies for the ipading punctuation.
posted by jojobobo at 2:28 AM on July 20, 2012

I would suggest Berlin, Germany. It's bigger than Portland, but is spread over a wide area and is filled with wide boulevards, so it rarely feels crowded. According to Wikipedia: "Around one third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes." It really is so green. The city is very environmentally conscious too, compared to other places I have lived. Public transport is excellent and it's is a paradise if you like cycling, with many cycle paths and cyclist-aware drivers. It's also a very liberal place - to me it seems like this is a reaction to its less-than-liberal past. There is a big, thriving gay community, including an openly gay mayor. It is quite ethnically diverse, there is a large expat community and you can get by pretty damn well in English if you absolutely refuse to learn German. If you're into community gardening, weekend protest marches which are peaceful enough for the kiddies to join, co-sewing spaces, pop-up organic restaurants and the like, you will enjoy it here.
posted by guessthis at 2:45 AM on July 20, 2012

Nowhere in Australia is like Portland.

Seconding Berlin. It also has temporary beaches along the Spree in the Summer.

Curveball: Vilnius, Lithuania. Very green, no beach but beach is accessible. Compact city area with great food and transport. Strong focus on culture.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:58 AM on July 20, 2012

Brighton, England

Very very liberal and eccentric!

Beach (sadly stony not sandy), and very very green.
posted by chrispy108 at 3:27 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bali, Indonesia.
posted by emilynoa at 5:30 AM on July 20, 2012

Half the people I know say Madrid. (The other half say "Ugh I hate Madrid!") Jury is still out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:35 AM on July 20, 2012

It's been a while since I've been to Portland and I certainly have more experience of Berlin, but they don't seem particularly similar. Berlin feels considerably more urban. Berlin is awesome, but I don't know if it's like Portland.
posted by hoyland at 6:37 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pretty much all of Switzerland is like this (definitely on the outdoorsy, with a mix on the liberalism front), and to some degree The Netherlands (definitely liberal, with a mix on the outdoorsy front). Probably Iceland, although I know it more by reputation than experience.
posted by acm at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2012

I don't know, only a non-American would describe Sydney as less liberal than any American city. Sydney is more Seattle than Portland, though -- more corporate, busier... also it just feels ineffably like Seattle. Another thing it does NOT have in common with Portland is affordability.

Brighton is a vaguely similar vibe (and definitely eccentrically lovable in a Portlandy way), but doesn't have that nature-tastic NW feel.

I'd say Victoria before Vancouver.
posted by zvs at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2012

Half the people I know say Madrid. (The other half say "Ugh I hate Madrid!") Jury is still out.

I don't know if it would be Madrid, but I'm sure there's someplace in Spain that would get reasonably close to being Portlandish. I was thinking maybe Tarifa, but that's a pretty small town, and more like a old SoCal beach town than anything. I did go to an Eco-resource education center/vegetarian restaurant there.

Maybe Barcelona?
posted by LionIndex at 8:47 AM on July 20, 2012

I live in Portland. I felt very at home in Amsterdam and the parts of Belgium I've visited. I agree about Brighton too. I feel like much of Scandinavia would feel the same, though I only know that part of Europe through the eyes of Rick Steves.
posted by medeine at 10:01 AM on July 20, 2012

Response by poster: I have lived in Madrid for 7 years and I am asking this questions so that should be your answer regarding Madrid!

Thanks for the answers!
posted by BigBrownBear at 11:03 AM on July 20, 2012

Actually, I take back my answer. Victoria, BC is, indeed, a much better answer than Vancouver.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in Portland and love it. If I did not live in Portland, I would live in Nuremberg, Germany.
posted by Specklet at 2:02 PM on July 20, 2012

Lyon, France. It's a foodie haven built at the confluence of two rivers in the foot hills of nearby mountains.
posted by chrisulonic at 2:42 PM on July 20, 2012

Another vote for Victoria. Our mayor was in Portland recently to meet Sam Adams and talk about issues that face both cities and how Portland is handling them.
posted by atropos at 3:41 PM on July 20, 2012

Which Portland?
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 4:48 PM on July 20, 2012

I really like Barcelona as a great city that is not to big has tons of art, music, alternative lifestyles and amazing food. It is funky and down to earth the way Portland is -but not sure about the economy at this point.
Also Utrecht is a cool town. Lots of college students, everyone rides their bikes ethnically diverse and similarities with weather to Portland. I am assuming you mean Portland Oregon?
I would also like to find somewhere that you are seeking outside the US so am curious to read all these answers.
I don't want the crummy weather though.
posted by privatechef at 5:34 AM on January 24, 2013

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