Salem (Oregon)

The Oregon State Capitol building

Salem, the capital of Oregon, is located in the Willamette Valley between Portland and Eugene.

Salem was established in the early 1800s as a farming community. The town grew during the years of the California gold rush. Salem became the capital of Oregon in 1851 after it was moved from Oregon City. The capital was then briefly moved to Corvallis in 1855, but in that same year was permanently moved back to Salem. The first two Oregon State Capitol buildings tragically burned down. The third and current building was completed in 1938, complete with its distinctive gold-plated pioneer statue, the "Gold Man," perched atop.

Besides being the seat of state government, Salem is also a major agricultural center in one of the most fertile regions in the world.


Salemites are often defensive about the sleepy reputation the city has, often being overshadowed by its hipster rivals, Portland and Eugene. But lately its citizens have begun to realize the value of what their city offers: an interesting and walkable downtown with a waterfront park, a serious arts scene, and a central location in the Willamette Valley that combines the amenities of a city with the accessibility of a town. Salem shares a city boundary with its neighbor to the north, Keizer, largely a residential community.

Get in

By car

Salem is located in the mid-Willamette Valley, about halfway between Portland to the north and Eugene to the south; it's about a one-hour drive from either city on Interstate 5. If coming in East of the Cascades Hwy. 22 will take you right into Salem.

By bus

Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway serve Salem frequently. If staying in Central Oregon or Eastern Oregon there is a Cascade bus that travels through all seasons. Prices are relatively inexpensive.

Also Cherriots (+1 503 588-BUSS) and Wilsonville's SMART system (+1 503-682-779) jointly operate the 1X express transit bus between the Downtown Salem Transit Center and the Wilsonville Trimet WES (+1 503 238-RIDE (7433)) rail station (with service to Tualatin, Tigard and Beaverton). You can take the MAX light rail from the entire Portland region to the Beaverton WES station on the Blue or Red Line MAX. Likewise you can also take Tri-Met Rt#12 or 44 to the Barbur Transit Center in southwest Portland and transfer to SMART Rt 2X (South Metro Area Transit) to the Wilsonville WES Station. This bus and rail connection only operates weekdays and in the morning and afternoon (no mid-day, night or weekend service), but operates in both directions during its operating time. The current fare for the 1X bus is $2.50 one way. The fare for the WES train is $2.50 which is valid as a 2-hour ticket on the Portland regional TriMet system, for a combined total fare of $5.00 one way from Portland to Salem.

By train

The Amtrak station in Salem is just to the east of the downtown core and is served by the regional Cascades train and the long distance Coast Starlight train. The Amtrak Cascades (Eugene-Salem-Portland-Tacoma-Seattle-Vancouver, BC) has 2 runs daily in each direction and the Coast Starlight (Seattle-Portland-Salem-Eugene-Sacramento-Bay Area-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles) has one run daily in each direction. Be aware that northbound Coast Starlight trains can be delayed many hours on their journey from Los Angeles. The Cascades trains are really only an option for day trips from Salem and Eugene to Portland or passengers who stay overnight in Salem. Day trips from Portland to Salem both directions by train are not possible considering the schedule however there is Amtrak Thruway coach service.

By plane

All airline service to Salem comes from Portland International Airport, an hour's drive from the north. To get to Salem from Portland Airport, follow I-205 south to its connection to I-5 in Tualatin and continue on I-5 south.

Get around

Parking for automobiles in the downtown core is free for visitors and shoppers. There is a two-hour maximum for street parking, but three large parking structures are available for all-day parking. Once you have disposed of your car, downtown is very walkable.

Salem has a fairly flat terrain, especially towards the north and east parts of the city, making bicycling easy. Bike routes are not as well marked, however, as in some Oregon cities. The farmland surrounding Salem is wonderful cycling country.

The Cherriots bus system is city wide taking you from the suburbs to downtown and into Keizer, Oregon, and has central transit center in downtown Salem where all the buses arrive and depart. Prices are as follows:

Exact Cash Fare: Drivers don't make change, so please have exact fare if you're paying cash. And please, no Canadian coins.

Day Pass: Day Pass offers unlimited rides all day and can be purchased on the bus or at Customer Service.


Museums & historical attractions




Salem is not known for its expensive, fine dining, but that doesn't mean you can't find a good meal without breaking the bank. Besides the listings below, there are several fine Mexican restaurants in town, reflecting the city's growing Hispanic population.


Hotels and motels

Salem has many moderately priced accommodations, which are located outside the downtown core. The exception is the Phoenix Grand, which is somewhat more pricey, but puts you in the center of the city.

Go next

Routes through Salem

Portland Lake Oswego  N  S  Albany Eugene
Junction with Junction with  W  E  Detroit Junction with
Portland Oregon City  N  S  Albany Eugene
Junction with  W  E  Silverton Portland
Portland Oregon City  N  S  Albany Eugene

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.