Dating back to the 1880s, downtown Portland's compact Chinatown isn't as big as what you might find in San Francisco or New York. However, it's still worth a visit for its restaurants, bars, photogenic entry gate, and its star attraction, the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Situated in Old Town on the edge of downtown Portland, Chinatown was once packed with Chinese businesses but today is home to more clubs and bars than anything else. Some traditional features remain, however, including an elaborate entry gate flanked by lion statues, on the corner of NW 4th Avenue and Burnside. The highlight of the neighborhood is the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which features beautiful traditional gardens and a tea room.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bring an umbrella or a raincoat, as the weather can change quickly.
- Parking is limited in Chinatown, though there is a large parking garage on the corner of NW 1st and Davis.
- The entire neighborhood is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Located in the Old Town part of Portland, Chinatown is easily accessed by public transit; take the MAX light rail to Old Town Chinatown. It's also within easy walking distance of a number of Portland attractions, including Powell's bookstore and the Portland Saturday Market.
When to Get There
Chinatown is accessible around the clock and can get raucous on weekend evenings, particularly during the summer months, when bars and clubs bring young revelers out in droves. Most visitors come during the day, when the Lan Su Chinese Garden is open; visit on a weekday to avoid local crowds.
Deep beneath the streets of Chinatown are a number of subterranean passageways known as the Shanghai Tunnels. While the official take is that these tunnels were used to transport goods from the docks of the nearby Willamette River to local Old Town shops, local legend has it that drunk young men were kidnapped from local saloons, secreted through the tunnels, and smuggled onto ships where they'd be forced to work as sailors. The practice is known as Shanghaiing.