5 Things We Love About Portland's Old Town Chinatown

A rowdy past meets a cultured present with creative shops in one of Portland's oldest neighborhoods.

Pear Baristas get training in service.

Shawn Linehan

Fierce bronze lions stand guard beneath an ornate gate at the entrance to one of Portland's oldest neighborhoods. The area has had its ups and downs, but today, with historic buildings abutting new construction, it's bustling. 

1. Built by artisans from Portland's sister city Suzhou, Lan Su Chinese Garden opens a window into China's culture and history. Meandering pathways and water features provide a retreat from the city. Join a docent-led tour, watch an arts demo, or relax in the ornate teahouse with a cup of oolong. AAA members get $1 off admission.

2. Browse the colorful and unusual collection of Nike sneakers at Compound Gallery. The vibe is contemporary and creative at this innovative store where street fashion shares shelf space with pop culture collectibles and modern art. 

3. Portland's past as a rowdy port city comes to light in the Shanghai Tunnels, a network of trapdoors and passages beneath its present-day streets. Tour guides lead visitors through a hidden world once used to hold and transport men who had been kidnapped to work on ships. 

4. Prepare to laugh out loud if you catch a performance at the Siren Theater. Its lineup of live shows includes irreverent comedies, zany adaptations of movies, and improvisation from some of the area's best comedic talents. 

5. Savor a cup of joe while doing good at the Pear Barista School coffee window, run by a nonprofit that supports homeless and transitional youth with education, art, and job-training programs.