Portland is a vibrantly quirky city that’s known for its hip neighborhoods and off-the-wall distinctive communities. One could easily spend an entire vacation exploring Portland’s more than 90(!) formally recognized neighborhoods that are divided among six quadrants both east and west of the river—but what about those travelers that only have a single weekend in the lovely city of neighborhoods? How is an intrepid explorer to choose among so many of Portland’s hidden (and not so hidden) gems?

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Perhaps one of the best ways to approach a weekend in Portland is to choose a neighborhood that defines the city; encompassing its past, while also embracing its ambitious future, a snapshot of its culture, history, and dynamic vibe all rolled into one. And, arguably, this neighborhood is Old Town Chinatown: the city’s oldest neighborhood is a cultural beacon shining brightly in Portland’s central city, beckoning visitors with its eclectic activities, diverse attractions, and uniquely fun vibe that’s oh-so Portlandia. Below are some of the best ways to spend an exciting weekend in Old Town Chinatown.

About Old Town Chinatown

A historic district since 1979, Portland’s Old Town Chinatown was once the bustling original downtown of the city, and was home to many of its early businesses during the industrial trade boom--and many of these historic buildings can still be seen today. The neighborhood was a haven for immigrants, including those of Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Scandinavian, and German descent—and the Chinese especially formed tight-knit communities within the downtown area.

Today, Old Town Chinatown remains as an homage to those early immigrants; though the city’s ‘unofficial’ Chinatown has since been relocated to the Jade District, Old Town remains as a bustling beacon for those wanting to experience Chinatown at its best—a hub of history, traditional Chinese restaurants, and a famed nightlife that draws both visitors and residents alike looking for fun in the heart of Rose City.

Where To Stay In Northwest Portland

Old Town Chinatown is one of several neighborhoods that made up Portland’s northwest quadrant, and its location in central city makes it the ideal place to explore on foot. There are also several nearby accommodations close to all the action, too; which make it even easier to enjoy a weekend exploring.

  • The Society Hotel is conveniently located in Old Town Chinatown and is the perfect spot to set up camp for the weekend. Formerly a sailor’s hotel built in the late 19th century, this boutique gem is now a hip lodging that also includes a cool lounge, cafe, and bar 203 NW 3rd Avenue
  • Just a short jaunt away from Old Town Chinatown via public transportation is Portland’s Nob Hill neighborhood, home to the fun and funky Inn @ Northrup Station, a great northwest spot to set up camp that’s close to all the downtown action 2025 NW Northrup Street
  • Stylish and chic, The Hoxton is an Old Town Chinatown gem featuring a rooftop restaurant, basement bar, and a chill neighborhood vibe 15 NW 4th Avenue

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Sightseeing Street Adventures

One of the best ways to explore Old Town Chinatown is on foot; meandering through its vibrant, bustling streets and scoping its most distinctive attractions—and these are by far some of the neighborhood’s most iconic spots.

  • Cross under the ornate archway at the entrance to Old Town Chinatown, the gateway to the community, then head to the Portland Chinatown Museum to learn all about the area’s Chinese American community. Those with a taste for adventure will want to explore the Shanghai Tunnels by taking an underground tour through the city’s catacombs Museum located at 127 NW 3rd Ave
  • The Lan Su Chinese Garden is an authentic Ming-Dynasty style garden that’s a tranquil retreat in the heart of downtown 239 NW Everett Street
  • Union Station is a true Portland landmark and one of the coolest architectural gems in Old Town, featuring a towering Romanesque clock tower that towers over downtown 800 NW 6th Ave
  • End the day with dinner in an Old Town institution: the Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, one of the oldest running establishments in the city 208 SW Ankeny Street
  • Old Town Chinatown is known for its nightlife, too; and is home to the West Coast’s longest-running drag show Darcellle’s Female Impersonation Revue, a glitzy, fun way to spend the evening 208 NW 3rd Ave

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Shopping, Dining, And Exploring

Old Town Chinatown is known for its myriad of shopping spots—from local markets to boutiques filled with everything from skateboards to cool kicks, shoppers with an eye for the eclectic will find their footing in Old Town in between exploring the area’s local eateries, cool architecture, and fun, laidback vibes.

  • Start the day with a cup of joe at the super cool sneaker spot (and coffee shop!) Deadstock Coffee & Gallery, then head to the iconic Portland Saturday Market, a bustling arts and crafts open-air marketplace filled with fun stalls and hip Portlandia vibes 2 SW Naito Parkway, Open Saturdays March 5 through December 24, 10 AM-5 PM
  • A must-visit in Old Town Chinatown and one of the few authentic Chinese places left in the neighborhood, Red Robe Tea House is a full tea-tasting experience 310 NW Davis Street
  • Fancy something sweet? Then stop in at the Old Town institution Voodoo Doughnut, before heading to some of the neighborhood’s coolest shops: Hello From Portland, known for its cool local gifts; Orox Leather Co., home of stylish (and sustainable) leather goods; and Floating World Comics, famed as one of the best comic book shops in the country (they also sell vinyl, too!)
  • Grab a bite of dinner at the Republic Cafe and Ming Lounge, the oldest Chinese restaurant in the area, then finish a great weekend in Old Town Chinatown with a pint at Kell’s Irish Pub in the historic Glisan building on 2nd Ave

Those looking to spend a fun and exciting weekend in Portland’s downtown area will love the eclectic atmosphere of the city’s Old Town Chinatown. Centrally located and filled with a number of cool attractions and hip, unique eateries, the neighborhood has a history and culture that celebrate Portland’s past while staying true to its hip, funky vibes—the perfect way to experience the good times and great vibes of the Rose City.

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