Aficionados of antique and secondhand furniture stores love Portland. Good browsing can be enjoyed along Congress Street; try the stretches between State and High streets in the arts district, or from India Street to Washington Avenue on Munjoy Hill. About a dozen shops of varying quality (mostly low-end) can be found in these two areas.
More serious antiques hounds may choose to visit an auction house or two. Two or three times per week, you'll be able to find an auction within an hour's drive of Portland. A good source of information is the Maine Sunday Telegram. Look in the classifieds for listings of auctions scheduled for the following week.
For new items, the Old Port, with its dozens of boutiques and storefronts, is well worth browsing. It's especially strong in contemporary, one-of-a-kind clothing that's a world apart from generic stuff you'll find at a mall. Artisan and crafts shops are also well represented.
Shopping hours in downtown Portland are highly variable, sometimes even from shop to adjacent shop. Most places in the Old Port are open from 10am until 5:30 or 6pm Monday through Saturday; some remain open an hour or two later on Fridays and/or Saturdays, too. Many shops in Portland are closed on Sunday, though not all of them -- those that do open up Sunday usually open at 11am or even noon, and close by 6pm. The Maine Mall, on the other hand, is open from 9:30am until 9pm Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 11am until 6pm.
To Market, To Market . . . Once Again
The Portland Public Market has moved -- and the local library almost did, too. It's been an interesting couple of years for the city's public market, which was originally conceived and funded by the late benefactress Betty Noyce in the 1990s. A few blocks downhill from Portland's main drag, the 37,000-square-foot space was, for a short while, one of the best and hippest places in northern New England to pick up a coffee in the morning, a sandwich at lunch, a lobster and some vegetables to cook for dinner, and other gourmet goods. Sadly, the market closed its doors in 2007 and the property was sold after Noyce's nonprofit foundation determined it could no longer subsidize the lower-than-market rents being charged to food vendors. The market appeared to have dissolved for good, and city residents were understandably disheartened.
But a small consortium of vendors banded together and bought a building in the center of the city, rechristening it the Public Market House (28 Monument Square). Today the market thrives once more. The vacant former market building? City voters defeated a 2007 referendum that would have purchased the space and converted it into a new city library. But stay tuned.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.