The historic Old Town Portland - Chinatown area is were it all began in 1853 when William Overton and Asa Lovejoy filed a land claim for a parcel of land on the banks of the Willamette River. They saw that it had commercial potential as a portbecause of its access to the Pacific Ocean by way of the nearby Columbia River. It was originally known as Stumptown because of all the tree stumps left from clearing the land of timber.
Today it is a well-preserved and vibrant part of downtown Portland.
The market is just a fun place to go on a Saturday or Sunday in Portland. (Yes, it is held both days.) You will find vendors selling craft items, jewelry, home decor, clothing, and lots of food. Portland is famous for its food carts and you will find a lot of them here on the weekends. You can easily get to Saturday Market on MAX and I highly recommend this because of parking. Learn more about Saturday Market.
This is the area where the Saturday Market is held but it is worth a visit on week days just to see some of Portland's old architecture. Portland has the second largest collection of cast iron-fronted buildings in the United States. (New York City has the largest.) Much of Portland was constructed during the period when iron building fronts were popular. About 20 buildings in Old Town remain that have these facades but much was saved by architecture enthusiasts when some buildings were demolished. These pieces of cast iron were used to enhance the Skidmore Fountain area.
I think I know why people say Portland is weird. How many places in this world will you find a half-block-long line of people waiting to get inside a doughnut shop at ten o'clock at night? Where will you find a shop selling doughnuts in the shape of a voodoo doll complete with stake in the heart? Or find doughnuts named "Old Dirty Bastard" or "Dirty Snowball" and people who can hardly wait to buy one? Yes, a visit to VooDoo Doughnut is in order when you are in the area and be prepared to buy a box full. "The magic is in the hole."
There are tunnels underneath Old Town/Chinatown connecting the basements of many of Portland's old buildings. It is said they were built as an easier way to transport goods from ships docked on the Willamette River. Others say they were used to "shangai" innocent men to serve as sailors on merchant ships or women to be sold into prostitution. Perhaps all of this is true but some make much of what they say was Portland's dark side because it makes a good story. You can take a tour of parts of the tunnels. Other parts are closed off and not accessible. It is a glimpse of life in the 1800's that most people don't see. I won't go into whether or not the tunnels are haunted. Some swear that they are.
Noel Zia Lee
There is a China Gate at the entrance to Chinatown at NW 4th Avenue and W Burnside. The lamp posts are painted red and the street signs are printed in both English and Chinese. There are more than 20 Chinese businesses or restaurants in the area.
The Chinese garden covers a complete square block and is an authentic replica of a walled garden in China. Its name translates to "Garden of Awakening Orchids." It is an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the city. Public tours of the garden are held throughout the day as well as other educational events. For a complete list see Chinese Garden Events.
The teahouse is open daily and serves specialty teas from China, light meals, and snacks. It is a nice place to sit and view the garden.
The garden is accessible for the mobility impared with an elevator to the second floor in the teahouse and accessible restrooms.
You can purchase entry tickets on line at Chinese Garden Tickets. Then you won't have to stand in line at the ticket booth.
This store stocks herbs and spices used in Chinese health treatments. It is located at 531 Sw 3rd Ave.
It may seem strange that the first restaurant I talk about isn't even in Chinatown any more but has moved to 82nd Avenue on Portland's east side. It is the "Hung Far Low" sign I am going to talk about, not the restaurant.
The sign hung at NW 4th Avenue and Couch Street for as long as anyone could remember. It was part of the history of Chinatown and then one day it was just gone. It came as kind of a shock when people found out. Even though the restaurant by that name had moved, the sign had remained on the building until the day came when it had to be taken down because it was in danger of falling due to rust.
A campaign to bring back the sign was started complete with a Hung Far Low Facebook page. Money was raised and the sign was rebuilt and rehung in 2010. How did this restaurant get its name? In the video below, a descendant of the first owner explains the name.
At Old Town Pizza you can combine a love for great pizza, craft beer, history, and the paranormal. The restaurant is in the old Merchant Hotel which was built in 1880. You can start off with Garlic Knots or Cheese Bread Sticks and then have one of their delicious salads. You can then choose between Spaghetti & Meatballs, a sub sandwich or pizza. With pizza you choose your crust, (gluten free is available), and your toppings. Oh, and by the way. They say the place is haunted,
This restaurant, a Portland institution, has been in business in the same location for over 100 years and owned by the same family for all that time. It is the place in Portland to go for oysters but the clams are also great. It can sometimes be really crowded but it is still worth it. I returned there a couple of years ago just to see if it was as good as it used to be in the 60's and I am glad to say that it was. I can't eat oysters anymore but the people who were with me did and they said they were delightful.
If you are in Old Town Portland on the weekend during the day, you can find lots of good food served from the food stalls in the market. See above.
Double click on the map below to see more detail. Here you will find the location of each of the attractions mentioned above. Click on the name of the attraction for the address and phone number.