Portland Walking Tours

Tours: Underground Portland


Overview

All the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things from Portland's past!

Expose the sins of Portland's past on this tour through Old Town and Chinatown! We walk through the remains of the physical underground as well as exploring the underground subcultures, political underground and immoral underground of the city's sordid history, and expose the myths behind the legends of the so-called "Shanghai Tunnels."

This walk is a treat for lovers of all things sinister – crime, scandal and controversial characters – a no-holds-barred excursion into the worst Portland has to offer.

Now With More Immorality & Vice! We've revamped this tour based on new subterranean discoveries and investigations into the worst of the illicit, naughty, bawdy, corrupt and shady activities of Portland's not-so-proud past. If you haven't been on this tour recently, you'll want to return, as we've added a large, subterranean area with all new displays.

No Myths Or Legends Here! After walking the streets for about ¾ of the tour, we’ll hand out flashlights and delve into the subterranean levels under the historic Merchant Hotel in an area which once led to the legendary "Portland Shanghai Tunnels." If you want to discover the true, inside stories behind 'crimping' (the real name of what is now called shanghaiing), you've come to the right place. Even though shanghaiing is what makes it on TV, we'll surprise you with an unscripted commentary of all of the other screwed up and scandalous things that have happened in Portland - both socially underground and physically underground.

So Much More! We explore other underground and hidden topics besides kidnapping. While everyone loves journeying into the bowels of the city to view entrances that once led to the legendary and so-called “Shanghai Tunnels”, we also delve into dozens of other somber monuments from our shameful past of sex, ethnic crimes, gambling, corruption, and more.

This tour is rated PG since some of the content is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you want the ghostly haunted side of life, click here to check out a tour that is Beyond Bizarre.

Watch The Video

Tour Details

Winter Tour Schedule:

Tours Daily at 11 AM & 2 PM

Check our full schedule for additional dates and times.

Starting Location

Meet your guide OUTSIDE of the Merchant Hotel Building at 202 NW Davis St. (between 2nd & 3rd Aves) in Old Town/Chinatown. How do I get there?

Convenient covered parking can be found in the nearby Smartpark on NW First Ave and Davis St.

Tour Duration

Under 2 hours
About 1 mile (no hills, limited stairs)

Advance Ticketing

This tour often sells out and buying tickets online guarantees you're on the tour. Walk-ups are welcome only if tickets are still available.

Prices and Buy Tickets Now

Prices (always without ticketing fees and sales tax)

  • $20 Adults
  • $17 Senior (65 & up) and Youth (11-17)
  • $9 Child (5-10), $0 Tots  
    * PG-13 Content - not recommended for children *

What is Shanghaiing?

Shanghaiing is the nefarious practice of forcing ordinary men - lumbermen, farm hands, miners - into being sailors by coercive techniques such as trickery, intimidation, or violence. The SOBs engaged in this form of kidnapping were known as crimps. In Portland, this practice was heavily employed from the 1850s 'til the 1880s when steamships overtook the older clipper ships. Come join us to discover more as the details will surprise and shock you.

Truth and Lies! There are so many theatrics, fake stories, and untruths on shanghaiing and the shanghai tunnels and on each tour, we get to the bottom of the real truth. We promise the facts - no deep voices, top hats, canes, and black capes here. Working with published historians, the Oregon Historical Society, and the City of Portland Archives, we assure you that there are no myths, rumors, legends on our tour. We open the floor to questions and we won't insult you with fake trapdoors or props.

Themes

Some of the things you'll discover with us:

  • Shanghaiing - Come learn the bare truth. We pride ourselves in that there are no legends, folklore, myths, or rumors in this tour.
  • Tunnels - Why were there really tunnels under the entire city - Flooding? Moving Goods? Shanghaiing?
  • Crime, Corruption, and Scandals - from bawdy brothels, gambling rings, murder, mischief and the police pay-off system that kept the city’s squeaky wheels silent.
  • Portland's subcultures - They just don't come out at night.
  • Present Day Issues - From homelessness to the sex industry, we leave no stone unturned.
  • Social Justice - or injustice, as you'll find out
Still have questions? Check here!

Reviews & Kudos

"Underground Portland walking tour explores the seamy underside of Portland's past--think "shanghai tunnels," brothels and gambling dens."
- San Francisco Chronicle
"It’s fun to poke around in the basements of old buildings and out under the sidewalks."
- Slabtown Chronicle Blog
"The Portland Underground Tour is just one of many reasons to make a getaway to the City of Roses."
- Seattle Traveler Blog
"Underground Portland tours have always been historical and factual."
- Just Out Magazine, Portland, Oregon USA
"...very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. "
- Grace Koh, Merritt, B.C. Canada
"The tour was awesome. I'm a native, but I had no idea our city was full of so many interesting stories. It unlocked the Secrets of Portlandia.
- Gregory Haines, Portland, Oregon USA

Museum of the Shanghai Tunnels

Come see our newer underground areas, with new displays and fascinating stories about Portland's seedy, greedy, no-good past. If you haven't been on this Portland weird ride tour recently, you'll be amazed at what you'll see!