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Portland Travel Guide

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Portland Head Light © Paul VanDerWerf

Portland is Maine's biggest city and is the state's cultural and economic hub, attracting over three and a half million visitors each year. Originally a fishing and trading settlement, the town was destroyed three times over a hundred year period, and finally regained stability as a shipping port.

Unfortunately, over-zealous Independence Day celebrants managed to set fire to most of the city's commercial buildings, hundreds of houses and roughly half the city's churches in 1886, causing it to be rebuilt once again, this time in a Victorian style. Beautiful examples of this architecture can be found in the mansions set along the famous Western Promenade, and in the Victoria Mansion on Danforth Street, which offers tours of its well-preserved interiors.

Despite its tough beginning, Portland remains a beautiful city, ideally situated on a peninsula that juts out into Casco Bay, flanked by several small islands. Historic architecture blends with modern amenities and the city is a bustle of activity, making it one of the country's top cities to live in. Resplendent in natural beauty, Portland is highly popular in summer and visitors can enjoy boat rides; sightseeing, shopping, dining and people-watching at the Old Port historic waterfront and the East End; a visit to the Downtown Arts District or to the prominent Portland Head Light Lighthouse. The home of poet Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow is also well worth a visit, as is the Maine History Gallery, and for the kids, there is the Children's Museum of Maine.

Portland has an abundance of good restaurants, especially those offering renowned local seafood specialties like Maine lobster, clam chowder, and scallops, which are cheaper and more plentiful than in any other state. You'll find a variety of cuisines represented though, including Vietnamese, Thai, African, Greek, and Indian food, as Portland is the most culturally diverse city in Maine. The city boasts no fewer than five microbreweries, and dozens of bars, pubs, and nightclubs.

Portland is a wonderful city to visit in its own right, with plenty of attractions, activities and sights for the visitor, and it is also a useful base from which to explore the rest of this beautiful state. Smaller towns in the area like Freeport, Cape Elizabeth, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Kennebunkport offer their own amusements that are worth exploring on a holiday to Portland.

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